Tuesday, 20 July 2021

In Spite of...

 In spite of us

The shadow.

Follows me everywhere. Now here, now there. 

Never too far yet too close for comfort

I'd rather not see you, but I can’t hide from you

Like a light (in spite of its darkness) it reveals me

I like to see myself as this, yet it shows me as that

That which I’m not proud of, that disturbing self

That unsettles, worries, shames, reduces me

Yet humbles and fills me with love for a God 

Who knows me all, and accepts me all….every which way. 

Surely, this life is all going somewhere good 

In spite of us.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

You don't value me

'Afam Nwa' - You don't value me
The forest of Kundum was a beautiful place to live. During the day the sun shone brilliantly through the emerald green leaves of the proud acacia trees, leaving dappled lights scattered on the ground for the. When it rained, the streams overflowed onto the red earth along their banks where the mudfish writhed with abandon. and droplets of water danced over the foliage like little diamonds, nourishing the red and black earth below.
Kusum was home to the magnificent elephants, the graceful, haughty antelope, the clever thieving monkeys, and a wide array of less noticed little creatures that included the slow walking, spiral shelled brown snails.
Every animal in the forest had something to boast of...except the little creatures like the snail. He was slow. He was weak. He was little, was easy prey and he was ugly. No one thought much of the snail. The prized catches for hunters were the deer, and the village wives preferred to trap grasscutters and fishes. Children dug up snails to play with them, and the very old and destitute rummaged around the undergrowth after rains looking for snails to eat. But the truth was, snails were a tasty addition to any soup, and the village wives knew this. They were just plentiful and cheap, because they moved slowly and were so easy to find.
The King of the forest was no better. Whenever he needed a new Elder in his court he made an announcement. “Any animal can apply to be an Elder, except the snail. He is too slow and dumb. I need clever creatures to be Elders!”

One day, the leader of the snails in Kusum forest made a decree. He alone knew their true value and he was fed up with being disrespected. “The best way for others to recognize your value is to deprive them of your presence entirely. All the snails will hereby disappear from the forest”, he announced. “Then we will see how the community will fare without us.”
The next morning, not a single snail could be found in the forest.

Soon the snakes and birds begun to starve. The poor people who couldn’t buy meat could no longer find snail meat for their soup, so they only ate fruits and vegetables, and they soon began to get sick.

A few weeks after the snails disappeared , the forest animals began to realize that the forest was beginning to have a bad smell. Dead animals and plants seemed to lie around for a much longer time than usual. As time went on, the animals noticed that the new plants that sprouted seemed unusually small and shriveled. Animals like the antelopes and grasscutters struggled to find food, and they slowly began to starve.

The king of Kusum forest called his wise counselors to a meeting.
“What is happening to our forest? Why are our plants and animals dying?”
“I think it’s a punishment from the gods! The animals have not been on good behavior so we are all being punished.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Antelope said. “We are dying because the deer have poisoned our food. They want to kill us all, then they can be the fastest animals in the forest.”
Then the wise owl quietly said... “It’s the snails.”
“What did you say?” The king asked.
“It’s because the snails have disappeared.”
All the elders laughed loudly. “What on earth is Owl talking about? He’s so old now, he can't even see anything...what does he know?” they jeered.
“None of you know how important the snails are, do you?” Owl asked.
The king knew how wise Owl was, so he did not dismiss him. “Tell us what you mean, Owl,” he said.

Owl spoke. “Did you know that snails eat dead leaves and little animals, rotting wood, and different kinds of trash? It is no wonder we are drowning in rubbish since they left the forest. Also snails are food for many animals like snakes, beetles, turtles, mice and birds, so if these animals can’t find snails to eat, they will become unhealthy and die. Guess what will happen then to those of us who feed on mice, snakes and turtles? Now you know why many of the animals are dying!”

The King and his elders were very quiet. No one knew what to say. Finally the King spoke.
“We must be very careful about how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters. We didn’t know how important the snails were to us. Now, what are we going to do?

'Afam Nwa' - Wax print name

Friday, 15 March 2019


I am going to miss this school.
Walking down the corridors and remembering a time gone by...17 years ago.
My four year old daughter with tiny pompoms in her hair, yellow t shirt under flowered overall shorts. Her little hand gripping mine tightly; wondering about this new school.
The pretty classrooms lined up in a long U, with rounded, terra cotta coloured roofs. The large well-laid, green basketball court in front of the classrooms, separated from a sandy playground by a line of low trees.

I remember taking her to the little petting zoo tucked in the corner of the bend between grades 2 and 3,  to see the tortoise, the rabbit and the guinea pig, just to settle her anxieties.
In no time she got to love the school. (How could she not?) Even more, when it became my school too.

 One summer, the petting zoo gave way to a new classroom...my own. I remember my first day as a teacher. I was confident, nervous, excited and worried. All at once.
My first class of students. I remember every one of them. The little girl who cried everyday until she learned to speak English. The little boy who had a habit of chewing a piece of his notebook the minute my back was turned. The one who brought little lizards into the classroom after recess;  the one who looked like she'd burst into tears whenever it was time for number work...

