Friday, July 25, 2008

Brother's Keeper

I officially name myself the Street Shrink. It might sound a bit weird to most of you. But take a good look at all that goes on in the streets. You can't tell me that it isn't a window into ourselves as a people. As opaque a window as it might be, a window still.
Read on.

I agree, we have our issues as Ghanaians. We have problems with our indiscipline, our greed, and most of the time our sentence construction and grammar. Granted. It's certainly difficult to overlook all the warts, but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. We have to take a deeper look into our humanity. Let's dive a little deeper into the real Ghanaian. The changes in governments and economy and the demand for a better richer life is eating into our lives just as it is for that of many other countries all across the world. The moral fabric of society has become a cloth with which we try to wipe away our vices. Still and all, there's a lot to be grateful for. Again this Street Shrink was in traffic, just minutes ago at the traffic signal from the Aviation Social Center into Cantonments (those of you familiar with Accra will know exactly what I'm talking about), we have these physically challenged guys who are immobile leg down. They beg along the roadside, like most beggars do.

As we stop waiting for the light to hit green so I can speed off home, thinking back on how my week has gone, etc etc etc. Ever notice these guys who as a substitute for feet have wheels and wear flip flops on their hands weave through the cars as deftly as one could imagine. Well, one of them wheels up to me and asks for money. Now, I try as much as possible to be polite. Yes they are a bit worrisome, still.
Anyways, I'm in the passenger seat, sitting The Thinker style (also known as the Thinking Man) . I'm usually very pensive in traffic. My mind was chewing on some thought so hard that it's as though my next intake of oxygen was dependent on that. This guy crawls up to my door, looks up and says 'Madam, won kye me kakra?' (Madam, won't you give me something little?). Tearing away from my thoughts, I turn to look at him and say 'Ene de enye, next time wae?' (Today, things aren't so good).

Honestly, I'm not sure what expression I was wearing on my face, but the guys turns away for 2 seconds and turns back to look at me saying, 'E-go be eh?' (It'll be well) Come again, I didn't quite catch that. And he repeats himself with a more affectionate tone "E-go be eh?". What else do I have to say than to nod my head in agreement and thank him for his goodwill message. As we move on in traffic, I almost feel sad for myself. Not that there's anything wrong with him telling me that. It's just the idea that in as much as I think of myself in a better position than him or he thinking that I'm his last chance for a meal that evening, he felt he was in a position to give me encouragement. Think about the courage and nobility it takes for someone in his position like that to tell me that. He might never drive a Bentley or a Lexus. Heck, he'll never drive at all. I doubt I might even remember how he looks to give him a little something next time I'm round that way.

But if what he said doesn't sound a noble bell in you, I'm not sure what else will. This gesture as minute and seemingly fickle as it may sound made me realize that there's still a little human left in us. Let's forget about politics for a second, let's each forget about the deal you couldn't seal for a minute, let's put off hate, greed and envy for a day or two and let's open our eyes to see the beauty that lies beneath it all. Fundamentally, all we wanna do is to survive. To have some meat to take home to our families. Why must we chain each other to the wall in order to do that? Why can't we just be our brother's keeper, not seeing the other any lesser than they are? Why? Why ever not?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Part 2. The journey back...

After a day of long back-breaking hours, the journey back home seems quite as arduous as that of the morning’s. I’m observing the sunset in the distance and wondering why we don’t yet have cars that fly. I’m beginning to wonder when technology will catch up with me – teleportation, time travel etc. Oh well.

My mind moves on from one memory to another, stringing together scattered thoughts that seem to go nowhere. I glance at the digital clock on my dashboard and it’s been 12 minutes since I last moved. Just then a guy walks past with pillows. Please hand me a few of those. Perfunctorily, I draw out my purse and pay him off. No bargain. Don’t have the energy for it. I ease back my seat, position the pillow at the base of it, and start humming to the tune from the radio as I turn it up. Just then these mobile CD/DVD/Cassette vendors blast away their music. One of those gospel singers. Can’t tell the difference. They all sound the same. These young guys come my way displaying the latest album recording of whichever artist it is. They shove it in my face and I look aside with disapproval. As though to spite me, all other pirated DVD sellers hustle me with their wear and my powers are no match. I end up rolling up my window to make sure all my doors are safely locked.

The logjam gradually inches forward and I respond. My feet hurt with all this half-clutch business.

