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!!!

Celebrating Africa Union through Sports 

Our Saturday (24th May 2014) was spent at Accra’s Burma Camp, for a sports tournament in celebration of Africa Union, organised by Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. Members of the diplomatic corp took part in events including basketball, football, swimming, tennis and table tennis.

The programme book; the medals and trophies up for grabs; the invitation card.

The programme book; the medals and trophies up for grabs; the invitation card.

A friendly “Tug-of-Peace” match between “The African Nations” (left) and “The Rest Of The World” (right). “The Rest of the World” lost to the rest of Africa… look at their might! 

A friendly “Tug-of-Peace” match between “The African Nations” (left) and “The Rest Of The World” (right). “The Rest of the World” lost to the rest of Africa… look at their might!

Food as consolation! Over-hyped as “A Taste of the Planet”, it was still a good opportunity to sample the cuisines of some African nations, starting with host Ghana that served rice and beans (Waakye), spaghetti black pepper and beef sauce.

Food as consolation! Over-hyped as “A Taste of the Planet”, it was still a good opportunity to sample the cuisines of some African nations, starting with host Ghana that served rice and beans (Waakye), spaghetti black pepper and beef sauce.

A good spread from Nigeria (left) and Guinea (right).

A good spread from Nigeria (left) and Guinea (right).

A feast from Gambia (left) and also South Africa (right).

A feast from Gambia (left) and also South Africa (right).

Dishes from Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Dishes from Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Mali.

The rest of the world’s offerings of biryani (India) and desserts (Malaysia).

The rest of the world’s offerings of biryani (India) and desserts (Malaysia).

Prize-giving time… Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mr. Thomas Kwesi Quartey (in maroon polo) presented the medals for the swimming event… (Left) Cissé, a former national swimmer from Ivory Coast, expectedly grabbed the gold with the timing of 1.14 minutes; (Right) Way past his prime, this guy in blue cap proved he still had it and came in second at 1.35 minutes, doing his country proud… or maybe just his girls.

The girls cheered for their Papa on the sideline; the rest of our team on a family outing.

The girls cheered for their Papa on the sideline; the rest of our team on a family outing.

Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Ghana Madam Tendal Musoko, who is also the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, delivered her closing remarks for the event.

Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Ghana Madam Tendal Musoko, who is also the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, delivered her closing remarks for the event.

Seeing the Sea

GHANA ON WEST Africa, is located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean. After a month in Accra, we had our first glimpse of the sea. Less than half an hour’s drive from home we found ourselves driving along Labadi Road along the coast, in full view of the lovely sea and clear blue skies.

My first glimpse of the sea.

My first glimpse of the sea.

Looking out into the Gulf of Guinea.

Looking out into the Gulf of Guinea.

On-going development of a new hotel fronting the beach and sea.

Seeing plenty of thrash too along the road.

Seeing plenty of thrash too along the road.

And even items for sale!

And even items for sale!

Another view along Labadi Road.

Another view along Labadi Road.

Akwabaa to Accra

AKWABAA means “WELCOME” in Ghana’s local dialect Ashanti which is part of the Akan language, one of the many languages in this western African nation of 24 million people.

Today marks our one-month stay in Ghana’s capital Accra, and we’ve indeed been made to feel very much at home. Other than the kids missing family, friends, teachers and neighbours back home, everything else here feels like home.

The weather is just like home – hot and sunny, a little windier; the people are warm and friendly, just like home; the houses here too look like what we have back home; even the traffic congestions are just like home 🙂 Ghanaians love spicy food too.

Driving through its city areas, there are business centres, five star hotels, highways and a spurt of high-rise buildings. There are supermarkets and malls, but there’s only one mall in Accra that has escalators, to date – Marina Mall was opened just last year. Everything appears to be just like home… perhaps in the ‘70s.

But where we are staying now, the sceneries are reminiscent of a drive through our kampungs back home. Banana trees and coconut trees are visible everywhere. I wake up daily to the chorus of chickens’ crows.

Dirt roads are common and wooden shacks (like our squatters) are prevalent too, cramped between luxurious brick homes with huge compounds.

I am sure there are more to Accra once I get to explore it better, but for now, these are my encounters with “All things Ghana”…

Its currency called Ghana Cedi.

Its currency called Ghana Cedi.

Its newspapers.

Its newspapers.

