September in Accra, 2015

A YEAR ON, I am very much still in Accra.

It’s been ONE YEAR already? Next, I’m expected to say, “Time flies”… but NOooo, time does NOT fly; in fact, time here seems to stall; and so are the persisting problems.

In that past year, we’ve had:

  1. Endless electricity issues (there was a spell of a few months where lightsout – we call these “blackouts” back home – stretched 24 hours, every other 12 hours);
  2. Constant generator and water pump problems;
  3. Water woes, dry taps and recently discovered a leakage too;
  4. Unstable internet connection;
  5. Home defects that are left unattended for a WHOLE year;
  6. An unresponsive landlord… “land” WHO?
  7. “Sleeping” security guards (and an equally excellent one too who went on to university);
  8. The unfortunate flooding of the office!
  9. A lost battle with dusty harmattan;
  10. Saw the Ghana cedis decline drastically and inflation rises;
  11. … bracing for more!

It’s been a year; it felt like five; I’ve aged ten years. I wished time flew and blew away all those problems along too.

Harmattan headache… this layer of dust appeared barely after 30 minutes after wiping the table. Throughout Dec to Jan, we were overpowered by the northeasterly dusty wind that blows annually from the Sahara Desert towards West Africa.

Harmattan headache… this layer of dust appeared barely 30 minutes after wiping the table. Throughout Dec to Jan, we were overpowered by the northeasterly dusty wind that blows annually from the Sahara Desert towards West Africa.

2. flood

The office flooded after continuous rain overnight!

Murphy’s Law has never been so evident in the past year – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”; and HAS gone wrong! One is left with no choice but to embrace Murphy’s Philosophy to “Smile… tomorrow will be worse!

But to think I almost didn’t live to tell my tales, considering most recently this month I was almost electrocuted by a faulty wiring at home in the latest series of misfortunes.

3. plug

22 Sept 2015 could have marked my end! The oven wiring was repaired the next day, which is commendably quick response, considering a handful of defects are still waiting to be attended to after a whole year; while one defect took six months to rectify and it still didn’t function!

On a more positive note, in that past year too, we’ve taken a little time to explore what we could, including Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Park in the Central Region.

4. coast

At the Cape Coast Castle, we walked on the same path as the African slaves did more than three centuries ago (and President Obama and the first family in 2009), except unlike them, we had a point of return.

5. door

It is tragic to think that slaves walked out of that door and never got to return home; many even died in the sea.

6. kakum

The girls on the canopy walkway. We have a number of similar canopy walks back home including at the Forest research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), Selangor and most recent the KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk.

We also saw for ourselves the receding water level at the Akosombo Hydroelectric Dam in the Eastern Region, which had caused the shutdown of its turbines, which in turn affected the generation of electricity, causing a shortage and resulting in longer lightsout.

7. akosombo

Akosombo Dam is one of the three hydroelectric dams generating electricity for the nation.

We travelled to Keta district in the Volta Region and got a little insight into its history of Danish settlement; eager locals also gave us impromptu briefings on Keta’s economic activities of farming and fishing.

8. fort

Fort Prinzinstein, built by the Danes in 1874, was a slave post.

9. keta

Little Em looking at Keta’s economic activities of farming and fishing.

I was also able to get re-acquainted with my first Ghanaian friend (and his family) whom I met in university in the United Kingdom 19 years ago, when he was home for a visit from London where he is based now. Unfortunately during that dinner at our home, “dumsor” struck and the generator failed us too. The genset was restored on time to enable us to take some memorable photos.

10. edem

From Leeds, UK to Accra, Ghana… two friends met again after 19 years.

On an even brighter side, we managed a relief break to Cape Town, South Africa. After numerous flight delays from Accra, we arrived in South Africa’s third most populous city. Driving on its well-lit highway from the airport to our hotel – with no bumpy road and no potholes to avoid – and into the city where high-rise sprout from both sides of the road, reminded me of home. Little wonder by daylight the very next morning, it didn’t take much for Little Em to ask, “Can we stay here FOREVER?” Our Cape Town trip will be fondly remembered as “reaching the top of the world and the end of a continent”!

11. mountain

Watching the sunset from Table Mountain was a high point of our trip…

12. penguins

… as was seeing penguins at Boulders…

13. capetown

… and reaching Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African Continent.

We’d also gone home – our first trip home since coming to Accra in April 2014 – during the summer break which turned out heartbreaking as we unexpectedly ended up attending Dad’s funeral.

The girls grew a year older here (while I aged five years) and both completed their respective grades. While academically-inclined M was awarded a certificate for her academic achievements, the more outgoing Em made it into the Swim Team, a great achievement nonetheless, considering she couldn’t even swim when we first arrived in Ghana.

