Tuesday, 24 nov 2009, Accra:
Perhaps you saw my facebook photo album showcasing my recent-and-first trip to Cote d’Ivoire? There was a picture I took at the Cathedral in Abidjan featuring beautiful stained-glass scenes of “African plenty”—elephants, gazelles, lush plants, welcoming fruits, and blahblahblah.
NOT the “African plenty” I know.
I shall take this moment to describe to you an image that I, Kathryn Gerber, aka Wildly Acclaimed and Fabulous Artist, would create in stained glass if I were to depict my understanding—and appreciation, mind you—of “African plenty”:
- 5 o’clock traffic in Accra is an involved experience unlike anything in this world. You automatically (yes, of course, pun intended) get a gold star if you come out of the crush alive (and by the way, that gold Star comes in the form of a Star beer, which means you deserve a Star EVERY DAY). The only way I can describe the traffic in Accra during morning and night rush hours is this: if traffic in Accra were a daycare, it would be a run-down, understaffed nursery full of ill-tempered, self-righteous crack-babies-hooked-on-diesel, ALL contemptuously demanding attention at the same time. Everyone in front of you is wanting to turn left, everyone to the right of you wants to stop, everyone behind you is trying to get around—I am telling you, Madame, it is a royal mess.
Anyway, so it’s a Clusterf*ck of the Highest Order, but wouldn’t you know it, there are countless helmet-less nuts on bicycles, all ridin’ around in such traffic, doin’ their thing, seemingly unawares of the dangerous environment around them—or, from a different perspective, the boldest sonsabitches I’ve seen in awhile. I’m not saying that seeing bicyclists in a developing country surprises me. It doesn’t surprise me as an independent individual, as a member of a family who loves me, as a hugger of the environment, as a mere mortal, what have you. No, what I’m straight-up saying is that this surprises me as a bicyclist! The conditions aren’t even AUTO friendly in Accra! What are you doing, for the love of Pete, on a bicycle?!
Which brings me to my Scene of African Plenty: while being shown various apartments and houses by Daniel, a broker, I was also being shown new parts and sights of Accra that I had never seen before—INCLUDING a man on a bicycle in the middle of rush hour, balancing two long, wooden beams/planks on his head. My guess is that they were wider than 2x4s, and, by that determination, heavier. I was bluntly stunned. My jaw dropped. Truly. It was my first “Wow” moment I’ve had since returning to Africa, and having previously borne witness to a multitude of unbelievable sights. But this! The balance! The necessary focus! The nerve! The off-the-charts level of “Africa-ness!”
Memorialize shit like THAT in stained-glass, is what I’m sayin.