Birthdays These Days

We chose to take a local walk on Wednesday, last week. Mattie and I experienced an interesting scene.

On the pavement, not too far from my house, on our broad road, more like a boulevard, stood the birthday boy who had donned an all white outfit, a boubou and trousers, as we do on important occasions, in these parts. He was posing on the pavement with what seemed to be a young professional photographer, taking numerous shots of different poses. The photographer, rose and fell, seemed to duck and dive still taking shots of the posing birthday boy, all dressed up, like a father. That made us smile, he looked twenty years older than his eleven year old self. I am sure you are wondering how I know that.

I call the photographer professional because in his hand was a huge Nikon machine with more loose parts in a bag hanging across him. His body language and movements gave him away. He looked like he had been doing this job for a very long time.

The boy with coiffed hair neatly trimmed completed with shaved edges, held two huge silver ‘ones’. He looked proud and wore an unyielding smile that would not twitch. As we walked briskly past, in our put together sporting gear and oversized trainers, I started singing, “Happy birthday to you,” loudly. Mattie joined in. Suddenly, a lady emerged from the car across the wide road. Our voices must have drifted although our masks swallowed up half the volume. The photographer paused, we had interrupted his rhythm. He looked up upon hearing the sound and almost stumbled on the pavement. That break cut right into his theatrics.

Across the road, masked up in a very colourful face mask was a lady peeking over the open door and through the top of her large ‘four by four ‘vehicle. She had heard our shrill voices so waved at us, as thank yous would not have been heard or smiles seen. 

Covid 19 has impacted us all, this is what life has become, in some parts of the world, birthday celebrations for children which are normally vibrant and noisy occasions have turned into forced lone events that can be shared by sending solo photographs to friends and family.

Of course, the birthday boy had on his Sunday best for the downcast occasion. Mum I am sure had to pull a trick out of her bag to appease him, as none of his friends would or could be invited.

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Green

I see green all around me. This is because as my brother rightly put it, yesterday being my daughter’s birthday, we had a ‘party in paradise’.  A handful of us, it was just green. Covid 19 birthed the green fingered entrepreneur in my sister Ros. Stepping into Mama’s footsteps, Ros has created this paradise at my parents’ house. Yesterday we beat ourselves thinking how we all managed to neglect this paradise for over ten years since both parents passed and never thought to use the space for the many purposes it seems to be revealing to us now.

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Opportunities

In March when the world seemed to turned upside down, if I can put it this way, Ros with her experience of organizing events and presenting organisations to the world for other had become temporarily redundant. Her hobby or side job was to have her gardeners tend other people’s gardens. This was a side line that was brewing, Ros always talked about her endeavors and sometimes went plant or pot shopping. Oh, I forgot the trip to London last summer when she dragged us all to a world class flower show in the temperate heat. I now understand why the urge was so great, This was a trip of over two hours on the train to get to the Hampton Court Flower show. It was not in vain as we all , Ros, the children and I saw so much beauty in nature. I think that is when my conversion began.

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In Good Times and Bad

I believe we should uphold anything that life throws at us. Coincidentally, I am reading a biography that is so inspiring about life’s knocks, although the book has a religious twist it really resonates with what life is about. We have to be ready to face whatever life throws at us, shake it off and move on. The opportunity and time this lockdown or out of work period has given us is unearthing many areas in our lives that some of us may not know was present. Or maybe new interests are being exposed.

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Legacy

Walking around Green Gold gardens made me think about our actions and it’s enduring presence not only in our lives but in that of our children and the people around us. It is indeed a legacy, without a doubt and probably a profitable one too. If only Mama knew the passion that Ros has for her own love and what it has become or is becoming.

Nature

I also believe that green is a beautiful color. My first sofa was bottle green so was my curtain, actually custom made as I love the color so much.It also went very well with my parquet flooring. All of this green is majestic and even more enchanting when it is darker and creates an environment that can be indescribable. It is also probably because now the world or cities are full of concrete and nature is covered by permanent man made structures. Pushing aside habitats and creating either environmental or air pollution instead of the true nature of the Earth. Thankfully Ros found it in herself to use this ‘paradise’ that Mama had started planting over fifty years ago and develop it into this beauty that is emerging in just over three months.

Blessings have to be counted I believe and encouragement to be the word on our lips.

 

Pressing On For Me

I push me

I encourage me

I tell me

That I have to do it

I have to change me

By doing some things

I would never do

But this is the time

To drag me

To convince me

Into achieving

New and exciting

Things

I would have never done

for me.

 

This just came to me as I peeked into my 4th Graders’ poetry Padlet.

