Sorry it has taken quite a bit to continue this missive. It was partly intentional, and partly due to circumstances within my control. That means the reasons are both intentional, no? First of all, as I reflected on the years that I have so far shared with you, I caressed the memories all by my own and almost hid them in the crevices of this heart touched by Simpa affection. The serendipity of my discoveries during this excursion in my mind, as I opened and walked one gate of thought after another…my entire being soothed with gratitude of who you have become to me…the tales the signposts on this journey into time whispered into my ears. I caressed the memories and then I knew that I would love for you to hear them too, especially as we approach the tenth year in marital school.
So let me continue from where I paused in Part 1, the night of 16 July 1999. Since I am writing now from Eko and do not have access to my journal and letters, I will do my recollections from what has become embedded in my coconut.
The day after, I felt much at peace and still in dreamland. I am sure I wrote a note to you that morning, that would be quite typical. But it was that weekend, it must have been Sunday, that we took a walk on the road from Africa Hall through Commercial Area, down by the Catholic church over the bridge, and round the roundabout close to the main UST gate and up the road by the UST Primary into the lecturers’ estates. We just spoke about our future and our dreams. We came back to your room and I ate food in your room for the first time. All I had taken since I had been visiting you for over a year were drinking, especially Malta Guinness J
I also got to meet Ekua your roommate, officially as your boyfriend. Ekua had been very supportive and encouraging. I tell the young friends of mine: if you want to know how a lady appreciates you and also want to gauge how the chances of your proposal, assess how her friends relate to you! If she has been telling them good things about you, they show you maximum respect and accommodate you well! Ekua was going out with your brother James and was to later be your maid-of-honour and James’ wife. Anytime I visited, way before 16 July and you were not in the room, Ekua would insist I wait, and frantically go looking for you! Good signs, good hints folks!
I also got introduced to your friends, notable amongst them Debbie (in whose room we used to go and chat a lot), Yaa Le Poks, Ma Ly, Helma, Eunice and those I already knew in 40 – Fafa, Joyce and T-dear.
In the days leading to 16 July 1999 when I proposed to you and you graciously and boldly accepted to take a risk with me, when all I had to my name was a promised first degree (degrees are awarded and not earned, we always reminded ourselves at KNUST), I was careful to let you know that I came from very humble beginnings. Right after your acceptance, I wrote a letter to my dad (who would inform my mum) that I had found ‘someone worthy to be Mrs. Damoah’ and that I wanted to bring her over to see them at Wasa Akropong.
That was an intention that was soon fraught with implementation difficulties. It was in our final year that academic and facilities user fees were introduced in the University, the beginnings of the policy of getting students inGhana’s public universities to contribute to their tertiary education. By this time, my dad was out of active service, retired and farming and it was proceeds from chop bar at Wasa Akropong that was supporting me mostly, augmented by the allowance from the SSNIT loan. My siblings contributed as they were able, from time to time. I can never forget the struggle to get the first tranche of the user fees in 1998. I had to hold on for awhile as my siblings pinched and scraped to support to raise the amount. I usually tell friends that if that policy had been implemented earlier than my final year, I may have dropped out of the university, and I always thank God that I had to pay it only for one year. My friends never fail to remind me of how I used to go to the Asafo market fortnightly for my supplies of food stuff – rice, gari, yam, palm oil, bush meat, et cetera – from Wasa, sent through the commercial vehicles from my holy village, especially those of Mr Nemi, and left with the station masters, notably old Mr Gyamfi, who I would later in life ensure I visited anytime I was in Kumasi, to express my gratitude for days gone past…anyway, I digress, couldn’t help it.
The reason for this long detour was to just make this point that when I decided to take you to see Bombayand Mama, I was broke! I was expecting some money in the week of the proposal but somehow it delayed. But I had already told you that we were going to Wasa, since we were completing our papers the week after the 16th, and my hometown was about 4-5 hours away fromKumasi, via Obuasi and Dunkwa-on-offin.
That was when I took my first major decision as your boyfriend – I asked you for money! Less than a week after we started going out! Thinking back, I laugh sometimes at how I may have come across! This boy who had just audaciously asked me to commit my future to him and he even doesn’t have money to take me to see his parents! I would have found it incredulous, but more amazing is the fact that you actually indulged me!
So in the week after we completed the university, we went to Wasa Akropong to seeBombayand Mama. I could tell that you were not used to the hard travel on that rough road leading to my holy village. Those days, the road fromKumasito Obuasi was terribly bad, and cramped in a Benz-207 bus for hours wasn’t something a Simpa Fanti woman had been exposed to. I was a veteran, having started travelling to Wasa in the 80s when a journey from Takoradi to my village could start at 2pm and end after midnight, when Tata buses could get stuck in manholes on the way. Unfortunately, the situation still persists today in 2012 between Tarkwa and Akropong and the situation on the Dunkwa-Akropong road is even worse.
So to Akropong we went, and my parents, who had always trusted us to make our own decisions concerning our partners, hit it off with you. EspeciallyBombaywho started calling you ‘darling’ and bought a cooked egg for you – one of his ways of showing deep affection. The kids of today don’t appreciate the role an egg used to play in days of yore. You got an egg on special occasions, and when it was riding on the crest of a mound of eto (mashed plantain mixed judiciously with palm oil), it was like the Akwasidae had come!
In Akropong, I could clear see the extent you went to fit in and accept the conditions in my village home which were no where nearMatahekoCastlestandards.
We came back toKumasiwith the blessings of my parents. I have tried to remember if I paid back the money I took from you; I think I did, considering that I insisted that it was a loan.
