Monday, June 30, 2008

Back on diet

Some of us make New Years Resolutions (to eat healthy, to be on a diet etc.) and stick to them... Some of us fall off the wagon and roll down the hill.... and into deep swampy ponds, and sink hard.

Someone I know - and I swear it wasn't me, but rather a certain male-ish half of a twosome I am in - fell hard recently and had a real binge weekend to end it in style. The peanut butter and jam and bread were all cowering in their respective corners in fear. And they had reason to shiver, as they were soon to be fashioned into gluttonous heavy, sopping squares of indulgence.. The Milo and the milk and the much coveted porridge had no chance... as they were soon swirling around in sugar saturated bowls of carbohydrate bliss. All of this was bought in a Supermarket frenzy at the new Accra mall - all as a last chance prelude to the lean days ahead.

Today is Monday. Today marks the first day of the rest of the year where 'some people' will climb the dusty ladder back up to where us righteous ones are riding along on the wagon... to 'healthy living'.

And the journey for this 'someone' started with plain fried eggs for breakfast and a tin of sardines for lunch... yum....

Flew back home safely...

...Courtesy great comic website: Married to the Sea

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More from Liberia - Excerpts from the local paper...

One gets quite an insight into a country from the newspaper. What is covered, how the stories are covered, what the perspectives are...

I arrived in Liberia this week - here is a general sampling of the main stories featured in the country's main newspaper:

1.FRONT PAGE: Taylor Loyalists Warn American 'Boys and Girls'

This story covers the reaction of a former (NPP) government chairman, to American forces raid on ex-President/tyrant/war monger/war crimes detainee Charles Taylor’s residence (with search warrant) this week. Mr. Cyril Allen states” Those American boys and girls are lucky they did not encounter ex-fighters in the building, because their heads would have been cut off!”. He further warns, “They should try it again!” (apparently foaming at the mouth).

2. also FRONT PAGE: Brutalizing Girl was Little Matter

This story is about a current Senator Nathaniel Innis, who brutally attacked his very young niece (she looks about 8 to 10 years old in the photo), without cause last week. I have to quote the rest because I just couldn't believe what I was reading.

"Sen. Nathaniel Innis said the devil and Satan fooled him when he brutally beat up his niece on Monday." When asked about the incident, the Senator said: "Anything that besmear my character, I should call on your hournalists because they will say, it's a Liberian Senator. The incident will incur negative raves on Liberia, hence journalists should help cover up such actions".

Then, in response to the labour minister, who had called for his prosecution, Sen. Innis said: "Liberia is a big elephant meat, he better cut off his own and be silent. He wants to use my little matter he missed it big time. Sen. Innis is the wrong man to to reckon with". ....

No charges have been laid.

There is full page advert for this weekend's Anti-Rape concert. It is fully funded by the UN, with performers coming from around the region.
Liberia's years of war, under Charles Taylor, legitimized mass rape, and now that the war is over, the hundreds of thousands of boy soldiers are finding it hard to learn new ethics. Rape is still rampant. Taylor's soldiers also murdered their parents at his command and cut limbs off everyone in their path. Women and children were not spared...

The extreme violence has ended, but the rapes continue daily, despite the fact that Liberia elected their first woman as President and that many of the key positions such as Chief of Police have been assigned to women. The society still sees women and children as objects and in a place where abject poverty is everywhere, the frustrations of the powerful are taken out on the weak and the small.

Will the Anti- Rape concert do anything? Will it help raise consciousness? The word in town is that many people got kickbacks in the organising committees and that the budget was highly inflated to allow for personal pockets to get filled.


Notes from the Edge - Liberia today

I am in Liberia for business. The whole concept is bizarre to me. There is apparently business growing here. Opportunities. Investment. Liberia has no electricity supply and no running water. Anywhere. It has been like this for 18 years.

Recently some street lights have been illuminated in the capital city, fed by a huge generator, donated by another government.

