Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gambling and Life

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…” ~ Kenny Rogers, ‘The Gambler’.
Source: http://designldg.wordpress.com/

Sometimes Life feels like a bad game of cards and you wish you could just throw all your cards on the table and surrender, giving up the game. But sometimes you can’t, and this worsens your feeling of being trapped at Life’s table, playing cards and making polite conversation (even if just using nods and grunts) when you’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Well, not ANYwhere, but you get the picture.

‘The Gambler’ became one of my favorite songs on first listen because of how apt a metaphor gambling is for Life. We are all sitting at the table trying to make the best of whatever cards get handed us. Depending on which card game your table is playing, a favorable hand may be aces, or twos and threes. Depending on the rules of the game, you may have very little control over the game once your cards are handed to you, and that is one of the scariest and most frustrating things to us as human beings – the absence/loss of control. It is no coincidence that one of the most common nightmares in Life is falling – there’s absolutely nothing you can do till you land.

When Life hands you a miserable hand, you have little to no control over the game. Your best bet is to put on a poker face, and hope that those dealt better hands stumble and create an opportunity you can grab and run with. Of course, there are those games where you can exchange or add to your cards, and those possibilities can give a bit of a boost in overcoming being dealt a bad hand to win or at least break even in the game.
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350717889702354803/

But most of the time, it’s a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to put the cards you’ve been dealt on the table, instantly winning or taking control of the game. And in the meanwhile, you keep a vigilant eye out on the table and another on the selection of cards in your hand, permuting all possibilities and opportunities, and recalibrating your strategy every time a play is made.

And since we cannot stop playing for as long as we live, and since the ending of each game whether we win or lose leads to another game (with the occasional change of table or particular game of cards); we wait, pounce, rinse and repeat, hoping to at least break even at the end.
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonk_(card_game)

Monday, August 5, 2013

How Safe is ‘Safe Sex’?

DJ Crosby was on the board and that statement alone tells you everything you need to know about the success of the event given that it was a salsa dance party. This guy handled the turntable with such finesse that I found myself wishing I was a turntable, being maneuvered masterfully under the tips of his fingers to produce sounds that were pure aural bliss. This was profound given that ‘Spanish Guitar’ was playing when I had this thought, and I have wanted to be played like a Spanish guitar for as long as I can remember. 

My dance partner that night was perfect, making an already awesome night all the more awesome. This guy was one of the most sensitive dance partners I have ever had. He made me look like I sashayed into the aviation social center after stepping off the plane from an international salsa competition where I won several trophies, a remarkable and commendable feat given my two left feet.

Despite my loving his partnering skills, I had only danced with Boris twice. His Barbie-proportioned girlfriend was usually an arm’s length away tensioning you with her perfect figure and flawless make-up. As if that was not enough, this girl had the most piercing brown eyes that made you feel guilty and want to confess even when you had done nothing wrong. She was a lawyer and I felt for those who would stand trial in her courtroom when she became judge.

Only one girl had been able to break her cool, collected, I-know-my-boyfriend-and-I-are-the-hottest-couple-here stance and that was my crazy twin, Robbie. When Robbie walks into a room, she immediately singles out the hottest guy in the room and introduces herself. The day I managed to drag her to salsa, she walked straight to the guy and introduced herself while he was dancing with his girlfriend. Chelsea looked at her with her best ‘back-off he’s mine’ look and Robbie, without batting an eye said “Oh, but it’s not him I was checking out. I was actually playing out fantasies with you in my head.” This silenced Chelsea, a first, and everyone cheered silently for Robbie. 

Chelsea was nowhere in sight tonight and I took full advantage to fulfill some of my tamer fantasies with Boris. I danced a little closer, popped my back a little harder to make my behind look bigger, and exaggerated every sway of my hips, using every turn to run my hands through my hair and slide them artfully down my nape, ending provocatively right above my bosom. 

The ever-sensitive partner, Boris quickly read my vibes and turned me in his arms, putting me in prime position to grind upon him during a particularly sultry Portuguese number. Caught in the sensual haze, I had not noticed the lights in the makeshift dance studio had dimmed until my furtive glance around to see if we were putting on a show. We were not. In fact, the couple next to us was bordering on obscene and no one was paying them heed because each couple was caught in their own cocoon of lust.

Emboldened by the darkness which assuaged some of my catholic guilt, I slowly unleashed some of the dance moves I usually reserved for my mirror at home. 

