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A new light

“Marian!!”

“Marian!!”

A voice not accustomed to shouting was doing more than it was used to. Had I forgotten something in the bank? I wondered. Even then, the person was referring to me by my first name. I turned  in the direction of the strained voice. The face of the tall dark masculine frame in the blue linen piece did not strike familiarity with the faces I knew.

“Marian, how are you doing?” he continued. His voice toned down now as the distance between us had immensely decreased.

I raised my eyebrows, hoping to show how lost I was in the situation.

“Am well, but do I know you from somewhere? I am sorry, but my memory fails me” I responded hoping not to sound rude.

The man, clean shaved, overshadowing me now, called my name again. Maybe hoping that this time it would bring back every memory I had lost of him.

My memory was slow even as I stared intensely in his face. It was slower than expected. The task seemed difficult. Poring over all the places and people I had met in my life, to put the face before me in a context. A familiar context that reflected the same joy the man standing before me expressed.

“Don’t you recognize me?” his voice low and reflecting disappointment.

“It’s me, Edward Boateng”

“Edward?” “Edward?” I questioned myself.

There are two Edwards I’ve known my life; one I had been with in Primary and Junior High School in Kintampo and the other from my former church in Nkawkaw. The one from Nkawkaw could not possibly have become darker and taller in the past two years since I saw him.

“Herrh Edward, Dancing ball, is that you?!!!” I shouted at the pleasant surprise.

A laughter grew out of the smile stamped on his face.

“The dancing ball!” I screamed again, jumping up to hug him. Drawing an audience from curious passers-by. We hugged each other; each soul filled with uncontainable laughter.

When we had drowned ourselves in hugs and laughter, he asked me what I was doing there and where I was off to.

“I came to the bank to make some cash deposits”

On days when I know I will be making cash deposits, for security reasons, I use public transport instead of my car I explained.

As the working day had ended, partly for him as well, he offered to take me home. He, however, had to drive to employees at a construction site to pay their weekly earnings.

Edward and I had lost contact with each other for over a decade after the BECE. We both left Kintampo to Accra immediately after the exams. Though I knew he was in Accra, I had no idea of how to get in touch with him. My social media search had neither yielded results, nor had my enquiry from friends. And so, I gave up on the quest.

In Kintampo, as we had been the children of employees of the Municipal office, we had lived close to each other. The bungalows’ children, we were called. There was hardly a day I did not see Edward. During the weekdays, if not at school, we would hang out with the other children in the area after school. On the weekends, we undertook mini adventures, making up all sorts of games, climbing all sorts of trees and chasing all sorts of tiny living things. On Sundays, we ended up in the same children’s service class. We had shared many meals together, some in my house, some in his or someone from the area.

The name “the dancing ball” was given to him by me, Ariana, and Shakina two other girl-friends, in our class. Edward loved to dance. He did not care the genre or place. Sometimes, when we were walking home from school, and we got somewhere with music on loudspeakers, he would immediately take to dancing.

Back then, he was so rotund, and constantly received the familiar insults from other children. “Your face like a balloon”, “Your cheeks like a balloon”, “Balloon”. He never flinched at those insults or fought back when he was abused. He mostly laughed it off. The girls and I thought calling him a ball was maybe better than a balloon. A dancing ball like the one from the discos.

Maybe he liked the name, we never did ask him. We gave it to him. Whenever, he would engage in such open acts of dance, we would cheer him on “the dancing ball, the dancing ball” clapping our hands in sync to our chants. He, having the time of his life, making those out of tune moves.

The man I sat by, who drove the white Nissan Navara, was nothing like the boy I had known and had been unable to recognize. His dark skin had an even tone. He looked healthy. Obviously, from the outward appearance, he was doing very well. According to the catch-up stories, he and his elder sister had set up a construction company as soon as he finished Senior High School. They had started by taking small contracts for building projects. Over the years, they had won a couple of major contracts, which had elevated them to a company with 30 employees.

My eyes sparkled as he shared their stories of resilience, growth, and faith. Edward, the boy who had once peed in his pants and was called to the front of the class for the act. I could hardly believe my eyes, nor my ears. All matured, grown and definitely did not look like a ball or balloon as we had nicknamed him.

After we left the construction site, he asked me to have dinner with him. As I had nothing else to do, I agreed. Sitting in the plush oriental decorated Chinese Peking restaurant, I was so captured by this new Edward, his openness, his laughter, by the person he had become and who I had known him to be. Though he had not been the most intelligent or best looking physically in school, those things had never stopped him from being who he had wanted to be. Looking back to those times on the streets, him dancing was an expression of himself telling the world he would do what he would, regardless of what the world thought of him.

I think I fell in love that evening, maybe the soothing ambience made it easier. I think Edward as well. After the main course, he held my hand and expressed how delighted he was to see me. He had been thinking a lot about me recently, wondering where I was. Of course, he found it weird it had taken such a long time for us to get back in contact.

We left the restaurant after three hours of hearty conversations and soul pleasing food. Dropping me off at my gate, he left me with a warm embrace. I left with a whiff of his wood inspired cologne. A pleasant smile stamped my face as I waved him goodbye, looking forward to future contact.

As I plumped into my couch that night, resting my tired body, I scrolled to my phone contacts and dialled Shakina.