I remember the wonderful community of teachers...so many of them have come and gone, and every group has been special. There have been numerous changes over the years; too many to count, but we are on the verge of experiencing the biggest yet. The quaint classrooms with their rounded terracotta colored roofs will soon give way to a massive state of the art high-rise school block. It is an exciting change for all, but today, I feel sad. Bereft.

Monday, 11 March 2019


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Anja is from Kosovo. She just joined the class a month ago in the second semester of the year. She speaks no English, but appears to have some learning difficulties too.

Initially, the girls in the class took her under their wing, but all that has changed. They discover Anja is different. She looks, speaks and acts differently. Plus she let on that she was older than most of them...two years older. The fifth graders do not know how to embrace all that uniqueness. For sometime Anja did not realize they had lost interest in hanging out with her, so she followed them everywhere. It became obvious even to her at some point, yet that didn't stop her from seeking their friendship...though not quite so enthusiastically.

Through it all, Anja carried herself admirably. She always had a smile on her face, and got on with the business of school without complaint...or so it appeared. At the next parent meeting her mother informed the teacher sadly that her daughter was not happy in school. She thought the other girls didn't like her because she was so much older. The teachers are amazed. Anja announces her age at the least opportunity, with her ubiquitous smile. The very next day in a small group activity, the subject of age comes up as the students discuss a story character, and sure enough Anja pipes up. "I am 12 years old!"
This time the teacher looks more closely, and she sees it.  Face smiling yet fearful. Eyes beseeching acceptance. Trepidation masked by a stoic sense of self. "I am 12 years old!"

Anja was more than she appeared. She could barely speak English, but she spoke for us all...and in point of fact, she spoke better than most.

Sunday, 10 March 2019


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Achy feet.
Sore calves.
Stiff back.
Grainy eyes.
Jumbled thoughts - yet I must slice.
Even if its a sliver of a slice.
Perdóname (I'm learning Spanish), this is going to be brief.
It's been a tough day.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

At the Market

The Baatsona market on Saturday morning offers a complete assault on the senses.
The marketplace in Ghana is one of the last vestiges of traditional and cultural practices that resist any movement into modernity. It never ceases to amaze me. From the randomly, haphazardly organized stalls, to the communal existence apparent in the human interactions, it is as though time froze here, and a visitor from the 1940s would have no problem fitting right in.

The vast array of red tomatoes, white garden eggs, green okra, blackened smoked fish, orange peppers and silver salted fishes are enough to leave you crosseyed. I head for my favourite crab lady first. She has large orange-hued moon crabs and delicious flat blue ones of all sizes. She 'mistakenly' gives me double what I ask for, and tries to convince me to buy it all. I sweetly refuse, and she sweetly acquiesces, prattling non-stop about her delicious crabs.

A table piled high with smooth, round shiny red tomatoes catches my eyes. Of course, the vendor caught me looking and wasn't about to let me go. "Oh mummy, please come!", she cried plaintively. (nevermind the fact there was NO way I could be her mother). Nevertheless, I liked the look of her tomatoes enough to comply.
 As I stood there, the insistent cries of a little girl nearby caught my attention, and I wondered why no one else seemed bothered by it. It was the tomato seller's daughter,  being chided severely by a woman at the next table. The mother finally intervened, and I wondered if a quarrel was about to break out between the women, but no, not at all.
 "You must listen to Auntie Esi when she asks you to stop," she said to her daughter.
I recognized it immediately from way back when I was little....the child-rearing style among females. Our mother's friends had every right to tell us off if for some reason she wasn't there to do it herself. We knew it, our mothers expected it, and the whole community valued it. It just isn't much in evidence among most modern parents today.

After a few more purchases my time in the market was done. Just as I turned to leave I remembered I hadn't bought okra. I stopped to get some but realized I had run out of money.
"Don't worry, you can have it," the okra seller said to me. "If you come next time you can pay me."
I couldn't believe it. This lady most certainly made a fraction of what I earned in a month, yet she was willing to give money away to a perfect stranger with no guarantee of ever getting it back. My heart was glad. Old fashioned values are still very much alive...even if only in the marketplace.

Friday, 8 March 2019

What's in a name?

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My nephew's first name is Sir Garnet. A black African boy born to Ghanaian parents living in Ghana, West Africa. Why?

My grandmother's grandfather, Chief Kweku Andoh was one of the few educated elders in Elmina during the 1800s. He was the Chief of Elmina's foremost advisor at the time the British took over the then Gold Coast colony from the Dutch. On the Chief's expulsion from the country by the British, Chief Andoh was appointed regent in his place. He became firm friends with the British, whom he believed were more trustworthy than the Dutch, and became a lieutenant in the army. He developed a  friendship with Sir Garnet Wolseley, British governor in the Gold Coast, and major troubleshooter for the British empire.

 It is to our endless mortification, that my great, great grandfather joined Wolseley in his punitive expedition against the great empire of Ashanti. It was on this expedition that news arrived of his son's birth. Wolseley, grateful for the support of Chief Andoh, requested that his newborn son be named after him. Chief Andoh was happy to comply. Since traditionally names are passed down from father to son, the name 'Sir Garnet' has remained in my family to this day.

Strangely, our present day 'Sir Gee' as we call him, is as militant as they come....starkly different from his significantly more amenable siblings. What's in a name, I say?