The firefly king told me the story of when
In love with Dawn, only for
Day to break
The hearts of both.
© 2015 k.amoh
The firefly king told me the story of when
In love with Dawn, only for
Day to break
The hearts of both.
© 2015 k.amoh
I started this blog with only a vague idea of what I wanted it to be. Matter of fact, I was more certain of what I didn’t want it to be (unconnected posts, as-and-when ramblings, passive aggressive thinkpieces, etc. etc.). My first post was a piece on faith I originally posted to my tumblr. My second was a short story I stayed up late (and enjoyed) writing. I thought this would be how it went; stories or poems, and posts on faith.
I tried to post regularly. I know, 19 posts over two years is by no stretch “regular” but in my defense, I wanted my posts to mean something. I feel my short stories were my most meaningful work, but they took time. I decided to include book reviews and the odd anecdote and before I knew it, I wasn’t sure where this was going. What happened to faith and short stories? Was I becoming an as-and-when, passive aggressive thinkpiece guy who wrote unconnected posts? Ugh.
So I kind of just stopped. It wasn’t a conscious decision, really, I just wasn’t writing what I truly wanted to. I felt my stories were my most meaningful work because I could say the things I wanted, but from behind the veil of characters and the semblance of plot. I let myself explore my weird ideas, my half-formed philosophies and honest opinions. I wrote “confessions” at a time when I was struggling with the thought of what my hopes and dreams meant for me. I wrote “Miles and miles of wire” when I faced the fact that my father is mortal, and won’t be around forever. I could be (ack) vulnerable, and yet not really. Still, that doesn’t explain all of it, like how there’s only the one post on faith (the first).
For a long time my faith has carried an asterisk, a result of my struggle with doubt. I identify with the father in Mark 9:34; “[Lord] I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I love Jesus, but I’m prone to wander. I’ve seen too much beauty in faith to let cynicism harden my heart, but my heart is not soft. For this reason I’ve felt I have no place talking about faith. I thought, who am I to say, “Trust the Lord” when I’m afraid a day will come when I don’t anymore?
We’re all on different journeys, and I’m beginning to appreciate my own. I’ve had to deal with what I have so I can empathize with the ones like me and understand grace a tiny bit better. I see things differently. I am not perfect. I am not impressive, I am not special. All I have is a heart full of good intentions, and a desire to see others know God’s grace. God has given me my particular set of interests, relationships, pursuits and experiences to shape my unique purpose, and I’ll only find that purpose when my life is laid down. The life laid down is hidden, but not behind excuses, insecurities, and fears. It is hidden in Christ and his glory. If it were up to me to sustain my faith, then yes, I would have every reason to fear losing it, because I am weak. Thankfully, 1 Peter 1 and Hebrews 12 tell me otherwise.
I want my light to shine. Maybe it’s in a life lived loud, maybe it’s in a life no one thinks is particularly noteworthy. Whatever the case may be, I want to play my part in the story of grace. This blog is a small part of the journey, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to post more (lol). Sahrry.
When I found out I could play Pokémon Go here my brain froze for a second. You’re telling me I can freaking catch Pokémon in real life? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MON – wait, what? I can do this for free?? I think I died briefly. I did not waste time downloading that app (yes, I know Ghana isn’t supposed to have it but this is the Internet era. There are Ways And Means), and I did not waste time beginning my Pokéquest.
Charmander, I choose you!
After almost a week of playing however, I have uninstalled Pokémon Go, despite being a fan and really enjoying the game. But before I tell you why let me tell you about yesterday.
So, yesterday morning I woke up at 7:30am and was out of the house at 8:00am hunting Pokémon. Thankfully, the servers were behaving (Niantic if your servers dey crash ah wear them seat belt, eh. Logic🙄) and the game ran smoother than it ever has. Armed with a fully charged power bank I took a trotro to the only gym and Pokéstops in my proximity, three churches about six miles away. I roamed in circles for long enough to look like a mad man but it wasn’t my hood so I wasn’t worried. I played for a while, caught quite a few Pokémon, trained at the Valor gym (which was frustrating because it was guarded by a high-CP Pinsir) then headed back to my hood. I knew where I was going. I was going to this place:
I was going to see if I could catch flying Pokémon at the top of the thing. I mean, flying Pokémon will be in the air, or?
The funny thing is, I’ve been meaning to visit this site for at least six years, but before Pokémon Go I never bothered. This game eh? I saw parts of my hood I didn’t know existed in the eight years I’ve lived here.