“Shakina, guess who I saw today!” intentionally missing the necessary greetings required for phone calls.

Shakina and I had been able to stay connected over the years as we ended up in the same Senior High School.

The confused silence then her mutters interlaced with gurgles from her happy baby did not distract me.

I continued the conversation.

“Edward from our class!” I spat out.

“You mean pee-pee Edward?” Shakina blathered out.

“Oh, do you have to call him that” I questioned.

“Ah but you too you were calling him pee-pee Edward then what happened?” she answered.

“We were children then Shakina, those things are not necessary now, we are all adults now” I continued.

“You and who?” she replied in laughter!

I shared with her how the reunion had been, and everything Edward had been to me for the past hours. What I had seen as magical and sparkling failed to bring light to Shakina’s tone.

When I had exhausted myself and could not tolerate her teasing and the recall of old stories about Edward, I called it a day. We left the conversation, she, teasing me in squeaky laughter of falling in love. Unable to fathom Edward in a new light, to see who he was now.

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The dark side of love

While pondering on the next topic for my weekly blogpost, the writing prompt “the dark side of love” became my next most likely choice. However, to write about the dark side of love has proven a challenging task. Is there anything like a dark side to love? It has been hard to draw a conclusion. Love, I believe, is defined by God. God is love. He chose to love us when we did not know Him and has committed to love each one of His creations, even if we do not love Him back. Love in itself has pure intent. It is not evil. It is neither filled with selfish intent nor misery. Love is selfless. It is then not what we indulge ourselves in (falling in love) and see in romantic films. Loving is tough, especially for us humans. For it never gives up and never loses hope. Love is a complex subject.

Anyhow, on Monday evening, my thoughts shifted to another topic. Scrolling over my Instagram, I came across the story of Cheslie Kryst, the 2019 Miss USA pageant, who died after jumping from her high-rise flat. I had no idea who she was and find it unfortunate that her death led me to her beautiful soul. The situation puzzled me as I scrolled through her Instagram page. I kept asking myself, but why? What was it that made her jump with an intent to end it all? But what was I expecting, signs and hints of her decision from her Instagram page? A help sign?

I do not know her and do not know her situation. I have been for the past days saddened by the loss. A great loss to the world. She was contributing so much of herself to others and her purpose. But her thoughts had succeeded in convincing her that her situation, whatever or whichever it was, the ultimate path to relief was death. Which is untrue.

Why did she not ask for help? If she could have, she would have. Considering especially how the subject of depression cannot be mentioned or discussed openly, especially among black folks. In my experience, when the subject of suicide comes up, it is said to be an act committed by fools. How can one feel comfortable to discuss such thoughts freely? We are also as a society very judgemental when it comes to the sharing of weaknesses, failures and mistakes, that one would rather deal silently alone with the torment.

There is nothing normal about a young person taking their lives. It is time we worked actively in making that non-acceptable. And stop the judging and passing of silly comments over such incidents of depression and suicide.

Everyone has a purpose in this life. Maybe it is to be a source of encouragement. Perhaps it is to sing or to dance to bring sooth to others. We are all worthy of our purposes, regardless of what teachers, family, or society has said. One of the toughest things above loving is to be “close” with someone, and yet they are unable to confide their weaknesses to you.

Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts drive actions. Our thoughts make us who we are. Our thoughts can drive us to purpose or destruction. Each thought has to be reviewed and placed in submission to Jesus.

When the thought says you are alone, you are not loved, you are a mistake, you are a failure.

Challenge them. They are lies.

God loves you. He expresses His love through people.

God made you according to Him. He calls you, His treasure.

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How I came here

With two bags, two suitcases of clothes to be precise. 

They were overweight. Re-arranged at the airport. 

The lucky making it across the sea with me. 

Years of clothes, clothes that held memories I didn’t want to let go. 

Why so many clothes? You may ask. 

Have you been to those retail shops? 

A blouse costs 30 euros, 30 euros! 

Clothes are expensive. 

The last thing I want is my money running out on shopping sprees. 

But they were primarily summer clothes. 

Yes, two bags full of clothes for the summer. 

To dwell in a country of four seasons. 

A country where the winters are coldie coldie coldie as my son describes coldness. 

What was I thinking? 

Was I prepared for this new life? Or refusing to face it truthfully? 

I didn’t even have a winter jacket. My confidence drowned in the summer semester, typed boldly on my admission letter. 

“Why is it so cold?” I asked the administrator at the international students’ office when I arrived to register as a student. 

“I thought it is summer” I added. 

If she did answer my strange and stupid question, I don’t remember what she said. 

Here I was, expecting an April to be summer. 

Yes, the same German April that does what it likes to be sunny and warm. 

Don’t marvel, but that was the superpower I had. 

Things turning around my way and being just as I wanted, even the weather. 

Funny, isn’t it? 

When I look back, I wonder, what was I thinking? 

Why didn’t I check the weather? 

Why didn’t I ask what to bring along? 

I’d been to Germany before. Even that June, Summer had been coldie. 

Was my self-inflicted decision to return home only when I had finished my two years of studies what I was running away from? 

