It’s been a while since I journeyed over to Tro Tro street. Evelyn knows this, and greets me in kind.

Long time!

How are you? All good?

Yes, good to see you!

I do my business and exchange cedis with her. She’s always happy to see her customers. And we’re happy to see her. I’m here for a 10-pack (okay, that’s not an actual thing, but 10 beers) of green cans, for tonight’s poker game.

Four loose, chilled and sweaty cans, into my backpack

Six warm ones secured, on my bike’s back rack

She seems impressed with my bungee technique. I feel proud.

I flash back to our first weeks after hitting the ground. A trip on foot to Evelyn’s was a real-life adventure. Out the gate, down to the corner. A bustling street, notable for having a sidewalk. In our house, it’s forever referred to as ‘the one with the sidewalk’.

Because no sidewalks, people here walk on the road. A bit of nimble footwork, head on a swivel, and trust in driver awareness. It’s not always safe. Roads are narrow, and on streets without speed humps (rare) or potholes (rarer), cars have full license to fly. This is one of those rare streets, so I’m grateful for the sidewalk.

Even if it’s only 25 meters long. Which, as sidewalks go, is not particularly long. Like, what? Uh, guess it ends here then.

So, anyway. At once I’m both on and immediately off the sidewalk and back to walk on the road. And crossing at this intersection is a bit harrowing. It’s a T, which in theory should make it a simple cross. Unfortunately this T doesn’t seem to have a set traffic plan, and the huge drainage trench making its way right into the middle of the street makes any intended pattern a challenge. Cars swerve and dance to avoid the drain and each other, always flowing here and there. Keeping things moving.

So, head on a swivel, ready for all comers, I dodge waddle sprint across exhale. Piece of cake.

The side street is lined with container shops. Not shops that sell containers, sorry. Shops that live inside converted shipping containers. A cornucopia is at your feet here (no sidewalks, sorry again). Plumbing supplies, hardware, nail and hair salons (Esty’s seems like a go-to), convenience stores.

And Evelyn’s, too.

Today’s trip is less adventure, more comfort.

And a chance to remember how far I’ve come.

where there’s a wheel

Cart one wobbles by. Empty, the operator imagining a load he’s yet to find.

Cart two follows. Centimeter-thick metal wire interlaced on top. Scraps or treasures, depending on your preference, destined to find repurpose.

Three men accompany these wheels. Trousers, and untucked sweaty tee-shirts, they are working today. I wonder about their destination, where the carts are headed.

Each cart with four wheels, too big for a bicycle, too small for a car. But just right for these rounders. Flat and sturdy wood tops, made for carrying loads both light and heavy. A handle, much like you’d see on a Radio Flyer – the rudder to pilot this land-based ship. The weather-damaged platform, a sturdy 3 by 4. Wheels, all tough rubber, ready and willing to take on any potholes.

There are many potholes.

People move things around here. In a city of millions, there’s plenty of stuff that needs to move. Somehow, some way.

Trucks cruise, loaded beyond capacity, piles upon piles of burlap sacks intricately laid out and packed to maximize carrying capacity. It’s a 20-car freeway pileup perched and ready to go.

But thanks to the two or three brave riders perched atop the 20-foot load, it holds.

Even smaller trucks find a way to maximize payload and push straining shocks to their limits.

Carts are everywhere, moving, rolling, meandering. Usually loaded, sometimes hijacked and ridden downhill.

And of course, the merchants, mostly women, but men too, displaying seemingly impossible balance to carry all manner of goods to market. Bananas, gum, plantains, drinks. It’s all available, resting on their heads. Impeccable posture a prerequisite for this line of work.

The men with the carts roll off around the corner. And I am amazed what the wheels have done.

The city is on the move.