To my chagrin (I tried to think of a Pokémon pun for that. How about charman-grin? No? Ok), the security said no one’s allowed up the machine. He did give me a tour though. Now I know how bitumen is made. Yay Pokémon, enabling on-site education!
I wandered around catching Doduos for a while, evolved one into a Dodrio, then headed back to the gym to see if Dodrio could beat that damn Pinsir (he could not).
I checked the time and it was 2:00pm. I had just spent six hours of my life hunting for imaginary pocket monsters. It was at this point that I realized this could not continue. I quietly uninstalled the game, got on a trotro back home, and just reflected on my life choices. I mean, if I had spent the last six hours on something more … productive, I’d have something to show for it. All I had were imaginary pocket monsters. I was kind of torn up inside, because Pokémon really meant a lot to me.
A lot of people who don’t understand the hype never played Pokémon when they were younger. Pokémon was a big deal for me growing up. My earliest memories of it are from third or fourth grade at least, when the other kids with their Gameboy Colors wouldn’t let me play, and I had no clue where to buy the trading cards they brought to school to battle with. I just remember it being the coolest thing my nine-year old brain had ever seen. Later my sister got me Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64. I was addicted by now; I was reading the Tracey West Pokémon chapter books, and I read the Pokémon handbook till the covers fell off.
In my early teens I figured out how emulators worked and played a lot of the original games on my computer. Pokémon Gold was epic. I remember beating Red on Mt. Silver;
that was like, the highlight of my year (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). It’s got a lot of hype because it meant a lot to us when we were younger. We all secretly wished we could travel the land catching Pokémon for realz, and now we can. Sort of.
But I can’t justify playing this game. First off it takes way too much dedication. Yes, it gets you to exercise, but I have a running app for that. Yes, it gets you to go outside and (maybe) socialize, but I have a social life. I leave the house two whole times a week, like a party animal. I just think it’s a little too escapist for twenty- and thirty-year olds to be so invested in this game. Trying to recapture the nostalgia of ten years ago and live out a childhood fantasy is not enough motivation for me to continue playing; I have present-day goals, and I gotta catch ‘em all. This is not a knock on any of those playing, far from it. I’m talking about my own experience. Feel free to walk around in circles trying to find Caterpie, it’s your life.
Also, this girl I’m into thinks it’s really lame.
Pokémon Go is a fun experience, but until they release Pokémon Stay-In-Your-House-And-Have-A-Life, I think I’m done.
This post makes some great points too. Check it.
It was raining outside. The light patter of rain helped ease him out of sleep, but waking up at 2 a.m. to the sound of your little brother’s wracking coughs is never a pleasant experience. You never quite get used to it. Not even after four years. Selasi rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling for a while, to allow the sleep to fade, and to see if the coughing would abate soon, as it sometimes did. As his eyes adjusted to the moonlight filtering in from the cramped room’s only window, he mentally traced the pseudo-constellation of cracks and stippling in the ceiling, out of habit.
When was the last time he’d done this? He remembered how he used to imagine they were the features of a map that charted the geography of some other world, and how they eventually became so ingrained in his mind that until about a year ago, he would dream about all the fantastic routes and locales every other splotch and fissure represented. He’d created an entire mythology for the world in the ceiling, a myriad of conquering heroes who defied the gods of Mount Yimano (the dark, weirdly shaped watermark exactly above his head), slew the demonic legions of the Abyss of Nod-A-Ba (the deepest fissure in the plywood above), rescued fair maidens from the overgrown geckos of Dragon Ridge and carted them off to the Isle of Alafina (a curiously bare patch in the chaos of mottling), where they had their happily ever after, free from worry and strife and pain. He used to tell Edem his stories; he had lapped them up, his eyes wide as he tracked the heroes in the ceiling, whimpering when they found themselves in dire straits and giggling excitedly whenever they vanquished foes. Aunty Adjo had banged on their door more times than he could count to get them to shut up.
But that felt like a lifetime ago. He sighed and rolled back onto his side. With each passing day, every distortion in the ceiling had taken on a different symbolism. It wasn’t Nod-A-Ba he saw up above; he saw instead a reminder of the gutter Dad’s car had crashed into. Dragon Ridge instead now represented the daggers of impotent worry for Edem that kept him up most nights. Yimano was no longer the dwelling of the deities of some other world’s pantheon; it was the twisted blackness deep inside, to the right of his heart. He hadn’t slept on his back in a year.
