We travel as I imagine electrons might

through a cord wrapped around a thousand corners. Aligned, flowing, sparking, ensuring power.

The route is windy, and windy. But purposeful. There’s a here to there here, and people travel with the end in mind.

I follow my friends on their classic hog, looking like an advert for Cool Biker Couple Abroad. Sporting black masks and a jet matte helmet for him, her unprotected dirty blond hair tied back, gazing at the lake beside, unfazed and unflappable.

It’s fun, this commute.

We weave our way between school and home, darting through narrow stretches, guessing at which lane belongs to us, skirting safety with a beep here and there. Oncoming traffic darts, bops, bobs. It all seems chaotic, disordered.

But there is a logic to it. And people find their way.

My bike is not nearly as cool, not nearly as burly, not nearly as much bike as my buddy’s, but it gets me here and there. A tiny e-bike, I take pride in its lack of emission, and lack of power. But it keeps the pace just fine. And today I open it up a bit, enjoying this play and pretending that I’m actually, just a little bit, as cool as my friends.

I feel the breeze

Air’s not as bad as I thought

Maybe I should pass on the inside

Why are there so many cars stopped?

I approach the traffic jam, oblivious to anything apart from my desire to get home and a bit of annoyed that I have to slow. Cars are backed, three deep, and scores of bikes weave their way between.

I think nothing of the extra traffic and choose a path at points just wide enough for myself and the driver on the bike next to me. We make timid eye contact as I let her sneak between the vehicles ahead.

I decide to poke around the static hatchback in front of me, tentatively wheeling into the oncoming flow when I realize that no one is coming.

Instead, I notice the concerned faces, huddled around the woman in the purple sweater. Laid out in the middle of the road, she's in tears, pointing to her skull, a man cradling her gently and reassuring her with quiet speech. Others huddle close, in silence.

An accident has happened here

Was she hit by that car?

How did it happen?

Was she on her motorbike?

Is she going to be okay?

I don’t see any blood.

I pass the scene, guilty of rubbernecking. I have many questions.

She seems to be in good hands

I pause for a minute. Take a breath. And continue home. Only this time, a little bit slower. This time, I take it cool.

greatest of all time

Dog Poop Park is packed today

It’s the usual, glorious intersection of humans that gathers. Local families and their kids, elderly exercisers swinging on futuristic (but simple) machines, young footballers knocking about a too-hard plastic ball, ex-pats and backpackers taking a breath

And a collection of dogs and their owners, who think and act differently. Laid back, unconcerned, not a care in the world, it’s clear this crew knows how to take it easy.

Why does being from another country make it okay to not pick up your dog’s crap?

I ask a friend.

Well, carrying along a plastic bag and picking up poop isn’t very Bohemian

He responds, with a chuckle.

I meander across the mine field, eyes wide, alert for the all-too camouflaged nuggets that are just waiting to smell up my walk home. I contemplate saying something to the too-chill dog owners but hold off.

Nah, too soon

That’s when I spot the goat.

Normally sequestered at the side of the road, today he’s taken centre stage. Wandering across the tiled path, pausing to nibble on reedy weeds, he’s grabbed the attention of a crew of boys and girls, toddlers to teens, trailing him like newborn ducks after mama. Falling over one another and giggling to get closer. Mr. Goat obliges by leaning in. Clearly, he’s been through this before. Kids are old school.

They can’t get enough of him, he’s the greatest of all time.

The tallest girl, being the tallest, takes charge. She’s holding the remains of a loaf of bread, and the goat is hungry. She indulges him, tearing off small pieces and leading the hoofer along the trail, a Gretel without witches or ovens.

I’m enjoying the spectacle, just me and my boys, enjoying a goat. As one does.

Papa, it’s like she’s trying to leave a trail!

Rhino notices.

Don’t think it’s going to work though.

Can we pet the goat?

Elephant asks

And for the first time since seeing the goat, a bit of paternal instinct kicks in and I find myself wondering

Do goats bite?

Are they ever rabid?

Can they get aggressive?

Am I forgetting my job as Papa?

I snap back to reality and assess the situation.

There’s really no danger here, it’s clear from the smiles on the faces of the kids, and the slow, steady calm of Mr. Goat, that this is not a moment to worry.

