The People Called Family

They came in their numbers at dawn. When Aya heard the distant wailing, she thought she was dreaming but it got louder so she woke up, and it became louder still. Then she heard the knocks at the main gate. She also heard Yoofi walk out of his room to go and open the gates. The wailing was now at its loudest.

Owuo ayε ma di ooo owuo wa yε ma di. Ah we di mi ewu” screamed a woman, she was addressing death as though it was human. She said he had taken something precious from her. Her voice was hoarse, perhaps, from shouting too much.

Aya got out of her bed and crept towards the window. She could see them, they were clad in the traditional black and red mourning attires. Many of them were women who wore black scarfs on their heads, black wrappers around their waists, and red bands on their wrists. The screaming woman was lying on the ground, and the others stood in a somber semi-circle around her; their quieter sobs, the chorus to her mournful song.

The woman stopped crying to blow her nose into the cloth she had around her waist. The sound tore through the compound, loud and long, it felt like she was forcing decades of goo out of her insides. She looked up towards someone, Aya could not see the person from where she hid behind her bedroom curtains so she tried stretching her neck and standing on her tiptoes. A hand reached down to help the screaming woman stand up and sit on the bench in the compound. This time Aya got a good look the wailing woman. She was fair and lean, she had a protruding forehead, a big flat nose, and thick dark lips. Just like Paapa.

“Yoofi, my son, tell me what happened.” the woman was saying to Yoofi. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen, and still had tears in them.

Yoofi was about to speak but was interrupted by a lanky old man. “Young man, it is too early to talk about what happened. Tell your sisters to bring your aunt and the rest of us some water, then call your mother for us. This is a matter for older people to address” the man cleared his throat.

Aya slipped into the black and white dress that hung on the door of her room while she waited to be called to serve the mourners; It was the same one she had worn to the hospital yesterday. The same one Paapa rested his head on when in the car while she watched as his breath stopped and pupils became still. She shook her head fiercely in an attempt to clear the memory.

Yoofi didn’t come to call her. Aya went back to the window.

The old man was addressing Mama now. “Nana Esi, thank you for receiving us, and for telling us what happened. It is the wish of the elderly in every house that they are buried by the younger ones but death has his own timetable and has decided to call my nephew Joojoe.” He cleared his throat again and continued. “As custom demands, we shall meet here again on Tuesday to have the one-week rites and announce the funeral arrangements. Send word to your family, and take heart.”

Aya sat on her bed and blocked her ears, tears flowed freely from her eyes and there was a sudden tightening in her chest that made it hard to breathe.

Yoofi finally came into her room. He was dragging in two suitcases and a large handbag.

“Who are those for?” Aya wanted to ask, but she said nothing.

“The people called family,” he said, answering the question in her eyes.

Death by Fright

“Annie… Annie. Wake up, I want to pee, please walk me to the bathroom” Ayele whispered

“hmm” mumbled Annie in her sleep as she tossed to the other side of her student bed.

Ayele lay awake on her bunk bed in Dorm 7, trying hard to suppress the urge to visit the bathroom. She looked at her little alarm clock, the tiny glow in the dark hands of the clock read 12:15 am. There was no way she was going down the stairs to the bathroom alone at this ungodly time.

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Ayele tried to distract herself. She clenched her fists and her toes and started adding doubles in her head. “1+1=2, 2+2=4, 4+4=8…” She tried to hold the pee in by holding her breath. Bad idea. Soon she was so close to wetting herself that it brought tears to her eyes.

She got out of her bed and went to the bedside of her friend.

“Annie,” Ayele whispered and nudged her friend again in a final desperate attempt to wake her.

Annie pulled away in discomfort, muttered something incomprehensible and tossed again. Ayele was certain she could not hold it any longer, and hell would freeze over before a proud *Ganyobi like her would be sneered at for being one of those secondary school girls with loose bladders who wet their beds.