Maybe that was why I had packed two suitcases of tee-shirts, blouses, dresses, loafers and sandals for 2 years of summer, winter, autumn, and spring hoping, just hoping that they may all be summer for me. 

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Just Mercy

Last year I read The Sun Does Shine, a true story about Anthony Ray Hinton. He was held in maximum prison precisely on death row for over 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. That story did a lot to my spirit. I cried. I was angry. I was blown away by the injustice in the justice system, mostly because the story was non-fictional. It taught me the power of hope. It taught me the power of the mind. It pushed me to look out for and support the Equal Justice Initiative, www.eji.org.

Here are my thoughts on The Sun Does Shine.

Since 2020, I start my year with David Goggin’s Can’t Hurt Me and Joyce Meyer’s The Battlefield Of The Mind. In the first week of this year, I picked up Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson while book hunting. I had bookmarked it last year as a want-to- read, but not really ready to read about more injustice and heart-breaking true stories. Seeing the book in the bookshop made it seem it was time to face the truth.

So, I picked it up.

Maybe The Sun Does Shine did prepare me for Just Mercy, I only cried once 🙂 while reading Just Mercy. I just could not help it, I broke down in the part about children on death row. So, I refuse to use this post to rant about the jailing and killing of black adults and children. But it is hard to now know this truth about the systems made to kill hope, and destroy lives based on the errors of society. Some children’s destinies have already been determined by the law systems even before they reach their adulthood – poverty, jail, then death.

That is just dark. Makes me sad, but Bryan Stevenson’s work gives me hope. It makes me realize it is possible to overcome darkness.

So instead of totally ranting, I choose to join forces with the heroes like Bryan Stevenson in my little way with my little light to help bring light to the places where evil brings darkness.

It’s really unfair that the US spends so much money on everything around the world, but the lives of US citizens who could contribute to the US but most importantly also see their dreams come true. People being made to pay extremely for being poor, black, or sick. That is bad.

In the case of the Walter McMillan, the majority of Monroeville would rather see him dead than benefit from all that he was to their town. Why were they keen, and the systems easily manipulated to kill people.

Evil is evil can’t fight that, it is senseless. It looks forward to robbing, killing, and destroying lives.

This book has made me stick to accepting that things really can be defined as being light or darkness.

Doing nothing about the injustice means choosing darkness. A lesson I only recently learnt.

But no matter how much darkness proceeds, light will win the moment we step up.

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Reading The sun does shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

“This is not fiction”, “This is not fiction” were the words I kept repeating to myself while listening to and reading this book. Anthony Ray Hinton is a man who was wrongly accused of two counts of murder and sentenced to death row. I have been emotionally battled in the three days of reading this story. I could not hold back the tears, the anger, the laughter, the joy this book embodied. In a place where hope is not meant to be nurtured, how do you find and keep hope and hold on for thirty years. What was the motivation of the state of Alabama in keeping an innocent man in jail? The scary part of all this is that the person who committed the crimes went on carrying them. What was the point to be proven? I realise the 80s was a critical period for blacks in Alabama where if black people could not be openly oppressed then the “legal” ways of lynching were devised.

The sun does shine has taught me to reflect critically on and appreciate the power of the mind. It is possible to not allow your physical or visible circumstances to kill your soul. If Ray had given up, his story would have never been told. Never give up.

“Hope to keep on fighting, to keep on living, to believe that you can change, or your situation can change. Remember none of us are the worst thing we have done, and right now, wherever you are, whoever you are, you can reach out to your fellow man or woman and bring your own light to the dark places.”

“I want you to know that I’m fixing to go. I’m leaving here. It took me thirty years to get to this moment. It may take thirty-one years for you. It may take thirty-two or thirty-three or thirty-five years, but you need to hold on. You need to hold on to your hope. If you have hope, you have everything.”

I’ve never been one for the death row because I believe no one is beyond redemption. This book makes that also clear. I need to be more supportive of initiatives such as Equal Justice Initiative. I think there is no greater calling then Byran Stevenson’s work, but then again, why does he have to be doing such work. Why should the state not be doing everything in its power to ensure no (innocent) human being ends up on death row. Justice should not be a preserve of the rich. Perhacs was never motivated by Ray’s innocence. Money was his motivation. He wanted to cash out on Ray and even render his mother homeless.

“To be sure, the death sentence must never be carried out in a way that allows the innocent to die.”

“They said it was a waste of time. A stay was granted one day before my hearing, and the attorney general said in his brief that I should be blocked from establishing my innocence because it would “waste three days or two days of taxpayer money.”

I like that the book gives voice to Henry Hays and how (black) hate is passed on from generation to generation. This is very well visible today, and I wonder the benefits this hatred yields for such families. Imagine how much black people could contribute to the US if they were not prejudiced by systems driven by hate.

“McGregor passed away, and he wrote a book before he died. He mentions me in the book and says how evil I am. How clever a killer I was. How he knew just from looking at me that I was guilty. I forgive him. Someone taught him to be racist, just as someone taught Henry Hays.”

May we not give up in any situation we find ourselves, but also remember to stand up to those who believe they hold the keys to our lives. May our lives be filled with people like Lester and Bryan, and never give up hope like Ray.

“Life is a crazy, strange mix of tragedy and sorrow and triumph and joy.”