In these times, the zeitgeist is about panic, worry. Alarm. What could go wrong? Are we in danger? What do we have to fear?

Instead, I tap into my Bohemian instincts,

and don’t give a crap.


The family didn’t have to help.

I’ve wheeled my packed cart outside, trying to make sense of the flow of traffic. An ocean of cars, scooters, and trucks, a steady, rhythmic wave

Everyone honks

There’s purpose to it all. it’s more than a parking lot, not quite a thoroughfare, and somehow people make their way

I’m not quite sure how to make mine.

The Grab has been ordered, the taxi on its way. And thanks to location services and satellite magic, I can watch the driver weave his path straight to me.

Only, he’s not sure where to go.

I see his progress, and lack thereof, clearly, and for whatever reason he comes to a dead stop 500 meters south, behind the building, on a road most certainly to nowhere.

As the blackbird flies, it’s not bad. But from where I stand and wait, with this cart full of supplies, it might as well be Timbuktu.

I’m not going to make it home.

Outward, I’m calm, all under control. But inside, I’m flailing, desperate.

A call comes in, and for a moment I feel hope.

But that’s where things get tricky. It’s still early days. I speak exactly two words of Vietnamese, he speaks fewer words of English. The conversation goes nowhere.

I’m not sure who hangs up first but it’s a mutual breakup.

I’m not going to make it home.

The lady and her two kids standing next to their small motorized scooter nearby seem to notice me, but say nothing. Wearing their best, headed to dinner, a boy, maybe 7, and a girl, skirting her teens. They make timid eye contact, curious about this nerved up foreigner.

All around, chaos, organized. Shoppers, bags loaded, hop on bikes, step into cars, wave down taxis. I don’t know exactly where I live. But I am amazed at exactly where I find myself.

It’s still early days.

And this family decides to help.

The daughter has a bit of English. She approaches.

Where you go?

I show her my phone

Your driver has arrived and will wait for your

Arrived where? And for what?

Luckily, it becomes clear that I have an ally.

She takes my phone over to her father, just arrived, carrying four shopping bags full of veggies and soups. He comes to me and asks a couple questions in Vietnamese. I smile and shrug, but show him the phone.

He calls the driver. A patient back and forth. His voice is raised, but not in anger. In urgency, in haste.

Because he wants desperately to help. A random, strange, hapless foreigner he’s only just met.

He hands the phone back to me with a smile. Success. I pay him back in kind with what must be the biggest relief on my face.

Cảm ơn.

I say thanks with the only words I know. This family of four, who don’t know me, who I can only assume are not unique in this compassionate, layered, complex city of millions, decided to help.

I watch the four of them take their full load of shopping over to their bike, Surely, they’re going to a car parked nearby. Perhaps a driver is en route to grab them, too.

Instead, they open the bike seat, deftly arrange their goods to fit in the compartment below. The leftover items remain in bags, laden over shoulders.

Papa hops on first, he’s driving. Behind him sits Mama, and her, the teen. Last, the boy turns around, waves goodbye to me with a smile, and sneaks in.

The final piece of the family’s Tetris puzzle, nestled just behind the handlebars in front of Pop and tucked next to a vibrant bag of greens. One small scooter, an impossible amount of groceries, and four neatly dressed passengers.

And I watch, with reverence, as they ride off into the night.


I’m alone in the dark when I see the blinding flash

Did something explode

I glance out through the translucent curtains, half expecting to see a building aflame, but there is no smoke, and no fire.

I crack the window open, listening for any kind of scuffle, sirens, something to clue into the source. When I see another flash. And still another.

The chill we’ve come to expect has given way to something novel. The air is warming, and with the warmth comes moisture, and pressure.

Watch out for Moldy March

Colleagues warn.

And I realize, with another flash, that lightning storms have returned.

I welcome the breeze, sniff the night air, and crane my neck to the street two floors below at the neighbor’s dog, unfazed, unflappable, curling up for the night. Clearly the lightning is old hat, to her.

A car, crawling through the lane, slower than the usual. A window slides down and the driver is asking a question.

To whom? I wonder.

