Work without end, struggle without work
It wasn’t my plan to set off with an unfinished paper in hand (on computer rather), but thats was happened. I could probably find many “genuine” excuses but the most genuine of all the excuses – and which isn’t really an excuse – is my excessive procrastination. In any case, the first weekend in Ghana without uninterrupted internet connection (with BBC worldservice to keep company instead) has certainly helped me spend more time reading and writing, not to mention thinking (and not just about work and research at that!). I’ve finished the unfinished paper (or so I think) and have just managed to make “electronic submission” of the manuscript (phew, after nearly two hours of uploading files – not that I had that many files, the “broadband” connection was just not broad enough!). So,the week that was, the week has been one of relative success.
But that’s only half the story! Beginning at the university in York, trying to sort administrative nightmares, ending at the university in Tamale, trying to sort administrative nightmares, the week that was, the week has been one of immense frustration. Beginning at the airport in London, ending at the airport in Tamale – getting away with heavy baggage in London, having to pay extra for “excess baggage” in Accra, the week that was, the week has been one of partial travel woes. Reading The Enchantress of Florence – beginning on the last night in York, continuing during a night in Accra, then during the laziness of the daytime Tamale, the week that was, the week has been one of a fascinating read.
Lets talk about the “struggle to work” now, or rather the culture of work/work ethic. Arriving in Ghana, one thing you pretty quickly realise is that West (or North more appropriately) makes you too impatient. Things here take time to get done, they always take time. If you have an appointment with your local colleague at nine in the morning and s/he doesn’t turn up until 11:30, you shouldn’t be surprised that much. As long as s/he turns up before noon, s/he will feel proud at the fact that s/he made it to the meeting in the “morning”, which was what was agreed after all – to meet in the morning. It doesn’t matter what time in the morning, as long as its in the morning, the person hasn’t missed the appointment! You would think being a Nepali, I shouldn’t be too impatient as Ghana-time is more like Nepali-time when it comes to appointments, but being that Nepali who is now more and more living in a limbo between various cultures, its often difficult to decide how to react. At the end you don’t really have much option than to go with the flow and have things done the Ghanaian way, or rather let things happen than trying too hard to make things happen knowing all well that all your efforts could be better spent in other ways!
If somebody tells you a certain thing will get done that week then it usually means things will be ready before the office starts on Monday the next week. Don’t discount the weekends though – if things need to be done at all cost that week, weekend could be used as well. But don’t expect the job to be done by Friday though, two days of weekend are very important, albeit being public holidays.
However, there is one trick that I have realised works fairly well in these situations, be it in Nepal or Ghana – take the lead yourself, get your hands dirty, show by example, and embarrass those delaying the work. They would then have no option but to follow your lead.
The Enchantress of Florence
I’m waiting in domestic terminal at the airport in Accra for my flight – in fact for the ticket initially – reading the book that I started in York. My last year’s ordeal on this very day comes to my mind occasionally, but unlike last year, it isn’t raining on this day this year so I remain optimistic. The man asks me which book I was reading. Instead of telling him the name, I turn the front cover for him to see. Seeing “Salman Rushdie” in big bold block capitals, he asks if I thought it was a good idea to read a book by the author who is the epicentre of hatred in most of the Muslim world, now that I was heading to the north of Ghana, a predominantly Muslim region. The truth was that he was playing a devil’s advocate more than being a nice man warning me of potential dangers, for he knew as well as I did having lived in northern Ghana for a fairly long time that it is a peaceful region when it comes to religion (I haven’t heard of any conflicts in the name of religion during my time here) despite being a Muslim-dominated area with a fast growing Christian population driven by the missionaries of all types and sizes – not to mention of those people following traditional religion – or a mixture of traditional and abrahamic religions. Besides, I wonder how many people know of Rushdie in the north, especially in the villages where I work!?! At this point I remember my debate with some villagers last year about religion and faith – and my argument with them (wasn’t a good idea this, nearly derailed my survey!) that “god was created by man and not the other way round”. When I told them what I believed (or rather did not believe) in, Muslims probably thought of me as a kafir; I don’t know what the equivalent word is in christianity.
Anyway, coming back to my flight, I made full use of an hour or so long flight to read the book, not to mention a couple of hours of wait at the airport. As I write these lines, I’ve finished the book. Although sometimes too many plots/sub-plots, story-telling, flashbacks makes it a bit difficult to follow (unless you remind yourself where you are in the plot), its certainly a good read, especially if you are interested in historical fictions, or in the case of this book, historical fantasy rather.
Heat without humidity, “rainy season” without the rain
I came to Tamale hoping it would be rainy and cooler, but expecting hot and dry days, like this time last year. It was the landing in Tamale under the thick, dark clouds that strengthened my hope, but expectation was just too stronger/accurate as within an hour all the clouds were gone and the day was hot and dry. The truth is I don’t mind the heat anymore as long as its not humid, as I found out during my recent trip to Uganda how difficult it could get under hot humid condition. I had never experienced sunburns as I did during those two weeks in Uganda. It finally rained this morning – occasional bouts of downpour but not continuous for any considerable time to call it a proper rain really. Now its getting hotter again, despite the overcast – or should I say because of the overcast with no rain. It feels as if I’m living inside a green house – well, that’s probably an exaggeration – but you get my point. So long.