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Finding my woman

It is so, that there are a thousand and one instructions on how women are to live. What women are to do with their bodies. What she is to do with her toenails to the tip of her hair. From the external to the internal organs, there are laws, regulations, expectations, and advice on how she is to look, work, be paid, behave, speak, date, and breath. And these come from every angle. The radical feminists, the liberal feminists, the conservationists, religion, family, the list is countless. For they are provided on the premise of aiding the woman navigate life. There is always something she needs to do or is not doing. And that is the reason women tend to inherit blame or are awarded the blame when situations like child loss, divorce, job loss, childlessness etc. happen. The general belief is that she could have done A, B and C to counter these situations.

Well, with so many voices telling me what I am to do with my body, my voice, my hair, my mind, etc. in which breath do I find out what I want? What I want, what I want to be, what I want to look like, what makes me happy? Where is the space to nurture those thoughts and fulfil the person God created me to be? As much as society has expectations, mostly outrageous I dare say, it behoves on me as a human being to find out my desires for my life. Do I have expectations of myself? Do I want to work because society expects me to? Do I desire children because it is expected of me? How many children do I want to have? To what extent and levels can I pursue formalized education? What can I wear today? As I ask these questions, I realise there are provided responses from concerned parties.

“What is the essence of a woman who desires no children?”

“A woman should not desire for much in her future, she will be provided for by her husband.”

“A woman does not dress like that.”

And these are statements that have literally flown into my body through my ear.

If everyone and society has these expectations of me, at what point do I start to live out my expectations? That is, if I have asked and know what my desires are. Am I leaning only towards what society expects, concerned about what will happen if I do not conform?

What do I want?

Do I really want that?

Or am I pursuing that because it is what is expected of my kind?

Great! When what I desire aligns with the world’s expectations of me.

But what if my desires do not conform? Will I still pursue them?

Will I keep finding my woman, even when I know I will be challenged and despised?

Down here, there are no easy roads, but better to be on the road chosen.

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What afternoon runs taught me

I enjoy morning runs, I believed they were the ultimate until I went on an afternoon run. My running goal for this year is 600 km. Though I am 70% in and with a good chance to reach this goal, I decided mid-August to commit more to the goal and be consistent.

Respect is what I have for people I see on a jog or run on a hot, sun-burning day. Only respect. Why would someone go on a run when the weather is so hot when they could do morning runs? Hello?? However, last week, I had to go three times on afternoon runs since those were the only time slots for me to get a run in. It was an experience. It was different. And this is what I learnt.

Morning runs are easier. The weather is right. There are many doing the same, and so I was never alone.

Afternoon runs on those warm sunny 25 degrees plus days are not easy. The body gets heated up. There was so much dryness in my throat. My body was pushed beyond its comfort zone. I had to convince myself to keep going. And it was not what everyone was doing.

Though I was uncomfortable, I was amazed that my body pushed through. So, my body can do afternoon runs, can survive afternoon runs. An interesting discovery. And until I put myself in this place of discomfort. I never knew I could.

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Hate Underlined

About two decades ago, when I was in Junior High School, I had a classmate who consistently provoked me. In a conversation with Kizito, a classmate, I complained to him about this classmate of ours.

“I hate this annoying classmate of ours”.

Kizito’s face blew in surprise.

He was alarmed.

“Never say that again,” he replied with the seriousness of a headmistress.

I asked him why? Because that guy was annoying. For one, he had punched me in the stomach for no valid reason.

Kizito asked me if I knew the meaning of hate?

He said, “When you hate someone, it means that you want them dead, to not exist”.

I paused. Well, that did make me feel sorry for saying that. I could not stand the guy, but I did not want him to die. In my need to express my dislike, I guess it had been translated by the use of hate as my desire to see him die.

Hate. The seed we plant in us and nurture till it bears fruits. Only it is a plant that sinks its roots deep into us and poisons us.

Hate. It is what we choose and justify based on the way others are. Luckily, there is always a reason to choose it.

Hate. It is what we pass on to our children, in hints, conversations and our crossing to the other side of the street.

Hate. It is why we fall sick. It is the poison we bury our soul in, so our enemy may die.

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How to choose a church

Looking for a church? I wrote this “sort of” how-to-guide, inspired because I moved to a new city and on the quest for a new church. Perhaps you are also in my situation, or you are new to Christ and Christianity, or simply need a new church, I hope this piece provides some helpful points for finding and choosing a church.

Over the past years, I have had to move to new cities a couple of times. My approach in the past often started with a Google search and making enquiries on social media or within social – circles. However, I believe finding a church requires some sitting down and reflection on our basis for finding a church. We need to ask and answer some key questions. This can be described as a pre-planning phase as well as a “getting to know self” stage.

Here are three questions I believe we need to set out time to reflect on and find the answers to.

  • Why do I go to church, or why should I go to church?

The Bible is clear in Hebrews 10:25 to not stop going to church. We are advised to always go to church so that we stay spurred on in our walk with Christ. Church is the place to be stirred up in love, faith, and joy and the place to stir up our gifts and all other good works (Hebrews 10:24).

