depressingly optimistic…

What an insomniac I have become, its 02:49 and I haven’t been able to sleep since I woke up about an hour or so ago. Night after night I wake up after 2 or 3 hours of sleep, and spend another 2, 3 or 4 hours in sleeplessness. I hadn’t even gone to bed that early – must have slept around 22:00. OK, a couple of hours earlier than my usual bedtime, but then 22:00 or thereabouts has been my bedtime here in Ghana for months now. I woke up after a very jumbled-up dream…it seemed to be a khichadi of so many issues that I have either put-off from dealing with, or those that I had dealt with in the past with unintended consequences (reminds me of reading about “intended changes with unintended consequences” somewhere towards the end in Sen’s Development as Freedom) or those that I thought I had dealt with but in reality were not dealt with at all…Very confusing and jumbled up, I know…and I always wonder why can’t life be as delicious as khichadi when its all mixed-up like the latter!?! Or may be I really enjoy this all-mixed-up life like I do khichadi !!

In my dream, I saw friends reunited, friends separated, work accomplished, work needed to be done, happy times, sad times, the whole strata of my life in general really. When I finally woke up, the last piece spoon of the khichadi seemed to be a paper that I was supposed to be revising and sending out to my co-authors. In halfway between dream and reality, I decided I should work on that paper, now that I’m awake and knowing that I won’t be able to sleep for at least a couple of hours. May be trying to work on that paper will put me to sleep! I come to my desk, locate the last version of the paper on my computer and start going through it. I find reading/editing long papers on computer very tedious, so I decide to print the paper with all the track changes and mark-ups. As I start to go through the printed version of the paper, I realise I’m not in the right frame of mind to work on the paper at this time of the night. I put aside the paper and start typing these things up on ecto. I have my earphones stuck in my ears with some Greek music playing on my iPod.

I’m seeking solace in music, and my iPod is playing Haris Alexiou‘s To the End of Your Heaven (thanks Dr Frantzi for sharing this album – it has been my lullaby album for the past couple of months!). Its a fantastic Greek album, and I don’t understand a single word of what the singer sings, but love listening to this album regardless. Somehow it keeps me in good frame of mind (when I have difficulty getting sleep or when I need to fall asleep, as a lullaby album as mentioned!) – definitely a good example of music being a universal language as well as having power to “heal”! (okay up to here, typed at night, and not surprisingly I fell asleep while listening to Haris Alexiou!)

–x–

Now, I’m in northern Ghana for my field research (part of my PhD, which I am still not entirely sure why I decided to pursue – will certainly write the reasons why if/when I get them myself!). Life here, as I have mentioned previously, is not unlike that in Nepal (only in terms of the food, culture & way of life (both good and bad) and infrastructure though – when it comes to the political situation, Ghana is much better than conflict-ridden Nepal) , which obviously made it a lot easier for me to come here and “feel at home”. But “feeling at home” doesn’t really help when you have to get things done, and especially when you expect (and are expected) to get things done at the pace that you have become accustomed to. Now, similar experiences (Nepal and Ghana) does make it easier to get over the frustrations, but getting over the frustrations isn’t really the solution/alternative to getting things done (if lucky, without any frustrations). Somehow I have managed to survive the past six months without major issues, either with those who seem to enjoy creating obstacles at every step, with the authority (who enjoy doing the same) or with people who I have to work with on a daily basis. So this is no minor success…

As a side note, let me narrate a simple story of how to make shopping complex…Why do people shop? To meet their needs…but when you are talking about shopping in a supermarket, people shop more than they need, more often than not. They probably shop to feel good or something like that. Or as I saw during Ramadan, they probably shop to forget that they are fasting – the store I am talking about was crowded everyday during that month! Now, stores usually encourage people to shop, and shop more, and shop for things they don’t really need. They do so by making shopping easy, offering promotional prices and the like. But this shop I am talking about does the exact opposite. Here is how you shop at this store:

1. You go and find the aisle where the things that you are looking for are displayed.

2. When you find the thing you want, you find an attendant for that aisle and show that person the item you want and tell them the quantity you want.

3. The attendant will give you a small piece of paper (scrap paper) with the item code, quantity and unit price scribbled on it. You repeat this process for every item you want, roaming around the aisles and finding the items you need and finding the respective attendants for the item.

4. When you have everything you need (on scraps of paper that is, not physically), you take those scrap papers to the payment counter and give it to the cashier there.

5. The cashier will then enter those item codes and quantities on the computer and take the payment from you, giving you the receipt. Remember that you have now paid for all the items you want and have the receipt (which says in the bold letters that items once purchased are not returnable!).

6. Now you take that receipt and go around all those aisles once again, finding all those attendants who will check the receipt and give you the items that you purchased! Now, there is no space between the aisles in this store for the trolleys (and not surprisingly there aren’t any shopping trollies in the store anyway!), so when the attendants start giving you the things that you purchased, you’ll be in a nightmare scenario if you didn’t think beforehand on how you’re going to collect these items after the purchase. Most people thus take their house-boys or go in family groups!

7. Now that you have in your hands the items you purchased, you would think its all over. But wait, it ain’t over yet.

8. You go through another set of attendants just before the main exit, who will check the items that you are carrying against the receipt you have. Only when they are satisfied, they’ll stamp your receipt, put the items you bought in plastic carriers for you and let you go!!!

Imagine what a relief you must feel after this shopping “ordeal”!! There is no denying that this store makes shopping the most tedious experience, and still I see people flocking to this store…I simply fail to understand why!?! I have myself gone through this experience a couple of times to be able to narrate this here, but I then refused to enter this store anymore, unless there is no alternative (i.e., unless I cannot find the item I am looking anywhere else). By the way, the store is called “Melcom” with the tagline “where Ghana shops”…If I had any influence on Ghanaians shopping habits, I would ask them to boycott this store until it makes shopping easier!!!

But despite all this mixed-up-like-khichadi life in a country far away from where I was born, and not too near from where I reside, I am eternally depressingly optimistic about almost everything, and thats what surprises (and probably pisses) those who know me and see me “seemingly” enjoying my stay here. And to be honest, I am enjoying my stay in Ghana (but now after more than six months, can’t wait to go back to my small and largely trouble-free world of being a student in York), and already looking forward to coming back next year (and I haven’t completed this year’s work yet!) to complete remainder of my field work…

How depressingly optimistic I have become!?!