Edem had stopped coughing. Selasi glanced over at him. He looked so small, curled up on his side like that, as though if he didn’t hold the pieces of himself together he would fall apart if he coughed too hard. Selasi looked away and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. The lump, however was indignant and refused to be merely swallowed away. He’d been planning this for the past few months. There was no point feeling guilty. Why was it so hard to breathe, then? He picked himself off his mat, pulled Edem’s covers a little higher over his shoulders and tiptoed toward the window. The lump did not approve his abandoning Edem and rose higher to express its outrage. He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes tight as he moved to jump out, tossing up a prayer for Edem’s safety. Aunty Adjo would take care of him. He would come back someday, he reasoned.
Halfway out the window, his heart exploded.
“Edem! What are you doing awake?” he exclaimed as he scrambled back inside.
“I was cold. What are you doing?” he asked in his small voice, sitting up as he spoke.
“I heard a weird noise and went to check it out,” he lied.
“Oh. I’m cold,” he whispered, pulling the covers tight around his frame.
Selasi rushed to his side, sat next to him and gathered him in his arms. He could feel Edem shivering. It wasn’t that cold, was it? He frowned, wondering if there wasn’t something else wrong.
“I’m only cold. I know what you’re thinking,” Edem said softly, his eyes half-shut as he leaned into Selasi’s chest.
Selasi was silent. He knew what he was supposed to say, but instead he reached for his own covers absently, draped them about his own shoulders and then wrapped them around Edem, cocooning them in cloth.
He worried for Edem, all the time. He had to. Aunty Adjo was old and would not be able to care for them much longer. She had her own brood to care for, and was becoming increasingly snappish and cold toward Edem and him. He’d realized this a while ago, but had instead chosen to clutch at distractions.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Edem tried again, his voice soft.
They hadn’t played this game in a long time. Why not indulge him just this once?
“How do you always know what I’m thinking, little bird?”
Edem looked up at him, a small smile on his face. He buried his face in his chest, as though to dig his way into his heart.
“I always do, because you’re easy. You love me and I love you, so I’ll always know you.”
Selasi sighed deeply. This had been something of a call and response they shared: I know what you’re thinking, Edem would say. How do you know? he would ask. Because you love me and I love you, Edem would reply, and that had always been enough for them.
“You haven’t called me little bird since you stopped telling me stories,” Edem said softly.
Unbidden, the memory of the last time he’d cared for a little bird came to Selasi.
It had been a rainy day, much like this one. He was from school, and right in his path was a tiny bird that had been caught out in the rain. He stooped next to the precious thing for what felt like hours, wondering what to do. The thing could barely move, its eyes half-shut. He carefully scooped it up, cupping it in his hands, holding it close to his body. He’d kept it close the rest of the day, whispering softly to it the whole time. Edem had been sleeping; he’d just got back from the hospital. Aunty Adjo hadn’t looked him in the eye that night, muttering under her breath the whole time. He hadn’t cared. He had two little birds to care for. He remembered how he’d agonized about keeping the bird safe through the night. Not knowing any better, he put it in an empty Nido tin and went to sleep.
The next morning the little bird was dead.
He pulled Edem closer, shivering at the recollection. He was not a good person. Every time he loved something, it died.
Edem continued talking. “I liked your stories. The blowman always won and beat the kakalikas, but then you became sad and wouldn’t tell me stories anymore. Then I was sad, ‘cause I didn’t know if you loved me anymore.”
Out of nowhere the lump returned, uppercut his eyeballs and left him choking back tears.
Edem didn’t know he was a bad person, that everything he loved died. He didn’t know about the bird; he didn’t know it was his fault Mum and Dad died, that they’d gone out to pick up his birthday cake.
The stories had been a distraction, something to think about other than the truth of what he was. He’d kept himself distracted with lies; what is a story, after all, if not a lie one was applauded for telling? He could no longer lie, he knew, but still he lied every day. That he was strong, for Edem. That he could handle things, for his sake. The lies were a tenuous web that held him together. Without them, he would fall apart.
“Sometimes I remember the way things were before, you know,” Edem said suddenly.
“Really, you do? You were so little.”
“I know, but I remember the way things felt. I remember things were simple. Mummy and Daddy loved me, and I loved them. And somehow, I still feel that way. Especially knowing I still have you.”
