The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori (Part II): Acting Fishy

Once again, my awesome grandfather’s birthday is here. But, you may be thinking, I thought that was last year. The funny thing about birthdays, though, is that they tend to happen annually. Last year, I published The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori: Pipes No Dey Flow. (It might be interesting to know that since then, he managed to donate another envelope full of money to the water-closet.) This year, I present to you…

The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori (Part II): Acting Fishy.

When young Charles Ofori was in elementary school, a Presbyterian boarding school in Kpando, in the Volta Region, ten miles from Vakpo, his hometown, rules were very strict, and discipline was strongly enforced. This did not, however, stop Charles and his friends from being some of the most inspiring rebels ever.

As students in boarding schools tend to do, Charles and three of his friends wanted to go home. Don’t ask questions. Don’t expect explanations. Sometimes, people just want to go home and eat food and…just generally not be in school. Laws of human nature. So he and his three friends decided to go home unofficially. You might think this would have been a tough act to pull off, but really, no. They just got up and left, or, as we like to put it in modern Ghanaian slang, they ‘bounced.’ Let’s not pretend we don’t know about all the ‘kuluulu’ in our systems. Yes, we know how it is when we like to negotiate with people of authority so that we don’t get into trouble with other people of authority. These four hooligans left for Vakpo very early in the morning, telling the monitor that he should try and cover for them while they were gone. They were hoping to be back before 6:30pm, anyway, just in time for roll call.

Oh, getting to Vakpo was easy enough. In the afternoon, however, that is when the problem arose: they had no means of transportation to get back to school in Kpando. Here, you can just imagine one of the four placing his palms dramatically on his head and exclaiming, “Yie! What are we going to do?”

What else was there for it but to begin walking? But walking ten miles, as we can guess, is tedious, slow business. By 7pm, a half hour past the roll call, they were only halfway there.

[Interlude: Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Meet Me Halfway’]

The situation seemed beyond salvageable. Suddenly, to their delightful surprise, they were able to stop a lorry which was going in their general direction, and they hopped on. The lorry was coming from Keta, from whence also came the fresh fish of the Volta region. Apart from the driver, the lorry was full of women. These women were traders of kenam (essentially, fried fish). They bought their kenam in Keta to come and sell. The women were also in the very front of the lorry. But herein lay the problem: behind them were their baskets of kenam. Behind them. With four boys who were mischievous enough to play truant. Hmm. Not a smart move.

The seats the boys were given, too, were directly behind the baskets of fish. Nigerian man will say, “Trouble don come.”

Though, in order not to be caught, they couldn’t necessarily speak out loud, here’s a direct quote from Grandpa, who told me laughingly, “It was not difficult to communicate, you see.” What did they do? They made a hole and started eating. Just like that.

Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest, though, and we know when we sin, we tend to want more. Unsatisfied with all the pilfering they had done during the ride, upon getting to Kpando, they began to fill their pockets with some more kenam. Then innocently, probably putting on their most cherubic faces, protected by the darkness of the night, they paid the lorry driver and left.

Of course, it was way past curfew back in school. They went inside, and, trying not to make noise, went off to bed without bothering to change clothes or do anything at all of the sort.

Here’s the catch, though: Kenam, as we have already mentioned, is fried fish. Fried fish is fried in oil. Sleeping with oily fish in one’s pockets, more often than not, will leave great, unmistakeable evidence of one’s crimes. They woke up the next morning, and all their shorts were dreadfully soaked with oil. This would have been much less of a serious problem if they had had some spare shorts. They did not. So they pooled all their remaining fish together and ate it secretly. Then, they washed their shorts and left them to dry.

In my opinion, they pulled all this off with rather impeccable swag. I believe their fitting reward was the fact that they didn’t even get punished.

Since many traditional Ghanaian storytellers insist that fables must have morals, I shall conclude by saying this: the moral of the story is that whenever you choose to break rules, break them with impeccable swag.

[Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the story’s subject matter shall not be held accountable for any student’s expulsion as a consequence of reading this story. It is, after all, not their fault that you are deficient in swag.]