She reached for her rosary which she had hung on the side of her bed for protection, traced the sign of the cross over herself with it, and wore it around her neck.

She slowly crept her way through the winding maze of multicolored buckets, yellow gallons, and the shiny and rusty metal trunks that had been arranged in the middle of the dormitory to make way for scrubbing in the morning, and opened the door.

She stared down the long corridor that led to the staircase. “Lord it’s going to take a miracle to make it to that staircase, not to talk of getting downstairs before I pee on myself,” she thought. She wrapped her arms around herself in a bid to stop herself from shivering but the cold harmattan air only made things worse.

That damn harmattan is the cause of this situation anyway. It’s almost like the weather can’t make up its mind. It’s so cold in the morning that some girls skip their morning shower then it gets hellishly hot during the day, almost like the sun is pressing its lips to the face of the earth in some sort of heated love affair, and the rest of the world is trapped in the heat of their passion.

I had to drink a dam of water today otherwise they would have parceled my shriveled remains home! This is what I get for refusing to die with thirst – death by fright!

Slowly she started down the corridor, each step she took brought ten thousand pictures of what could go wrong to her mind. I should think more positively, she thought, let me sing a song. The only song that quickly came to mind was a jama song she and the rest of the form one girls had been taught by the Sports Prefect. They had been made to sing it every siesta all week, ahead of next week’s inter-house sports competitions.

If you want to killi me….Kill me make I die…I forever loyal to shamisha-

Really? Ayele thought, Of all the songs in the world? She was almost at the staircase now. I could pray instead. So she started muttering Psalm 23

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Oh no!

The fluorescent light at the staircase which led downstairs was off! Poor Ayele was panic-stricken, a few drops of pee hit her panties. She felt herself beginning to get wet. Ye though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death. She repeated louder in her head, as though that would chase the fear away, and more importantly hold herself together while she descended the dark creepy staircase. Step by Step, we will make it. She willed herself, held on to the handrail and took one step down the stairs.

The first step, the second step, good good.

The third step, fourth step… What was that sound!

Fifth step… Cockroach?! mouse?! snake?!

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Sixth step… Oh no no ….no…not now… please…

Warm fluid run down her legs and pooled at her feet. Ayele stood in chilling defeat for a moment, and then, as though being chased by the devil himself she ran back to her dorm.


The next morning was full of chaos. Asabea, the form two girl in charge of scrubbing the stairs was livid about having to scrub urine off her workspace. She held all the form one girls hostage on the balcony, refusing to let them go downstairs to take their baths or do their chores until the culprit confessed.

“But who would commit such a cowardly act?” Annie questioned no one in particular. She was standing with Aso, Tina, Owusua and a girl from Big Dorm whose name Ayele didn’t know. They were all holding their buckets in one hand and soap dishes and towels in the other and had tied their sponges loosely around their necks.

“Mtchew…As if the person who did it would own up” Aso replied. I just want Sister Asabea’s tantrum to end so I can go and bath.

“Could happen to any one of us you know” Tina said, “That staircase is really dark at night now that there are no bulbs. I wonder what they use our house dues for.”

“I wake my school mother up every time I want to go to the bathroom at night. She walks me there” the girl from big dorm said.

“Nonsense,” retorted Annie “I would never do that if I was your school mum… mtchew…as though our bladders are attached. If the place is dark. carry a torch eh? Why disturb someone else’s sleep? So selfish! She tossed her towel over her left shoulder and leaned on the balustrade.

“You must have a great school mum,” Ayele said hoping that contributing to the conversation would make her look less guilty of the crime being discussed.

“I don’t blame you though, your school mother lives off your provisions so she has to be at your beck and call. Annie said again, clearly not satisfied with her previous statement. “The silly girl who did this will surely be punished. This is *Deebee foolishness” She was about to speak again when Martinette’s angry voice tore through the corridor.

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“Form one fuɔ! Gymi nii bεn na ayε saa gyimi diε wei?” Asabea bellowed.