The song barely ended when he put his palm in the small of my back and led me outside. It seemed to have rained while we were inside, and the night was cool and dark, beckoning one into the shadows with sultry promise. For some inexplicable reason, Boris became shy when we found a step to sit on and he just held my hand and talked. He told me about his recent break-up with Chelsea (I cheered silently), and we got to know each other. In fact, he was regaling me with an anecdote about his time as entertainment prefect in PRESEC when I looked up and saw the sun had begun to rise. We had talked from 1am to 6am!

I bolted from his arms, remembering the wedding I had to attend with my mom later in the day. It was in Keta and we were scheduled to leave Accra by 9:00am. I should have gotten home eons ago.

♪♪ Ai se eu te pego, ai ai se eu te pego ♪♪. I glanced at my phone.  Boris. We had spoken every day this past week, but had both missed salsa this Friday due to work commitments. Today was a week after the wedding.

-       Hey!
-       Hey!
-       Do you swim?
-       Some.
-       My buddy is having a pool party later today. Wanna come?
-       You don’t have to do this to see me in a bikini, you know? You could just ask.
-       Okay, Miss. I would very much like to see you in a bikini at this pool party my friend is having today.
-       Touché. Where at?
-       He lives near Midindi hotel, but I insist on picking you up.
-       I’ll be around Labone visiting with cousins so text me the address and I’ll have my cousin drop me. You can drive me home, though.
-       I’d rather pick you up from your cousins. But if you insist…
-       I do (I cut in)
-       Okay. I’ll text you the address. See you later.

Boris in swimming trunks was truly a sight for sore eyes, but then I already knew that from the slim-fit shirts he sometimes wore to salsa. Besides, you don’t flip and lift all xxx pounds of the awesome I am with such ease without serious muscles. 

“Where can I change?” I asked. “I’ll show you.” He briskly whisked me off. We had scarce turned the corner when he slammed me into the wall and kissed me. “Hello!” he said, after a brief kiss. “Hi!” I said, leaning in for a longer kiss. “Behave!” He said slyly. ‘We are in somebody’s house.” I laughed, vowing to get back at him later.

Boris’ whistle when I came out was worth the $80 I had spent on the Calvin Klein bikini set I had bought on sale at Nordstrom. I stood taller and somehow flicked my kinky afro hair. After introductions to the group, we raced a couple of laps and sat down, legs dangling in the water to talk.

-       I got my test results back from the doctor yesterday
-       Which test results? 
-       Chelsea and I broke up because she was cheating on me with a girl. Well it turns out the girl was cheating on her with a boy who must have also been doing his own thing because he caught hepatitis B and passed it down the chain. Chelsea only told me because she had to.
-       Oh! 
-       Anyway, I had had the vaccine so knew I probably hadn’t caught it, but decided to do complete blood work to verify I was clean and see what else I may have caught.
-       And…
-       I’m clean
-       Oh, ok 
-       I would also like you to take all the tests
-       You’re assuming it will matter. You’re assuming we will…
(I gasped! He had snuck his hand behind me and trailed his icy-cold fingers down my sun-kissed back. I glanced sideways at him, the Ghanaian girl blush, as Mensa calls it. The heat in his eyes made me blush for real. Okay, so we definitely would)
-       Should I feel insulted because you are demanding this? 
-       No, you should feel taken care of. It’s not just for my safety. There is for instance no way to test for HPV for guys. Take the test, and get the vaccine. Let’s know what we are working with.
-       You can catch stuff from kissing too, you know? (I asked, musing.)
-       I know. You could have given me oral herpes already…
-       Among other things… (I solemnly said )

The rest of the afternoon went wonderfully, and as I lay in bed that night, I thought of safe sexual behavior and remembered a question Nana Darkoa asked last week. “Is ‘safe sex’ truly ever safe?”

This is a generation that tweets and blogs about one-night stands and having risqué oral and other sexual encounters in parking lots and backseats of cars.

A condom does not protect against contact-spread infections, and your faithfulness does not guarantee your partner’s.

With so much seemingly out of our control, it’s perplexing that we do not always control what we can. We have people priding themselves on being #teamraw. We have people thanking God they are not pregnant every month. We have people having unprotected side sex all the time and bringing back to their partners who may have been faithfully waiting at home, not just news of babies, but infections upon infection.