All water is supplied in huge round trucks that drive around the city constantly.

Of course there is only water for those who can pay.

This morning as I sit on the balcony of the $200 a night (less than) 1 star hotel, my view is the ocean, dotted with small fishing canoes, the beach that stretches along in front of miles of corrugated tin slums, and below me the daily water is being delivered.

One of the big trucks is parked on the street below, loudly pumping water via a hole filled pump, into the hotel building. Surrounding the truck are scores of barefoot children, sent with buckets of every size and description, to collect some of the water. They jostle and fight and wave up at the hotel guests. But the sad truth is that they are here on a mission and no doubt there will be trouble if they arrive back home, down the road in the slums, without water.

Their dilemma is pathetic. The guys from the water delivery truck are also on a mission and the dirty swarming children are to them, like flies. They must fight them off, or bear the repercussions from the hotel owner who's not interested in feeding the water needs of the people. If the kids get alot of water they will tell more people and the hotel will be swarmed, on a dangerous level.

But the children are desperate.

I focus on one little boy who is about 5 years old. Mostly because I see something so familiar in his eyes. He is alive, there is a spark in him. His long smooth chocolate brown forehead is beaded with sweat and his eyes squinting, while he bounces a wide mouthed large plastic bowl against his ashen, bony knees. He steps back from the mob and watches the men from the truck. All the while the pump is deafening. As soon as they move toward the other children to beat them away, slap and shout, flail their arms around hoping to touch skin and cause fleeing, our little boy moves up to the truck behind them and holds his bowl under the massive leak at the base of the hose. At first no one sees him and his bowl is filling. He smiles a cheshire grin to himself. He has no clue he's got a witness, a fan, a cheerleader above him looking on.

I notice as the water sprays up on him, that he's wearing a badly faded 'Rainforest Cafe' t-shirt. This t-shirt has been bought for coins, in the local market. Originally sent by the Salvation Army or other charity, and plucked up for selling to the poorest of the poor. It may have been through three children here already. And all of a sudden I am not happy for him, I almost cry. Involuntarily.

I think about his childhood. That is not a childhood. And that at the Rainforest Cafe, back in the 'civilized' world, children light up at the animals that talk, they enjoy huge lunches they can never finish, they whine for ice cream afterwards, and they get it. They never think about how they will wash or whether there will be water to drink, or whether they will have to fetch muddy slush from the potholes instead, and hope their depressed, desperate, poor mother will not beat them when they get back home...

As I was lost in melancholy, I was jolted back to reality. The water truck driver had seen our boy and lashed out at him. In his haste to get away, his slyfully attained water supply sloshed round and out of the bowl, as if in slow motion, all out onto the cracked pavement as he ran off, the water making rich brown streaks, down to his little calloused feet, down the dry grey panes of his bony legs. And he was gone.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Foiled armed robbery fuels my day

When I woke up this morning I felt inspired to blog about something, I just didn’t quite know what it was yet. This happens often and inevitably something random will jog my memory about something I have been wanting to ramble about forever…Today I didn’t need to search my endless vault of trivialities... today something happened.

At 10am or so, cold coffee remnants (decaf of course in this year of living healthily), swirling around in our mugs, pouring over a presentation on a tight deadline, we were interrupted by two high pitched whirlwinds – one after another they scurried into the office, breathless, “ARMED ROBBERS! DOWNSTAIRS!!!”

Well that was something to tear us away from the world of power point and get some adrenalin pumping! We jumped up and ran to the window. The voices trailed on with the rest of the story, “The police have caught them! The tried to rob the bank but many police came and chased them into the empty building next door!” Indeed, downstairs, outside looked like a hub of activity.

