Wednesday, December 11, 2013


On my usual route home from work, I sat in one of our local public taxi's which most young people my age have nicknamed  trotro; a nick name culled for these ancient Mercedes Benz buses which have been converted from delivery vans to delivering humans to their various destinations.

This particular trotro ( troskie if you like) which I jumped into at the bus stop behind the Afua Sutherland Children's park, along with a healthy handful of passengers who were no doubt in a hurry to get to their various destinations, was rather unusual.
The first thing which struck me was the mate; now normally the mates were sprite young fellows who clung to the doors of the troskies like nimble monkeys, hollering out to potential passengers at bus stops about their destinations whilst expertly clutching a handful of bills between the knuckles of their fingers.

This mate however, was a middle aged Baba, complete in smock and cap, looking like he would roll out his mat and kneel down to attend to a call to prayer at any instant.

Next I noticed the 17' flat screen TV perched over head, hooked up to two loud speakers...LED or LCD, I had no clue, but I was excited! Finally! My first film in a troskie! Then as I slid into my seat beside a well dressed corporate worker wearing a curly weave, carefully making sure my clothes didn't get caught in any snags, I finally noticed the driver. The driver who looked like the mate...sprite, slightly unkempt and with sharp eyes adept at spotting potential passengers from a mile away like a bird of pray.

At this point I was even more excited, because I could smell drama! There was either going to be a quarrel of some sort once our journey began or SOMETHING!

My crew of misfits  did not fail to disappoint; for as I opened my purse and began to rustle about for coins to pay my fare, I  casually asked in Twi, the common local dialect

'How much to Tetteh Quarshie?'

Baba the mate gave me a long blank stare before doing the very Ghanaian thing of answering a question with a question

'How much do u often pay?'

At that very moment my fingers had found a 10 Pesewa coin, and I froze....what????
The MATE was asking ME how much I often paid? Was he mad? Was he sure he was a proper mate and not the Imam at a local mosque some where in Adabraka taking a day off his statutory occupation?

Just right then, a naughty voice whispered in my head

'Say you pay 10 Pesewas'

I couldn't help but giggle, musing to myself that if I was a wicked woman, I would definitely say so n cheat this Baba or mate or whatever he purported to be of a solid 50 pesewas. It wasn't much money, nor was it because I didn't have the money, but the temptation was so impossibly irresistible, my lips parted and I started to form the words ...when suddenly a young man who had jumped into the row of seats in front of me just moments after i had sat, announced in Twi, as the troskie jerked into motion with a shrill screech from the clutch as the driver changed the gears.

''Its 60 pesewas. Tetteh-Quarshie is 60 pesewas''

At that point I grinned from ear to ear although I was disappointed at being unable to play devil's advocate, and found a 50 pesewa coin and handed it over to the Baba the mate.
Barely one second went by when a young girl in the front row me quipped

'How much to get down at 37 hospital?'

To which the Baba replied

'80 pesewas.'

My jaw sagged in astonishment; this passenger was being charged more than I was for a destination which was a total of about 6 bus stops before my stop.

The same smart-alec passenger who insisted my fare was 60 pesewas, came to Baba's rescue once again, and argued

'No its not! Its 70p, everyone pays 70p for 37'

As the passenger passed her GHC1 note from hand to hand till it reached Baba the mate, I held my breath, waiting for someone,  or more likely the self appointed public transport minister to call me out on that 60 pesewas.....nothing happened. Three stops later,  nothing had happened one seemed to notice or care, or perhaps they were so excited by their own good fortune they didn't want to spoil it.

Well then, I thought to myself, no point playing the saint. So onward to my stop at spanner bus stop at 60 pesewas, best troskie ride ever!! Hurray!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Old Soldier Never Die!

My mother, my big sister and I live in a quiet gated community off the Tema Motorway. Our estate is the kind of community where young singles, middle aged people, retirees, as well as a healthy number of young couples live with their small children. The streets are safe enough for morning joggers, evening strolls and for children to ride their bicycles and play whilst their parents and nannies keep a sharp eye out for the occasional over speeding driver or the garbage collecting trucks, which often can be smelt from a mile away.

Now, this is not my story, but I’m telling it for my sister who told it to me and asked me to write it down because she says I have a way with words; so here I am... preparing to regal you with her story.

So over the last three or so months, she tells me, she's been giving a ride to an elderly man every morning or afternoon on her way into town. In the community we live in, there's nothing odd about giving a neighbour a ride to the main estate gate in order for them to get transportation to where ever their destination maybe. I myself have picked up and dropped off quite a few people either at the estate gate or taken them into the city if they happen to be heading in the same direction as I am.