Can I call this a dream?

In bed last night, I tossed and turned. I remember clearly what I saw. My planner for today and what I had to teach my small math groups, online. 

Interestingly, from what I remember,  I may already have been teaching as I had students asking me clarifying questions. I am sure I drifted in and out of my supposed deep sleep because I kept convincing myself to wake up and write it all down, otherwise I’d forget what was going on. I wish I had because I seem to have been actually drafting my slice in my sleep. It sounded like poetry as there was some repetition and short lines, I felt it sounded really good but like a whiff of smoke, it drifted away. This does not happen to me often, but I am glad I remember parts of it. 

My lessons today are going quite well, but I remember my dream or thoughts at night and wonder why I took those thoughts to bed with me. Could I have been excited or anxious? We have introduced a new schedule so could that have been the reason?

I really should have woken up and written what I was thinking down. It would have been much clearer and recorded my train of thought. Perhaps that would have helped explain this dream.

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Easter Fun

Never before

has Easter been so sad

Never before

have we missed wearing

black for Friday mass

white for Sunday fuss

all the hunting

forgotten

changing

our Easter Fun.

 

I had to quickly write a sample poem for my fourth graders. This is what I crafted.

 

 

Another Thirty-one Days of Slicing

Poems, stories, memories, worries and descriptive writing  …

I can’t thank the TWTs enough for another opportunity to slice for thirty one days. I have grown as a writer because of the opportunity, this being my fourth year of writing at the SOLSC.

I am now confident to put words on paper and believe that is the most important thing to do. The more I write, the better I think I become at stringing words together. Words that can take many different shapes or forms.

Last year, I shared the word Medaase (Thank you in Twi) on the last day of slicing. Today I will shout, ‘Medaase Pii’ (Thank you very much) to you all. This year I have gathered a lot from the comments on my slices and on others’. This is a real learning forum for me.  As a teacher, I have learnt to readily comment on and give feedback to my students ,that will help them think about their writing in meaningful and sometimes not so obvious ways.

I am also thinking about continuing  Ama’s JourneyAma’s Journey -Reality  and generating that narrative into a novel, some of the style of writing I learned here. In these parts, we need writer role models or mentors for the young ones. We also need books that share our lives and life stories. Books that children can culturally see themselves in and one day want to be published writers themselves. We have to let them know we are all writers, we can all publish books and need to read and write all the time. We need good books and we can also write them for others to enjoy or learn from. 

Thank you to the friends I have made here over the years, I appreciate the support and encouragement. As a welcome wagon, I thank all the writers I followed and learned from, this year. I know that next year will be different.  Medaase pii,  to you all. screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am.png

The People in our Lives

It’s been less than a month but seems a long while since I last went to see Joyce and Pat, who have now become like family. That is where I go and get spoilt, for my regular  manicure and pedicure visits.

At the salon, we chat and laugh at what’s going on in town. The young ladies are full of information, sometimes I think it is trivia but it really is reality. As they travel to and from work by public transport and live hours away from their workplace, they get connected with the outside world in a way that I am unable to. I depend on my car to whizz back and forth so miss out on the goings on of the general public. 

This Lockdown, is meant to protect us all. We stay in our shells and rest, somehow protecting each other. I still miss Joyce and Pat, for their warmth. If they do not hear or see me, for a little while, they call to ask how I am doing and encourage me to pass by. They sometimes go out of their way to stay longer just to make sure I don’t miss my once every two weeks session.  

My short natural hair does not need their hands, I deal with that myself and save a lot of money too. My short natural hair happened when I was a half a century old. I started losing the crown of my hair , this came with a lot of skin issues so I thought I would not bother with wigs or any artificial creams. Joyce and Pat advised me to use all natural products that have now become my go to. Shea butter, coconut oil, tea tree oil, aloe vera sprays, castor oil and many more. My bathroom cabinet turned Chemist stocks all of these in one form or the other. Oils and creams galore, mostly unrefined. 

It will be interesting when the Lockdown is over.  During K’s face time chat today he talked about how people will rush to the barbers when it is all over. I know that is the first thing I will do too. To see Joyce and Pat, to spoil myself and to be pampered again. We must all have plans, ‘will dos’ after this episode and wonder how life will be lived everywhere, as all plans are up in the air. Let’s all hope it ends soon and ends well so that we will live our normal lives again, whatever normal means to us or whatever normal will be.