That’s when I notice the woman. She replies to the driver, reassuring him, perhaps. He drives off slowly and she glances at her phone, then up towards my window, then back again to her phone. She seems confused, asking with her eyes

Is this the place?

Our building is on a difficult block to navigate. Something to do with its location on top of old farmland, close to the temple, zoning restrictions leading to creative housing moves. 5 houses, one address. Or two addresses, one house. Google Maps isn’t going to help with this one.


I imagine myself calling.

I think you have the wrong address! This is not the place you’re looking for, but can I help you find your way?

But words don’t come. I’m muted, flummoxed by this distance in language again. Unable to help where needed.

So I keep quiet, and hope her phone holds answers.

When I peek out a few minutes later the lightning has built into a frenzy. I know the buckets are coming.

And the lady in need is gone.


It is dark

Volcanic outcrops huddle, as if for warmth.

Towering above the darkened rice paddies, they protect this valley, sturdy gods, steadfast.

The gray sun bid adieu hours ago, stars peeping through a canopy of trees. This should be a time for silence.

But the valley has other ideas

Rhino peers across the pond at the flashlights, intermittent, dancing across the cliffs, but mostly pointed down

At the water.

We get quiet

And really listen

The voices of night fishers, poised like cranes, women and men, make their way to our ears

We wonder what they are saying; trading barbs, tips for the best catch, sharing a joke punctuated by a hearty, bouncing laugh

Or, just reassuring shouts, a form of echolocation, to ground and orient the darkness

Their calls to one another slowly fade as the quiet rhythm of their work takes hold, whatever it is they harvest hits their buckets with a satisfying choonk

Step, pull, toss, choonk

Step, pull, toss, choonk

And then, when a bucket is full, the sound of a hundred shells empties

As we wonder what they are searching for, we marvel at the symphony of what must be tens of hundreds

of frogs

and crickets

and lizards


He whispers

Earlier when I was yelling the echo lasted forever

And it was super loud

So this could be maybe, like, 10 frogs

He melts in for a hug, I kiss his head gently

He’s getting so tall, impossibly so

Are you going to sleep?

Not yet. I’ll be in soon.

Goodnight Papa

‘Night boss

He wanders around the corner, a ghost in the night

And I have a few more moments for song

Cow and Calf

The twinge in my leg intensifies as I hobble down the sideline.

I’ve no choice but to step off the pitch, yet again. Because my calf has gotten twingy, yet again. Because I didn’t warm up like I know I should have, yet again.

I pant heavily and curse under my breath. And it is not until later, on reflection, that I know what it means.

A chance to pause

To see what exists beyond the pitch

As I reach the corner flag, atop a small ridge, I have a bird’s eye view.

The first thing I notice is the cow.

Grazing lazily, tail swinging, a metronome keeping time with the breeze. Her indifference fuels me, most likely mocking my seriousness.

Relax, Boss. This too shall pass. We all need to take care of our calfs.

I imagine her saying, in Cow.

A woman tends rows of greens, steady labor and strong back. Oblivious to it all: the rancor of football, the just-off-the-pitch just-off-pitch karaoke singer belting out a Vietnamese standard next door, the six boys giving their all next to her on the makeshift badminton court. Oblivious, because. She has work to do.

It’s not your typical badminton court. Sure, it’s defined by a net, but it sits atop dirt patches, slightly off-level, bordered by farmland, draining into the dark waters of Tay Ho. In the middle of a city of millions.

I straddle the sideline, hobbling slightly and testing the calf, watching the gentle arc of the shuttle, hearing the boys share the score and bark directions (I assume) to switch sides, when one of them looks up and sees me.

Halllloooo! he shouts

Hello! I respond with a smile and a wave

Two of his friends join.

Halllloooo! they offer.

I wave again.

It’s meeeeee! the first boy yells again.

Yes, I see you!

And, just as quickly as begun, the conversation ends. The game, the friends hold more interest than this random, hobbled foreigner.

And the limits of language, as they do, impose their will on our dialogue.

But we all smile

And the pain in my calf seems to have let up a bit.


Mr. Edwin handles the boxes with care





Twenty-seven. Ok.






Eighteen. One-eight.




The work is methodical, rhythmic. Mr. Edwin unhurried, steady. He moves with a grace and precision belying his relaxed manner. Carrying the boxes through the propped-open double doorway.