Student Led

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one running this race

The sunlight trickles in as the ceiling fan keeps things moving

D leans her ear into the crook of her elbow as she retells her story

A and mum spar playfully, not sure which piece to feature

S and mum are quiet. Too quiet

L peeks out the window, composing herself or lost in thought, as she pulls out her next selection to share

Joburg, Delhi, Accra, Kanagawa, Amsterdam, Beirut, Barranquilla

Hindi, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Urdu, Spanish

They all make an appearance, and I’m struck by what has come together, here

I sit, removed. Present, but not. Equal parts confident and tense. Reminding myself

It’s not a sprint

It’s a marathon

First and foremost, student led conferences are an opportunity to reflect, celebrate, and look forward together. Portfolios are a work in progress that will be added to as the year moves forward. They are meant to show off examples of effort and areas of growth, not perfection. After a quick hello to your teachers, your child will take the lead. Thanks, see you at your child’s conference!

I chuckle at this paragraph, rewriting it in my mind.

First and foremost, these conferences are an opportunity for your teacher to question his competence. Portfolios are unmercifully imperfect, like teaching. Your teacher will be in the room for these conferences, nervously attempting to overhear your conversations. Please be sure to share any concerns about your child’s teachers with the parents around you and the greater community. Thanks, see you at your child’s conference!

Ok, sometimes I find myself running to irrational places.

It’s tough to imagine a career choice laced with more self-doubt than teaching.

But I know self-doubt will come, and go. And it makes its appearance less frequently, with time, and experience. So, I make a choice. To focus on what’s good. To put my faith in good little human beings, who come from good bigger human beings.

I soak up the smiles, the great energy. The partnerships in front of me that provide clear proof

I’m not running this race alone


Accra is a city of sound

Singing, always beautiful. Lively conversations. Shouting, always good natured. Calls to prayer carry the wind. Taxis beep, into forever. Music wins.

Tropical, so the birds have their say. They fill the void both early in the morning and at dusk, reminding us it’s time to get moving. And time to settle down. Even bats proclaim, I am here.

Even at 3am

Things are still, until one dog picks up a scent, wakes from slumber, decides it’s time for the alarm to sound. One starts, a chorus follows, a cacophony of dogsong, to light up the neighborhood and wake up the kids.

Plus, the toads. (what must be) Hundreds of toads, serenading one another a rolling, rhythmic rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, wrapping, rapping, and overlapping.


And so.

Today was a special day, bookended with that rare commodity.

The morning sun brilliant. It’s not hot, not yet. Elephant and I wait. We’re early, and our friend is late. So that gives us gifts. Of time, of together.

Of silence.

I resist the urge to start my day. Laptop stays in bag and phone stays in pocket. It’s just me, and him, and quiet.

Elephant observes, eyes dancing and lively. He’s eternally curious about the world. He stalks an ant, ponders its route, marvels at its steady pace. I marvel at his.

It’s a breath, a moment, together, before the day, before the million things that will happen.

And so then, of course, a million things happen. You can imagine.

After the million things

I return home. It’s dusk. Football complete. A sweaty mess. The rest of the family off to drum. The door closes gently with a thud behind me, I step into the dark room, and hear



The yellow kickball sits, tantalizingly close to the Four Square court, yet just out of reach. It teases the 9-year olds as they try to somehow coax it down. The red corrugated roof flashes heat, each indentation creating a perfect track for just such a ball, and, perfectly spaced places for it to get stuck.

The roof provides shade for lunchgoers and a cool venue for study. It also happens to be the perfect spot for a wayward four square ball to land. And then sit. And stay.

I hear a ruckus and shade my eyes as I step into the sun. A group of kids crowding, watching G do something rash. He does that, sometimes.

He’s on a chair, on top of a table, banging on the slotted roof. Which might not be a problem normally, except the chair has four skinny legs, precariously balanced atop the blue, slotted table.

And as a teacher, the automatic question comes to mind

what could go wrong?

Years into this gig, the question has become second nature. I envision a sprint across the playground to alert the nurse, the uncomfortable waiting for the paramedics, the dramatic phone call to parents. The tears.

Sometimes this job turns you into a hero.

I tell him to get down.

