The sweetness of people power: will dumsor stop?

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I am on a high today. I have not been motivated to come back here for a long while, but today, I feel so energised and happy that I think I have enough fire in me to write a few words.

Late in the afternoon yesterday the unthinkable happened. Hundreds of Ghanaians  participated in a vigil to express their dissatisfaction with the Dumsor situation. I have written about Dumsor on this blog in the past, and my readers may find it boring, but it is very, very real in Ghana and now affects all aspects of life.

I was out-of-town for the greater part of the day yesterday, and headed back to Accra from the Central Region at 1pm. After spending close to 1 hour and 15 minutes in Kasoa, I finally arrived in  Accra to find that people had converged at Legon to walk towards the green at Tetteh Quashie Roundabout. I checked Twitter to find out what was happening and the tweets were fast pouring in by the second.

It has taken a movie star and a rapper to mobilise people to take to the streets, and I cannot help thinking that this was the best alternative to mobilisation from the political parties. The two main political parties have polarised the country.. Now, local celebrities have called for people power. I drove past the demonstration to see the scene. By the time I made it through the teeming traffic it was dusk, and there were hundreds of people in black walking towards the green. Many of them held torches and candles and the atmosphere was electric. I did not see anyone wearing the colours of any political party. #Dumsor must stop is the slogan of the day.

When I got to the Akwapim Ridge, all the lights were on, and today, the lights are still on! Seriously, our leaders need to listen to us for once, and take actions that will improve our lives.1000 cheers for Yvonne Nelson, Sarkodie, Van Vickers, DJ Black, and all other celebrities like Confidence Haugen, Efya, Lydia Forson, Wanluv Kubolor and all those who poured onto the streets. You have made Ghanaians taste the sweetness of people power. I feel encouraged. This is the start of many good things to come that will turn around our lives!   #Dumsor must really stop!

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58 years old…and counting

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Another Independence Day
It seems like only yesterday when I wrote about the Independence Day Holiday that felt to me like a piece of linen. Another year has passed, and here we are, celebrating 58 years of Ghana’s political independence. But I feel rather strange today. There is a feeling of melancholy out there. Something does not feel quite right, or is it just me? One thing, the weather on the Ridge these days is dull. We do not get much sunshine. We have hazy days. And then, the electricity supply is as erratic as ever.
Surprisingly, the lights came on at 6am today. Perhaps the State wanted to give us all an Independence Day gift. I wanted to get on the block in the morning, but I decided to go to Accra and visit some family members.
I am back home now. I have tried to go online for the past 45 minutes or so without success. My WiFi does not work, the internet modem I use is not functioning properly. And now there is no electricity. The day has almost ended and Big Brother feels we have had enough of a treat. I have decided to write my entry on Word and save it. I can later on upload it.
I do not really want to discuss politics here but hey, life is political isn’t it? So I did not watch the usual Independence Day stuff the TV churns out year after year. The show of state power through parades of the army and police, helicopters above and the political élite in their finery, watching the show. Politics in Ghana leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. We hardly have any electricity, there is high inflation, and it seems people want to use every opportunity they can get to cheat others. Our leaders have made promise after promise to us, but are unable to fulfil them. It feels like the boy who cried “wolf”.
What did we do wrong? I am sure there are several reasons: poor economic policies, lack of vision, dependence on development aid, poor agricultural policies, corruption, weak leadership. I could go on and on. We have become a country with people who complain all the time. Many of us  are plain sick and tired of dumsor, and we can see that many things do not work properly. But we prevail. We write songs about dumsor, we laugh about our leader who supposedly does not want to listen to us (there is a highlife hit by Lumba ‘Y’en tie obia’.
Once we can still laugh at ourselves, I think we are fine. Ghana must experience days of silk, honey, pleasure and laughter. We need to envision a new, golden, corruption-free and democratic world, free of poverty and suffering. We must think about strategies through which we can get access to a more comfortable world, for all, not just a few.

