May 30, 2011

Bracing for boredom, embracing slowness

It's 7.52am, day 14 in Kumasi and I'm waiting for my breakfast at the guesthouse's cafe. Both of the cooks are gone, mostly likely to get the eggs for the omelette that I ordered.

There is almost never any rush here and I’m starting to embrace the languid pace at which things inevitably get done. I never realized that I have this inert compulsion to rush things until I arrived in Kumasi.

‘Fast food’ here means ordering fried rice from a street vendor, then taking a seat on his wooden bench and spending the next ten minutes or so fielding his questions about my order – beans? No beans? Cream (mayonnaise)? No chicken, just veg? Eat here or send?

It’s been ten minutes – yes, I checked the time – and the cook with the sleeping baby on her back has returned with a package and heads straight for the kitchen. My stomach is growling from last night’s meagre dinner of instant noodles and a mango.

During the pre-departure training in Toronto, we were warned by previous Ghana interns that entertainment, especially by way of internet, is scarce here. We should stock up on books and movies because boredom and monotony will inevitably set in. At this, I felt a surge of panic.

My confidence at living with scarce – not completely without – internet for two months started to waver. My Dell Inspiron Mini – the one that is so portable and compact – doesn’t play DVDs. I never realized this before because I’ve always streamed movies and videos from the internet. I needed to stock up on the other alternative means of entertainment – books.

Interestingly enough, I stumbled upon Carl Honore’s “In Praise of Slowness.” In it Honore talked about the maddeningly fast pace at which the first world lives in today and its dire consequences. He talked about the growing ‘slow’ movement sweeping across Europe and parts of Asia which involves everything from slow foods to architecturally-structured slow cities to slow work out. I read the book throughout my flight here and I felt my panic subside. Perhaps this rush-free existence in languid Kumasi wouldn’t be too hard after all.

As I’m writing this, both my friends are out of town. Chris is en route to Paris and Leah is at a press conference in Accra. To make matters worse (perhaps better), it’s my day off from work so I have even more time to contemplate the passing seconds. I now remember what it'slike to have all the time in the world.

My to-do list for the next 2 months.

Note: I have since gotten myself an external modem so that I can go online whenever, wherever. However, the connection is never fast enough to stream videos and I have to ration my usage since I'm on a pay-as-you-go plan so, technically speaking, I'm still on a strict internet diet.

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