“Asabea, you will speak English and remember your manners in this house, understood?” Gianni, the House Compound prefect scolded calmly.

“Sorry Sister.” Asabea replied and shouted again “Sisters in the Upstairs Dormitories, whose stupid daughter, brought to this school by the stupid computer system of the GES, thought it wise to turn the staircase into a urinal?”

“What did I say about manners?” Gianni chided again.

“I am sorry sister, but how can I scrub this smelly place with my usual portion of water when inspection is only 30 minutes away eh?” Asabea whined cunningly slipping in a request for more water.

With the frequent shortage of water in the school, students had to make long trips to the taps at the school field, popularly referred to as Batman, for bathing water. The House Polytanks were supplied with water weekly but that was usually reserved for scrubbing and only distributed to students in extreme shortage cases.

Water was an unofficial currency in the school, and as with every economy, there were power brokers: prefects, sports girls, students with kitchen mothers or fathers etc. There were also house workers, like Asabea, who took every opportunity to demand and hoard water for their own use, while using as little as possible for their designated workplaces.

“I will ask a form one girl to help you. Now go to the prefects’ dorm and tell Radiatu to give you 2 Gallons of water, an extra portion of Parazone and gloves” Gianni ordered, but Asabea was already halfway down the stairs at the sound of water. More water is always welcome news, even if it takes such unpleasant tasks to be rewarded the precious resource.

Turning to the form one girls, Gianni ordered. “You all have 10 minutes to take your bath and 15 minutes to do your chores”

“Yes Sister” the girls cried in unison and hurriedly walked past her down the stairs!

“Girl with the red bucket” Gianni called out.

Please don’t let it be me. Ayele prayed. As she rushed down.

“Victoria, call me that girl in the blue morning coat, with the red bucket.

Definitely me. Ayele cried inwards. “Sister Gianni, is it me please?” she surrendered knowingly.

“Yes. Gianni said firmly. “Where do you work?”

“Prefects’ Dorm please”

“The Prefects’ Dorm is not dirty this morning. You will help Asabea scrub the stairs today”

“Yes Sister,” Ayele muttered. It’s either this ‘Karma is a bitch’ thing is really true, she thought or Annie is a witch!

_____________________

*Ganyobi: of Ga descent

*Deebee: Spoilt rich kid

1,280. 

The radio in the Trotro was loud. Very loud. The passengers complained but the driver, probably deafened by constant exposure to such unpleasant loudness or at least pretending to be, ignored their complaints.

Perhaps he had cause to, the man who was talking on the radio program sounded very angry over the recent increase in petrol, after listening for a few minutes I get to know that he is the Head a Drivers Union branch that had increased fares against the prerogative of the GPRTU because they felt they were being cheated.

The presenter of the radio show was trying to explain to him that the government had little control in the regulation of fuel prices, but the man would not have it. “Massa, they told us that they would reduce prices so we campaigned, and voted for them. We would not understand why they cannot reduce the prices and will not allow us to increase fares as well!”

As if on cue the passengers in the Trotro burst into arguments. As always, there are those for the government, who explain the government’s peculiar challenges and encourage, rather impatiently, patience on the part of citizens especially the drivers.

Then there are those against the government. They see no good in what the government hopes to achieve and condemn them for deceiving the people.

It’s getting louder. Much louder. The driver seems to be smiling because the gentleman in the white shirt sitting next to him at the front agrees with the man on the radio. He sympathizes with the drivers. He argues that the unions are not strong enough to fight for themselves because they have been corroded with the politicization of everything.

I am just tired and want the frenzy to end. The evening clouds brought no breeze to subside the heat, and as always, traffic is at a standstill.

Everyone is talking, the radio is still loud but no one is listening. The woman sitting next to me is making me uncomfortable. She has three children; a baby and a set of twins- about four years old, three school bags, a large lunch box and herself squeezing into the space meant for one person. Of course, it won’t work out so I am sitting on one butt cheek, I can’t shift to my right because that’s the mate’s seat and I don’t want him to rub off his sweaty masculine smell all over my work clothes.

