By BALOZI DIPLOMACIA
You will recall my dramatic, if hair-raising, escapades at the UN General Assembly in September. Apparently because of my enthusiastic display of active applause for the missiles of speeches by Ahmedinejad (Nuke as he is called elsewhere), Uncle Bob from down South and lanky Paul from the land of many hills, I was the subject of dagger-glances by our entourage throughout the New- York-to-JKIA trip.
You will call to mind that, despite and in spite of myself, emotions had got the better of me such that I openly and loudly cheered the leaders who hammered away at the Western world and the UN edifice claiming a skewed world, discrimination, double standards, domination…suchlike. You will remember that when Comrade Ahmedinejad had risen to deliver his powerful, if searing, speech, I threw diplomatic etiquette to the four winds and started cheering before he uttered a word. When he tore into the West, you can see me in your eye of eyes ululating, cat-calling, chanting and what not, completely entranced by his sheer temerity. It was as if my side, the Gunners, were mauling the Red Devils with myself as the single cheerleader at Nakivubo Stadium!
If you reflect, you will see me being frogmarched out of the UN General Assembly hall against my will and in violation of my inalienable freedoms right under the nose of Uncle Sam, that kindly ole man who secured such freedoms for the free world eons ago. You can therefore understand why, as the aeroplane reached for the skies en route back home, the Mashariki Mwa Afrika delegates shot acidic glances in my direction, in a manner likely to suggest that I was an alien from Mars.
During the stop over, this time at London Gatwick, my attempt to join HE Chief, meaning our Minister, in the executive lounge to wait for the connecting flight were flatly curtailed when he fixed me a glance that said it all. “You are such a rascal, you nincompoop. How dare you, of such a dirt-low rank, dare join me in the presidential lounge when mortals of your ilk ought to be suffering in the passageways on the hard benches? And this when you have brought disrepute to our nation!” HE seemed to be saying without uttering a word, just by the ferocity of his eyes and the contours on his contorted face.
Thus I joined the throngs in the general waiting areas of Gatwick and, boy, wasn’t it a long stretch? During the jump across the pool from New York to London, it had finally dawned on me, as Asumpta would put it, that I ‘had shelled on the plate’, or as Macho Odhis Papa, the towering security detail, would say: “You have poured the flour”, meaning you have not only made a mess of yourself but it will also cost you dearly. You can therefore understand why I felt low as I fidgeted and wriggled on the stone-hard wooden bench.
When we finally boarded the flight for JKIA, Smart Alec, the guy from the Intelligence Unit, sat next to me and intermittently informed me of the dire consequences that awaited me ahead. He delivered the verdict that I was, as sure as the sun rises from the East and sets in the West, on the verge of a sack. “Your goose is cooked”, he said and, for a fleeting moment, my mind went to traditional chicken stew before my thoughts returned to the heavy subject of the ‘dire consequences’.
“You know [as if I knew], the West is our lifeblood. Your gross misbehaviour has now shown that we pretend to be their friends, when deep down, we are of a worldview favourable to the Axis of Evil”, Smart Alec whispered. “It’s true these guys force many conditions down our throats, but we must continue in the pretence, lest they call in their loans and grants, cut off aid and starve us of all the support for which we are eternally beholden to them”, he said a while later, adding unnecessarily that diplomacy called for this approach. “You should have cheered Ahemedinejad only in your heart of hearts”, he added, as the aeroplane started descending, my heart sinking with it as we rapidly lost height.
As luck would have it, however, the first call I received on my mobile phone shortly after landing was that an Oriental delegation was to visit Mashariki mwa Afrika in a couple of days and their diplomatic mission had requested that I specifically handle all matters protocol for them.I faked a protest to the effect that allocation of such duties lay way above me in the pecking order at the wizara, but the caller, who spoke in halting English and kept referring to me as ‘Ali Baba’, assured that things had been arranged with our protocol office.
“You see the world was watching you when you made those noises in New York”, Smart Alec explained when I went to the office a day after that eventful trip, “the Orientals must have liked your bravado in displaying your oomph right under the Western nose and I am told HE has been told you must accompany the visiting Oriental party and arrange all the itineraries. You must thank your gods”, concluded that indeed smart snoop.
To cut a long story short, the stars had finally smiled on me as 2010 came to a close. Let me mention that the Orientals, against tradition, tipped me quite heftily as I took them from one meeting to another Christmas came early for me — but that is a story for another day
Want Life on The Fast Lane? Try a Car Park!
Fuyuhito Moriya, 39 still lives with his mother, but in circumstances you would call a tad unusual. Moriya, an unmarried man, and his mother, Yoko, live in a house built on 30 square metres, the same as the size of a parking space for just one car.They live in what’s called an ultra-small house, a genre of single family homes bred of Japan’s economic stagnation and brought to life by architectural ingenuity.
Moriya wasn’t sure that the land, originally sold as a parking space for a car, would be big enough for a single family home. But when he started doing research into ultra-small homes, he began to realise it might work. “My imagination was that it should be doable to build the rooms virtually on top of each other instead of side by side. So I thought that it might be possible, but I wasn’t really sure if it’s actually possible.”
Standing in his home, about the size of an American walk-in closet, Moriya triumphantly says it’s not just possible, it’s livable. South-facing, large windows create the illusion of space. Minimal furniture and clutter keep the small home tidy. Hideaway cabinets for kitchen appliances and half size sinks (yes half size) shrink expected space.
Even the spiral staircase shaves inches, drawn as a triangle instead of a circle, slashing the space’s diameter. Privacy has proven a challenge, since he and his mother can’t exactly escape each other. “That’s indeed a problem. Meanwhile, every time motorists park next to them and drive away, what does son tell mother? “Our neighbours have moved, again!”
Riding To the Life Hereafter- in Style!
When you depart this earth, would you make your final journey in a giant chicken, fish, tortoise or hammer? Feel free to think for five more minutes.In western Africa, enough people would to make novelty-coffin maker Eric Adjetey Anang and his apprentices very busy men. Anang is the third generation of his family from Teshie in Ghana to run Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, making bespoke novelty coffins in just about any shape -- from cars to pigs to snails to pianos.
Their coffins have become so popular that Anang says he has made between 200 and 300 in a year -- for Ghanaians, for export to countries including the United States, Canada, Belgium, Spain and South Korea, and to display at international exhibitions.One chief, who had ordered a palanquin shaped as a cocoa pod, died unexpectedly before the festival, so he was buried in the palanquin instead.
Anang said: “Soon after that my great grandmother died. She was always dreaming of travel, but she never got a chance to do it, so my grandfather made her an airplane [coffin] so she could travel after death.” The third fancy coffin was for a chief fisherman who was buried in a canoe.
A chicken coffin would be highly symbolic for an old lady who had many children. Others choose coffins relevant to their occupation, so a fisherman would have a fish, a cocoa farmer would have a cocoa pod and a tomato seller would have a tomato. He recently did a piano and a spanner [wrench] for a couple in the Netherlands because she was a piano teacher and he was a mechanic.
In Ghana’s traditional beliefs, the coffins transport one into the afterlife.