There were random police vehicles and police with various uniforms (in Ghana they use what they have, resulting in many types, colours and styles of police uniform and even more diverse – the hats, ranging from Bahamian rounded tall white hats to army-like berets). The police were all carrying their weapons – obsolete rifles of varying size and description as well. It all looked a bit disorganized. We couldn’t tell who the armed robbers were, as they had apparently been plucked one by one from the corners of the building next door and thrown in a police jeep. There were a few jeeps dotted around. We couldn’t tell which vehicles they had arrived in either as there were many vehicles parked in different directions, amongst the people in the yard next door.

Well no one was shot and the fear and excitement almost died down, until someone came up the stairs to tell us that these were the very same thieves who successfully robbed another bank yesterday, and in the process they had shot a policeman in both legs. He later bled to death. They had also made off with two police issued guns and shot them off in every direction, shooting three innocent bystanders on the road. The two vehicles they had escaped in yesterday matched perfectly with two surrounded in the yard downstairs – a Mercedes and an unmarked Golf.

So it turns out we did have something to be frightened about, considering these guys were not playing around. They had intercepted a money delivery truck at the other bank and may have been set to do the same here, without caution or concern for human life. Who knew when we moved into our brand new offices above a prominent bank on a main street in Accra, we'd be this close to an 'almost' armed robbery?!

Gives you a chill when you consider the many errands you run every day… I could have been walking down into the parking lot to leave in the car, or even walking down the road to the store, and just been in the wrong place at the wrong time!

The most shocking aspect of this story is that the police actually showed up in considerable force! Normally you have to pay the taxi fare for a police officer to attend to an emergency! Normally you can’t reach the police station on phone because they have not paid their phone bill and it is cut off (both of these scenarios I have experienced).

Just as in my earlier post about being clamped – I am impressed that things are happening in a more professional and accountable fashion.

Having said that however, they released the 2008 Afrobarometer report recently, and sadly over 75% of Ghana’s population perceives the government to be corrupt in general. The police service rated even higher at 89%!!! These figures are up significantly from the last report in 2005.

Where is Ghana going? Are we safe??

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grief is eternal but love is stronger

Today is a tough day. I sit at my desk, busying myself with the unimportant, while the undercurrent within me threatens to surge, up through my pounding heart,through my tight throat that fights back with jolted swallows - all the way up into my face, overflowing - my eyes, the tiny openings through which all the feelings will brim over.

Tomorrow marks exactly three years since Shiloh left us. Since I have not held his warm hand or fallen into the warm dark pool of his shining eyes. Of course it is unfathomable not to have my son here with me. It is the stuff of nightmares, and horror films pale in comparison. To even put in black and white the word 'death' - it is so difficult. So very unnatural.

So the only way to approach the reality that faces me is to remember. To celebrate the short time we had. To laugh and smile and hug those who are still here. We all miss him. We all will remember. Always.

I've dragged out an old poem because it is my best tribute to my amazing Shiloh.

For Shiloh

If you were a farmer you’d plant pumpkins

Huge orange nuclear blast pumpkins!

If you were a singer you would wear a white suit and carry a shiny ebony walking stick

You’d have a purple satin handkerchief in your pocket on display

And you’d wear a fedora to match the suit

You would tip the hat forward and wink at all the ladies as you took over the stage…

If you were a bird you would soar higher than happiness

And deeper than 6 oceans

You would grace the sky of my mind with indigo paint brush wings

Touch my cheek so briefly and float on past

Making speed look like a breeze

If you were pink candy floss

You would melt and still be crunchy in my teeth

Fresh and warm and comforting

But you would disappear if I tried to hold you

On my tongue

I would be left with the remnants of u

You cannot be held

You are more than man and mountains below u are small

Though I can’t see u

I feel your red sports car energy

With a yellow lightning stripe down your soul that can only be glimpsed as you

Pass in an instant...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama, the Mama, the myth and Drama

I’ve decided to blog about Obama. There comes a time in every blogger’s life where they have to blog about Obama.

I know nothing about American politics and that is by choice. However, it seems the less one knows about the actual political system the better. The democratic campaign of 2008 is about emotions and faith. It is about getting excited and building hope around a person who represents the polar opposite of George Bush.