We see people brandishing Postinor as their birth-control method of choice, proud that they are baby-free, ignoring what infections they may be picking up of spreading.

How does one keep safe in the madness of it all? Aside the best bet abstinence which even then can only last till marriage, how do you keep safe? What are your rules and defense mechanisms? Are they truly enough?

Food for thought.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lessons from the Boston Marathon

These days (with an alpha of 0.05), you can be sure that anytime you pick up a newspaper, your phone, iPad, etc., you will find news of accidents, crimes and acts of violence that will make you wonder about our world. Anything from going to school/church/work to running a marathon can end in your departure from this world. Events like the Boston Marathon explosions make you realize how little control you have in this life. 

A wise woman once told me that when it is your time, you will go; but some deaths are clearly not yours. She gave an example of being hit by a drunk driver on your way home from a revival, school or business trip; and being hit while running away from a married man's wife because she came home early from her business trip. You die either way. However...

A colleague lost a neighbor in Mali last week. The guy was a pilot and after surviving one crash, was told to stay home cos the next one might take him. He said He'd rather die in a crash than stay home and be safe. He died pursuing his passion. 

Considering how uncertain the time you have left on this world is, we should not waste time on things we don't love; things that make no difference in the bigger picture. In a perfect world, we would all be doing what we love, everyday. In this imperfect world, let's spend as little time as possible on the things that don't matter. Time is precious.

In honor of the Boston casualties and all who lose life and limb in the most unexpected places, endeavor to not spend anytime doing one thing when you'd rather be doing another, especially if the second option is available to now. The only exception is when A will help you do B (or do it better in future), for instance, going to school to master your craft.

Prayers to all who were directly impacted by the Boston Marathon Events today and their families... and to all of us. May we remain safe in this increasingly unsafe world.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When the Heart Decides, and the Family Says No

Hello Blogsville,

Happy new year and yes, shame on me for putting up my first blog-post of the year in March. I have no excuse, and can only promise to do better. So without much ado, here goes...

You know how difficult it is to find that person who makes bearing the inherent risks of a committed monogamous relationship seem like peanuts to trade for the joy of being together in all the ways that count? No? Yea, me neither… 

You know how people are always saying a good man or woman is hard to find? Finding such a (wo)man seems to increasingly be a Professor Acheampong designed Calculus II proof question. You know the answer. It’s been given to you in the question. And yet, there are a myriad of wrong tangents you could go off on if one does not exercise utmost caution in one’s approach.

Imagine the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment when you are finally able to prove that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars and comes back, it is still ‘x’. You heave a huge sigh of relief knowing that at least you’re assured full marks for that question.

But wait a minute. You’re not home free yet. You have to ensure that you have not broken any mathematical law, and that you have used every relevant piece of information in the question. It is possible that you have proved that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars and comes back, it is still ‘x’. However, imagine the horror if you come out of the examination room only to realize the question asked you to prove that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars wearing a Speedo suit of 5 pounds mas

That, my friends, is my convoluted (forgive!) attempt at describing the sinking feeling you get when you find the (wo)man of your dreams  and s/he is from a part of the country or globe your parents forbid you to wed from.\

You know how football, the map of Ghana and Wofa Atta’s (bless his soul) funeral seems to suggest that we are one people? That oneness is in no way true when it comes to marriage, make no mistake. When it comes to marriage, all 56 or so ethnic groups are every vocal about what they will and will not accept. And ethnic stereotyping (a canker which unfortunately seems to transcend education, religion and football) rears its very potent, very ugly, timeless head. Almost every family has its list.

I hope I will not be thrown under the proverbial train for being that foolishly courageous one to point out that the chief priest has stained teeth when I say that most Ghanaian families, especially Akan ones, are not particularly enthusiastic about welcoming Voltarians into the family, or ‘sending’ one of their own into a Voltarian family, as the case may be.
I recently caught up with an old friend who was dating the sweetest boy I have ever come across, let’s call him Edem. I inquired after Edem, feeling smug for remembering his name only to be told Edem was history. “Mommy must have been crushed”, I said. Edem was in charge of the teen’s chapel in their church and Awo’s mom, having observed his service and dedication as the head of the youth ministry, often joked that she could not have picked better for her daughter if it had been up to her to choose.