Before I know it, I’m in the den of the onion boys. “Madam ginni, ginni.” (they say in their Hausa accent). They beat down the price themselves in an attempt to persuade me to buy it. I shoot them a stern glance and a defiant “Dεεbi” (no). Can’t they tell one who cooks from one who doesn’t?

Peddler after peddler, hawker after hawker, the traffic is still moving at government pace. No joke. I might as well use my time wisely. Need to make a few calls. “…you’ll have to recharge with a scratch card…” Darned that computer voice! Reluctantly, I call out for the 'credit card' peddler (Yes, ‘credit card’. That’s what we call it here. Deal with it), who seems to have every network’s scratch card pinned on himself. A decorated member of the Ghana Hawkers Association I suppose. I start to make my call. No MTN Zone. I'll make do.

I’m thinking that very soon traffic hawking will develop into a fully fledged industry and they'll be required to wear numbered uniforms just as the taxi drivers do. Just a thought. First it was just newspapers and iced water. Then we had Refresh (gosh, I miss that drink). The rest came in torrents. Now we have a whole assembly of household and office items. Amazing what you can get in traffic. Sometimes I feel sorry for the hawkers. I thank God that as bad as things might get, it won’t get that bad. Other times, they annoy me; no, I don’t want plantain chips; no, I don’t want cocoa drink with tea bread and no I don’t want a red bow tie nor do I want a laptop bag!
Home oh home come nigh unto me...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Part 1. Driving through...

It's 7am in the morning. Mankind has managed to escape from the cozy hold of sleep and heads on to work. Running against time only to be gridlocked in between one car's bumper and the other's bonnet. Time whizzes past. The Traffic situation is horrible and isn't getting any better. Bad news for me; good news for the drive through vendors.
Sitting behind the wheel, drumming away at it, I sense the turning on of a light bulb in my head. It hits me suddenly that I don't have to do anything at home before I get to work. If you look at it closely the traffic vendors are positioned strategically just for your everyday need. Yes, they are usually a nuisance, especially when you try to change lanes. Still, think about it.
Shower down on the go; dress up on the go; breakfast on the go, nap on the go.
You can even read the newspaper headlines for yourself on the go while you wait for the radio stations to put their act together.
As a matter of fact, I have no longer have an excuse to be late. It's been there all along, only the dispersed pieces are now beginning to fit. Why waste all that time in traffic sitting there doing nothing? Everything I need for my morning routine is right here in traffic.
The Next Morning. 5.30am…
I head straight to the car when I wake up. I brush my teeth with the unconventional chewing stick, (though tried and proven by many as being more effective than the conventional toothbrush). The other option is usually available as well.
Hopefully the sun would have heated up one of the pressing irons that guy is holding, well enough for me to press my shirt. If not, I could always buy a brand new one from the next vendor. Decisions decisions.
My hair needs combing. Fear ye not! Plenty comb sellers abound. If I'm up for it, there's another guy just at the first traffic signal who sells China made shaving machines. I can have a quick shave while the light is still red.
Oh dear, my pants fell a little loose; I might want to hold it up with a nice CUCCI belt. Yes CUCCI (not GUCCI). Done deal.
My stomach churns. Ah ha! Breakfast. Either I call the koko seller on the sidewalk ahead of time so she'll have it ready for me to go or I might decide to prepare my own. That lady usually sells mugs on the median, I get one, the next guy I see has Nescafe Crème 3 in 1. I need to get me some of those as well. Now how do I get water hot enough to make this work. Ah, I bought some pure water yesterday but couldn't finish it. Right where I left it, under the seat, warm as it should. A lady selling tea bread just flew by me, I signal to her, make it quick. The bee-coded wannabe policeman just got off his phone. It's my lane's go now. Can't eat without my napkin. I opt for a box of tissue instead; the napkin lady didn't turn up today.
Now what's in the news today? Not Rawlings and Mills again?! My newspaper supplier knows what I want and shoves it right through my cracked window. Ring ring, a call from my mother. “Take down this number,” mum says. Scribble scribble, my pen won't write. Imagine my surprise when that wheel chair guy anticipating my plight and swings at me an array of ballpoint pens. What the heck. I get one. A three-minute conversation drains my battery juice. The low battery alert sounds. Not again, I forgot to charge it! Hmmm... Yes yes yes now where's the guy with the mobile phone accessories? Way behind me. All it takes is the honk of my horn and all vendor eyes look in my direction. I find whom I want and get what I want. A disposable car charger. I can’t do without my fruits after meals. My choice; apples, grapes or pawpaw. Maybe I'll have me a fruit salad!