14. girls

Big M with her certificate; while Little Em rejoiced in making the swim team.

In the past year, I’ve personally made some good friends and enjoyed the diverse and international company of acquaintances; spent lovely mornings, noons and nights in the homes of colleagues from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Nigeria, Norway, Sudan, Turkey and the USA; that temporarily took me away from my own home headaches and other problems.

15. cookbook

Collectively we published a cookbook, and together we participated in the inaugural Embassy Showcase 2015 Ghana, where we launched the cookbook.

As for the official functions, there is a striking difference between our last posting in HK and in Accra. In densely populated and space-lacking HK, official events are primarily held indoors, in air-conditioned hotels (except for the annual flag-raising ceremonies). In Accra where land is generous, and compounds of office and residence are vast and spacious, most of the receptions are held outdoors on the lawns. So Accra receptions will be remembered for the trickling sweat, as well as the sinking heels into the soil!

But the kids had enjoyed being outdoors, whether on the beach or in the gardens.

16. beach_capecoast

Looking out towards the Gulf of Guinea and the larger Atlantic Ocean.

17. beach_keta

On the beach in Keta, a friendship is forged.

18. beach_ada

These unclothed kids were “little businessmen” offering us boat rides on the Volta River.

Another Sunday spent on the beach in Kokrobite.

20. aburi

A day out in Aburi Botanical Gardens.

Not one who enjoys the outdoors, I have to admit I am happiest at home. In the midst of all the troubles and stress, my upright Kawai has been a constant companion, while my old Singer keeps me sane through my hobby of sewing.

21. piano

Romancing my Kawai… and Korean drama songs in particular, with current favourite “Love Rain” and still attempting to pick up Dear Cloud’s “Remember”.

22. singer

Sewing away the blues…

And finally, after one-and-a-half years here, I was finally able to fulfil another passion – painting.

23. painting

My first piece of completed work, naturally an African landscape.

I’ve just gone for the first lesson this week, and enjoyed it tremendously. It reminds me of my many wonderful “Tuesdays with Alexei” in Moscow.

24. back

I now know I will look back (later) very fondly, especially the memorable “Mondays with Issac” in Accra”!

September in Accra, 2014

MEMORIES OF SEPTEMBER in Accra included a visit to the museum and art centre, three birthdays, several clinic/lab trips, a farewell, lots of reunions and a long-lost friend found; and countless hours on WA chats; a broken water pump and alarm (no thanks to the rain and constant electricity cuts/surge).

Medication madness from our clinic visits… Little Em was down with fever early in the month and skipped school three days while Big M battled with severe eczema this month, a second dermatologist was consulted, and several visits followed. (Sept 2014)

Medication madness from our clinic visits… Little Em was down with fever early in the month and skipped school three days while Big M battled with severe eczema this month, a second dermatologist was consulted, and several visits followed. (Sept 2014)

2_playdate

As soon as she recovered, Little Em hosted her first playdate. (6 Sept 2014)

3_pony

Little Em with her favourite My Little Pony’s Rarity (6 Sept 2014)

4_koko

The spouses’ group bade a tearful goodbye to member Koko (who was cross-posted to Chile) on an afternoon that saw all of us sporting Nigerian headgear gele. (9 Sept 2014)

5_article

On Malaysia Day, we were in the news. (16 Sept 2014)

6_food

Food blessings… a friend gave me these huge bitter gourds which her husband grew in their garden (17 Sept); fresh oyster mushrooms from a local friend who also grew them on her farm (18 Sept 2014)

7_museum

Made a trip to the National Museum with two ladies (entrance was GHC20 each for foreigners; GHC5 for locals); Gloria the guide took us through the history of Ghana. (25 Sept 2014)

8_art

Prior to that we checked out the Arts Centre, Accra for local souvenirs and handicrafts. (Sept 2014)

9_cake

Little Em celebrated her birthday in school with Frozen cupcakes (Sept 2014)

10_cake

Back home, September birthday gals included AhYee who turned 50 (15 Sept 2014), photo of her birthday cupcakes with luxury items were from last year; while Kim Kim had a fiesta with the kids on her birthday (26 Sept 2014).

11_contest

Back home, September was a winning  month for Mel and Ian who participated in two contests and won prizes. Well done!… reminds me of my contest-craze days too.

12_contest

Mel and Ian with their certificates and voucher prize.

13_pess

Back home, a school turned 100 in September 2014.

September was a walk down memory lane as my alma mater celebrated its 100th birthday in the SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner on 20 September 2014. The reunion of old friends back home led me to find a long-lost Standard One friend, our last contact being 33 years ago.

A Reunion with OKP

I was envious that so many of my former classmates made it to the SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner held on 20 September 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. Three flew in from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Heck, even my husband flew home and arrived that very Friday night, he could have made it to the dinner the following day on my behalf (but that’s another story)!