But my heroics don’t stop there. I wander into my room, grab my hockey stick. It’s not used much here. It feels foreign, weighted, unwieldy today.

I gotta get a regular game going

Today is not for hockey. It’s for four square. And for the kids. And being a hero, I do heroic things.

I sneak under the canopy and begin wiggling the metal. It responds with a satisfying choooooom, chooom. A crowd gathers.

And with gentle coaxing the ball begins to move. The kids are transfixed, providing a detailed play by play and guidance.

to the left! over! keep going! to the right! it’s rolling!

As I tap, they get louder, The ball is coming.

And, finally, a roar of triumph and the ball is back on the playground.

You did it!

They high five and rush off to get the game restarted.

And today, for a brief moment, to these kids,

I’m a hero.

dive bombers

ksssssssssht ksssssssht ksssssssht kssssssssht

ksssssssssht ksssssssht ksssssssht kssssssssht

The sprinklers are melodic and consistent, beating a rhythm and keeping time as the afternoon sun passes overhead. We’re at the field, launching bottle rockets. And we have company.

4.41 seconds

I shout to Rhino after the launch and subsequent grounding of his San Pellegrino bottle, decked out with red fin stabilizers, ballasted by four coins.

The black laces suspending the stopwatch chafe my neck as it swings, a metronome keeping time with the sprinklers. Watering the field, as it turns out, wakes up some old friends.

The mosquitoes are stirring.

Growing up on the prairies, mosquitoes were annoying, big, plentiful, relentless. But loud. And slow. We could see them coming, and we could smack ’em when we needed to.

We did a lot of smacking.

But mosquitoes in Canada are just annoying, not life-threatening. Not a vector for disease.

West African mosquitoes are cunning, sneaky. Silent darts, they dive bomb to take their gram of flesh. You never know they’re around until you feel the itch, the telltale bump. You see one bite, more follow.

I look up from rocket data and scratch my ankle without thinking.

Why didn’t we pack our bug spray

Malaria is part of life here. If you’re Ghanaian, you deal with it, you’ve probably had it. It’s treatable, not necessarily life threatening – depending on your circumstances. When you’re feeling achy, feverish, unwell, you test for it. You get treated.

But if you’re not used to it, if you haven’t grown up with it, it kicks your butt six ways from Sunday.

Hold your arm still please, sorry, this might hurt. Sorry, sorry

I recall the self-assured, quiet nurse who rechecked vitals, inserted the IV, and helped me sit up, bones creaking louder than bedsprings.

Severe Malaria came upon me quickly. It was brutal, unmerciful. Admitted to the local clinic for two nights of IV drugs and space to recover. Shakes, aches, unstoppable fatigue, a spiking temperature, cold sweats. Eating, usually a source of comfort, was temporarily forgotten.

As I lay shaking on the bed I wondered.

is this what dying feels like

you’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything fun to do

Ferris Bueller’s voice replied. Strange things happen when you’re on malaria meds. I laughed to myself, a pathetic chuckle flowering into yet more shakes.

But that was the worst day. Slowly, steadily, over a period of weeks, I recovered. To dance, to eat, and to write.

With a newfound respect for dive bombers.


Tonight it’s just me and Rhino

We’ve had tension lately. A couple missteps and disagreements, for me, and him. He, soon to be a teenager and all. And me, getting older, being Papa and all. So we needed this tonight.

Just me, him

And 35,000 friends.

My friends! Ete sen?

E ye

Wo din de sen?

I stare blankly, the limits of my spoken Twi painfully evident.

Your name! What is your name?

I respond in kind. He welcomes us with a smile

I am Prince

Nice to meet you Mr. Prince!

A squeeze of hands and a snap as he directs us to our seats.

Enjoy the game – go Black Stars!

The paint worn and showing its age, the corridors poorly lit. But the seats are comfortable, the evening breeze welcome, the sight lines perfect.

And tonight, the stadium is booming.

Raucous and full of joy, a deejay pumping local beats through two arrays of monster speakers, six per set. They echo for miles. The players are warming up, keepers peppering one another with perky, driven balls.