I try to take my phone out of my bag, one of the twins is throwing a tantrum. She hits me on the head with the toy she’s holding. Her mother scolds her but does not apologize to me. Typical.

I wear my earphones and turn on the radio on my phone. There is another discussion on another radio station. Although morbidly related to the discussion on the bus. They were talking about road accidents. The presenter said nineteen people had died over the weekend in three separate accidents. Four of the dead were female nursing trainees who had attended a program in town. They talked and talked about the state of the roads, the vehicles that plied them and the competency of the drivers. Then they spoke of government policies and government agencies in charge of the roads.

Then they called the PRO of the Road Safety Commission to ask how they were ensuring that accidents were reduced to the minimum. The PRO, you could tell she was concerned about the spate of the accidents, but then she is a government agency worker and I have learned not to trust those people. She said they educated people through public service ads and collaboration with media houses and Drivers Unions.

She said almost three thousand people died last year by road accidents alone. She said their target this year was to reduce that number by almost half; One thousand two hundred and eighty.

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

I looked at the woman on my right. she was dozing off. The toddler on her lap was already asleep, and the twins were playing with each other’s hair. Could they be in the target number? Could I?

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

I didn’t know what to think. How could lives just be sacrificed on the table of indiscipline, corruption, recklessness and sheer disregard for life?

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

Husbands, Wives, Sisters, Brothers, Children.

I panicked.

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

The number made my head reel with nausea. I was about to get sick. There was a sudden fear that canceled out the noise and politics in the Trotro.

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

These people or more would die this year. I looked around at the people in the Trotro with me. There were probably invisible tags of doom on the foreheads of some of them.

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty.

It’s suddenly too hot. I need some air.

“Mate, bus stop. I will alight here.”


Writer’s note: This post was inspired by a discussion on an Accra based radio station Citi Fm, the setting and characters are all fictional.

Sister Sister:

“What do you have against that man? He’s been nothing but kind to you Mensima. He’s handsome, probably rich or will soon be rich, and he’s a Doctor!”

Karley paused and turned to look at Mensima, who was in the driving seat, waiting for a reaction but Mensima’s eyes were fixed the road, her hands firmly gripping the steering wheel. When it was clear to Karley that she wasn’t going to get any response, she continued her argument.

“He’s a doctor o? Doctor! Do you know how difficult it is to find good men these days?”

Mensima who couldn’t resist a chuckle retorted, “Karley, how many times do I have to tell you that the profession of a man or his appearance is not an indicator of his true character?”

She immediately regretted speaking because she knew she had just fuelled Karley’s argument. Karley just doesn’t know when to stop Mensima thought to herself; Actually, she does, only when she’s convinced herself that the other party is also convinced that she is right.

As Mensima’s old Nissan Pickup screeched slowly to a stop at the Kwashieman traffic light she turned to eye her friend, wondering for the umpteenth time why her friend was a pediatric nurse instead of a lawyer.

“Madam, when I say “good” I don’t mean character only. I mean He’s an Adam- He has all you need for you to comfortably slip into the position of Eve. He can take care of you. You don’t have to worry too much.” Karley defended and begun fidgeting with the window roller of the front seat, trying to get some air in.

Mensima had gone to pick up Karley from the 37 Military Hospital where she worked. She was already regretting the act of kindness because she could tell Karley would not stop talking till they got to Tetegu, which was still over an hour away thanks to Friday traffic in Accra, so she threw in something she knew Karley liked talking about more than other people’s issues- Herself.

“How the wedding plans coming along?”