To be continued…

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Moose Ghana

It’s not like I like being vitriol. Really, I don’t always enjoy it (although I usually do). I try; I really do try to find what I see on television agreeable. But some way some how things remain skewed.
I have come to the logical conclusion after several permutations and combinations, that 8 out of 10 young ladies in Ghana are shallow! There I’ve said it. If you take offense its probably because you fall under the 80% category. True. It’s not a fact that I gladly admit. Painful, I know. Who would have thought?
You might wonder what the genesis of this theory is. This time I tuned into the Miss Ghana Diaries on GTV. I believe it was the Miss Eloquence test and one after another, they displayed their ignorance. Very few held their heads up.
They asked someone what she would do if she became president for a day. She went on and on talking about youth empowerment and helping secure peace in African nations. Seriously, what can you achieve in one single 24-hour day? Many presidents if given an entire lifetime would still grapple with that. Let’s be real. If you asked me that, I’ll be honest and say: I’ll call my entire family over to the castle, host the biggest banquet ever, have it televised live and then decorate myself with the highest honours ever! Cos God knows I so deserve it.
I’m gonna go ahead and say this. Hate me all you want, but over time, Miss Ghana has lost the class it had when I first came to know of it. Ask anybody before my time and they’ll tell you that what it stood for 10years ago isn’t what it stands for today. We have girls who are looking for fame, popularity, money and hoping to build their wardrobes, and I quote “help build their confidence” with the pageant. Girrrl, you need to have yourself some confidence before you can step out on any platform. This isn’t a competition for losers who want to “de-lose-ify” themselves, puh-lease.
Like we don’t have enough losers already parading in victory skin. Wake up girls and smell the reality of life. We don’t live in a life of make-up kits and high-heeled knowledge. Neither do we need pencil-heel-brained-motorized Barbie dolls attempting to “lift the flag of Ghana high”. You can’t even carry Ghana’s weight on those heels anyway. And to hear them talk about women empowerment? When they are the same ones giving women a bad name. That just does me in. The best they can do is quote decades old hackneyed sayings. Why don’t you show us how empowered you are by making up your own, huh?
Half the time, I’m sure the judges (can’t remember their names) were just picking at their brains and having a laugh. I wished someone would make me judge of these shows. I’d show them…I’d just show them.

Much A-Say About Nothing

Let me start today’s issue by saying thanks to everyone who reads this column. I realize, or perhaps I don’t realize how many loyal readers I have out there. So if you’re part of the famos freddy fan club, thank you. But I’ll like to hear more about how good I am, so please drop me an email. “Ego under construction. Lend a hand.”
This Wednesday, I’m not going to talk about anything in particular, like I ever do. Believe it or not, you do run out of things to criticize about sometimes, like now for instance. Or perhaps there’s so much to write about that it just the thought of it is overwhelming in itself. So just incase you read this piece and ask yourself what the heck is this freddy talking about? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It’s been a while since I heard anything about Mentor. Anyone, someone could you fill us in a little? What’s the status?
Stars of the Future is back on again and year after year it never ceases to amaze me how some people can leave their homes, dress up looking all sharp, come to the audition centers with all purpose and intent and end up disgracing themselves.
There are so many disillusioned young folks out there who believe that they are stars. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being confident, loving yourself, being proud of yourself and all that good stuff, but seriously, no, I mean it, seriously, WAKE UP!!!
If you are out there and you have any family member praising you for your vocal prowess, be ye not too gullible. Get a recorder, put yourself on tape play it back and see if it sounds like what you hear on the radio…then again what you hear on radio might not be the best to compare yourself with, considering all the warts that manage to get studio time. But listen to notable records and see how well you place in comparison before you get broken hearted.
Based on this and a lot of research (i.e. television watching) I’ve decided on something and you guys are hearing it first from me. It’s not an entirely new idea, but in Ghana it is. If anyone does it, you’ll know where they got it from and I can sue them for using my idea.
Hear me out. Why don’t we start a pure talent hunt. I don’t mean singing or dancing alone. In fact, one of the prerequisites of the show would be must not sing. You can simulate singing if you want, but just don’t do it. From gymnasts, contortionists, mimes, drummers, bareback horse riders to anyone who can do outrageous things to entertain. I can already see “…proudly brought to you by MTN” written all over it. (Hint hint)
No seriously, not all talents are being unearthed. I’m sure there are people who need to reveal their talents and neither Mentor nor Stars of the Future holds the promise for which they desire. So allow me to be that pathway to your dreams. You can thank me later.
Yes I know, it’ll be a little difficult to find the winner, but who says we are looking for winners? We are merely giving them the chance to perform in front of an audience, knowing how used they’ve become to their bathroom mirrors.
Now the world has me and we can all live happily ever after. Thanks to famos freddy. I’m such a genius…sometimes.