After being bombarded on the Net, the TV, the papers, the global media monster, the other day I decided to read about Obama and the only aspect that is interesting to me – Obama as a person. His family, his past, what makes him tick. I wanted to get a true feeling about whether his popularity is based on faith, fiction, myth or merit.
What I discovered surprised me. I learned that I could relate to his mother’s story – a middle class North American suburban white girl, intrigued and obsessed by other cultures, with the audacity to believe she could overcome the overwhelming challenges of loving a man from another world.

I learned that Obama’s mother was forced to realize that the union with her Kenyan husband was doomed from the start, found herself abandoned and alone when he was just a baby, and that as a single mom she wanted to establish some stability for her son. She quickly married again – never losing her thirst for exotic adventure, and moved the family to Indonesia. Obama was a privileged expat kid!! He went to the private schools and was even sent to a $14,000 per year boarding school back in that states (Hawaii) as a teenager. He did what intelligent, spoiled American teens do. He juggled schoolwork with becoming a junkie. He smoked joints and snorted cocaine.

A disturbing aspect of his troubled teen years was his proclaimed profound identity crisis and lack of self esteem as a result. And he accredited all of this to his mixed racial heritage.

He blamed his mother and her middle class caring grandparents who he lived with as a teen, for his identity crisis. He changed/shortened his name during highschool to Barry to fit in.

He idolized his absent father, and allowed the romantic and vague stories told to him by his mother as he grew up, to cloud his true judgment of his father.

The true story of his father’s life has been exposed though, courtesy of the media – however I am shocked that the conservative/republican ‘powers that be’ have not pounced on this information to grind his campaign to a screeching halt… after all, the sins of the father…
According to Obama senior’s relatives, he had 8 children in total, from 4 women whom he married concurrently. By western standards he was scum then? And a raging alcoholic who’s involvement in numerous drunk driving crashes eventually brought his demise. Hmmmm…

Obama has since written inspirational books glorifying his father’s life and struggles. But as a mother, learning what I’ve learned about their lives, I just have to assume he is deeply affected by the truth of it all. His father was nothing more than a sperm donor. Married already to a poor woman in his home village, before coniving an idealistic white lady at University in the States to marry him and bear him a child. He then moved on (to another American University, on yet another scholarship) without a glance backward. And he did not stop there. He brought another white American lady back to Kenya with him, married her as well and added more children to the flock.

There is also the fact that Obama senior was a muslim, with the name Hussein. Now what I know about Americans is that the masses have a reputation for being brain washed fear mongers who would, under normal circumstances have a field day with this type of info – drumming up a frenzied fear of the Arab enemy… Otherwise how would Bush have gotten as far as he did?

Anyway, Obama got through his teenage identity crisis by the end of college and got involved in the Democratic Party. He was determined and ambitious. He was smart and relatively charismatic. But Presidential material? I don’t know what he has done to compel people to believe he is the future of the USA. He is all about change and promise and the future. But one must examine his past and his track record in order to make a fair assessment.

The thing about this campaign is that there is no room for fair assessment. Just because there is no better alternative, does not mean Obama is the answer.

He gets the black America vote, despite being an elitist with nothing in common - no roots in slavery, no connection to the 'hoods' or the cultural markers that define this group.

He gets the middle class liberal white American vote despite their underlying racism and uneasiness. He is a chance for them to prove they are politically correct. He talks like them, they can relate...

Whoever says the issues are not racially charged is just dreaming. America is racially divided. They cannot help but to see his colour. There's a one drop rule in America! His close personal association with an extremist black preacher has been widely discussed. Yet still, he gains votes from every corner of the country in staggering numbers.

I just can’t help but think that the American public is so desperate for the promise of something new and different that they turn a blind eye to the glaring issues that would normally have thrown a candidate to the dogs before their campaign could even get off the ground.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kick ass soup recipe

As I’ve been blogging about my health and diet and some challenges that I’ve faced this year, I thought it would be fair to share some of the recipes I’ve found/developed/evolved as well.