That first action, that open discussion with you about a difficulty, especially about money, was the beginning of our frankness with each other, and formed the foundation of our openness about finances, and our ability to budget together, etc. I still encounter couples who insist that each person’s finances is sacrosanct, and only discuss house keeping money. Or the wife is responsible for the food in the house and the husband for the school fees. Each is at liberty to decide what to use the rest of the salaries as he/she wished. A couple that can discuss finances dispassionately can discuss most issues with the same honesty.
We both came toAccraafter July. Again I can’t remember if we travelled together, I believe we did, on an STC bus from the station close to the old site for A-Life Supermarket, Adum.
Soon after, I made my first visit to your home in Mataheko and to meet your dad. Dada was waiting for me in the porch and I joined him on one of the seats. He asked me a barrage of questions – who I was, my parents, their occupations, where they came from – and ended up with a question that has remained in my memory till today: “What does happiness in life mean to you or how do you define happiness in life?” A real philosophical question but one that is loaded and captures the essence of life. Dada didn’t give any facial hints as to how I was faring in this first interview J but the sure sign that I had passed was when he called the house help to get me a bottle of coke and allowed me to enter the house to see you!
Needless to say that I spent most of the break before National Service started in your house, visiting.
I went back toKumasito start my national service as a teaching assistant (TA) at the Chemical Engineering Department of KNUST. You stayed back inAccra, and started doing locum in Mega Pharm at Nyaniba Estates, near Labone.
We exchanged a lot of letters and those I will revisit some day. Dapaa, described by my friend Bernadette as ‘the ever-faithful Dapaa’, who was to be my best man at the wedding, and was my fellow TA and room mate, used to walk from Katanga to the Senior Staff Club to make calls at the phone booth. Those were the days when the Ghana Telecom phone booths reigned and mobile phones were very scarce or gargantuan! And it was interesting standing by one of those phones in a queue and overhearing people’s conversations. It was part of popular campus myth that woe betides you if you were caught in a phone booth queue in Africa Hall. There was a chair in that booth and the ladies could sit and chat for long periods at a time. So much so that, sometimes the credit on the call card could get finished and this lady, who might already be getting on your nerves for wasting your time, could come out of the booth and say ‘Hello, please my credit is finished, can you loan me your card to just finish this call?’ Annoying, but you learn to smile in Africa Hall, who knows J
I heard the story once of aKumasiburger who was shouting in the phone booth, apparently the person on the other end of the call wasn’t hearing him well.
‘Yes, Akwasi, I said Akosua has been impregnated by Boat. Yes! Boat! Boateng, Boat! B, B, I mean B for Apple!’
So Dapaa and I would go to the booth at the Club house, close by the street on which I proposed to you. I believe there was this popular soap which was showing on TV then – I can’t remember which it was: Esmeralda or one of those. And you loved watching. So sometimes, when I didn’t get the timing right and called, I could sense that you were not paying attention and I would ask if you were busy watching the soap and if you said ‘yes’, I would ask you to go finish watching and we would both hang around to call again. Eish, man tire before! Dapaa was also dating Maud then, and I would have the privilege to be the MC at their wedding years later.
The second major act of yours that touched me was when you sent me a sizeable amount of money so I can add to Dapaa’s contribution to be able to cook and cater for my family and friends when they came for our congregation/graduation in March 2000. Dapaa and I went to the market and bought our items, Maud and her friend Sheila came a day early and helped us cook throughout the night and we had a feast. Again, I was able to share my struggles with you.
This second epistle is already becoming longer than I envisaged but the memories keep coming, see? In the third instalment I will go on to the next milestone which was my birthday in 2000 when Joyful Way held a concert on campus UST, when I turned 25 and in the same month started working in Unilever, and the days following.
Let me pause here, my love, as I reflect today on our 10th wedding anniversary. As I have said many times, you decided to embark on this journey of foreverness with me when all I had, all I could boast of, were my dreams, my passion, my aspirations and a promised first degree. God has brought us far by grace and you have been the power behind every performance I have been able to churn out as a career engineer, writer, author, speaker, minister and citizen vigilante (apologies to Martin Amidu). You have given me space to develop and quietly prodded me on, with your unique way of telling me that I am able.
On this day, I wish to appreciate the tutelage and mentorship of my mum, late dad, our siblings, Damoah and Richardson families, Auntie Marina, Eric & Maud Eshun, Mr & Mrs Duke Awoonor-Williams, Efua Baawah-Frimpong, Mr & Mrs Isaac & Joy Ashong, Kofi & Doris Ankamah-Asamoah, Ace & Josephine Anan-Ankomah, Sammy & Ama Ewool, Romeo & Josephine Djan, Dan & Jemima Agamah, Frank & Louisa Gaisie, Victor & Charlotte Adjei, Auntie Aba Turkson, Dan Adapoe (who was our driver for the wedding), Kwasi & Emefa Dako, Albert & Jackie Danquah, Gideon Cann (who has been helping us at home and with the kids right from about a month after our wedding), Auntie Mary (nanny to our children), members of our couples’ fellowship (Adentwis, Aryees, Bondzies, Roberts, Gordons, Hanson-Norteys, Ofori-Attas, Nyamikehs) and numerous friends and family who have been there for us, and helped us on this journey.
I am grateful to God that he has blessed us with three lovely children – Nana Kwame (Bombay), Nana Yaw (Apusika) and Maame Akoah (Shishi).
This is in appreciation of your love and to your health and to many more years ahead of us. Together we have surmounted the challenges that marriage brings in abundance – the silent wars and all, hehe – but we have come far and we keep maturing. I love you so much, and thanks for taking me, just as I am, and for making a gentleman out of this simple Wasa boy.
I loved a girl and she is Vivian.