Do not stop going to church meetings. Some people do stop. But help each other to be strong. You must do it all the more as you see the Great Day coming closer. Hebrews 10:25 (WE)

This question however is a personal one, like our relationship with Christ. It is necessary we ask ourselves why and find the answers. Maybe you have been on the church routine long enough and need to refresh those reasons. Some of us have been in church since we were babies. It was how we spent time together as a family, the only weekly family activity or event. For some, church was where we discovered us, our gifts, and what God had to say about us. For some, church was and has always been there. “I chose this church because it is the nearest to my home”, “A friend invited me to church, I liked it and I stayed”, “The church music was good”, “The pastor preaches such a sermon here”.

Yes, these are all great reasons to attend church, but why do we go to church? What convicts us to stay in church?

Because we are going to need that conviction when the friend leaves, when the music becomes bad, when the new pastor has no prophetic sermons and when everything tells us it is time to take a break or leave.

Another question, which may be helpful in finding answers to the above, would be finding out what you require from a church.

  • What do I need from a church?

Everyone has some needs that need to be met. They could be physical, financial, spiritual, etc. At some point, hopefully, when it comes to the church, our needs are in par with Christ. As a new believer, the need could be to learn more about the foundations of the faith. Other needs could be: to be loved and encouraged, to explore talents, to have a family, etc. Someone may join a church with the need for a job or livelihood. There are people who found their first jobs or business contracts in church. Someone may join with the need for spiritual growth. As unique as our relationships with God are, so are our needs when it comes to church. Finding the answers helps us to know if our needs are being met, and if not, ensure they are being met. It helps with the resolve to stay in and connected to church when we do not feel like it.

Hopefully, now we know why we go to church and what we require from the church. Another question, that might not cross our minds, is the expectations of the church. Church should be a two-way-relationship, where we receive from the church, and we give to the church as well.

  • What does the church need from me?

No church leader desires a rebellious congregation or a congregation that refuses to align with church goals. There are churches that are not eager to accept anyone as a member. They desire committed members who will dedicate themselves to the growth and wellbeing of the church. When we become members of a church, we are submitting to the church authority. We are submitting to its rules and doctrines. The church may need financial and time commitments as well as skills commitment. We need to be ready and consider this as well. Every church requires dedicated and consistent members. Is that something we can do or are willing to do? Considering factors such as location of the church, the make-up of the church, the stage (new or old) the church is in, what sacrifices would we need to make to help the church. Are we ready to partake in church events and go out of our comfort zones when the church’s needs are to be met?

Church does not belong to the church leadership. The church is us, and we all make up the body of Christ. As it is explained in 1 Corinthians 12, all parts are important. Those visible and those behind the scenes. As much it is significant for the visible to be hard-working, those behind the scenes are influential for making it all come together.

The final but the first thing to consider and the most significant part of this self-reflection is to pray. Pray. It is great to know why we go to church, what we need from church, and what we can offer to the church. However, God knows us best. Pray and put every request before God, including this quest for a church. We need to pray for a church that meets His desires for this glorious person He created us to be. That He directs us in finding a church where we will grow to know Him more and be all we are expected to be.

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Grateful for the little things

In times such as these, when a lot is happening in and around us, it is a good thing to take 2 minutes out of your day to bring joy to your heart. To stir up hope in your heart and be grateful for what you have and have experienced thus far.

One of the ways I bring joy to my heart is to list the little things that neither cost me nor need my intervention to happen. Yet their occurrence brings or has brought joy many times to my heart.

What are some of the little things that bring joy to your heart and stirs up hope?

Here are my list of little things that make me happy:

  1. The warmness of the morning or spring sun on my skin
  2. The kindness of a stranger – when a stranger offers to help me or offers me their seat
  3. My son laughing in his sleep at night
  4. A hug and kiss from my son
  5. A smile from my son
  6. Seeing my son happy
  7. Wearing my hair in an afro-puff
  8. A heart-to-heart conversation with a friend
  9. Singing with a friend or a group like in church
  10. A clear night, lit with stars and the moon
  11. The chirping of birds in the morning
  12. The sound of children playing

I hope this list inspires you to think about the little things that makes you happy.

Take a few minutes, some paper or just your thoughts and try to see how many you come up with.

And see how your heart swells with joy. 

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That we all may be one

St. Louis senior high school commemorates 70 years of existence this year. This milestone stirs up varied emotions in many old girls. Buried experiences and life events that happened on the St. Louis campus come alive. Over the past weeks, my Alma matter has been a constant feature on my mind as well. Mostly due to the flood of photos on my Facebook timeline from old girls thrilled about this grand milestone.

The question I’ve asked myself repeatedly is “how did St. Louis contribute to my life”? I wanted to write a random Facebook post “The 7 things I am grateful for as an old girl of St. Louis” with the answers I found. Truth be told, I struggled to find those 7 points. 2022 also marks 20 years since I left Louis (but I am not that old.😉). One might argue that with two decades past, my memory may need a little more than rejuvenation. However, my struggle was that my challenges and bad experiences were easier to reach than the things of gratitude.

Nevertheless, on Saturday 19th February 2022, at the launch of the anniversary celebration, I came across a photo of an old girl, Sally with Father Nkrumah (a former priest of the school). This photo instantly located and opened every can of good experiences hidden in memory. Father Nkrumah was such a kind-hearted person and blunt with his opinions. He educated me during conversations on campus streets of the meaning and origin of my name “Nana Kesewaa” and did not forget to add the lessons of the origin of the Kwahu. He was always ready to impart knowledge, regardless of the location. 