It’s been a challenging time for Ghanaian football. Scandals have plagued the Black Stars as well as the referees. The national association has been silent for months in response to corruption.

But in Ghana, to forgive is divine. And football is life. So of course, in this AFCON qualifier, the fans have returned. They are falling back in love.

Rhino puts his hand on my chest. He wants to feel the beat.

We take our seats, all matching Black Star socks and no choice but to love one another. Tonight, this match, this mood, this is something we share, without restraint.

Pregame fanfare, the anthems are sung, the whistle blows.

Game on.

It delivers on all fronts. Ghana is the stronger team on this night, holding possession, tackling with fervor, pushing the play. We know a few players – the brothers Ayew, Wanyama the Kenyan from his Spurs appearances.

But Christian Atsu stands alone.

He’s a darting, menacing waterbug. A dynamo with magical skill and pace. He terrifies the Kenyan defender tasked with containing him this night; he is, quite simply, a different class. He brings the crowd to its feet again and again with his silky touch and flashes of pace. All that’s lacking is a goal.

We’re scoreless at halftime. A quiet settles over the stands as seemingly everyone deserts to the concourse. Rhino weaves the masses to stretch his legs and idly leans against the metal rails above the stairs. Six boys wander over to chat with the Obroni boy in the Black Stars jersey. They’re curious. They ask him about football, he responds with an easy, comfortable manner, introducing himself to the crew, smiling and chatting like an old pro. And I marvel at the human being he is becoming. And the human being he is.

The second half brings more magic. This time, Atsu’s attacking our end. The chances come, but no finish. The crowd is antsy, craving the relief that only comes when the ball touches twine.

In the 82nd minute, we all get what we’ve been waiting for. A low shot finds netting.

And 35,000 souls explode.

The Wave first made its appearance in 1981. Since then, it’s been around the block and done to death. Its time is done. It’s boring and played out.

Or so I thought.

Until my son and I were swept up in a Wave with 35,000 boisterous Ghanaians in the moments immediately following a goal.

We are united. Dancing, singing. It is all celebration. No beer is served here. None is needed.

The Stars steer the match home, punctuating the final moments of the match with confident possession and assured manner. Perhaps, this is the match signaling to the world a resurgence.

We ride the wave of ecstatic bodies down to the gates. It’s dark, loud, cars and people everywhere. A cacophony of honks, shouts from tro tro operators.

Everyone is peeing.

Traffic is as expected.

On our way out, Rhino is playfully accosted.

Ayy! Black Star! Do you play for Ghana?

Not yet.

Not yet! Not yet!

A playful slap on his back and we are sent on our way. We walk, quickly. Snaking along with the happy throng. Things take time when you and your 35,000 friends are trying to get home.

We finally manage to secure a ride, and exhale as we continue to share all the highs of the evening. We peek our heads out the window, and soak in the light from the night’s stars.

Rhino nestles his head gently against my chest. No words are spoken. None are needed.

old meets new

white maaaaaan

The sunglass vendor slides me an easy smile and holds in his hand three different styles.

I’ll give you a very good price

I shake my head, smile, and move along. No sale today.

Although I could probably use a pair of sunglasses. It’s bright today.

I’m wandering Oxford Street, in Osu. The sun beats down and merchants seek shade, respite. There is a contrast here. Dozens of old style market stalls, all ranges of colors, fabrics, plastic wares, football jerseys. The stalls sit in the foreground, backed by casinos, electronics stores, fast food joints, banks. If you need something, anything, you can wander and probably find it.

Like socks.

Today it’s only a short way and I find exactly what I’m looking for. A mini-pyramid of all socks, all sizes, all patterns. Neatly laid out right there on the street, snuggled up against the endless parade of beeping taxis.

