THE CLIMB OF LIFE

THERE’S A POPULAR CHINESE ADAGE I THINK HAS BEEN USED FAR TOO MANY TIMES IN ONE TOO MANY ESSAYS. IT GOES LIKE THIS, ‘THE JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH ONE STEP’. I BET YOU’V HEARD IT COUNTLESS OF TIMES.  I NEVER QUITE UNDERSTOOD THE ADAGE TILL I EMBARKED ON MY JOURNEY TO CLIMB MOUNTAIN AFADJATO- THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN WEST AFRICA.

IT WAS A SUNNY DAY AND THE WEATHER WAS JUST GREAT FOR HIKING I HAD NO IDEA THAT THE JOURNEY WILL BE AS INTENSE AS IT WAS. WITH NO ROPES OR HIKING INSTRUMENTS OR HEALTH ASSISTANTS WE BEGAN THE CLIMB OF A LIFE TIME. AT THE START, WE WERE ABOUT 40 BY TIME WE GOT HALF WAY WE WERE HALF THAT NUMBER. WITH MY BARE HANDS I FELT FOR STONES AND PLANTS TO ASSIST ME AS I CLIMBED MY WAY TO THE TOP OF THE STEEP MOUNTAIN. NOT UNTILL I BEGAN THE CLIMB DID I REALISE IT WAS ALMOST 3,000 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL. I HAD SEVERAL THOUGHTS OF QUITTING, BUT MY FRIEND KEPT INSISTING WE GET TO THE TOP. WITH OUR BREATHS SHORTENED BECAUSE OF THE ALTITUDE WE GASPED AT EACH AIR IN OUR NOSTRILS. YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY THAT AS YOU CLIMB HIGHER IT GETS COLDER… IT WASN’T THE CASE WITH MOUNTAIN AFADJATO; IT FELT LIKE THE SUN WAS CLIMBING WITH US WITH EACH PROGRESSION ACORSS THE DIFFERENT ‘FLOORS’ OF THE MOUNTAIN. I WAS DRENCHED IN MY OWN SWEAT AND COMPLETELY BREATHLESS.

THE GUIDE HAD TOLD US EARLIER IT WILL TAKE 45MINS AND WE HAD DONE OVER AN HOUR AND WE WERE STILL NOT HALF WAY TO THE TOP YET. WHAT MADE IT WORSE WAS THAT WE WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES MOUNTAIN CLIMBING THAT DAY. AS OTHERS DESCENDED FROM THE TOP, THEY DISCOURAGED US WITH THEIR CONDESCENDING TALKS OF HOW FAR WE WERE AWAY FROM THE TOP. I WAS FARMISHED AND DISCOURAGED. WE DREW ENCOURAGEMENTS WITH SONGS AND PLEASANT THOUGHTS. WE RESTED A LOT MORE AS WE GOT HIGHER, AND WE ENCOOUNTERED THE LITTLE ‘MOUNTAIN BOYS’ WHO SOLD REFRESHMENTS AND WE PURCHASED SOME YOGURTS.

IT TOOK US OVER TWO HOURS TO GET TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN. WHEN WE GOT TO THE TOP, I SHOUTED SO LOUDLY I THOUGHT MY VOICE WILL NEVER RETURN. WE MET OTHERS FROM THE GROUP WHO HAD ALSO ARRIVED THERE. THEY WERE SURPRISED AND IMPRESSED THAT WE DID NOT QUIT. I WAS ALSO PROUD OF MYSELF. FROM THAT DAY ON I FELT DIFFERENT AND VOWED THAT NOTHING CAN EVER BE MORE DIFFICULT THAN THE CLIMB OF A LIFE TIME!!

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Is the media my friend?

ImageThe media has many talents, one of which is that it helps your imagination. You easily can imagine a place you’ve never been to, or relive an experience you haven’t felt. One problem though with this ability is that the media becomes our friend, whom we trust and believe. Is it such a good idea to be friends with the media? Is all of what the media says really the truth?

Some years ago I remember a black American kid about my age asking my sister and me how life was like in Africa, whether people really live on trees. I was shocked then, and I still am whenever I remember that day. In this age of civilisation and information prowess, some still think this. Actually this is not an isolated experience. There are many stories of worse questions others have asked. These questions do not just make you as an African feel sad, but angry. When I’m asked such question, I know it’s all because of the media. Then I wonder, is the media really my friend?

Media bias has a long beginning; the truth is that the media is only a reflection of the opinions held by the populace of that country. Sometimes when watching a simple documentary you will notice that Africans are depicted always in a poor impoverished state. At times, pictures of flies hovering around a naked two year old is often shown, perhaps the child might either look malnourished or have catarrh running from his nose. At other times sights of women fairly clothed cooking in an insect infested area are shown. When it is a natural disaster or political uproar in an African country, these are often examples of scenes that are emphasised. I feel Africa’s problem has been blown out of proportion- the conditions in Africa have been stretched so much that it feels like this is the only truth. It is more like a stereotype if you ask me.

It is not the whole of Africa that experiences drought or that lives under a dollar a day. Nor the whole of Africa that live in slums! Africa for starters is not a country it is a continent, a continent too prejudiced to develop properly. Every country has a not-so-developed area that needs media attention. There’s the Bronx in New York, which is known for poor living conditions. There’s Brixton in London which also is a notorious area with a similar problem. Granted these places have specific problems, the whole of America and the UK are obviously not portrayed in the light of only the problems in these places. I mean it will be absurd to do that. So I ask the question again is the media really my friend? Should I believe anything I watch on TV?

Not until the media portrays Africa in a better image can Africa have the self esteem to grow. With more education and better perceptions, perhaps things can get better and I would not have to worry about answering ignorant uninformed questions that question my origin.

The slum in my backyard

Taking a walk is one of my fondest leisure; it is a good way to clear the head. I enjoy walking to the local street kiosk to buy my favourite candies. As I walked to the end of my street I discovered the kiosk was no more, and I wondered where it was. It usually was at the corner of the street, it had everything the neighbourhood could possibly need, from food stuff to miscellaneous items. Puzzled I asked a neighbour what had happened, and according to him the woman had relocated to the other end of the street. I decided to go in search of Mama Jimoh the kiosk woman who sold my favourite candy.

Walking to the end of the street, I was surprised to discover a whole new world, one I had not noticed before. It had so many people, there were children running around naked, almost like a village. Where had these people come from?

There were ponds of water on every surface and there were tents and make-shift houses all stacked next to each other. There was an awful smell as well. I couldn’t place exactly what it was. The odour was so pungent I was sure it was the smell of sewage.

The slum was in winding curves that headed in downward spirals. Its design was a three storey building in reverse, just instead of stones; there were rocks that served as stepping stones and planks that paved the gutters that ran from the several other gutters in the estate.

Astonished, I vowed to continue my search for the woman that sold the candy I loved and cherished so much. Just when I thought I should return the rains threatened from far in the sky with thunderous lightening, then a familiar voice called me and I realised it was Mama Jimoh, the kiosk woman. She smiled at me and said, ‘Now you know where we stay’.

Every day, so many are forced to move to the slums as they cannot afford proper housing.  Sanitation is so poor, yet the people have more worries than hygiene. Daily, new illnesses are born with some of them remaining nameless till it becomes a pandemic.Image