Postscript.
One day later. I have spent more than two hours trying to save this entry. I finally phoned the telecommunication company that provides my internet service. They apologized and told me to go back online. I keep on losing the connection. I have decided to post this entry without having proofread it. Sorry folks. That is life in Ghana at 58. However, the phone company people apologized, and they did try to solve the problem! I need to go before I lose this connection! So long! Oh! I forgot to mention that today, on 7th March 2015, the lights have been on since 6am! Yay!!!

These Dumsor Times

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Another Sunday. It is fairly quiet. Today the Akwapim Ridge has electricity. It is almost 6pm and I must hurry with this before we descend into darkness.
I arrived two days ago from a wonderful conference in Naivasha, Kenya, on the state of the art of sexuality research in Africa. It was a wonderful group of academics and I feel privileged to have been invited to the gathering. There is so much happening under the surface here, in terms of LGBTI activity, and other research. A colleague from Uganda gave a presentation about born again gay people, another person spoke about same sex relationships among women in Ghana. There were several other topics I will not mention here. I think eventually there will be a book or a journal devoted to the subject matter so readers may watch out for it.

In the meantime the good people of Ghana demonstrated against the deteriorating situation. The lights go off well, at random times, despite the fact that there is a schedule, and people are stressed by it all. Businesses are closing down and losing money. Students and school going children cannot do their homework. Households cannot store their food in freezers and fridges, for example.

I did notice that the lights do go off in Kenya as well, but for short periods only. South Africans at the conference I attended also spoke about power cuts. But that is only for two hours daily or so.
Our governments need to plan properly.

It is good to be back on the block after such a long silence. I have spent much of my time this year working with artisans, trying to complete a building. It is a small house I intend to rent in order to supplement my pension. I have been fleeced. The carpenter used money for materials for walk-in wardrobes for his wedding. Well, I was cheated. It hurts, but I can see that there are undertones of class and gender at play here. I do not think I would have been cheated so much if I were a man. Also, the carpenter probably thinks I am rich anyway and so he can have a little more of my money. Hey, life goes on.

Until we meet on the block again, (hopefully soon) I wish you well. I must hurry up and quit before the lights go off at 6pm.

Divided Germany in my Life

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Another quiet Sunday. In fact, the weekend has been quiet. As with many people associated with academia, I like to say that I do not watch television. I do not watch too much of it (I think). I watch it to unwind in bed. Last night I thought all the programmes were boring and I switched to DW TV, (Deutsche Welle TV) and watched an interesting documentary about the fall of the Wall and popular music. I found the film interesting because I spent 13 years of  my life in Germany and was familiar with some of the music, which I had not heard for ages! Udo Lindenberg, Marius Muller Westernhagen and so on. As music often does, it brings back memories. I could relate to the film.

This morning, as I made my bed, I turned on the TV again and saw that CNN was running a live feature on Germany’s commemoration of 25 years after the fall of the wall. I watched Angela Merkel, the mayor of Berlin, and some other people at a church service. Later, I watched as they lit candles and placed them at the memorial. I did not continue with my TV viewing as I had other things to do but it set me thinking.

I went to Germany in 1972 at the age of 17, and stayed there for 13 years. I often say I grew up there. When I returned to Ghana I was an adult woman and had to learn about the dynamics of living in Ghana as an adult. But that is another story. I returned to Ghana in 1985, before the Wall came down. I was surprised when it fell, not only because I ceased to follow developments in Germany when I returned to Ghana, but also because I never even considered the possibility of re-unification for the Germans.

Today as I watch the footage and the live events, I notice I am happy for them and proud of their achievement. People power has achieved much in world politics since then. Only last week we saw the people of Burkina Faso go onto the streets to chase out Blaise Campaore. Good old people power.