Music drifts, dreamlike, down a freshly-emptied hallway, echoing off the yawning shelves.

The unwelcome scent of mosquito spray, artificial, sweet, evocative of furniture polish, wafts and reinvigorates my headache. But it’s still better than mosquitoes.








Twenty-two. Got it.

I’m standing with a clipboard, a neatly arrayed hundreds chart of check-boxes. My red pen is poised, waiting for the next number to be called. He walks the boxes to the top of the stairs where the rest of his team travels up and down. I put a red ‘check’ next to each number he calls.

And suddenly, without notice, a lump arrives in my throat.

Tears well.

I’m flattened, for just a moment, by where we are. Where we have been.

Where we are going.

It’s cooler today, but these men still sweat.

They’ve earned it.

Do you load the heaviest boxes first or the light ones

I gather and ground myself with a question

Ah, lightest. Lightest

He responds with a smile

The large pile of boxes in the corner gradually fades to nothing.

We are, once again, faced with separation from our things, faced with sleeping in an empty shell, living out of suits, and cases.

Putting our trust in random humans and mysterious systems, all to get these boxes on a ship. Eventually, assuming all goes well, to the other side of the world.

Our apartment feels lighter. Less to transport in our baggage of emotions. We’ve crossed another hurdle, one more time, to prepare to once again make our way. To start fresh. And eventually, to make home.

It’s a deliberate choice to lead this life of transitions. For ourselves, for our boys. And so, there are comings, and goings, packings. Stowings.

Roughly a thousand days ago we found ourselves watching boxes head out the small cedar gate, under the drooping redwood branches, into the partially loaded truck.

We wondered aloud where this would take us, how it would challenge, change, and mold.

We’ve grown to love so much about this place, this space, this time in our lives. The now-familiar but never easy buildup to transition is frenetic, and pulsing, an overload of tasks and an overwhelm of feels.


As the packed-to-the-gills van slides around the corner and out of our sight

For now, we have a pause.

A final few days

To enjoy the stillness, revel in the cacophony.

Here, on the Gold Coast.

Share some goodbyes. And tears.

Locked inside these boxes, there is significance. There is movement. Transit.

We’re in Mr. Edwin’s hands, now.

could I thank you for this

Disclaimer; much of the information you hear here may be speculative in nature. Any discrepancies between this account and the truth should be taken up in person at 126/21 Reindolf Rd. Abelempke, Accra. Please knock during business hours only.


My Dad taught me the meaning of elbow grease.

I mean, figuratively, sure. He modeled hard work, he expected it of us in return, he knew the value of a productive day.

But literally, too.

It’s a cold winter day, inside the garage the heater is on, and I find myself drawn to it, partly because it’s freezing, partly just because I want to be near my pop.

I’m not usually the one to help. That job typically falls to my brothers. I hide in my room, play hockey across the street, let the big kids help dad.

He’s putzing, farting around. Hood up on the Suburban, the smell of oil, and gas, and old baseball gloves, and hockey pads. All of it. Country 105 blasting Willie, Randy, Garth, probably all three. I’m lingering, trying to decide what to do with my day.

Clean the grease off this part

He asks, without really asking, handing over the oil-stained metal gear. I give it a half hearted try, not sure exactly how to do it. He sees me trying and failing, and encourages me to

put a little elbow grease into it!

I pause. Okay, I think.

He has a whole assortment of oils, lubricants, cleaning solutions. I begin looking around for the container.

I don’t see any elbow grease.

He comes over and realizes what I’m looking for. He sighs, exasperated, with a look that says

You don’t know what elbow grease is.

He shows me what it means with a single, greasy, silver gear.

And then, he doesn’t stop showing me what it means.

In fact, he always was showing each of us kids what elbow grease means, what it looks like, what it feels like. Why it matters.

Through my teen years and into college, I didn’t always exemplify the work ethic he modeled. But I’ve grown to value a day’s work, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from gettin’ ‘er done.

To be truthful, we owe that value to both our parents – mom was always hard at work – but today is Don’s day.

So today, as he enters his 9th decade, let’s pause together and look back at a few of the greasy moments.


