Attention at First Sight

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This story could or could not be about me. Don’t ask.

Love at first sight is a concept I have never believed in. I mean how could all the chemical elements that combine to create this thing we call love happen in just one day and one moment? For my lack of belief, I like to call this encounter attention at first sight.

It’s been nearly six years since this happened but I have still been unable to figure out what it was. Was it the smile? The shy disposition? The cuteness that came as a result of the shy disposition? I can’t tell.

I attended my first meeting of a group in my church that late Saturday afternoon. Since it was a meeting to welcome new members, it was a day of introduction and interaction. This was going on when he arrived. At first glance, he intrigued me. Just by looking at him, I felt there were a lot of questions that I wanted him to answer. Only problem was I could not put a finger on those questions. Just when he had sat down, the moderator for the day introduced him and made a side remark about his late arrival. Everyone laughed while he covered his face shyly. I was not using Whatsapp then but I can say today that he really looked like the monkey covering his eyes. Of course, in a good way. In a cute way. A very cute way. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of that meeting.

The next time I saw him was at another church group meeting. This time, I was annoyed to realize he was part of this group as well. Worse still, he was the moderator for that meeting. I had struggled to keep his cute expressions out of my mind so seeing him was definitely not part of the plan for that day. I did all I could to avoid him.

About a week later, we had a retreat. Our group (the first one) was in charge of setting up. I got there at the required time and took active part in the set-up. The program went well. I paid attention. Not to him. Well, until the end when he was called up to give the vote of thanks. He walked up shyly. He spoke shyly. Confident, but shy. The curiousity I had on the first day returned. I silently ignored it. After we had packed up, it was time to say a prayer as a group when he announced that he had to commend someone, a new member who had impressed him by arriving early for the set-up and staying till the end. As he called on the group to give me a hand, my heart was jubilating at the prospect that I had caught his attention. Of course, that was not what I set out to do by responding to the call of duty to God but was glad that it had brought me a reward. Later that evening, he called to commend me once again. He had gotten my number from my ministry head. Wohoo! I was excited that we could finally break the ice.

Did that happen? Unfortunately, no. I had to endure the hard truth over the next few weeks – I was just a hardworking group member that he had commended.

The next heart-lifting moment came one Tuesday evening after Mass. I had put some books I was holding on a pew as our group shared the grace. Just when I was about to pick the books up, he grabbed them, gave me a wide smile and asked if he could walk me to my room. Of course I agreed. We took the fifteen minute walk chatting like friends who had known each other for years. I loved it so much. When we got to my room, he had an expression of wanting to stay a while but at the same time unsure if he could. I said nothing and he chose the latter.

Although he did not walk me to my room everyday after that, I was glad the ice had been broken. On the days he did walk me, we talked in a very relaxed way.

On the last day of the semester, he came by to bid me farewell. We talked as usual and shared our first true hug. There was something about that hug. A kind of confirmation that between all the walks and talks, I had fallen for him.

I thought the vacation was going to put a strain on our thin friendship. Was I wrong! He called me the day I arrived home. He called me every day after that. I called him too. The minutes we spent on the phone turned into hours. We sacrificed our sleep at night to chat. I finally got to ask him all the questions I could think of. The most interesting part was that the more I got to know him, the more he intrigued me. I never got to the point of knowing him enough.

One day, he broke my heart. Without knowing it of course. I finally gathered courage to ask about his love life. He told me that he had great ambitions to achieve before thinking about getting himself a woman who could be his wife. Ouch. I should have stopped there, right? But no. My desire to know him more did not die with those words.

On 31st night, I sent him a message thanking him for his friendship and for being a part of my year. His reply ended with a prayer that our friendship would go to greater heights. What did that mean? I pretended not to know.

Just before we resumed, he told me he would like us to have a discussion when we get back to school. I pretended not to think this was the moment I had unconsciously waited for. I convinced myself that there were several other things he could want us to discuss. The tiny voice in my head told me to stop lying to myself but I didn’t listen.

The moment arrived. We were sitting on my roommate’s bed. I could read the nervousness in his eyes. His words were fewer. He seemed restless. And then, he finally said it. He had found a treasure and that treasure was me.

I lost view of the world I was sitting in and entered another world. He smiled and I smiled back.

How I got my driver’s licence for the price of a driver’s licence

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Last week, I read a news item about a woman who has been arrested for duping people who paid to acquire passports through her. Among many comments on Facebook were several that were variants of “It is impossible to acquire a licence or a passport in Ghana the right way”. I decided that my very annoying story must be told just to prove it is possible. Now this story is not in any way suggesting that corruption does not exist in these offices or getting these seemingly ‘easy’ items is not quite cumbersome. I just want to prove it is possible, full stop. Just possible. Stressful, yes. But possible.