The focus on Germany made me think about what impact my sojourn there made in my life, and asked myself what kind of awareness I had at that time about the divided Germany I lived in.
In 1972 I entered a German language school, on a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture in the state of Baden Wurttemberg. I do not recall learning about the division in the language school. I learned about the river Rhine, the Lorelei, German philosophers but nothing about the other side. At the university, I came across Africans who had ‘escaped’ from the ‘Ostblock’ as we called it, and I must say I never was impressed by them. This is because I had come into contact with leftist leaning people and leftist ideology and thought of those Africans as people who had let down the cause. I was aware of the Otto Benecke Foundation, set up to help students who had left the Ostblock. As an active member of the Ghana Students Union I often attended meetings in (West) Berlin. The train went through the German Democratic Republic and I recall that I thought the border guards there were much more thorough than those on the other side. They took a good look at one’s face, comparing it with the passport picture. The guards in the West never did that. Then there were the Intershops, where one could buy good cheap Russian Vodka and chocolate. I did not know much, I never read much about the history of the divided Germany and the Germans I associated with did not talk much about East Germany. I even dated a man who had escaped from Leipzig one summer. He never told me about his experiences. So I was pretty ignorant about the other side of Germany. Even when the poet Wolf Biermann made the news headlines, I did not pay much attention, although I knew he was a so-called ‘dissident’. And so time passed and I lived my life, not paying attention to such issues. I left Germany in 1985, and faced a period of adjustment and adapting to life in Ghana.

My first child was born in 1989, in Accra. I now know I must tell him he was born at a time when important changes were taking place in the world. Apartheid came down, and the Berlin Wall as well.
I love many things about Germany. It is not home for me; however it is a familiar place where I learnt a lot about life. I love the food, the efficiency, the down to earth nature of Germans. I salute all Germans, particularly  those I am still in touch with: Jackie, Rika, Ferdinand, Frederick, Eva-Maria, Sabine, Frank, Rheinhilde, Rudiger, Julian.

Great Expectations

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Wow! It has been ages since I came here and I am a little ashamed. I started this blog project with  the idea that I would publish something every week. I have not been on the block since last May.  And now? Well, I am back.
So much has happened since my last visit to the block. I am now officially a senior citizen of Ghana, having retired at the age of sixty. Public sector workers must retire at age sixty.  I will receive my first pension at the end of this month, and it will be around 2000 Ghana Cedis a month, which is about $640. And for our standards, it is a very good pension. I dare not complain, but it is difficult to downsize one’s budget and lifestyle. I knew this situation was coming, but am I ready? Why should we earn less after a lifetime of work? Isn’t this the time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour?
As I write, government workers are on strike, demanding better pensions.

I thought that I would find some peace, living out here on the Akwapim Ridge. This period of my life would be restful and relaxing, I thought. But I have very powerful and influential neighbours who are not allowing me any peace. I will not mention their name here, but they are a big Pentecostal Church with lots of money. This Church has put up a huge complex in the little town I live in. After months of noise from the construction of the complex, they are now working on the landscape. A concrete road is coming up along the western perimeter of my home. From 7 am to 6pm every day, there is an endless hum from the concrete mixing machines and the sound of male voices that rise above the drone of the machines. My windows are dusty, my cream coloured voile curtains have now turned light brown. Last week I had a verbal altercation with one of the pastors in charge of the construction. One of their trucks broke part of my wall and I complained about it. They said that they would repair any damage they cause. The pastor thinks I should be pleased that the road is concrete. I think they should have told me about their project. Surely if they had informed me I would have been better prepared psychologically for the noise ? “The land belongs to us. We have paid for it, and we can do what we like on our land.”

That is the attitude of the pastor. photo(2) This is the view from the  balcony that adjoins my bedroom. The piles of stones are along my wall. No problem. It will end one day. Perhaps very soon.

I still have great expectations for my retirement, I do not want to lose hope about the future of this country. I am still hopeful. But I think we need to find a way of dealing with powerful acquaintances and neighbours.