Flash back to 1939. It’s cold, windy, wheaty where he’s born. The frosty prairies, a farm boy, cutting his teeth, learning to walk and then run through fields dotted with ice.

He was a precocious kid. Growing up alongside his three sisters. They tolerate him, just enough. He annoys them, just enough.

He brings a quick wit and a way with words to the schoolhouse. He’s a gamer, applying elbow grease wherever it’s needed.

In his middle school English class he opens the page and discovers a poem entitled

Ode to Spring

Without a second thought he pulls out his pen and scribes on the page, immediately next to the title


And a legend in puns and terrible plays on words is born.

He moves to the big city just in time to be a teenager. In time to discover drag racing and weightlifting. He wins Mr. Regina for his great bod, or so rumor has it. He’s devastating with a pool cue, a hustler, ready for the next chump who comes along.

Until, a sweetie from Hyas sweeps him off his feet. Which is impressive because he’s a stocky guy (Winner of Mr. Regina and all). They begin a courtship that lasts 50 plus years and counting. It’s not always easy, but they stick with it. They love each other. They create home.


A move West, Cowtown calls. A place where he and Eileen plant roots. One boy, then two. They buy a house, a labor of love.

He sticks with his job, getting to know pretty much the entire oil and gas sector. Seriously, walk through Plus 15s with Don and you can’t walk three feet without bumping into an acquaintance. These greetings and hellos fuel him, even though some days his job doesn’t treat him well.

But we know why he does it, without him saying. We matter to him. Family matters to him. Home matters to him.

Elbow grease.

2116 49th Avenue becomes a gathering spot. A place full of welcome.

They make the house into a home, evolving as the family grows. A basement remodel that accommodates a third child, the glorious daughter, and the fourth, another beautiful girl. The home has just the right number of rooms for them all.


He said to her.


She replied.

4 kids.

He said to her.

2 boys and 2 girls.

She replied.

Balanced, just right. Now, our work is done and our family is com

Hi Mommy and Daddy!

I say.

They make it work, somehow. The girls share a room, the boys move downstairs.

A window is too small. So he decides to cut out a bigger one. Just big enough for a hot tub.

The yard is a labor. The hill doesn’t mow itself, so he mows it. The deck won’t build itself, so he builds it.

The sidewalk won’t wash itself.

He’s a dervish, always on the move. Readying the yard, cleaning the steps, making sure it’s all just right for a party.


And so they throw parties, one or two. 30, 40, even 50 friends swing by, for no particular reason, because none is needed, apart from friendship. A few drinks, a blazing firepit, a couple guitars, and voices at the ready to belt out Amazing Grace, or Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble.

He’s the center of the action, making sure everybody’s comfortable, glasses full, jokes at the ready.

There are no complaints from neighbors. Because they’re all invited.

There are no complaints from us kids. Because we’re part of the fun.

There are no complaints from Dad, until the following morning’s fog.

But no matter how late or early the parties last, he and Lu clean up. All of it. Before hitting the sack.

See. Elbow grease.

Mom convinces him to buy a trailer. Just perfect for a trip down the California Coast. Seven of us in the Galaxie 500, trailer in tow.

We never said he was a rational fellow.

We survive the seventy-hour game of sardines. But upgrading to a Suburban was probably the right call.

If there’s one thing I recall about those nights in the trailer it was the endless debate over who was snoring.

I didn’t snore, it was your mother

Nonsense, it wasn’t me, you’re the snorer! she replies, aghast.

Mom, Dad, I’m here to answer this decades-long debate.

I know, because I was there.

It was both of you.


The Eighties bleed into Nineties, the family grows. Weddings, remodels, farewells to green shag carpets. Blowouts, stress. Yes, these happen, because real life is real life. And emotions are emotional. We welcome new siblings, new babies. Don and Lu become Grandpa Don and Grandma Lu.

It looks good on them.

Sleepovers, no-fart forts, plenty of fun. Kids move out, building their own lives. Branching out. Moving away. The home in Altadore, the city itself becomes too big, too much, too many.

So they pack it up, pack it in. Break camp to the north.

There are tears. and leavings. and beginnings.

And it’s only a matter of time until they know the entire town. A new home and a new garden.