Now let me share some things, I am grateful for as an old student of St. Louis.

The educational infrastructure: As a science student, I was privileged to be in the best science class (Science B). Most importantly, I count it a blessing to have been in a school that had highly equipped labs where we could have practical sessions in Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. To experience everything we read come alive in our hands.

The amazing teachers: I cannot forget the phenomenal teachers we had. Mr. Addae Mununkum left me with a positive impression of his personality, my English literature teachers Maa Adongo and Maa Christi and how they imprinted the love for literature on my heart. Mr. Bawuah, for his patience in teaching Chemistry and his dry jokes in class. Maa Vero and another teacher whose name I fail to recall taught us life skills with such a heart of humour.

Skills & purpose development: I am grateful for the opportunities we were given to develop the necessary skills as well as our gifts in the many student clubs and sport groups. I enjoyed being in the drama group “Faith in Action” and also singing with the Sweet Melodians. Then as well, being part of the Green Earth organisation, evangelizing about the need to keep the earth green. The opportunities were incredibly vast, and key to developing our life purpose as well as positioning us as positive contributors to society.

Leadership Skills: I was privileged to be a prefect in my final year. This experience as a leader taught me a lot about myself and people, of course. It taught me to be respectful of others. How I became an assistant Compound Overseer is also a story for another day.

Community and Sisterhood: My favourite moments on campus were the morning assemblies each weekday before class, the protestant church services in the dining hall and entertainment nights on Saturdays. Those moments reflected the community nurtured by girls from different parts of the world brought together by a vision for wholesome girl education. This was highly reflective in the way we communicated with each other on campus. We formed bonds that moved beyond friendship into sisterhood and community.

The culture of hugs: What more can be said about Louis girls and the culture of hugs? I am grateful I learned this expression of love and friendship primarily in Louis. Hugs were the preferred and most common form of salutation on campus.

Responsibility: Each girl gets assigned some responsibility every term. It was expected of us to be diligent in our duties and contribute to the “running” of the school. Though I did not appreciate the areas I was assigned in my early years (toilets and bathrooms), I knew they had to be clean before I sat in the classroom each day. If it was not up to standard, I would be asked to do it again. At an early age we were taught how to deal with such tasks as well as manage time.

The amazing people: I think the greatest blessing of St. Louis was the people I was privileged to meet. The many personalities I got to learn from. Even at the age of 14, 15,16,17 some people so stood out in their personalities and focus on life. They were an inspiration to many by their kindness, calmness, intelligence, resilience, assertiveness and (not to cut the list short), boldness.

I strongly believe it was God’s will that I find myself in St. Louis, and that it nurtures me into who I am today. As we thank God for the existence of this school, I am grateful for the many experiences I made, the good and the bad and the wonderful people I met, students and teachers alike.

On this day, let us also  remember the incredible souls such as Sheila Mensah and Alberta who are not with us to mark this day. God’s peace be with them.

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The radio

Aunty Ama always left even before the sun’s rays could be seen. Sometimes, when her busyness stirred me from the raffia mat, we shared, she was quick to urge me to go back to sleep.

“Kwame sorry wai, go back to sleep, okay, ”

If I did not wish to sleep any more, I would sit up and watch her as she prepared to go to Accra Market. She wanted to make sure she was there before all the fruits and vegetables that had travelled the night from their various destinations arrived. Her job was to help the big shop women unload the products to their stalls. Each time, she would tell me to make sure to eat breakfast and study hard before she left.

Mma Fatia’s porridge was my breakfast spot each morning. Sometimes she would tie it in the polythene bag for me or allow me to sit on the bench with her customers and drink it in a calabash. Aunty Ama had arranged to give her the money when she came back from work. The past 2 weeks since the new term started, my headteacher sacked me to go home. I have not told Aunty Ama about it. I did not tell her the headmaster wanted to see her, nor did I let her know it was because of my fees.

The last time I was sacked for fees, she sold the TV and the plastic chairs we had to the woman who lived across our street. Now all we have in our room apart from the mat and our clothes is the radio. I really like that radio. The radio is the one thing Wofa Kofi loved. He listened, every morning. to the big big english on the radio. I want to be like him. Someday, I will understand all the big words and things those people were talking about on the radio. I wanted to be like Wofa, to teach children too.

I never touched that shiny ash radio until the day Wofa Kofi did not return home. Aunty Ama said he had travelled to America and was not coming back. That day I cried. I cried a lot, but I did not let Aunty Ama see it. I did not understand how Wofa Kofi could have travelled and never told me. How could he have travelled to a place like America and said nothing about it? It was good to keep the radio just in case he came back. Even though Aunty Ama said he is not coming back, maybe someday he will come back, and he will not like it if the radio is no more there.

Now each morning, after collecting my porridge from Mma Fatia, I head in the direction of my school like I always did. What did I do? I would move from Pig Farm to walk around Roman Ridge, Dworwulu, Airport, all those nice areas, after changing my school uniform. In those places, I’m always careful. I don’t know why, but they do not like me being around there.