Selasi sighed again. He looked down at the top of Edem’s head, at the rise and fall of his small chest as he breathed softly, and knew he could never abandon Edem, could never stop loving him. He was a little bird out in the cold, and Selasi was all he had. He would just have to get it right this time. He would have to get it right.
“Hey, little bird, wanna hear the story of how Tanarak slew the Priest-King of the mountain-eaters?”
Edem’s eyes lit up, and he nodded excitedly.
He was tired of telling lies. But maybe, just maybe, love was not the lie he thought it was.
Maybe it was the light in an eight-year old’s eyes. Maybe it was truth.
This review is quite long. It was going to be twice as long, but I cut it in half because people on the internet have ten second attention spans. If you’re intimidated by walls of text, here’s the tl;dr –
TL;DR – Nervous Conditions is great. Tsitsi Dangarembga writes really well. You should totally read this book, if you like books that deal with serious issues.
Alright. On to the full review.
“This stunning first novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her relationship with her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the circumscribed lives of the women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price. At the school she meets the worldly and rebellious Nyasha, who is chafing under her father’s authority. Raised in England, Nyasha is so much a stranger among her own people that she can no longer speak her native language. Tambu can only watch as her cousin, caught between two cultures, pays the full cost of alienation.”
Nervous Conditions is one of those books that arrest you ten pages in and leave you with no doubt that what you’re reading is a Very Good Book.
First off, the opening line is brilliant. Right from the beginning I was invested:
“I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor am I apologising for my callousness, as you may define it, my lack of feeling.”
Straight away I’m like:
Who are you and why weren’t you sorry? This is your brother we’re talking about! I immediately wanted to know what was going on here, how she could be so indifferent to her own flesh’s passing. It turns out she has good reason to despise her brother, Nhamo; read and find out.
As I followed the author develop a wonderfully set scene in the first four pages, describing the setting, its fields, its river—what it meant to the community and how it lead to the development of their commercial area, I knew I was going to enjoy this book a lot.
Tsitsi Dangarembga’s writing style is beautiful. Her prose manages to be lyrical and accessible at the same time. She avoids overwriting and crafts incredible passages that further immerse you in the story, not take you out of it. One of my favourite passages:
“Maiguru, keening softly, helped my father to coax my mother, now quiet and limp and bewildered, to the kitchen.
Keening. I remember keening that seemed to go on all through the night: shrill, sharp, shiny needles of sound piercing cleanly and deeply to let the anguish in, not out.”
This book is full of great prose.
The tone of the book is semi-autobiographical, and the story’s progress is driven chiefly by the protagonist, Tambudzai’s experiences, internal dialogue, and observations about her world, more so than by plot points or dialogue; and what a rich inner life Tambu has! Tambu, at age thirteen thinks more complexly about the world than many of the adults around her (certainly more so than her idiot father). She recognizes that just because things are a certain way doesn’t make them right, and much of her growth is in learning to navigate the minefield of who she wants to be, and who she is expected to be in a patriarchal landscape.
Tsitsi explores important themes in this book, and brilliantly too. She in some places directly addresses them (read: Tambu’s observations), but for the most part uses her characters as vehicles for her arguments. She doesn’t only make her point; she shows you. I found the author’s use of symbols and not-so-obvious imagery to make her arguments added a layer of depth to this book. Take for instance the way she relates women and meat in this book. A woman’s value is to either cook a man’s meat or earn her father a fat dowry of many cows. The idea that this society effectively reduced a woman to being a piece of meat is easy to miss, but when I realised it, I was floored.
This book is not an easy book. It’s an Important Book because, like every Important Book it is a mirror. It forces you to examine the ways you think about its subject matter. This book showed me that a lot of the ways I think about women’s rights is wrong. I thought being polite and nice to women was enough, but this book showed me no, it’s not enough to be passive about it, there’s a need to be a lot more active. I’m not talking about neo-feminism (or even old feminism), because I don’t believe that’s the answer, but justice. I won’t get into that now, as that’s for a whole other post.
The most obvious themes of the book (entrapment, patriarchy, self-discovery) are addressed up front, but the sub-themes of nationhood, cultural identity, and colonial rule are addressed almost in passing; you might miss them if you’re not paying attention. Yes, Nervous Conditions is about women and patriarchy, but it’s also about colonisation and the African, about Western ideas that don’t quite take root in African hearts, bearing malformed shoots and poisonous fruits. This is realized in what I personally think is the central conflict of the story: the conflict between Babamukuru and his daughter, Nyasha.