Marina Mall in Airport City, opened in 2013 and is the only shopping mall with escalators, to date!

Marina Mall in Airport City, opened in 2013 and is the only shopping mall with escalators, to date!

Ta da…eyeing over its escalators!

Ta da…eyeing its escalators!

In Marina Mall, we got out first meal of KFC (23 April 2014).

In Marina Mall, we got out first meal of KFC (23 April 2014).

Ghana’s locally-made ice-cream, sold at Marina Mall Supermarket for GHc16.25 (RM20) for a 2-liter tub.

Ghana’s locally-made ice-cream, sold at Marina Mall Supermarket for GHc16.25 (RM20) for a 2-liter tub.

The first of its kind in Africa - an aeroplane-turned-restaurant, the Ghana Airways DC-10 plane is grounded across Marina Mall. The national airline went bankrupt in 2005 and according to reports, this "Green Plane" as it is known locally, was left impounded in London's Heathrow. It was finally brought back and turned into a restaurant "La Tante DC 10 Restaurant” which has proven to be quite a hit since its opening in November 2013.

The first of its kind in Africa – an aeroplane-turned-restaurant, the Ghana Airways DC-10 plane is grounded across Marina Mall. The national airline went bankrupt in 2005 and according to reports, this “Green Plane” as it is known locally, was left impounded in London’s Heathrow. It was finally brought back and turned into a restaurant “La Tante DC 10 Restaurant” which has proven to be quite a hit since its opening in November 2013.

A scenery reminiscence of our “kampung” (village) - banana and coconut trees abound! And it’s my kitchen window view! (30 April 2014)

A scenery reminiscence of our “kampung” (village) – banana and coconut trees abound! And it’s my kitchen window view! (30 April 2014)

A local meal at Afrikiko’s TamTam… (Top, L-R) Red Red (beans stew with a choice of beef/chicken/smoked fish), eaten with plaintain; jollof rice (spiced rice); (Bottom) Fried tilapia seasoned with local herbs eaten with jollof rice. (10 May 2014)

A local meal at Afrikiko’s TamTam… (Top, L-R) Red Red (beans stew with a choice of beef/chicken/smoked fish), eaten with plaintain; jollof rice (spiced rice); (Bottom) Fried tilapia seasoned with local herbs eaten with jollof rice. (10 May 2014)

Homes and offices are surrounded by high brick walls, topped with barbed wires or electric wires and metal gates, much like this one. (29 April 2014)

Homes and offices are surrounded by high brick walls, topped with barbed wires or electric wires and metal gates, much like this one. (29 April 2014)

A prevalent scene of peddlers making a living on the streets, selling items off their heads, especially at traffic lights junctions. (Along Spintex Road, Accra, 3 May 2014)

A prevalent scene of peddlers making a living on the streets, selling items off their heads, especially at traffic lights junctions. (Along Spintex Road, Accra, 3 May 2014)

Water tankers such as this one come to the rescue (at a price, of course) when residents run out of water, and water shortage is a common occurrence here. (27 April 2014)

Water tankers such as this one come to the rescue (at a price, of course) when residents run out of water, and water shortage is a common occurrence here. (27 April 2014)

Alas, the high cost of living too… (front page of Daily Graphic, Wednesday 30 April 2014)

Alas, the high cost of living too… (front page of Daily Graphic, Wednesday 30 April 2014)

Browsing a Bazaar

STILL NEW IN town, we checked out a bazaar held in a school in Cantonment on Saturday, 10 May 2014. There were many stalls set up by locals, so it was a good opportunity to get to know its local arts and crafts; apart from sampling a variety of food and drinks sold there.

We were there early so there was hardly any crowd.

We were there early so there was hardly any crowd.

Many stalls such as this, selling local souvenirs.

Many stalls such as this, selling local souvenirs.

Colourful materials much like our sarong batik, sold as it is, or turned into table runners, mats, napkins, etc.

Colourful materials much like our sarong batik, sold as it is, or turned into table runners, mats, napkins, etc.

Antique-looking artefacts. 

Antique-looking artefacts.

There were jewellery and books.

There were jewellery and books.

Baskets, big and small.

Boxful of second-hand books going for GhC1 each (RM1.20).

Boxful of second-hand books going for GhC1 each (RM1.20).

Second-hand clothes too.

Second-hand clothes too.