Yesterday I was lost in Accra. I got lost because I had resolved, on the night before, to do all my sight-seeing on foot.
You miss out a lot on the street-food, the arts and culture, and the flow of things if you move around a new city cooped-up in a car; but you feel the vibes and throb of life on foot, tramping down the pavements of a new city.
Walking has its therapeutic benefit, and that was part-reason i had resolved to do most of my waka on foot, by the way.
I wasn’t really lost. I am familiar with Accra well enough for a pleasure-seeker. I only missed my way that time. I had tramped miles in a circle around Ridge in Accra, looking for Parkview Café. I was looking out for the familiar landmarks- the rusty rails with the grounded roller-coaster trains, who’s days of pleasure-rides were long; and the stiff merry-go-round- that looks like an ancient giant abandoned the wheel of his cart in the park.
I was looking out for the wrong signals, instead of simply sniffing the air for the titillating arome of grilling tilapia, or listening out for the riveting wave of Ghanaian highlife music. I was punished for my low instinctive initiative.
The hurt in my foot made me consider taking a taxi. Taxi was the wrong choice. But thankfully, it didn’t happen.
When I flagged down that taxi, I was standing right under a sign that proclaimed “Efua Sutherland Children’s Park”. Parkview Café, which I sought, was situated at the west end, inside this premises; I didn’t know. The last time, that is a month ago, I visited the spot, I had entered through the west gate on Liberia Street, quite unaware of its proximity to the Children’s Park. No wonder the taxi driver had been so confused that he engaged a passersby with the description of the destination I had given him. The kind passerby did help me. He advised I take the taxi to the Nigerian High Commission in Accra as I was obviously lost in Ghana.
To tell a Nigerian, a Lagosian particularly, that he is lost, is an insult that will be responded to with a self-assertion. I asserted myself by waving off the ignorant taxi driver and the clueless passerby. I shall not be a pest in a foreign land. I look out for myself, looking up to God for guidance. And when I did look up, I saw the huge merry-go-round and scattered-about cars of an ancient roller-coaster train. I was right where I was destined for without knowing it. I was back home like a prodigal.
The same I who was lost in Accra yesterday is today given directions to indigents. It is a significant change in status for me. Not because of the transcendental connotation of making restitution to lessen my karma, it was predestined to be.
I WAS LOST, NOW I AM FOUND, AND GIVING DIRECTION TO LOST SOULS.
I was tracing my path of the previous day back to Parkview Café through Efua Sutherland Children’s Park for lunch; one youngster with a Ghanaian-Hausa accent asked me the way to the Ghanaian Parliament building. I was on Castle Road, and I turned around and I pointed down the road. I told him he would find the impressive edifice just before he got to the Military Cemetery on that road.
Just a few steps from there, as I was turning into Gamel Abdul Naser Street that should take me straight to my own destination, one burly very black brotha with his huge and sweaty arm around the shoulder of a pale-face and very petite mongoloid lady, stopped me for directions to the passport office of the Ghana Immigration Authority.
“pachor, e be which way to passport office…”.
I pointed just behind me to the junction of the upper side of Gamel Abdul Naser Street on which the destination he sought was located. He thanked me and commended me for being a friendly Liberian, I corrected him that I was a Nigerian, not friendly… Liberian.
“Oh charlie… e be Nigerians are not…”
I could have asserted that I was not Charlie, that my name was Chris- Chris as in Pastor Chris; or Christ, if he liked. But then I recalled that Ghanaians address you as Charlie to emphasize, elaborate or simply get your attention.
But I could as well have been Charlie Chaplain for the quixotic way I was acting around the trans-racial Ghanaian couple. But we parted ways and got on our different destinations around the City of Accra: I, with this moral lesson, and they with, perhaps, an education on how lost we all are.