All of the recipes include things I can get in Ghana – which is always the challenge to cooking ‘Western’ food as an expat… All of the recipes include one or more of the key foods that I’ve identified through research to be 'super foods’.

So – to start – today I have to share one of my recent great successes – a recipe that has been found, modified, adapted, and experimented with until I’d have to say it’s perfect!

Kick Ass Soup that’s soooo good for you…

1 large onion, chopped into small squares
2 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground coriander
4 tblsp. fresh coriander/cilantro washed and chopped fine
1 and ½ cups pumpkin puree (I only use fresh, but canned will do)
1 can of black, navy or kidney beans or a mix
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 tsp. fresh lime juice


Saute onion in olive oil until soft and golden, add all the dry spices and saute a few more minutes.
Scrape this mixture into a pot and add the broth, 3tblsp. of the cilantro, the pumpkin, half the beans and the coconut milk and bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and whir- it-up for about 2 minutes. Return to pot.
Add the remaining beans, cilantro and simmer for a few minutes. At the end, pour in the lime juice and stir through. Serve.
YUMMM! Great cozy bowl of comfort for those bitter cold windy days… oops, don’t have those in Ghana !

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mega site of bible studies?!

Recently my favourite cynic and brilliant writer - British restaurant critic A.A. Gill wrote an article about how his son had happened upon a website called aagillisgod - which he found both bizarre and amazing.

The Internet is indeed bizarre and I just discovered something less profound but highly amusing and ironic!

If one types my blog site url (wrongly), mixing up the s and the p in blogspot, like this:, one arrives at the Mega site of bible studies?!!!

To a completely non religious, evolutionist like me - this is quite absurd really.
To those who are 'believers' I'm sure this would be some kind of sign...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gadget man

I live with a gadget obsessed person. The drawers of our house are lined with discarded mobile phones, tossed aside when the newer, better reviewed, smaller, better features, more memory phones are released. We usually have the newest, latest model before it's been released in most countries, thanks to our Dubai-Lebanese importer connections in Accra.

The turnover is becoming alarmingly shorter these days. It used to be we could safely estimate the life of a phone to be a year. Then it went down to six months. Now we go through these like sweets.

Nokia-N95-Nokia-E90-iphone-HTC TyTN2 ... all within a few months.
And apparantly they're releasing a new iphone with 3G and GPS in early July, so I'm sure that will be the next toy.

Our children end up the coolest or most technically advanced on the schoolyard, with the hand-me-downs they get. At this rate they have their pick of the discarded carcasses...

The mobile phone thing is just one of many. We have drawers full of gadgets that monitor the amount of UV your skin has been exposed to, how many kms you have walked, a portable blood pressure machine, and the cameras ... oh the cameras!

No paparazzi has anything on mine. We have a backpack that looks like you could carry all your worldly belongings in it and hike Mt. Kilimanjaro... however if you open it's huge zipper, it reveals that the 20 pound weight inside is made up of one camera and it's hugely phallic zoom lens. It's frightening.

But that is not enough of course. We also have the best in small digital cameras. The story behind these being that one was bought after reading the rave reviews, only to find out hours later there had been a newer one released. One that could be thrown harder against a wall without breaking and could go 10 meters instead of only 3 metres down in the ocean... WELL, that afternoon another camera was bought and we had Imagine. Who am I to question? We NEEDED the two. Of course we did. So the other three or four small digital cameras in the closets are not good enough anymore because you can't throw them against the wall or drown them in a glass of coke like you can with the new ones!!!

Recently we got a banana yellow video camera. This was NOT to replace the other HD video camera we bought the year before. No - this one is waterproof. But inferior, so the other one must be kept for serious occasions. Ok I understand.