When I had to get my licence in 2009, I wanted to debunk the theory that it was impossible to get a licence the right way. It was the path I decided to choose. Coupled with the fact that I want to see the extent to which it is possible to survive in Ghana without paying a bribe. Great ambition, but difficult to achieve.

My first time in the DVLA office in 37 for my licence was in February, 2009. I do not remember the events quite clearly but I do know this initial stage was not painful. I filled the required forms, got my learner’s licence and was given a July date for my written test. I paid a total of GHS 36 that day. In July however, I had to prepare for school so I did not take the test. I had heard the penalty for changing a test date was GHS 5 so I decided to relax and take the test during my long vacation in June the following year.

June 2010. I  reported at the DVLA office to take my test. Before the test started, a security man (I believe) strolled round the room to check the test date slips. When he informed me I needed to pay the penalty, I simply asked where I had to go to, my GHS 5 ready. I got to the counter and the teller asked me to pay GHS 50. For a second, I thought she was mistaken. I asked her to repeat herself. When I realised I was really supposed to pay ten times what I had budgeted, I asked for an explanation. I was told my entire receipt had expired so I had to start the whole process again but I be allowed to write the test that day. I was confused. Why did I have to pay for a learner’s licence, learner’s plate and books that I already had because my receipt had ‘expired’? Really? Receipts expire? When they have no expiry dates? When the teller realised I was not willing to let the issue go, she directed me to someone in ‘higher’ authority. My main argument with this man when I went to see him was if the receipt really had expired, why was there no expiry date on it? He calmly explained to me that a meeting had been held in February that year (2010) to change the validity of receipts issued by DVLA from 3 years to 1 year. Okay. Fair enough. So there was some expiration period. But hold on. This meeting was held in February 2010. My receipt was issued in February 2009. Dear friends, should I be affected by this new rule? Thanks for answering no. This man however did not agree with me. When I argued further, he directed me to go and see his boss. I walked out. Walked out of that DVLA office with the intention never to return. I didn’t know how I would eventually get my licence. I just knew they had annoyed me beyond reasoning.

Fast forward to 2013. A friend had just gotten his licence from the DVLA office in Tema and the process had been smooth. Sharp! Off I went. That was in June 2013. The cost for the learner’s licence etc was now GHS 80+. I was given a date in September for my test.
examSeptember 2013. I got to the office before 9 am. I took my computerized test around 10:30 am. I must mention here that one of the invigilators tried to get me to change one of my answers that was supposedly wrong. Apart from the fact that I did not believe it was wrong, I did not go with what he said because I wanted a clean slate so that I can tell this story some day to you, my lovely readers. I must also admit I was scared I might end up getting a mark shy of the pass mark but I built up courage. Those are normal fears that come with challenging the status quo. My results came and I had passed! (I had 23 out of 30; the pass mark is 21) The invigilator laughed at me and said I could have made 24. I laughed and told him I had passed after all. After all, this no be WASSCE. Anyway. I was given a date in October for my on-road test.

October 2013. I reported before 7 am at the office. I used a friend’s car for the test. Apart from forgetting to turn on my traffic indicator light (‘trafigator’) twice, everything else was perfect. The instructor advised me to always remember to turn it on and handed me my forms for the next stage. I was told to come back in a week. Ah ba! Charley, this one diɛɛ, I was frustrated. A young man told my friend and I that there was ‘a way’ to get it that day. Oya! I run away. No temptation!

Later in October 2013. I reported at the office before 8 am. At the final stage, I was told I needed to return my learner’s licence. I had left it in my friend’s car on the day of the test. How careless of me! I was directed to pay a penalty for that, but apparently, that was not valid. I left the Tema DVLA office and went to my friend’s house around Ashaiman to pick it up. When I returned with it, two workers in the office were surprised I had gone all the way for it. But that was the only solution right? Of course. I paid GHS 70+ and I was done.

If you see the photograph of my licence (no, I wouldn’t upload it ;-)), you would notice I look very tired and upset. That’s exactly how I felt when I got back, but hey, I smiled at the end. I had my licence. For the right price. (About GHS 160 in total then) And I can tell this story. It was painful. It wasted my time. But it was possible. And that is the moral of my story. If you have the time and the patience, go through the right way of getting stuff in Ghana. If we are able to slowly put the goro boys and connection men (and women) out of business, maybe, just maybe, corruption would begin to decrease in Ghana.

The question I have once asked myself is : “What if I urgently needed the licence for a new job or something? What would I have done?” My answer, I don’t know. Maybe I’d advise you to seek these things when they are not a necessity yet. But admittedly, that is a weak answer. I judge you not for having no choice but to pay someone because you needed it done urgently. I only want to prove that is possible. Full stop.

Got some good or bad DVLA/ passport office experiences to share? Leave it in the comments. Thanks for stopping by.