The stripes call me.

how much for one pair

five Ghana, please

I had come with 50 in hand, thinking that this upscale neighborhood would beg higher prices. Bargaining is expected. But I find myself feeling okay with this initial bid and, to be honest, not in the mood to quibble. It’s lower than I expected, and buying on the street is really about finding a win-win. 5 per pair works for me, works for him.

I finger through a variety of matching sets before I find what I need: blue and gray stripes, black and gray stripes, both ankle high.

But then I see the ones that set my heart aflutter. Black Stars. Ghana flag socks, perfect for tonight’s match against Kenya. Perfect for school. Perfect for weddings, parties, anything. They’re certain to wear quickly, but no matter. I’ve found my soul socks.

I hand over our agreed happy medium. He packages five pairs in a single rubber band and offers a black plastic sack.

no bag please, keep Ghana clean

I offer, with a smile.

He smiles back, entreats me to visit again, and waves as I wander off.

Now I’ve got my colors.

Today’s Solutions

The six men, uniform in blue coveralls, get to work.

The sound of their makeshift brooms is the only noise on the playground. It’s a welcome quiet, punctuated by gentle rhythm, sneaking its way in after the boom of the rain.

When rain comes to Accra, it arrives suddenly, barges through without hesitation. A deluge for minutes, even hours, and then it is gone.

Today was one of those longer visits, bringing pooling, erosion, and deposits of sand across the playground.

When the brickwork was laid between the trees next to the court, it seemed like a win. Less sand tracked, more space to walk. But on rainy days, the water loves this new trough. A 5-centimeter deep pool builds, to endure long after the rain is gone.

Today’s solutions are often tomorrow’s problems.

Somebody should clean that up

What a mess

Why can’t we play on the court?

It’s probably a function of space, of location, of where I’m at, but the question is in my head a lot these days: Who does the work?

Today, it’s these six men, uniform in blue coveralls. A fine-tuned machine, they take care of the mess. Sweep, rake, shovel. Rake, shovel, sweep. The puddle is gone, and the playground restored. Just in time for kids and teachers to take it for granted.

It’s a function of privilege; mess on the ground, someone will take care of it; the floor has a spill, someone will take care of it.

Just not me.

At the end of a busy day and week, here I am, feeling tired. I know I worked hard today.

Just not as hard as any of those six men.

coming and going

Au revoir, a demain!

C’est La Semaine de la Francophonie, so our farewell today is, naturellement, en Francais. 19 quick fist bumps, and it’s time to go.

It’s breezy today. The wind funnels down the lane as we join the scores of kids meandering towards pickup. But it’s more than just a simple transfer. This is a time for proper farewells. And greetings.

Peter Senge shares a daily ritual of the Northern Natal in Southern Africa. When you first encounter someone in the morning you say sawu bona, equivalent to ‘I see you’. In reply, one says sikhona, or ‘I am here’. The order of the exchange is critical – until a person is seen by others, they don’t exist.

In Ghana, you are seen.

Greetings here are a hearty and delicious main dish. Warmth, love, and affection on the sides. The smile, dessert.

Put it all together and, on a walk across campus, in the neighborhood, through town, anywhere you pass by people (you always pass by people, btw), you feel energized, and full. Greetings are honored, shared, expected.

You say hello. It’s what you do.

We parade by the watchful eyes of drivers, parents, and guards. For some, eye contact is avoided and shyness wins the day. For most others, we reciprocate their bright hello, both arms raised and palms out, all smiling eyes and teeth. We often don’t know these folks by name, but that matters little.

We are seen.

And, while greetings are paramount, equally important,

is saying goodbye

Lisa approaches, makes eye contact, and subtly begs my attention.

I’m leaving the country next Tuesday

I furrow my brow and utter my disappointment

So soon? Nooooo!

I had known it was coming, but this feels sudden. She gives me a quick hug and promises to keep in touch. We offer to exchange details.

Comings and goings are the norm here. People make it home, then make it away. It’s not easy for our Ghanaian friends for whom transience is not so simple. Their home is here.

I consider what it will feel like to say a goodbye like this

And quickly resolve to make the most of the hellos

I have left