Once, in Roman Ridge, I sat under a tree counting the cars, when a man approached me and told me to get out of there. I had been doing nothing bad, just sitting there. He was angry and shouted that I should get up from there, or he will let his dogs chase me.

I just left.

The porridge was enough for the mornings, all the walking had its toll on me. But what could I do? I had no money to buy food, and I was afraid to ask people too for food. There had been stories in my area of children who had taken food from a white pickup and had been sick since then. Aunty Ama had warned me to not take food from strangers.

One afternoon while walking around Abelenkpe, I saw some mango trees in a house. The trees had very ripe mangoes on it, some were even on the floor. I wanted to ask if I could go inside and pick those on the floor. I shouted “Agoo Agoo” but no one responded. Then I rang the bell. No one came.

After standing there for a while I thought maybe I can be fast and climb the fence and gather all the mangoes.The fence was low. So, I climbed the fence and went inside the house. The mangoes were so tasty. I ate as many as I could. Then I climbed the tree to pluck some ripe ones to take home with me.

As soon as I reach the upper trunk of the tree, I heard a honk at the gate. I stayed put.

A man opened the gate and drove his car into the compound. The man got out of his car with a dog.

From the top, I could see all the dog’s teeth. The dog had chains, really big ones I had never seen in my life before. It was breathing so loudly. Maybe If I stayed up there and did nothing, the man would go inside the house and I could jump out.

Then the man called out.

“Get down from the tree”

I held on firmly to the tree branch, not wanting to let go. The dog started barking and jumping towards the tree.

Would I ever see Aunty Ama again?

I climbed down.

“What are you doing in my house, young boy” he shouted?

I knelt down and begged him. How was I to tell him this? That I had been hungry and saw the mangoes and came into his house to fetch them? The end had come, but too sooner than I expected.

The man started yelling. Yelling for some Kofi to come.

My ears grew hotter and my eyes overflowed in tears.

Would they take me to the police station?

I could not draw closer to him to beg at his feet. I was afraid the dog would tear me to pieces.

Kofi came. Kofi was a macho man.

He was like those men who always came to Baba Abdul’s shop to sit and play draft. After complaining about how Kofi has been sleeping and allowed me to come into the house. The man asked Kofi to go and bring me food. All this while the dog had not stop barking.

My tears continued. I begged him, tried to tell him I will never come into his house again. My cries choked my words.

The mangoes I had gathered in the black polythene lay scattered on the floor. The man pulled a wooden bench closer and asked me to sit by him. Kofi brought the food, but I didn’t want to eat it. I begged him I did not want to eat it. He took the food and held it in his hands.

“Kofi, take the dog back to its cage.”

The man turned towards me, his face softened.

“God loves you” were the words that flowed from his mouth.

I wondered why he was telling me this?

He squeezed some notes in my palm.

“Buy some food” he added and asked me to gather the mangoes from the floor.

I never forgot those words.

God loves you.

Writing Prompt: God loves you

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How to plan a funeral in 10 days

About seven years ago, I got an idea for a book. It is about two friends, women, very successful in their chosen fields. I started writing excerpts for the book and have been working on it for a while. It has metamorphosized into something that looks rather like a short story but has an unsatisfied writer sitting at the other end of it. Each year I ask myself what to do with this piece. I intend to finish it, but seriously do not know how to mend it all together into  something someone would enjoy reading.

The heading in itself sounds odd, how to plan a funeral in 10 days. In this story or book, I am supposed to give the reader ten steps into planning their own funeral. Yes, you read that right. This has nothing to do with future plans to save your family from giving you a non-warranted and non-appreciated funeral. The story is about faking your death so you can have a life away from a demanding family and society. A society which keeps pressurizing you to do things you would rather not do while they in themselves contribute zero to your life.

Okay, before you begin to judge and say this is crazy, check this out. Last year while scouring the internet for inspiration for my story, I came across a very interesting news item related to my idea, which happened in real life in Nigeria. A 19-year-old girl faked her death to avoid financial pressure from her mother.  So, it did not turn out as she and her friends had planned, for they planned it poorly. The whole social media thing was a weak link in the equation. Now she lost her job and is seen someway bi by her family.

So, you get my point, there are many people living under the heavy pressure of performing to society’s expectations such that they would rather disappear into nothingness to avoid this pressure. But is this really a viable solution? Faking one’s death? Sacrificing all that is true to you and pronouncing yourself as dead, wishing death on yourself to gain peace. I don’t know. Not everyone is that strong, not everyone can do the “I don’t care” thing. Some people cannot say no to pressure and would rather crumble under the expectations. For some hiding is their refuge.

The thing is changing society and its expectations is possible, but hard work that takes time. And until then, what do we do? There are people living half of their lives because of financial pressure for people’s wants. People living in misery (some in jail, some dead) due to society’s expectations of marriage, children, or wealth. Anyway, until I figure out what I will do to this half-baked story, may we soon achieve mastery in staying focused and not allow society to wreck us into living only a quarter of our lives.

