CK Lal and Seminars

Finding surprisingly faster internet connection yesterday morning at the cafe I frequent, I decided to check Nepali news sites after a long time. I don’t have much know how of the politics in Nepal since coming to Africa. Nepalnews and Kantipuronline both take ages to load due to all the unnecessary graphics and banner ads. So the only news I get on Nepal is if Beeb has something on its South Asia section – the latest being the Bhaktapur’s Kumari Saga, and a report on the disappeared people during the 10-year-war. It had also been at least a couple of weeks since I last checked Nepali Times – one newspaper (e-version of course) that I try to go through every week, mostly for the columns (CK Lal, Daniel Lak etc.). In fact, I have started to find even these columns repetitive and not much interesting lately. Anyway, yesterday morning I managed to open all these online Nepali news sites surprisingly quickly, so obviously browsed through (and loaded for offline reading) most of the columns/longer articles, avoiding day-to-day political pieces (don’t know myself as to why!?!).
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A Trip to North-East Ghana

My previous introduction to the North-East Ghana (officially the Upper East Region) had been a trip via capital Bolgatanga on the way to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and back. I had however come across a journal article ((Lund, C. 2003. ‘Bawku is still volatile’: ethno-political conflict and state recognition in Northern Ghana. J. of Modern African Studies 41(4): 587-610.)) a year or so ago about the conflict in the region between two major ethnic groups – Kusasis and Mamprusis regarding the chieftaincy issue, while doing some background reading on Ghana. The article centred around the town of Bawku, where I was going on this trip to identify some research sites for the project.

Bawku is not only known for its conflict-ridden past but also for being one of the most densely populated towns in Ghana, with 169 persons per sq. km. ((Ghana Districts Info [])) The area looked distinctly familiar even though it was my first trip there. It didn’t take long to realise that it was because of the landscapes with hills all around, rocky terrain and difficult-to-cultivate lands – much like the Nepali mid-hills. The similarities extended further with huge areas of millet on the rocky fields on the hillsides (often on slopes without any terracing). The type of millet here looked slightly different from Nepali millet however. There were some maize fields, where the crops were struggling to survive due to the lack of water. In fact this area has been luckier than most in Northern Ghana, for it had received some rain last week – reason why the maize weren’t completely dead like I saw in many fields around Tamale. The valleys where there was some water available were cultivated with rice (or being prepared for rice cultivation). Also saw a row of women planting rice at one of the fields, just like I had seen so many times in Nepal.

outside Bawku town
Image 1: A faraway hilltop seen from one of the research sites
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i'm alive and mostly well…

Of late, I haven’t been able to do much in the way of writing new entries for random jottings…. I have been travelling a bit within Ghana these past couple of weeks. After returning home tired from those travels, writing seems to be the furthest thing on my mind. However my reading habit has revived considerably, starting from non-academic initially (6 novels and a collection of short stories in 3 weeks!), and now both academic and non-academic works. I also think having a 24-hour internet connection at home while in England was really a distraction, especially being a sucker for news that I was (and am still, but the means has changed – now I rely on my portable radio, which is tuned permanently to BBC World Service). Now I am back to my old habit – reading or writing, with the radio on in the background!

Another reason is that most of the latter posts have been more like personal email than well thought-through writings, and I am beginning to wonder whether to just start sending email than put up my personal experiences of living and working in an alien land, grievances and complaints out in the public domain. But seeing how long it takes to send one email from here (and not wanting to send mass mail addressed with “Hello All”), I think I’ll stick to posting my “superfluous” entries here for now.
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From Burkina to Ghana – better late than never…

…isn’t always better as I just found out while travelling from Ouagadougou to Tamale on local transport system. The whole day was a day of disasters waiting to happen and the avoidance of those disasters.

So I decided to take a local transport from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Bolgatanga in Ghana – it wasn’t too far and the Toyota 10-seater van looked in reasonably good condition. The vehicle was supposed to depart at 10 am, and to make sure I got the seat, I decided to arrive at the station a bit early. A bit too early it turned out later as they had trouble filing the “14-spaces” that were created in those 10 seats and they weren’t going to leave until they had all 14 passengers they wanted, and may be more! By the time we left Ouaga, it was nearly 11:30 and I had been at the station for over two hours.

la gare, ouaga
Ouagadougou “taxi” station

The journey started well. Despite taking a lot more weight than it was supposed to (15 passengers, their bags, sacks, and luggage, and a motorbike on the top!), the speed was quite impressive (averaging 72 Km/hr – according to my own calculation using milestones as the markers, for the speedometer was not working – which it seems to me they deliberately disable here in the public transport vehicles!). At this average speed, we would have reached Ghana within two and half hours. I say “would have…” because we didn’t maintain that speed.
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