Well you know what to do, love it or hate it? Send it straight to

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Freddy goes Hindi

I know you missed me and I’m sure you would just love for me to say that I missed you too, but truthfully, I didn’t. Flattery is usually a one-way street, so if it’s headed in my direction, that’s all there is to it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pay you back someday. Maybe. Let’s just hope that this time I’m able to stay afloat.
So I was watching a Hindi movie. Yes, so what? freddy needs to be entertained, anyway anyhow. That aside, it still amazes me, decades and decades of Bollywood and they still maintain the authenticity and purity of the Indian culture. Granted the dance scenes have become a little hip, but it takes nothing out of their culture.
As I was saying before I interrupted myself, I caught one of such Hindi movies on TV3 one Sunday. I’ll give you a moment to purge your minds of high-jumping/diving, drumbeat-punching, acrobatic dancing-fight scenes, and high-pitched singing solos that might be etched into your memory.
This time my friends, we’re talking Robo-Bollywood – space ships, aliens, flying saucers, ET Phone home and such.
It wasn’t your everyday love story between two rival families. Or two lovebirds separated by the evil and cruel uncle with the men crying over their women. No, this one was unlike any of those. Yes the men were crying, but not like we know it to be. Apparently, some alien had crash landed through the Indian airspace, had found a family to be with and had given a “deficient” young man “powers” that rid him of any handicap. Then there was this display of love and friendship between the two as the government tried to capture the alien for experimentation (ah, the usual). You know how these things go, if the alien leaves, his “powers” go. What makes it so heroic was that this “un-handicapped” young man agreed to allow the alien who by the way was called Jadoo (a very Indian name for an equally Indian alien) to leave and be with his alien family knowing that he would lose his “powers”.
It was just refreshing as it was surprising to see a different side to Hindi movies.
Trust me, if we had to do something like this in Ghana, we would call it “Aboa huhuuhu bi” (literally translated as: “some scary animal”) and it will run for at least 3 parts. I kid you not. Or we would twist the entire story and make it superstitious. Saying how the gods of the land want to punish its inhabitants for not giving them enough yam or plantains after the bumper harvest. Or maybe they gave them the yams but forgot to the stew that goes oh so well with it. We would just distort it. Everything has to land on superstition, why? And it’s never in the positive light. Never! Now I don’t believe in UFOs or that sort of thing, but I enjoy the stories when they tell it. I admire the employ of the human imaginative mind. And I can understand why some people might hope of another life source out there. Anyway, back to earth.
I’m saying is that the choice of movie titles have become as cheap as sand on the beach. Perhaps, because the content isn’t much to work with. I saw an advertisement for a new television show “Apata kese ase” (under the shade of a big tent)…I think. But that title in its self shows we have no desire to extend the show to viewers other than the narrow confines of GTV’s coverage. Our movie titles have run the gamut of all female hip-hop and R&B stars. Soon we’ll be looking at Diddy, Fat Joe, and 50 Cent.
Maybe they should do a movie about me; how I am able to make you read my column week after week, and how I’m everyone’s hero (or at least, I’d like to think so). That should be fun to watch.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Deep Blue Unknown