~ peace

~Nana Kesewaa Dankwa

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Why a good cookbook is just not enough

Instead of a college degree, according to an internet meme I recently saw, faith, a bible, and a good cookbook is all a woman needs. A bible can be purchased. Faith can be developed. Finding a good cookbook? That is the challenge of a lifetime. Okay, the internet meme is ridiculous because what a woman needs are what she decides she needs. A decision she requires no permission for or advice on. But this meme got me thinking. How much of my lifetime would it take to find an ultimate good cookbook? I define a good cookbook as one that caters to my dietary and cultural preferences as well as my values, and my unique sense of  creativity. Is this even a realistic expectation? Finding a good cookbook that encompasses all I have mentioned above will be a challenge.

I did not grow up with the culture of cookbooks. At home during cooking, I never saw a cookbook being referenced. My first experience with a form of cookbooks was in junior high school during the catering (vocational skills) course. These cookbooks were required textbooks and recipe compilations. My foundational cooking knowledge and skills were acquired from my mum, my sisters, and my cousins. Over the years, I have honed my skills with inspiration from friends, the internet, observing others and helping out in the kitchen. My first cooking experience at age 9 or 10 with the mission to cook waakye was a disaster. I learnt then that cooking was an avenue where one was to experiment, fail, and get better.

My first cookbook was a gift. A book on German cuisine in english. The second was also a gift. An American cookbook. The rest I bought or picked-up on the streets. Each cookbook I own is unique. I lean on them for new ideas and new knowledge. My favourite is a used book with the major German cake recipes. Baking is one of the skills I had little experience in until I moved to Europe. I love this book because it is simply structured and easy to learn from.

Indeed, cooking is an art. An art expressed by the uniqueness of its performance. Take my home and sisters as an example, though our cooking skills were nurtured by the same teacher(our mum), it is easy to guess who made what by the appearance, taste or even the clang of kitchen utensils. About a month ago, I video-called my cousin to teach me how to make kenkey. I could have called my mother, but I preferred my cousin because in my opinion, she highly carries the transferred knowledge and skills of preparing kenkey in our home. Over the many years we lived together she made kenkey on countless Saturday mornings. If I wanted tips for uncommon traditional dishes I would go to my mother. For tips on northern dishes like Tuo Zaafi I would go to my elder sister. I prefer these conversations, that impart the needed cooking knowledge and skills, to reading a book. So as one from a culture that heralds the transfer of knowledge in oral form and advances practice by doing, what are the chances of finding a cookbook that embodies these values?

Instead of a college degree, according to an internet meme I recently saw, faith, a bible, and a good cookbook is all a woman needs. A bible can be purchased. Faith can be developed. Finding a good cookbook? That is the challenge of a lifetime. Okay, the internet meme is ridiculous because what a woman needs are what she decides she needs. A decision she requires no permission for or advice on. But this meme got me thinking. How much of my lifetime would it take to find an ultimate good cookbook? I define a good cookbook as one that caters to my dietary and cultural preferences as well as my values, and my unique sense of  creativity. Is this even a realistic expectation? Finding a good cookbook that encompasses all I have mentioned above will be a challenge.

I did not grow up with the culture of cookbooks. At home during cooking, I never saw a cookbook being referenced. My first experience with a form of cookbooks was in junior high school during the catering (vocational skills) course. These cookbooks were required textbooks and recipe compilations. My foundational cooking knowledge and skills were acquired from my mum, my sisters, and my cousins. Over the years, I have honed my skills with inspiration from friends, the internet, observing others and helping out in the kitchen. My first cooking experience at age 9 or 10 with the mission to cook waakye was a disaster. I learnt then that cooking was an avenue where one was to experiment, fail, and get better.

My first cookbook was a gift. A book on German cuisine in english. The second was also a gift. An American cookbook. The rest I bought or picked-up on the streets. Each cookbook I own is unique. I lean on them for new ideas and new knowledge. My favourite is a used book with the major German cake recipes. Baking is one of the skills I had little experience in until I moved to Europe. I love this book because it is simply structured and easy to learn from.

Indeed, cooking is an art. An art expressed by the uniqueness of its performance. Take my home and sisters as an example, though our cooking skills were nurtured by the same teacher(our mum), it is easy to guess who made what by the appearance, taste or even the clang of kitchen utensils. About a month ago, I video-called my cousin to teach me how to make kenkey. I could have called my mother, but I preferred my cousin because in my opinion, she highly carries the transferred knowledge and skills of preparing kenkey in our home. Over the many years we lived together she made kenkey on countless Saturday mornings. If I wanted tips for uncommon traditional dishes I would go to my mother. For tips on northern dishes like Tuo Zaafi I would go to my elder sister. I prefer these conversations, that impart the needed cooking knowledge and skills, to reading a book. So as one from a culture that heralds the transfer of knowledge in oral form and advances practice by doing, what are the chances of finding a cookbook that embodies these values?

My aim here is not to share long notes on finding the (perfect) cookbook. I want to raise awareness to the skewed tone of that internet meme. Frankly, I will never find a cookbook that encompasses all I ever need. I can have many good cookbooks each fulfilling a purpose and have a favourite due to my preferences (which are often nurtured by the demands of the immediate environment). A book cannot incorporate the cultural relationships surrounding food creation nor embody the societal machineries of food. A cookbook is not even a thing in my culture. It is something that hardly comes up in any conversation. And so, woman in the context of this meme thankfully excludes me and my kind.

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