Awo had been giving a ride to an elderly veteran soldier who had been to Burma, and who answered to the name 'Old soldier', for which he always replied ' Old soldier never die' followed by a mock salute.

Old Soldier would stand a little way from his house on the side of the street, walking stick firmly gripped in his hands, looking out eagerly for anyone driving out of the estate. When he saw a vehicle he recognised approaching, he would pull off his coolie-hi hat which I’m sure he had been wearing since 1945 and rapidly and desperately flag down his quarry with his sinewy weathered arms until you stopped. Come to think of it, it was near impossible not to slow down and give him a lift, he just looked frail and pitiful standing there all bent over, and anyone with half a heart would just stop if they pictured their own grandfather standing at the side of the street.

After picking him up, and making the respectful greetings and such, the next thing was always to ask him where he was going and his answer was always the same, him stuttering ….

 ‘Me si! Me si! Me si wo gate!'  * 'I'll get down! I'll get down! I'll get down at the gate'.*

…..whilst making fast sporadic movements with his two skinny arms indicating his fore fingers in a downward motion.

Now mind you, Awo can be a humanitarian at heart, although she will never admit it to your face, she will always go the extra mile to do something for someone especially if she feels the person is in need of it.

So at moments like this, she always pushed and cajoled Old Soldier a little; she would ask her elderly companion where exactly he was going so that if it was on her way she could drop him off there and save a fraction of some of his pension money. 

Old soldier always gave her either one of two destinations; that he was either going to the pharmacy in front of the estate or he was going to the Chiropractic Clinic across the main road. A couple of instances when he was going to the Chiropractic Clinic, Awo said she firmly insisted and dropped him off at the clinic's gate since she was going that way anyway and since Old Soldier did not seem to know where the entrance to the clinic was.

One Sunday morning, my sister started getting a bit worried and alarmed about the health of this Veteran soldier who had fought bravely in Burma eons ago when our own mother had not even been thought about by our grandparents.

She met Old soldier at his usual place, frantically flagging down her car with his coolie-hi hat and walking stick as if his very life depended on it. So like she always did Awo slowed down and picked him up, did the usual pleasantries and then inquired where he was heading off to. That day it was the pharmacy, but it was also 9am in the morning, and the pharmacy would not be open for business until 1pm.

She said she said to Old Soldier in Twi 

‘Da, please its Sunday, the pharmacy won't be open until the afternoon’

To which he responded quickly in Twi with his distinct halting stutter whilst motioning rapidly in a downward motion with his two fore fingers

‘Mm33 tw3n! Mm33 tw3n!’ * ‘I’ll wait for them! I'll wait for them!’   

His response was strange and my sister began to wonder about his mental health and specifically what manner of illness the poor old fellow was suffering from, which had him visiting the pharmacist seven days a week to purchase his medications. What kind of illness  made him decide to wait almost 4 hours until the pharmacy opened, and why didn’t he not  just buy his medications in bulk in order to avoid the daily to and fro journey. She began to feel sorry for him and made up her mind that next time round she gave him a lift, she would give him a little money to help him out a bit.

Now barely a week after this incident, Awo had her hair braided at home by our hairdresser Mabel, whom we always called when we wanted to get our hair braided or twisted. Normally when she was done with our hair, we’d drop her off at the station to get transportation home, and on this occasion, my sister decided to take her to the trotro station at Chayass Junction in Community 18, from where Mabel could get a loading car straight to 37 station, from which she could get another loading car home to Nsawam.

Like clockwork, Old soldier was standing in his usual spot on the street, coolie-hi hat and walking stick in hand, desperately flagging her car down as if there was no tomorrow.

So Awo, slowed down and she said sadly to Mabel

‘This poor old man is going to the pharmacy again oo!’

To which the Mabel the hairdresser responded with an unconvinced scoff of


Old soldier clambered into the backseat of the car, the usual pleasantries and greetings were exchanged, and then he was dropped at the estate gate as usual, where he said his usual profuse thanks whilst waving with his two hands, before he placed his walking stick back to the ground and shuffled away on his skinny weather beaten legs, his baggy mid calf khaki shorts unable to conceal his thin frame.

That’s when Mabel the hair dresser started talking about Old Soldier, whilst my sister, mouth agape, listened in shock.