“You don’t get to be smart with me young lady; I know what you’re doing.” Karley had caught Mensima’s move, but she answered anyway “Hmm.. at this rate, I don’t know if I will get to be Mrs. Nutsukpui by June!” Do you know that Fui’s parents insist that I attend their EP church for the marriage counseling? I mean how? I am already sacrificing so much, I am trading my beautiful surname Arden- Clarke for their Nutsukpui, I am wearing Ewe Kente for the traditional marriage, I am even agreeing to only three bridesmaids instead of six, and a simple trumpet gown instead of my intended dreamy princess ball gown. As if all these aren’t enough, they want me to do six months of counseling, when we have already done three months at my church! Why, do they want us to get PhDs in marriage counseling before we marry? I can’t deal with their pettiness!

Mensima tried to hide the smile that was beginning to form at the corners of her mouth; it was just like Karley to see the pettiness in everyone but herself. “That must be really frustrating. What does Fui think of all this?” she asked again, determined to let her friend go on about her wedding plans for the rest of their journey home.

“Oh! that one! He doesn’t seem to care about anything o- very typical.” Karley stressed her words in a way only she knew how. “I am planning this wedding by myself; I may as well marry myself for all he cares!” she added throwing her hands up in irritation. This time Mensima laughed, her friend could be such a drama queen when she wanted to.

“I’d love to see you marry yourself. Oh boy, what a spectacle it would be!” Mensima said, between fits of laughter.

“Maame Efua Mensima Dadson!” Karley playfully scolded. “You’re supposed to be on my side here. What sort of Maid of Honour are you?”

“Sorry Ma’am” Mensima managed to say between giggles.

“But people have done worse you know?” I recently read of a woman who married a train station! A freaking train station!” Karley exclaimed

“No oo- wait. So how did she- I mean they- consummate the marriage?”

“ooooh, that’s the best part. She said she has mind sex with it!”

“Ei! Asem o.  I am still puzzled my sister. Doesn’t the state have to pay her? They are using her husband for profit right? And how will they have kids? New train stations maybe? Did she change her surname? Ah but what if she divorces the train station- oh well maybe she signed a prenup with it!”

Karley was by this time convulsing with laughter on the reclined front seat and had tears rolling down her cheeks. “Miss Analyst! Abeg marry Kaneshie Station as research and let me know your findings!”

“Tweaa, why Kaneshie station? I will marry Dubai, That’s the coolest dude in town at the moment!

“Aaah at least I know why you’re not interested in the doctor. What’s his name again?”

Trust Karley to circle back to the issue she really wants to discuss. “This conversation is not about me Madam, let’s think of how to handle your in-laws tactfully.”

“As for them, I don’t know what to say or do about them. They really don’t like the fact that I am Ga. That’s the root cause of everything. And since I can’t do anything about that, I guess we will have to manage this sweet and sour relationship for a while.”

“You really think it’s about that? Come on Karley, I mean reducing the number of bridesmaids sounds more like economics than tribalism to me.”

“They are not the ones paying for the wedding, Fui and I are. And we are fine with what I want.”

“Of course he is. He is marrying you. I think his parents, and yours to be fair, are just not used to this kind of pageantry where a wedding is concerned. I can understand their logic”

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re on my side or theirs. I am seriously reconsidering my choice of Maid of Honour. Candace would do a better job.”

“I am sorry love. You should have added a JD or at least given me some orientation when you offered me the position, you know this my first time. I have no idea what my job is besides trying to keep your overpriced makeup from melting off your face on the day.”

“Oh Goodness! It’s bad enough that I may be marrying myself come June, now I have to be my own Maid of Honour as well!” Karley exclaimed, faking exasperation.

Don’t worry. You’ll survive, if you don’t you should be assured that I can at least write a bad ass tribute.”

“God forbid! Stupid girl!”

The Hostel Manager, The Programmer and Me ;)

Tadaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!