So I was left “Alone in Accra” (ok, I was left with the girls), getting updates and photos from my sisters and friends, as eagerly as football fans awaited the World Cup. From this far end, I also managed to reconnect with some former schoolmates back in Malaysia.

What a reunion it was for them! Prior to Saturday’s gala dinner, they caught up over lunch. After Saturday’s dinner, they stayed up till wee hours of the morning, and were up early Sunday for breakfast, lunch, dinner/supper, truly a makan marathon. Stories and photos of their Sunday’s fun and food-filled outings, filled up my Sunday in Accra.

Who knew I was about to be rewarded with a reunion of my own!

On Sunday night, (rather Monday morning past midnight), as I was hitting the sack, a WA message came in from my sister. Out of the blue, her friend SylviaC had asked if I still remember her cousin OKP.

My eyes flew wide open and my fingers went to work. “OF COURSE I remember OKP”, I replied to my sister and begged her to get me OKP’s contact.

Unable to contain my excitement at close to 2am my side, I immediately “reported” the good news to the gang (my batch girls) back home. They were rather impressed. WK messaged “Salute you, KL ppl can’t find OKP, you in Accra pulak found her!” SQ wrote, “Oh wow, all the way from Africa. Respect Respect!

So the secret is out, I didn’t find OKP, it is thanks to my sister and her former classmate SylviaC who turns out to be OKP’s cousin. Who knew! OKP and I were in Standard One in PEPS (1) when SylviaC and my sister were in Standard Six. SylviaC went on to become the head girl of PESS in 1981 (my sister was the assistant head girl) and had left quite a lasting impression on me. If I had known they were cousins I would have found OKP much earlier!

Truth be told, I have wondered all these years where OKP was. OKP left the school when we were in Standard Three (1978), we obviously kept in touch after that because I still have the CNY card she sent me in 1981 as well as a black and white passport-sized photo she gave me as a keepsake, and a few photos we took together which are kept at home.

Over the years, I did try to look up OKP. I was successful before in locating my lost Scottish pen-pal when I was in the UK, as well as a varsity roommate when I was in HK; and recently got re-connected with a Ghanaian varsity course mate after losing touch for 17 years, through a bit of “detective work”. However, I wasn’t successful with OKP.

And today, 33 years later, I am glad to say I found my friend, OKP 🙂 This sweet virtual reunion is indeed the icing of the cake!

This CNY card I received from OKP on 4 Feb 1981, is also the last piece of news I had from her.

This CNY card I received from OKP on 4 Feb 1981, is also the last piece of news I had from her.

Postscript:

I officially re-connected with OKP on 22 Sept 2014. Three days later on 25 Sept , we “saw” each other again for the first time in 36 years! The photo exchange episode was a hilarious one!

Within the next three days too, OKP became a “wanted” person. She WA on 25 Sept that a colleague from another department (who also happens to be my sister’s former classmate) alerted her that a classmate’s sister was looking for her long-lost classmate. And that very day, OKP also received an email from “complaints department” (!!!) that another person (WK, another Std. 1 classmate) was looking for her too!

On 27 Sept, all three Standard One friends were finally “reunited” albeit virtually, after three decades. Yeah!!!

Happy 100, PESS!

SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner is tonight!

For weeks now, our WA group chat has been abuzz with excitement, with exchanges of the good old school days memories and fading old photos.

The BIG NIGHT is finally here, the girls are all geared up, dressed to the nines… reminds me of Cinderella going to the ball! Except there won’t be any Princes but all pretty belles in PURPLE… a ROYAL BALL indeed, an exciting evening in store for sure!

While I sit by the “fireplace” (in this case, in a far corner of West Africa) waiting for a Fairy Godmother, I shall drown my sorrows, errr, I mean take comfort in the collection of photos that we’ve taken over the years.

I will cherish those memories and celebrate our friendships, and send my friends huge Ebola-free hugs from Accra!

Congratulations PESS for turning 100!

All in the family... "Products of PESS" :-)

All in the family… “Products of PESS” 🙂

Even Little Em wants to be a part of it!

Even Little Em wants to be a part of it!

In the meantime, earlier today on the streets in Accra I see PURPLE everywhere!!!

(Top) A scene on my way home from the kids’ school this afternoon; (Bottom, L) Paid a visit to my curtain guy and his purple wall greeted me! (Bottom, R) Closer to home, a bank partly painted in purple… 19 Sept 2014, Accra.

Back at home… (L-R) Hubby’s flight itinerary in this purple folder; nothing but purple phone casing for me; Little Em’s favourite My Little Pony’s Rarity sporting purple mane. (19 Sept 2014)