What I understand quite clearly is that I live with a "Gadget Man". I'm thinking of having a superhero style t-shirt with this logo emblazoned on the front for him, but that will be another piece of clothing which will be considered unnecessary, a waste of money... maybe even frivolous.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I do realise it's corny to say this, but life is just so ironic.

I had a bad day recently. My car was clamped in Accra. What I mean by this is that I pulled over on a side street of Accra, put on my flashing lights, stepped out of the car for less than five minutes, and became the victim of the AMA (Accra Metropolitan Authority), who hid in the shadows and pounced my vehicle like rabid dogs...

The story behind it is that I needed some documents 'notarised' and 'authenticated'. The reason I put these words in parenthesis is that they can be loosely used and obtained in Ghana. The truth is that dotted around Accra are small entrepreneurs with makeshift offices under tents or even under trees, with manual 1950's typewriters, that call themselves Commissioners of Oaths. I feel a twinge of guilt giving away this little known secret to the broader world. They sit under their slice of shade in the blistering heat all day, typing away, stamping and pasting official looking seals on millions of official documents. All of this is completely unofficial, unverified, unbelievable in fact. Yet these documents, once certified at these little booths, are accepted at Embassies, lawyers offices, institutions etc. across the world as valid, confirmed, official.

On this particular day I swung into the side street, walked over to the tent, pushed my documents into the lap of the typist and asked if he could quickly certify. Original documents for verification? Never asked. Four Ghana cedis (same as four dollars), I was asked for, a few minutes later after the stamps, the red seals and the signatures were affixed. I paid up and stuffed my docs back in the envelope feeling satisfied and smug. Feeling that I really knew the Ghana system well and was taking full advantage of it... in a bit of a haze I jumped back into my car and was rudely snapped back to reality by a group of aggressive young guys as I started my engine.

“You've been clamped oh!!!” Came the shouts through the window. What?! No!!! I couldn't believe it as I rolled down the window and peaked my head out at the sad reality of my front tire. It had that ominous yellow clumpy metal monster sucking away at it - unremovable, unmovable. I was stuck.
I looked around frantically – where was the evil b*stard who did this? My thoughts raced between how much bribe I would have to pay to get out of this mess, and how long it would actually take.
I had seen cars clamped many times and inevitably there was a resulting argument involving numerous onlookers and hangers on… I was really not up for that.

Well, I had another thing coming.

Ghana has reached a new level with regard to extortion and this time it is all legal!!! The next few events shocked me. Firstly, an officially dressed AMA worker approached me and passed me my official ticket (which was on my windshield). He informed me of my infractions (blocking a motorway and a pedestrian walkway) and then showed me the fine, printed officially on the ticket. There was even a number to call. I called the number. They sent an officer to collect the fine and give me my official receipt. No argument, no negotiation, NO BRIBE.

And this all happened within minutes.

The irony of it all is that I paid $4 for a set of supposedly official documents and felt quite smug – felt I knew how to manipulate the Ghanaian system… only to turn around and face a $45 fine, with no bribes, no bargaining, no African time.
I paid dearly for the documents at the end of the day. Perhaps the same as I would have paid, had I gone to the trouble of visiting a lawyer, with all my original copies and done it the proper way….

What is the moral of the story? Is Ghana developing an upstanding, well run system? If so, is that a good thing? We spend much of our time complaining about the corruption here, but just when we start to embrace it’s virtues, we discover that steps are being taken to remove it. And maybe we don’t like it…. Shame.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

a blogger is born...

Comic courtesy Natalie Dee

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Eat local - Except during famine...

All the talk about getting 'green', buying organic and local... it just doesn't have the same clout in Africa...

Comic above courtesy the husband of my other favourite cartoonist Natalie Dee, his website/comic is called Toothpaste for Dinner

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Frightening new South Africa

South Africa of 2008 is crime ridden, the electricity doesn't work and corruption permeates all levels of public service and government. The promises of hope and glory in 1994 have evolved into mayhem and despair. The poor have gotten poorer and more desperate and yet another black government in Africa is letting it's people down.