So as you may have noticed, I recently acquired a brand new name! Rosa Antoinette ( Kuukua Annang Asante ( here’s the part where I do my happy dance and display all my 32 and couple more teeth lol.) Yes, I got married to a very beautiful person Francis Asante. Anyone who has met this man will understand how easy it was for me to  “fall” for him, and how privileged I am to share life with him . I am still working on finding the words to describe how I feel, God really outdid himself on this one. Maybe I will share that in another post.Right now I just want to share a bit of my joy, and some pictures  with you.

How we met…

Put simply, we were sold the same room at a hostel by a crook of a hostel manager called Pa George ( Shout outs to all the GIJ alumnae who can relate- Anthony Jackson, Jemila, Ini and the rest!). This was in 2010 I think, when I was studying for a Diploma in Communication Studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, and he was studying Computer Science at Ashesi University which was then located at Labone.

When it was time for us to move in, my roommate Araba and I were shown a room which was already being occupied by Francis and his roommate Henry! Of course I was angry, but my mother was angrier, you should have seen how she lashed out at the old man. Pa George eventually gave Araba and I a new room ( a better deal actually, thanks to Mama) but I had to meet the guys who “stole” our room and I did meet one of them – The One. We became friends, very good friends,(ok we dated, but you know our parents don’t like hearing tins like that ah)  and well, here we are now!

Lesson: In all things give thanks – even for the Pa Georges of your life! lol

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These young vendors made magic happen for me. I’d totally recommend them to you, check them out 0n instagram!

Photography: The MemoryLane Crew

Kente Dress: Zoya_ 233

Hair: RevUp Salon Gh

MakeUp: Lamisi MakeUp Artistry

How to Search for a Job in Ghana

You’ve finally graduated university. All praise to God who has shown you  such mercy. Now you too wield a certificate, the ultimate weapon of survival in this our economy. It doesn’t matter that you had Third class; we all know the hustle you went through to get to where you are. Shame on all the witches in your family who made that particular lecturer refer you twice, *onyame entua omu ka and may  God forbid that their children get to your level in life.

            Now you need a job. Yes. But not just any kind of job; you need one that befits your qualification. One that has many zeros at the end of the first two digits, and entitles you to a car and even a house in your first three months. Only the Ghanaian God can provide this and that is why you will pray to him, and pay your tithes dutifully, but the Ghanaian God can only help they who help themselves. So *Bra, listen very carefully.

            There are two ways by which you can secure this kind of job. The first is by protocol, you know, what we locally refer to as whom- you- know. This method requires you to have “connections”. Now is the time to dig out the numbers of very important people you know or can draw the faintest line of consanguinity to. Call your mother’s step- sister’s husband’s nephew, that one who is the Finance Minister’s assistant. Tell him how sorry you are about the death of his wife, whose funeral you were unable to attend two years ago. Explain your present situation to him, and tell him how you would appreciate his help.

May God forbid that he refuses you, or that he points out how unrelated your third class degree in animal husbandry is to finance. If he does that, quickly remind him of stories you heard about how he funded that grand funeral for his wife, stories of embezzling or some bad dealing. Stories like that are bound to work miracles, there’s always something under the rug.

            Or you can go to your local Assembly Man. Congratulate him on his election into office. They say one good turn deserves another; remind him of your parents’ generous contributions to his campaign for office. Don’t forget to highlight how instrumental you were in the in the campaign process. Remind him of how you sacrificed sleep to supervise the area boys gluing his posters on people’s walls in the middle of the night.

Now tell him what you want, and be sure to add that you are willing to do anything and everything so long as it’s in his office. Ehhn you are selfless like that. If you do not cut it as a member of one of the numerous committees in the assembly, it is not a problem. Tell him you can be his P.A’s P.A, or the carrier of newspapers from the security stand to the office, or  an expert coffee maker. You are very willing to serve. You’re even more patriotic than Kwame Nkrumah!

 To be continued…

*Bra- local slang for Brother

*onyame entua omu ka- May God pay them back in their own coin

P.S. I wrote this in 2010 I think; when I was so addicted to Elnathan John’s series lol.