Babamukuru grew up before being westernized. He already had ideas about the way the world worked and what he expected of it, ideas shaped by his cultural identity. Nyasha, however, grew up in England, displaced before any sense of cultural identity could be formed in her, before she could think of her father’s society as “normal”. The conflict between Baba and Nyasha is painful, because they appear to be on opposite sides, but are they really? They both find themselves having to navigate a society that is changing (however cosmetic that change may be). One of them is too traditional to adapt to this change; the other is too forward in her expectations of how this change should be realised. Their conflict is painful, because here we see that they are really opposite sides of the same coin; the African forced to accept the Western culture’s ways and values.
I could go on and on about this book. I could rave about each character and why I hate (oh my days, Nhamo!) or love them. I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about Nyasha and why she is the real main character of the book, but I’d rather you read it. I’d rather you read it and form your own opinions about it, your own ideas about its themes and symbols and characters. Read it and let it have its effect on you, then make notes or write a review. When you do, please let me know. I’ll be excited to talk about it for hours.
I give Nervous Conditions 5/5 stars.
|Publisher||Ayebia Clarke Publ., 2004|
I read Nervous Conditions as SEEK International’s Book of the Month in May. It’s a great book club for Ghanaians primarily, you should totally join. For more information visit their Facebook page: SEEK International.
I believe there’s a paperback available at the Legon Bookshop, if you prefer hard copies.
So this was me, sitting in the trotro, waiting to go home. I was ruefully weighing the pros and cons of my latest crush, telling myself all the reasons for which it was a bad idea when this lady in the trotro came and sat next to me. I paid her no mind until she started talking. At first I was just intrigued by her accent, like “Whoa, where is this lady from,” because I’ve never heard anyone who sounds like her before, but I didn’t ask. My guess is she’s either from somewhere up north, or Tanzania. What a Tanzanian is doing in a Kaneshie trotro, I have no clue.
So she tells me she’s Roman Catholic, says some other things I don’t remember, and then tells me she’s a messenger from God. Now, this got me excited, because this stuff doesn’t happen to me often. Even in church I almost never get called on when the shpirid is moving, so I thought this would be dope.
So apparently I’m one of 2000 males created immediately after Jesus was, whom God has set aside to be his special people in the earth. We will be among the first to be taken up into heaven too. At this point I got even more excited, because after the whole disappointment with Jericho’s prophecies I was really beginning to doubt that I’d ever have the chance to save the world from a zombie apocalypse, but this was giving me hope! I began to visualize all the special ways I would do special things because of the special powers God would obviously have to give me. At this point I was too busy being excited about the laser vision God would give me for zombie-smiting to really pay attention to her, but then I heard her say that because of my special destiny I was not supposed to marry; I was supposed to stay celibate and do God’s work.
I was like:
I’m supposed to stay what now? At this point I was cry-laughing in my soul because, uh uh boo-boo, ain’t gonna happen. I should stay what? Anka take your laser eyes. Take! My heroic destiny will have to wait till after my honeymoon. I know, not very heroic and self-sacrificing but fam, this touched a nerve. This crossed the line! I could give up an arm and a leg if it was the only way to defeat the demon ninja army; I could give up both eyes if that was the only way to defeat Medusa’s Cabal; I could sit through ten thousand hours of Hannah Montana if that’s what would stop the Girl Guides from taking over the world (they will, mark my words), but not marry? Anka the world should burn.
With a heavy heart I listened to the rest of her message. I nodded as she casually mentioned that God had also told her to ask me for 10 cedis to go do his work at Kanshie, and tearfully negotiated a discount. God knew I was sad, so He would spare me 5 cedis to buy khebab as I mourn. It’s been too much disappointment. First Jericho, now Kaneshie-trotro-lady. My little heart just can’t.
I tried to get a picture of her, but the angles in trotros don’t favour sneak photography. If you see her around, go the other way before she shatters your dreams of being a special snowflake too.
She stands at the kerb
Watches light and shadow shake hands,
Exchange their “How do you do”s, and laughs.
She laughs at the dark
Till the shadows cower before her, naked and afraid,
And the light strives to catch her face.
She is many parts shade and many more flame
She screams greyed reds and laughs at the rules
She loves just like talking in her sleep
Her palms are a dare to turn from the truth between the lines.
I cannot read her
Her palms are mirrors
I only see my own naivety.
© 2015 k.amoh