Watch this disturbing video, produced by a reputable 60 minutes type program called Carte Blanche in South Africa - describing the current state of affairs.

There is mass exodus of whites and this video explains sadly why...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mysterious bats of Accra

There is a spectacle in my adoptive city of Accra – a phenomenon that engulfs many mysteries and folklore abounds about it.

At one particular intersection, above the military hospital, in about 20 trees, there are bats. Millions of bats. They swirl and shriek and hang up side down in the trees all day every day. At times they fill the sky at this traffic light, blackening the sky with their sheer numbers.

Bats. Bats are hideous. All my life the only thought I ever had about bats was that they lived in dark damp caves and looked like flying mini wild boars with Devil fangs.

I guess all that is still true, but in Ghana they fly above the trees at one place only and they represent something intriguing – a mystery.

The bats are a phenomenon that you inevitably hear about and whenever you drive by this intersection you definitely notice. And no matter how many years you live in Accra, you just never get used to it. It’s just not something you take for granted whenever you are in the area and the sky is chocker block full of the web winged creatures.

Why? You have to ask what on earth lured this massive colony of bats to these relatively few trees in one random area of the city, when there are thousands of other trees and neighborhoods where not a bat can be found.
There are hundreds of stories of why the bats have come to these particular trees. Most of the stories centre around a certain chief and the belief is that the bats followed him from his region, where bats are the totem, and highly revered. They still wait for him outside the hospital, years after he died there.

This is a fun and romantic way to look at it, but scientists surely have a better idea? Something logical? Sane? Not. Unfortunately things just don’t work in that straightforward sensible way in Accra, nor Ghana as a whole. The grey zones outnumber the black and white answers. The bats live in the grey zone.

BBC visited in 2006 and wrote an inconsequential article about the bats defecating on the cars and the hospital building. They never asked the big questions of why!?

I could only find one other article about the bats and it was a contribution by a romantic Ghanaian who took the grey way and extolled the virtues of the bats, believing they were indeed there following their chief…

Today as we drove under the bat trees and watched them circle – it was not the usual activity that caught my eye. Today there were chainsaws and workmen and chaos. Someone - the forces that be I suppose – has decided to cut down or at least severely cut back the majestic trees that house our bats! The sides of the street today were like mass graves of wood – chunks of tree trunks and leaves, piled anonymously and uncaringly down the boulevard. What of the bats? Their housing has been cut in half. Their shelter from the sun removed. What will they do? Where will they go?

I can’t wait to see the developments. In Ghana it has to be said that the trees are resilient. They will grow back and will be sprouting up within weeks, replenished in months. However not soon enough to repair the damage that has been done today to the home of the bats. It’s grey against black now, science against folklore – the bats against the chainsaws. If they disappear then I have no choice but to believe the chief claimed their souls to join him. If they’ve moved a few trees down, science will win this battle, but only partly… stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pablo Neruda is the world's best poet

I just have to share the amazing vibrancy of my favourite poet. He's a Chilean called Pablo Neruda. I discovered his poems in my first year of university and fell in love with the way he uses words. The only problem is that he writes in Spanish and then his words are translated with much artistic license by English writers. Some are much better than others. I actually have one of his poetry books where they list the original Spanish poem beside the translation and despite not knowing Spanish fluently, you can just tell the English version does not do justice to the expression.
Despite that, I would love to share his work in my small way as it makes me happy!

He has written hundreds of odes to everything from old socks to a tomato. This one is my favourite. (I've included two separate translations - which one do you think is better?)

Ode to a Lemon by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree's yellow
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
the harbors are big with it-
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
into the starry
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
aromatic facades.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

Ode to the Lemon

From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its planetarium
lemons descended to the earth.