 

Endings

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I taught my last class the other day. A 400-level class. At the end, I told the students,”this is my last class”. Since they were also in their last semester, this was cause for celebration. We needed to go out and celebrate in style. I had in mind dinner with them, in one of the seaside hotels in the town. They were quite excited and proposed that we do it over the weekend. I told them that I could not afford to have them for dinner yet since I did not have much money.  I would let them know as soon as It was convenient for me.

A few days later I went online to get the phone number of the nearest seaside hotel. I found a list of numbers but was unable to reach them. It was hopeless. They did have an open line for callers from the UK and the US, but of what use is that to a caller from within the country? So much for tourism in Ghana, I thought, and gave up on them. Instead I called the people at Hayford’s Bar and Lounge, run by a Ghanaian/German couple. I got a response immediately. They sent their price list to my cell phone, and we finalized the order on the phone. I contacted the students quickly and gave them the date. We had a good time although not all the students came. With that celebration,I marked the beginning of the end of my life as a university teacher.  I still have papers to grade, so I have not yet reached the finishing line. I will soon get there.

There have been other endings, too, in the last weeks. Several people have passed on, some of them family members, others were friends, and some were prominent personalities I did not personally know. A death in the family often brings up old conflicts and tension, I guess due to the stress of it all. Death is final, and we get upset because of the loss, and the knowledge that it signifies the end of a relationship. It also reminds us that it will catch up with us at some point, too.

One of my sisters passed on recently. We were not particularly close, but I am in pain and now I often wish I had made more of an effort to get closer to her when she was here. I did visit her in hospital just four days before her demise, and I find that it gives me a measure of satisfaction that I saw her and had a good conversation with her at the end. The pain of bereavement is difficult to describe isn’t it? It feels like a broken heart, but much more intense. The word ‘gutted’ describes it well. The bereaved person feels empty, empty and disoriented.

Endings. We often see the end of events coming, but sometimes we are overtaken by those events that constitute an ending. Beginnings and endings are essential aspects of life.

Rest in Peace, Aunty Georgina, Aunty Jemima and Irene Aba. RIP.

 

Storm clouds and other things: who knows what will happen?

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I am breezing through another Sunday, anxious that the lights stay on. I am sure I have spoken enough about the electricity supply, but its erratic nature is a feature of life as we live it in these parts. Even bloggers who talk about very serious issues like politics in Ghana never fail to write about this irksome subject. (See, for example, Sydney Casely-Hayford on http://thenewghanaian.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/purchasing-joshua-pre-ordained-critical-news-30th-march-2014/#more-1592; also; http://thenewghanaian.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/waking-up-from-the-pipe-dream-part-2/#more-1589).

I have scheduled a film for my Sociology of Religion class tomorrow and hope the lights stay on. Before I go to bed, I make sure that I am charging my phone and iPad, and make sure that the laptop is fully charged, for you never know… The motor of my freezer breathed its last when the lights went out last Thursday, only to return on Friday afternoon. So I have to cough up about 200 US dollars to get a new one installed. Meanwhile I am worrying about what to do with all the fresh fish I brought back from Cape Coast the other day.

It is otherwise a lovely, peaceful Sunday afternoon. Even my neighbours are quiet today. I have heard the sound of crying children only two times today.  The sound of singing from the church around here has stopped, and only the distant sounds of cars whizzing by on the highway and birdsong remain constant. Lovely. But I think I see storm clouds gathering in the east. A rainstorm on the Akwapim Ridge means a power cut. Storm clouds are not a good sign.

A friend recently drew my attention to the following website the other day. We were talking about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and she asked me to view http://www.whoneedslight.net. Well, there are very many theories about Flight 370. We do not know anything yet. I think that the mainstream news reports do not reflect the truth, and that some information is withheld. But this website claims they have gone into another dimension. Soon we will come into contact with our neighbours from other multiverses, not a universe. Exciting stuff.  What will happen? What is happening in Ghana and around our world? In Ghana, many of us are not very happy. We feel let down by our leaders. But we do not take action. Who knows what will happen?