Book: Adventures of the Mad Duck (My Journey through 73 countries) Part 1 & 2
Author: Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama
Reviewer: Nana Awere Damoah
In July this year, I was looking for air or road travel options to Monrovia from Accra and so I asked the best search engine in the world: my Facebook friends! I put up a post on Facebook. The response from one of my friends on the route by road was both spectacular and unique. Allow me to share the response in full:
Nana, there is no direct bus to Monrovia.
However here is how you can get to Monrovia by public transport:
1. Take an STC bus from Accra to Abidjan.
2. From Abidjan take a direct bus to Man in the north (500kms).
3. From Man you take a bus to Danane (70km), then a motor bike to Gbeunta the Ivorian border (37kms).
4. Once you cross into Liberia at Logatuo, you can get a direct bush taxi to Monrovia or take a motor bike to Ganta, then continue from there.
The road from Logatuo (the Liberian border) to Ganta is terrible.
Even though its not a long distance – 300kms, the journey from the border to Monrovia is about 10 hours.
In March, I went from Accra to Guinea Bissau by road.
My friend Efua commented: “Princess Umul Hatiyya….’Stap’ it! Hèèr….I laughed uncontrollably! I think by now Nana Awere would have advised himself to take a flight!”
I said to myself “I might as well swim!” Well, perhaps like a duck!
Well, not surprising, since the response was from a mad duck, Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama, who has embarked on not one, not two but numerous such mad adventures to 73 countries, and whose experiences – the highs, the hilarious, the lows, the logoligacious, the uglies and the glitzes – are captured in two amazing books for adults (with a corresponding set of three books for children), which we are launching today.
Interestingly, I started reading and writing my review during a journey by air on the route she travelled by road.
“At the beginning of every year, I decide which continent I want to spend some time in. And this year, the focus is on my continent, Africa. My plan is to have seen a total of thirty African countries by the end of 2017. In March, I came up with the wild idea of travelling from Accra to Guinea Bissau by road, going through Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. I also wanted to see these five countries with GHS 3,000 (US$700). This amount included my transport, food, accommodation and everything in between”
A mad adventure you might say?
Princess Umul Hatiyya is a self-described “ordinary African woman with an appetite for anything wild and wacky”. Princess Umul is also a girl on a mission: to visit every country in the world! She has been on this journey for exactly 10 years now and she is not slowing down!
I have been on a journey of my own, though not on road or by air. In 2014, I got acquainted with a fellow book lover Prof H Kwasi Prempeh and was honoured to spend two hours alone with him in his well-stocked library. I left that room with a determination to collect as many books on Ghanaian and African history as I can.
On this quest, I have been struck by how “ordinary” the writers of what we call history books of the early 1800s and 1900s were: ordinary being used cautiously here to mean people without any special training in anthropology, history, journalism or travel writing. These were ordinary people chronicling their observations, reflections and opinions as they perambulated the continent. We discover with them as they found new people, new cultures and new frontiers. Years later, their writings are the facts as we know them.
I see a new chronicler of such history in Princess Umul Hatiyya. Through these books, we observe our lives and times. She is drawing on the canvas of time, contributing immensely to the portrait of history.
In these books, you discover the world you might never visit physically but can, now, through her very descriptive and colourful writing. You feel you are with her on her many adventures. Isn’t that what a book should deliver to a reader? With a book, a reader lives many lives.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin said. That is why reading, almost a dying habit in our country, needs serious resuscitation.
The local narratives of each country, its history, the natural reserves, the politics – as narrated – and the questions and reflections that they elicit and precipitate…all these are direct bonuses of reading the books. For instance, as you waddle with the wild duck on the roads of West Africa, you discover that the immigration officers are not in tune with the grammar that is spewed from the corridors of the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja. Free movement? Wekin free movement? Money na hand, passage na granted.
Apart from the direct message of travel experiences, I got a bonus benefit from reading the Adventures of the Mad Duck. I found inspiration from a lady who is pursuing her passion with purpose. Who is following her heart, powered by her mind. Someone who is relentless in the pursuit of her dreams. And that encouraged me greatly on my own life’s journey.
Early this year, I got connected, via Facebook, with an awesome Ghanaian lady living and working in the US, who had seen my book Nsempiisms and wanted to do an audiobook out of it. She is called Zoe Baraka. In a short nine months, Zoe has influenced me so much with her positive nature and deep insights about life and living it. To demonstrate how she would do the recording, she sent me two audio samples and one was a poem titled Poverty. I am still searching for the author of the poem, but it is reproduced in the book ‘Being the Best’ by Denis Waitley.
Allow me to end by sharing portions with you:
Poverty is untested potential, resulting from self imposed limitations.
Poverty is working a lifetime doing something you hate, so you can retire and do something you like after 65.
Poverty is having many acquaintances and not knowing any of them well.
Poverty is having so many clothes,you “haven’t a thing to wear”
Poverty is eating so well you have to think about going on a diet.
Poverty is having every pill imaginable to cure your body’s’ ills, because you “cant afford to be sick”
Poverty is being loaded down with toys at birthdays and Christmas, and then being bored silly because there’s nothing to do.
Poverty is having three degrees and feeling unfulfilled in your job.
Poverty is having two cars, three TV’s, and a dishwasher, and then “roughing it” by going camping to “get away from it all.”
Poverty is going, day-to-day,from one building to the next and never stopping to see the beauty in the world outside.
Poverty is spending money on make-up, deodorants, colognes and designer clothes,and still being worried about the image you are projecting.
Poverty is never being curious about the world around you and never wanting to explore it or the people in it.
Poverty is as much of the soul, as it is the body.
Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama: thank you for reinforcing that “Poverty is untested potential, resulting from self imposed limitations.”
Thank you so much for showing and teaching me how to be rich, by living my life to the fullest, like a mad duck.
Nana Awere Damoah
6 October 2017
The reviewer is an author of seven books, a publisher/co-founder of DAkpabli & Associate and a lecturer with the Creative Writing Academy, Accra.