He slows down. His ticker does too, fighting with him, scaring us all.

But he fights back. Survives. Keeps on ticking.

Elbow grease.

He finds himself reaching milestones. 50 years with his sweetie. 70 years on this earth. And suddenly, 80.

He’s officially a snowbird. Leaving the cold behind but never his email, his games, his CKUA. And most important, his Grandma Lu. To whom he owes all the patience and all the gratitude, because she’s still here. And through her he’s always tethered to home, no matter how far away he treks.

His legacy is here in the world. Many in this room, some nearby, others far. This little farmboy from Flintoft has made a difference in the world.


And so, birthday boy. You need to know some things.

Your kids, and your family, and you.

Your kids are not perfect, and neither is your family, and neither are you.

But that’s ok. Because we work hard.

Just like you.

We value one another.

Just like you.

We make time for friends, and family.

Just like you.

We are passionate.

Just like you.

We apply elbow grease to our problems.

Just like you.

We mess stuff up.

Just like you.

We get cranky.

Just like you.

But we care about the world, we love our children, we do our best to make the most of the days we have.

And we are loved.

Just like you.

Happy Birthday, Pop. Here’s to a few more together. Thanks for all the elbow grease.


slow down

A boy steadily moves toward becoming a man, and time is hurtling by.

We decide to slow down.

So today our trip is on foot. He’s planned the route with our retro GPS. We call it a map.

We have a goal in mind, his favorite restaurant for a lunch date. Just me and Rhino, and a couple thousand Accra commuters.

We set out and take it all in. Taxis, trotros, transport trucks. All pass by, all noise, horns, and fury. Intersections require vigilance, usually a quick jog, head on a swivel.

The local bike shop is closed today, burlap strewn over the half-built wheels and frames, the dirtied wood slats shuttered but damp from last night’s deluge. Our friends at the shop are conspicuously absent. They must delay their opening when the rains come.

We cross the bridge over what is now an irrigation canal but once might have been a pristine creek. It’s littered with plastic but flowing strong today, seemingly grateful for the midnight burst.

Rhino waves a quick hello to everyone we pass. It’s his way. Some are delighted, others indifferent. Some give a shout.

Ay! Obroni!

We continue on our way, resolute. We pass by Oscar, the Liberian. Who stops us, beseeches us to

Hear me out. Please hear me out.

He’s done this before, we think. And yet, there’s something in the way he speaks that causes us to stop.

My daughter, she’s not well. I have her insulin needle here but I’m running short. Please. Here. Look at my bank statement from this morning.

I glance at the ATM card and statement in his hand. It says the balance is 2.42. He attempted to get money out at 1:42am. The receipt is legit, the story a bit sketchy.

Rhino the newborn arrived in my arms at 1:42. I wonder if this is a sign.

So I ask him a few questions to get at truth. His responses are unsatisfying. And then I explain.

My son is turning 13 tomorrow and I’m trying to set an example of the kind of man I want him to become. What do you think I should do and say in this case?

He seems taken aback.

I just need some help. Just 36.

I pull Rhino aside and we confer. He agrees that there are holes in the man’s story, but makes the point that if it’s legit and we don’t help him, we’ll wish we had. And even if it’s not,

we’re in a position to help.

So we do.

He shakes our hand, we bid goodbye.

And keep walking.

It’s hot, but we’re prepared. Hats, sunscreen, a towel to mop the sweat. A trotro slides by and the Mate sees our fatigue and sweat,and smiles.

Where to? Let’s go!

But riding in a car is not in the cards for us today. Too fast for our plan.

We ramble down the hill, past the chaotic yet ordered intersection of four-lane thruways. The lights are operational (not always the case), so we go with the flow and cross safely, following the lead of locals who’ve navigated this crossing before.

The minarets and central dome of the stunning National Mosque aspire to heaven, a stark contrast against today’s blue sky. The mosque has been a labor of love, in progress since before our arrival.

Things in Ghana often take their time. Like us, today.

Finally nearing completion, the mosque meditates, a paradox across from the shacks of Nima, framed by huge Turkish Airlines billboards, apt signs of the times.

We continue on.

