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On Ghanaian Timekeeping

September 15th, 2008 Comments off

I nearly had the title “On AFRICAN Timekeeping”, which wouldn’t have been fair for I hardly know any of Africa other than a few countries. Having now spent almost 12 months (7 last year and almost 4 this year) in Ghana during these two years, I think I can safely write a few lines on punctuality here. In fact having been on the receiving end of the lax attitude re: timekeeping most of the time (for 99% of the time I’d say – 1% of the time I admit I might have also become the perpetrator!), I feel obliged to write something on it :)

Being a Nepali, I am not new to having a different sense of timekeeping (as we so fondly call “Nepali Time” for a similarly lax attitude to punctuality in Nepal), but having lived in the “west” for better part of the last decade, I have become a bit impatient person when it comes to timekeeping, meaning I like to be on time and expect others to do the same. Coming to Ghana, and moreover living here for all these months has made me lower my expectations considerably when it comes to expecting others to be punctual, and occasionally I have arrived late (not on purpose though), however, almost always to find myself being earlier than others again!
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Categories: Africa Diaries, Ghana, random rant Tags:

the week that was…

June 9th, 2008 3 comments

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.
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depressingly optimistic…

November 22nd, 2007 Comments off

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 !!

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a village entrepreneur…

November 21st, 2007 Comments off

This is my first attempt at video blogging. No commentaries or anything, just the video that I took in the village where I have work ongoing. This is the scene at the village centre where people gather early in the morning to chat, get breakfast (like they are preparing in this clip – the food they are preparing is called fufu, made out of boiled yam). What prompted me to take this movie clip was the call that this lady (who, in my opinion, is the biggest entrepreneur in this village) received on her mobile, and instead of stopping her work, she just started talking on her mobile while she carried on preparing fufu. It just seemed incredible to me how she just received this call in the middle of her work, without even stopping what she was doing for a bit, as if it was just a normal thing! And the truth is most of the time I saw her in the village, she was on phone talking to somebody (most likely doing her business deals!). As I mentioned in my previous posts, there is no electricity in the village, and this lady definitely exhausts her mobile phone battery once a day judging by the time she seems to be on the phone. She must spend quite a bit just to keep her mobile fully charged every day! (Another entrepreneur in the village, who recharges mobile phone battery using solar panel charges 5000 cedis (just above 50 US cents) for one full recharge – more on this person in another post!). Well, I hope you enjoy this video…I certainly enjoyed taking it!

You can view/download a slightly better quality version of this video here (desktop) or here (for iPhone).

Categories: Africa Diaries, Ghana Tags:

Taking a breather…

November 18th, 2007 Comments off

Its been nearly a week since I came back to Tamale from the village where I have my household surveys ongoing. This “nearly-a-week” has actually given me some breathing space (although breathing is becoming harder by the day literally due to increasing concentration of dust in the air as Harmattan approaches). In fact the day I left the village to come back to Tamale, I had sore throat, which got better after a day or two in Tamale. But, the breathing problem with stuffy nose (started with runny nose in the village, now its the opposite!) continues. All these minor problems have however made me rest a bit and give myself a breather after a month or so of intense work. The “broadband” internet at my friend’s office is working like a charm thesedays, which means either before going to work (when working in the afternoon) or after work (when I’m working early mornings), I just come around and suck the juice out of this 256kbps “broadband” with BBC podcasts downloads and updating my computer software etc. It has also given me chance to play a bit more on facebook and chat with friends on IMs. And to top it all, I just had a nice conversation (via type-chat on Skype) with my supervisor, which means I won’t have to write an email to update him on my progress for a week or so!

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