According to Mabel, she had gone to braid another customer’s hair just a little further down the street from our house and close to Old Soldier’s house. The customer in question owned a wine and spirits shop where she retailed a bevy of drinks to all and sundry. That late afternoon, around dusk as she was putting in some finishing touches to the braids, the old soldier had shuffled by with his usual gait, coolie-hi hat in place on his head and walking stick firmly gripped in his knobbed fingers. Shortly after he had passed her customer had exclaimed

‘Humph! This old drunkard is going out to drink again!’

Then without further preamble her customer narrated how she used to sell alcohol to him at first, but had seen how bad his drinking habits were and decided that she would never ever sell to him again!
However despite her refusal to sell to him, the sly old foggy had found an alternative watering hole across the main road from the estate, where he shuffled to daily in order to get plastered. After he had had his fill and too roaring drunk to stagger the short walk back home, he always hailed a taxi to transport him back home.

My sister was aghast! Heartbroken! Angry! A Molotov cocktail of mixed emotions! She felt her trust had been betrayed! All along, Old Soldier had preyed on her pity, and had tricked her into enabling him to feed his habit!  She immediately vowed never ever to give the old soldier a ride again and threatened to confront him and embarrass him next time round she spotted him flagging her down for a lift.

I couldn’t stop howling with laughter, and the only sympathetic yet ironic thing I could say to her was

 ‘S3 nsa no y3 aduro!’  * But the alcohol is medicine!’*

After all, with all that daily dose of booze, most certainly Old Soldier never die!

Friday, July 19, 2013

'Awoe' (* ah-way*) - 'The Bats'

It was around that time of the year when the coconut fruits begun to dry on the tall gnarled coconut trees, that we made our yearly trip to my father's village. It was 1962, I was about seven, still clueless about what Ghana's independence meant, but nonetheless excited to be on holidays with my two older rambunctious brothers whom I adored and looked to for acceptance in their games and adventures.

The journey was always the same, my mother packed enough food to last our week stay into the car, my father drove, and my brother's and I goofed in the back seat - pressing our noses against the window and making faces  at the passing scenery, playing 'I spy' and of course dozing off when we got tired. I remember my mother waking us up to have a quick lunch, perhaps halfway to the village before continuing on our journey. I remember the ride in the Aunty Dede ferry at Tefle which slightly made my tummy pitch throughout the thirty minutes ride.

Denu was always a welcome breath of fresh air. To any seven year old; the freedom to run about barefoot in the sea sand without any qualms about having to do home work for the next day of school was utterly heavenly!

However before we settled in we always had to deal with our unwanted house guests, a generation of cave bats who had taken over our village house  for as far back as i could remember in all my seven years.

This year round, my father decided to put a complete stop to their tenancy by sealing the entrance through which they flew in to nest. He said he had had it with the bats and their mess and the creepy screeching noises  they made throughout the day.

A local handy man who was noted for his prowess at catching house rodents was summoned and tasked with proposing a permanent solution to sacking the bats from the roof before the opening was sealed.

I remember how the corners of his eyes crinkled with delight as he gave my father a toothless grin, rubbed his knobbly hands together and named his price for his services. The amount must have been pretty ridiculous because my mother exclaimed loudly. Him and my father haggled some, a fair price was agreed upon and the handy man agreed to arrive at the house within an hour with his potions for the task.

He arrived on time I suppose, for I didn't have a watch, but the sun had not yet gone down when he came back. He mixed a few things from a cacophony of bottles and containers, threw in a few blocks of charcoal and fanned the mixture until it formed a murky mess with a rather revolting smell.

 I tried to go closer to have a look, but my father yelled at me in his usual gruff manner, and rebuffed I retreated to the shade of the guava trees under which my brothers were playing a noisy game of alikoto.

I knelt quietly in the sand for a few minutes next to them until they let me join in the game, so I don't quite remember what happened next, but suddenly, there was a loud screech and the bats hurled themselves into the skies above , angry at being rudely woken up before they were ready.

We watched in awe as they scattered into the sky. Then we chased  after them and jumped at the ones who came close to us, tempting us with false hope of being caught, as they swooped down and shied away from us like a dark blanket  against the molten red sky, as the sun made its descent in the horizon to the west.

Narrative by : Rosaline Gbeho
Words: Aku Duse

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Weekend Paradise

I had the most fantastic weekend! I'm still reliving it a little bit every morning when I wake up and look at the pictures where myself and a bunch of my girls were looking fit and fabulous whilst basking in the warm sunshine during our over night stay in Ada.