The wave rocks, rolls and runs to & fro in a splash against the shore
The kids run forth and back to each other
Passing among them a ball that seems
To heed to the direction of the sea's breeze
Rather than where they kick it
The wind rushes in my direction and carries
Along with it scenes and stories
From a great many miles away
The salty breeze slaps my face,
I close my eyes and breathe in deep
Memories of reality, sounds and sights of the real life gradually begin to face
The extent of the sea beckons me
The boat drifting away in the distant calls out
Let's go on a ride into the unknown
Trust me with your life and I'll guide you home
The palm trees swing and sway, dancing to the rhythm of the waves
As they splash of the rocks
Eyes wide shut, senses alert, breath getting heavier,
I stretch forth my hand and heed to the call
I let go of myself, step outside myself
I become light as a spirit
Take my first guided step into the deep blue sea, unknown to me
Yes, I feel this is the only way I can fully define myself
As light as a dove, fleetingly as a feather, the journey begins

The frigid grip of the water clenches my ankles
I thought I would shiver,
Instead the warm tingle of excitement
Lingers through my system and the cold is no match for it
Deeper and deeper into it I step
First at the knee, soon to my wrist & still climbing
Didn't think it'll be this quick
Where's the voice that called out to me?
I try to listen, but it's gone
My heart pounds quicker and louder
Deafening the sound of the sea
Soon enough, my whole self is marinating, submerged,
Plunged into the deep blue unknown
It's just you, just you, I whisper to myself
I struggle to keep my head above the water's the rush past,
Then I give up the struggle
I hold my breath and let go
Down, down, down I go
Till it's just the sea bed I see

But then something almost magical happens
It seems easier not to hold my breath than to do so
Breathe girl, breathe. Scary, but I do it anyway
I blink twice, then a bubble comes up
Impossible!!! Breathing clear and easy under water
Now the voice is back, come this way it says. I follow
The most enchanting sight ever imagined
An entirely new place, but I feel at home
I was in a near death state, but I feel more alive than ever
Doing and being what is humanly impossible, yet loving each breathless moment
The water is my guide, the sea bed my safe spot
The deep blue unknown: just what I needed to overcome to see the beauty of me
Its calm, its soothe, and its deafening quietness, its buoyancy...

A splash of water over my face
Eyes open and I'm back ashore, back to where I was,
Armed still stretched out...
A dream, or...was it?

Who stole our sense of national pride?

Hit on that link if you will and read the story about the Ghanaian boy in WWE who doesn't want to be known as a Ghanaian.

This is the official WWE site with pictures and all about him.

Ok, now let's see how this goes with our sense of National Pride, assuming there is one.
Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah, (a very Ghanaian name at that) decides that for publicity sake, he'll adopt a stage name Kofi Kingston to represent his brought on Jamaican identity. Now while we may all be originally African or black for that matter, we still need to ask ourselves why? Why will a well-bred Ghana-man decide that he prefers to be Jamaican?
Let's look at both sides of the story. Those of us born and raised in the motherland most of our lives realize how many of our friends pretended to be from outside the country so they could be given some respect above their comrades. And needless to say, some of them did.
Even now, as we have all grown and departed from our childhood dreams of being the british or american bred child, some of us still live in that fantasy.
People travel on vacation for three months and accents change considerably. Move a Ghanaian to Japan/China/Thailand and they'll still come back with a slang. Move a Nigerian anywhere and they'll still maintain their Nigerian accent. What is wrong with us as Ghanaians?
We owe a lot to the Black Stars. Seriously, were it not for them we wouldn't have this many flags selling on our streets. It was only until then was some sense of nationalism instilled into our people.
What is it about Ghana that no one wants to be associated with?
Are we that bad? HUH? Kofi Annan stuck with his true identity and that hasn't taken a morsel out of his dignity has it?
Neeway, I just can't bring myself to understand why Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah would exchange his identity just for fame. It just seems lame to me that he would do such a thing. All the same, it seems to be working for him.
But who am I, maybe if I were in his position, for fame sake, I might just do exactly what he's doing. But to deny your origin and put up a fake Jamaican accent, it's near pathetic!
I think we should deliberate on the untold reasons resulting in our citizens denying their heritage. I'm not exactly the quintessential patriotic Ghanaian, but I would like the opportunity to etch the name of Ghana in stone everywhere I go. If I deny that, I deny who I am and I deny my purpose here on earth. But who cares?
Ghana isn't a bad place to be from, but then again with national heroes like Agya Koo, we might seek a redress. Otherwise, we have me for crying out loud. Seriously, although we might have our challenges, we need not deny it just because it doesn't fit into our personality, we should try and efface the negative publicity that goes out of Ghana and recreate the Ghana we want to see and feel proud of from afar.
Need I say more?