Awo quietly disclosed, “That is what I thought too, but she confessed during one of our post break-up mother-comforts-daughter sessions that although she loved Edem, she was never comfortable with where he came from and so perhaps it was all for the best. Imagine that!” I could not imagine…

Apparently, within the Volta region itself, they are not holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ by a fire-place. There appears to be a case of Northern and Central versus Southern going on, or as someone put it less diplomatically, everyone else versus the Anlos. Naturally, my Anlo friends insist ‘they just hatin’. It can however be quite serious. I recently sat down to lunch with a friend from Peki who was telling me about his parents’ stated preference that he NOT bring a southern Voltarian home. He further disclosed how this feeling was so deeply ingrained in the family that an aunt had three unmarried daughters between the ages of 33 and 38 still at home because these poor girls seemed to have acquired a taste for Anlo men.

I expressed the sentiment that one would think as a parent, one’s first priority would be the happiness of your kids. But the thing is, for most parents, they truly believe they are looking out for their kids and saving them from a lifetime of misery with these prohibitions. Many have personally witnessed or experienced things that made their minds up and so we may even say have valid reasons. But this does not ease the pain of star-crossed relationships, nor make it right.

Pardon my idealism but I just fail to see how it’s looking out for your offspring when you refuse to acknowledge your children and grandchildren after eight years of marriage to their ‘undesirable’ spouse (as in the case of my neighbor). I’m unable to see how denying your children and grandchildren your presence and support is in their best interest. A mother disowns her daughter and refuses to go to her bedside as her daughter lies dying of cancer at 35 because she married from a tribe she does not like. And whom does this help? How?

While we’re being idealistic, shouldn’t your ultimate goal be their happiness? Granted, you’ll sleep, and eventually, rest easier knowing they married someone from your village. But should you permit their not doing so to rob both of you of whatever time you have left together? Who knows how much time that is? And are there not more pressing issues in this life?

I know this will probably not change (m)any minds but can we at least think a bit more about it when it gets to our turn? No? Okay, then consider this writing therapy for me *sigh*.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Free SHS and Evaluating Campaign Promises...

I have been largely uncomfortable with the way the debate on free SHS has gone. Today, Steven Landsburg’s words in “The Armchair Economist” gave me some clarity… (I think)

“One of the first rules of policy analysis is that you can never prove that a policy is desirable by proving its benefits. It goes without saying that nearly any policy anybody can dream up has some advantages. If you want to defend a policy, your task is not to demonstrate that it does some good, but that it does more good than harm.” Thus on the flipside, if you want to oppose a policy, your task is not to demonstrate that it does some harm, but that it does more harm than good.

To demonstrate that a program does more good/harm than harm/good, one must at least take an implicit stand on the fundamental philosophical issue of what ‘more’ means, and how much ‘more’ is required to implement a policy, or throw it out of the window. You also have to determine the right standard for weighing one kind of cost (harm) against another kind of benefit (good).

It is easy to get carried away with making long lists of pros and cons, forgetting that sooner or later, we must decide how many cons it takes to outweigh a particular pro, and vice versa.

We can commission experts to estimate costs and benefits, but when the costs are measured in apples and the benefits in oranges, mere arithmetic cannot illuminate the path to ‘righteousness’. When all the facts are in, we still need a moral philosophy to guide our decisions. This is where ideological differences come in and invariably leads to people on either side of the fence.

Thus the winner of the elections (or any elections for that matter), will not determine whether a manifesto policy is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, whatever those words mean to you in this context.

The important thing to me then, is to ask how Ghana can benefit from the dialogue about this free SHS policy or any other campaign promise, no matter the outcome of the elections.

In the case of free SHS, if the NDC wins, how do we hold them up to the standard of ‘not now’? How do we ensure that they put in place at least some of the preparatory measures required for ‘later’, and at a pace that will not make the ‘later’ effectively ‘never’?

Should the NPP win, how do we ensure that the catastrophic ‘now’ predictions of harm are minimized? How do we ensure that casualties will be minimized even if it falls flat on its face like some predict?

Sitting down and folding our arms should not be an option, no matter what side of the divide we find ourselves on. It is in no one’s interest to just wait and be able to say “Aha! We said it!” especially when the future of the nation is at stake.

But then again, that’s just my two cent’s worth.

PS: Talking this over with my Dad made me realize this may be seen as a call for a national development agenda so that we are not swinging from party manifesto to manifesto. But alas! We all know how that story goes…