With every fun weekend, it started as usual with a series of relatively unfortunate events. I almost missed my hair appointment on Friday afternoon because of a quick stop I decided to make at the bank, I delayed picking my friend up from our meeting point, my friends and I partied too hard until the wee hours of the morning, making me temporarily ill from inhaling too much second hand smoke.To crown it all, I ended up phoning a complete stranger and asking them to be part of our weekend party, thinking he was actually one of my old friends.

All being said, plus that magnificent thing called Providence, I found myself - fabulous hat and all in a convoy with my girls, speeding at 120 mph along the road leading to the Volta Region with our designated driver/chilling paddie/ spanking new male friend who had literally saved the day with his spontaneity.

We arrived at Ada, Soli Kope within about seventy minutes, and took another thirty or so minutes to drive down to Peace Holiday Resort, our quaint but exquisite river side resort (
The view from the pier leading onto the river was insanely beautiful and therapeutic for our smoke clogged city lungs, and after squealing and prancing around in excitement like a bunch of school girls, we fished out our camera phones and tried to capture as many photos of the scenery as we could in the slow fading light, where the sunset had set up our shadows to our sides like long legged scarecrows.

We took a drive to Tsarley (charley) Kope, were we met up and had lunch with the rest of our party and booked an evening boat trip to the beach to attend a famous bonfire my new friend had told us about; but not before we dashed back to have a quick dip in the pool, have a few more drinks and freshen up in our cozy and tastefully furnished suite at the Peace Holiday Resort whilst waiting to be picked up.

The evening boat ride to the beach bonfire was in a relatively luxurious boat which I dubbed 'The River Cruiser', which picked us up around 9pm, and set off for the beach whose white shores we could see in the distance from the pier at the resort. It was an amazing boat ride! The boat did not have any lights and although the water was dark,  navigation was made easy by the huge bright stars which seemed close enough to touch if you squeezed one eye shut and reached out with the tip of one of your fingers.

 At the bonfire we loaded up on drinks and snacks and told silly stories whilst the fire crackled and spat angrily in the sand. You could hear the waves smashing against the shore in the near distance, so upon a dare I challenged one of my girls to come with me so we could investigate what was beyond the sand dune behind the make-shift chalets. The sight and sound of the waves and the height of the sand dune brought us so close to the stars, we just shouted for joy at how amazingly awesome our Heavenly Father was.

We returned to our suite shortly before midnight, went to bed and woke up to a breakfast of eggs, sausages,toast, vegetables and cake, served with pipping hot tea and coffee after which we lounged lazily in the living room area, chatting idly and recounting the previous day's events and lamenting on how we should have booked a two night stay instead of one.

Any-who, by noon we packed up our belongings, dropped them off in our respective cars and headed towards the pier for one last ride on the river at the invitation of my spanking new friend. Once again aboard ' The River Cruiser' we went around a number of the islands and even went as close to the estuary, where the river met the sea in lurid but exciting game of tug of war. Despite being slightly disheveled by an on and off shower of rain during the ride, my companions and I really wished we could do the boat ride over again, but sadly time was fast spent and we needed to make our way back home....well not before we went to a barbecue first (giggles).

Ada was absolutely fantastic, from the lovely resort, to the scenery, the food and most of all the company; I  know for certain that i and my friends (both old and new) can't wait to revisit these new found delights again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Secrets I've Kept From My Mother

Last night instead of putting my little self to sleep, I rather became engrossed in back to back episodes of Single Ladies Season Two. One particular scene had me falling over myself and squealing with so much laughter, I thought I would wake up the entire household.

It was a scene which has happened to me time and time again - the scenario when you are alone with a very hot man and making out becomes intense and its obvious that IT is going to happen - only for the male specimen in question to find himself minus something very small but supremely important (drum roll please...) - The Condom.

I'm a firm believer in 'no glove no love'; too many diseases and unplanned pregnancies on this precious earth of ours because of lack of self control. So I always put on my imaginary superwoman suit, slap my panties back on and ask to be taken home.

However before I make my escape, there's always that pitiful cajoling noise, with the sad eyes and the heart-wrenching pleas that ONLY horny men can make -

1.' Let me just put the tip in'

2.'I just wanna know how u feel'

3.'Let me just go for one minute' '

4.I won't come inside you, I SWEAR! '

5.' I GOT this, you won't get pregnant'

6.' what are you afraid of? You know me...'

The plea list is endless, don't encourage me (bursting into giggles)