The car wash is bustling. A group of men stand behind a rusted-out white van, two doors fewer than full. The men begin to push, and because it seems right, we dive in behind to help. Rhino on the driver side, struggling to gain hold. I roll at the back with four other men. We heave and struggle. The van lurches. I encourage the other men to push faster. 20 meters later and it appears we’ve reached our destination. A parking stall, readying for a bath.

High fives all around and a big hug of gratitude for Rhino, and we’re off again.

Next stop, 37 hospital. Weigh station for bats. Rest stop for us.

Rhino slides the towel across his glistening brow, sips his water.

How you doing, bud?

Okay. It’s hot.


We look up.

Thousands of bats. Most slumbering. This can’t be real. We’re in the heart of a city of over a million people, but there are probably double that in bats, living here, at one of the busiest intersections in West Africa. Thank god for trees. The bats snicker and pop, most snoozing but a few stretching their wings, briefly. They’re hard to spot, unless you look closely, unless you take your time.

Rhino takes his time.

It’s been his trademark from day one. He arrived two weeks late. Decided to finally sleep through the night after we’d given up. Learned to take care of his business on his own terms.

I’m going to take my time, thank you very much

He still takes his time. Pausing to observe, mind in the cosmos, always deep in thought.

And so this trek fits. We’ve slowed down, observed, pondered, grown. There’s magic here, in light, in people, in sound, in heat. There is nothing like it in the world.

We’re so glad we’ve come.

We arrive at our restaurant. Hot, sticky, sweaty, but changed. Full of gratitude for where we are and what we have a choice to be able to do.

We finish our lunch and step out into the sunshine. We amble around the corner, still content to take our time.

A rusted, green 16-seat van that must be 45 years old idles in the gravel parking lot, spewing black smoke, adjacent to the Indomie shack peddling fruit. I approach the driver, ask if he can get us home. He says it’s possible but there are a couple transfers involved.

We can take you to 37 but first you must ride to Danqua. Come!

he cajoles with a laugh.

We look at each other and smile. Rhino nods, reassuring, confident. A young man.

We know we’ve found our way home.


Our mother earth, steadfast, rhythmic, makes her way around the sun.

Roughly 23 of those orbits ago, I stepped onto a ferry bound for an island in the Japan Sea, to a celebration of the earth, of art, music, dance.

But especially, of drums.

I found Kodo. Taiko drum warriors, gods among men. I listened, danced, and was hooked. Their drums still boom, inside me, today.

An intimate event, a few hundred souls, this tiny gathering had a special guest from Ghana. Of course.

His drum could talk.

And what stories it told.

Partnering the booming odaiko on the big stage, or soloing in front of the shrine. His drum spoke beats, rhymes, life from across the globe.

Aja Addy was a master of his craft, and an amazing human being. Quick to smile, packed with goodness and light, he drew you to him. Present, awake, beautiful.

In other words, Ghanaian.

Between the godlike drummers and the legend from Accra, I was transfixed, transformed, transported. Inspired, I started a journey to becoming a better human being.


It is said that time is a flat circle.

We make our way, bumbling, awkward, in orbit around the edge of this circle.

There is quite a bit I’d say to that young human on the island, dancing, laughing, clowning. 

pay attention, slow down

be present


trust in others

put yourself out there

don’t be afraid to fail


you’ve got a lot to learn, punk

So fast forward.

I’m here, coming around to what feels like could be the same spot on that flat circle. I’m still traveling, still discovering, still hearing drums every day.

But it’s different, too. A few more orbits under my belt.

I find myself, wandering between dusty containers and navigating tiny corridors to visit a cozy market stall.

The mosquitoes are stirring, but the market is quiet. It is a day of rest for most. A couple bright faces bid us welcome.

They have drums here. Of course.

Mr. Ali’s friend directs me to his shop, his bright green tank top adorned with the best phrase.

this is my party shirt

We greet our storekeeper with a handshake and snap, and he leads us through the maze. Three small chicks peep their way at our heels. He strides ahead and folds up his prayer mat. I hope we aren’t in the way.

As I bargain with Mr. Ali, he reminds me.

we are friends now

And I believe him.

I wonder if, on my next orbit around that larger circle, I’ll still have much to say to the younger human I am today.

But, regardless of what passes between us

I know I’ll still hear the drums