Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm a Sucker for a Parade

Early Saturday morning, about 6AM, I awoke to the sounds of drums beating and voices singing, and I knew I was in trouble. A gathering of SKYY employees was about to set off on a trip to Tarkwa, a town about 90 minutes away, for the official launching of SKYY TV in the area. So, there I was, laying in bed, wracking my brain, trying to decide what to do.

About three weeks ago, SKYY held a huge party in Takoradi marking the tenth anniversary of the station. Complete with floats, bands, and party-goers forming a parade and ending with a party at SKYY Beach Haven, part of the SKYY Group of Companies. I happened to be in Accra welcoming the new JHR interns, showing them around and getting them prepared for their time in Ghana. The tongue lashings I received from my coworkers and management, as a result of missing the event, has me smarting to this day.

Exactly a week before the Tarkwa festivities are to begin, I'm in Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital with a nurse asking me bend over and receive a shot. My vaccination for rabies (see previous post). My vaccination schedule is to have me back receiving the third of my shots a week later. Coinciding with the celebrations.

In the week leading up to the big party in Tarkwa I lay the groundwork for my absence. I told anyone, everyone, who would listen, that I wouldn't be able to attend for legitimate reasons. Medical reasons, in fact. I would be forced to be in the hospital and would therefore be unavailable for the sure-to-be fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime fun festival in beautiful, downtown Tarkwa. People are receptive, but I wasn't feeling sense of relief from my conundrum.

So, laying in bed, at 6AM, the scheduled departure time for the bus at SKYY, I contemplated my fate. Was I to forgo my vaccination and risk getting rabies induced encephalitis and rush off to work? Do I stick to my guns and forget the party? Do I get up, go to the hospital, get my shot, hop on a tro tro and join the events already in progress?

Instead, seduced by the sounds of the drums and voices, I got my ass out of bed, brushed my teeth, flattened my newly cut hair, threw on some shorts and ran out the door. I hurriedly walked to work, hoping that GMT, or Ghana Man Time, as they call it here, remains between 30-90 minutes after the actual or "white person's" time.

I was in luck. The bus was loading it's final passengers and would leave a few minutes after my arrival. The mood felt by those in the bus was excitement. Anticipation of a fun time was palpable. My vaccination schedule moving farther back into the deep recesses of my brain. The bus driver turns on a movie to keep us entertained. His choice? "Escape from Sobibor", the story of an escape from a nazi concentration camp. The first 30 minutes of our journey is filled with the screams of terrified woman and children, the killing of numerous prisoners and nazi officers doing terrible things, oppressive, real human rights abusing kinds of things.

After some complaints the film is finally changed to some sort of baby caper movie, where bumbling baby-nappers lose their baby bounty and are led on a chase following a particularly capable infant, a sort of houdini-esque escape artist. Nice contrast. Hail to the bus driver, bus driver, man.

Finally we arrive in Tarkwa, and sit around for a while waiting for the band to arrive. When they finally do arrive, they are accompanied by costumed clown dancers, feverishly dancing in heavy plastic masks in the early morning heat. We get our signs ready and start walking. No floats for this parade, but we make it work. Joined by all the Tarwanian children, the SKYY pied pipers march through the town, celebrating the expansion of the television network. Market leaders for 10 years, is the slogan.

We wind our way through the town, dancing and waving to the roadside gawkers. We get a favorable response from the community and end up at a football pitch where a game has been organized against a local radio station. I take the opportunity to slip away from the action, grab a taxi to the tro tro station, hop on a tro tro back to Takoradi, get in a taxi to my house, then on to the hospital, where the injection room has long since closed. I line up in the casualty ward, pay the equivalent of a quarter for a new syringe and a shot in the arm.

I go home, tired, throbbing and full of great memories of my parade in Tarwa. I'm on the news the next day, getting down in the way that I do, showing my coworkers, management and the community that I care about them, and am willing to risk encephalitis to show them just how much.


Kate said...

great picture!

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