Tender yield!
The coasts,
the markets glowed
with light, with
unrefined gold;
we opened
two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
from the hemispheres
of a star,
the most intense liqueur
of nature,
unique, vivid,
born of the cool, fresh
of its fragrant house,
its acid, secret symmetry.

sliced a small
in the lemon,
the concealed apse, opened,
revealed acid stained glass,
oozed topaz,
cool architecture.

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
yellow goblet
of miracles,
a fragrant nipple
of the earth's breast,
a ray of light that was made fruit,
the minute fire of a planet.

-- Pablo Neruda.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Highschool Graduation offers more than a Diploma Paper in Ghana

I am nostalgic and emotional and basically choked up. A great song will bring me to tears today. And yesterday. And the day before.

This weekend was Graduation.

Not mine – in fact I didn’t even attend my own, way back in the 80’s from my ghetto fabulous highschool. There just wasn’t that feeling of closeness as a whole class. There were cliques and segments, and like the street gangs of L.A. we moved through the halls of the windowless day prison, carefully eyeing the enemy. The uncool, the rockers, the ‘Enriched Program’ brainiac geeks, the Punjabis with the knives in their socks. There were the mysterious smokers who hung out at the back of the school, all pencil thin in jean jackets and Farah Fawcett hair – both the guys and the girls. There were the unwritten rules of segregation in the cafeteria and the danger of being in the wrong locker bay at the wrong time. It was a rough and tough school and no one really shed a tear at leaving.

On the last day of classes we all walked down the tree lined suburban side streets to the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong ‘ side of the main road – the classist line that divided the properties and caused further divergence among the students. We never looked back. We were grateful it was over and none of us had a united future, or common goals to look forward to. We passed the grade and did our time and it was over.

This scenario could not be further from the reality of the kids we watched through their Graduation ceremonies this weekend. My tears were brought on firstly by the reality that I’ll be losing a surrogate son – surrendering an amazing child to adulthood and the big world.

But what struck me during the numerous events arranged around the Graduation, was the amazing comraderie and sense of purpose among a class of 50. All alive and vibrant and determined. All of them convinced they will be great. None of them weighed down by the soul sucking weight of reality. None of them obsessed about themselves in that negative, self loathing way that is exhibited in the attitude of so many teenagers in the west today. The class has been together like a force, a swarm, for years. The friendships developed will span their lifetimes and have etched memories into each other forever.

All of these kids are forced upon each other, all taken from the comfort zones of their own cultures and dumped into a mixing pot called an International School, while their fathers do the daily grind with infinite frustrations and their mothers try to find women’s groups for tea and oversee the servants and try not to lose their grip on reality.

They come from everywhere – Denmark, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Korea, America, Australia, South Africa ... the world.

Still, what comes out of this experiment in education abroad is an amazing self esteem and sense of purpose the children gain. They are privileged but not spoiled, they travel the world and they are responsible. They are tolerant and open minded and they see the world far beyond country borders. They become leaders from within.
So at the graduation ceremony there are hundreds of photos and speeches and hugs and tears and the sentiment is real and the kids are all headed somewhere with purpose. But will definitely miss where they’ve been.

And the parties afterwards are shared with parents and families and everyone has fun. No one is too cool to dance with their mother, too bored to talk to their uncle, joke with their teachers, enjoy the love that surrounds them.

And the songs that serenaded the kids as they threw up their caps, and at the parties later will hold memories for all of us, and remind us that it is possible to have a positive outlook and have pride in the generation that we are raising. And years down the road I will undoubtedly be driving along and hear the song that pulsated, “My dream is to fly over the rainbow so high”, and I will see in my memory’s eye, the crowded dancefloor and the jumping bodies, all excited and hopeful and alive, and I will get all choked up and nostalgic and remember this graduation as if it were my own.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Yoga my style

Tessa will appreciate this one...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The scary things in the fridge

I've always been the one in the family who reaches deep deep inside and pulls out the purple sour cream that expired 10 years earlier.

In Ghana it only needs to be a few days... It's very scary after a long weekend especially.

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