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Past and Present

Young in the 80s

A curfew was called

Military imposed lockdown

Soldiers everywhere

At the call of a siren

All gates were closed  

By 8pm 

All was quiet 

Tucked indoors

The curfew began

 

Like a natural disaster

The Lockdown resurfaces

COVID 19 is everywhere

Nobody knows why or how

Many are in quarantine

Forced separation

On occasions 

Authorities appear

To instill

 A sense of responsibility.

This time to safeguard humanity

Then, to uphold political will

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a military coup in Ghana, it came with some political unrest. I was a young girl then but remember vividly the curfew that was imposed. Yesterday, there was a call for a Lockdown in parts of the country. I immediately thought about the difference and the whys. That is the story behind my slice today.

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Ama’s Journey – Reality

That was Ama’s reality.

“Wash this, clean there, sweep here, slice this, fetch those, help them!” 

These words kept ringing in her ears as she stomped past the frail coconut tree that had become her friend for the past three weeks. This is where she would come for a much needed pause. A pause from the torture that she had come to know.

What was this?

Was this the route to where she thought she was going?

Why would anyone expect anyone to work like that?

Life is really unfair.

Ama kept straddling, taking  her thoughts with her. Actually fighting with her thoughts. At the same time she needed the money so desperately. What she felt quite contradicted her need. That need for the basics, food and shelter. Clothing was not part of it. She seemed to have enough old clothes that would accompany her for this new occupation. Ama could not believe her situation. 

In her hometown, although Ama’s mother toiled to put food on the table, she was a queen and her own boss. She was respected and had people serving her. Aunty Maamuna’s other apprentices were at her beck and call. There was a hierarchy there, of course Aunty Maamuna was her mother’s friend, Ama had many privileges the other girls would never have. 

Is that why she has ended up here? 

She was of course the first to be selected to accompany Auntie  Maamuna to Accra.The girls were extremely jealous. They gossiped and gave Ama dirty looks when they heard  the plan, eavesdropping a conversation Auntie Maamuna was having with one of her sweaty customers,

Ama felt she was being punished, her thoughts beating her and the guilt surrounding her. She had not sought her mother all this time and realized she would have worried and tired herself of it. She did not dare contact her now, after three weeks!. Ama knew how she could, though. Kwame the butch mobile phone salesman could be their link. He could call Maame for her but Ama knew her mother would be very disappointed and angry and was not ready to allow herself to hear that in Maame’s voice.

Maame had been good to her. Since her sixteenth birthday , which was also an approximation, when Papa passed, Maame had been her pillar. She scraped and fetched to give Ama the few opportunities available to them in their town. That was the best actually. Although Auntie Maamuna’s sewing shop was dilapidated, there was a queue of girls wanting that opportunity, to sacrifice and be the next big madam in the town.

Had Ama blown her chance?

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Ama’s Journey

Ama swept her kinky hair up placed her hands on her hips and walked off in her faded African print dress. Singing a Twi song in her shrill, annoying voice she seemed fed up. It was a Saturday afternoon when Ama had finished all her household chores, which included hand washing a basket load of dirty clothes for the Mensah’s. 

Ama needed money to survive since absconding from Auntie Maamuna when they got to Accra on that sweltering Saturday morning, three months ago. She was lucky enough to  have  found work at the Mensah’s as a house help. They were also desperate for someone to clean, wash and look after their three boisterous children. Homeless and desperate this was Ama’s big opportunity to achieve her dream. She knew she had to survive in this bustling city but needed money.  The Mensah’s three children were a set of twin toddlers and a feisty eight year old. They kept Ama busy,

She had come to live in Accra from a town in the Eastern region of Ghana. Drawn by all the television shows and the influence of the flashy Nigerian Movies, that portrayed a foreign lifestyle, Ama believed Accra was a ‘land paved with gold.’ She had been learning to sew, an apprentice at Auntie Maamuna’s small, rusty container shop. She had been persuaded and supported by her mother to learn a trade, so she did. Ama had always wanted to be educated, she pretended she understood and could read English, she covered it up well, especially when her customers had to be measured and the details recorded. Luckily she was never found out.

Her mother’s friend Auntie Maamuna the proprietress and seamstress, travelled monthly to Accra to buy fabric. This time, she decided to take Ama with her as part of her training.

“Ama we are travelling to Accra tomorrow, make sure you prepare to stay for the weekend.”

Ama was secretly elated she realised this was her big opportunity. She had wished for this break throughout her teenage years, when she had dropped out of school. After she had lost her father, Ama’s mother a tomato seller at the market taught Ama to travel North to the tomato farms to borrow their weekly stock. That is how they traded. You borrow, sell with a meagre profit and pay back on your next trip.

So this was Ama’s big opportunity… Accra here I come!

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