-Akotowaa =)


My Grandfather Was a Yellow Journalist Rascal

Recently, in Language and Literature class, we began to learn about the progression of mass media communication, which led also to a discussion on yellow journalism.

Yellow journalism is basically tinted pure journalism (duh. Hence the yellowing). Newspapers became less serious, so to speak. Rather than being grave and professional, journalism became humorous and sensational. It appealed to an audience who not only wanted to be informed, but wanted to be entertained.
Now this grandfather of mine, Charles Seth Ofori, bore a certain dislike for this prefect/monitor of his, and so he got together with some of his friends and decided to publicize their dislike for him in the form of a…newspaper. They got permission to do this under the pretense of the desire to enrich their writing and journalism skills. Ha!
I may be mistaken, but I believe this newspaper was called “The Monitor.” (Doesn’t that sound just a bit stalkerish to you? Beautiful double entendre though.) It badmouthed this monitor, and revealed things about his life and his actions. They hand-write it (they had too much time, chale) and they pinned it up periodically on the notice board.
I suppose you’re wondering how come, if their intents were so unholy, they were allowed to keep The Monitor going on for so long. Well, see, nobody could actually form legitimate claims against them, because they changed the names of everyone involved in the stories. As far as anybody was concerned, all they were doing was creative writing. Rascals.
-Akotowaa =)

Perfect Prefect Shenanigans

Grandpa was not an innocent boy in school. This is one of many shenanigans, soon to be released, now in his retirement, when nobody can catch him. LOL.

I thought this particular one would be better if written from the perspective of my grandfather, Charles Seth Ofori.

I never quite understood what it was that set prefects and monitors apart from the rest of us civilians. They got extended time before lights-out to study. As if we didn’t all attend the same classes and write the same exams. Even worse than that was the logic-lacking allocation of resources. Every once in a while, the Powers That Be of Achimota School provided us without necessary toiletries. But for some reason I just couldn’t not fathom, the prefects and monitors always got more toilet roll than the rest of us. You can’t imagine how incredulously I laughed when I discovered that.

“Ah!” I bellowed. “Is it not the same food we are eating? What makes them think that a monitor can shank more than the rest of us?” And I continued to laugh.

What irked me the most, however, had to have been their beds.

I don’t know what the girls had in their dormitories, but we the boys, our beds were made up of three wooden boards placed across two adequately spaced trestles, before a mattress, blankets and sheets were placed on it. I think that should have been fair enough accommodation for all of us – but clearly, whoever put the prefects in charge did not share my opinion.

The prefects, when given their position, were allowed to elevate their beds – like pedestals, as if their sleeping arrangement gave them the right of precedence over us. They did this by placing blocks under the four corners of their trestles. It raised them a worthless further six inches or so off the ground.

The only benefit I ever could see of these raised beds was an avenue for the playing of practical jokes, which is exactly what we used it for.


The sentry stood at the mouth of the door, watching the figure of the older boy disappear down the hallway.

“Is he gone?” I asked.

“Shh!” he reprimanded. The five of us in the room waited for a few more seconds, until the sentry finally said, “I can’t see him anymore.”

We all sprang into action then – the sentry remained at the door; the other four moved to the four corners of the monitor’s bed, while I remained standing, to supervise. It was a delicate task, really. Each person had to shift just one block of the three under each corner far enough to be unstable, but just right to keep the illusion of stability. The whole plan would go to shreds without the power of optical deception.

“Hurry up,” I told them. “He could be back any minute!”

Just as they finished, our sentry whispered in alarm, “He’s coming!”

We all briskly returned o our beds, lay there obediently and pretended to read. Even I must say now that we must have looked like we were definitely hiding something. Upon entry, the monitor regarded us with suspicion, but, finding nothing exactly askew, he disregarded his gut feeling.

Misplaced blocks.
Misplaced blocks.

“Put your books away,” he commanded. “It’s lights-out.” He did not leave his position in front of the door until, after thorough scrutiny with those beady, over-analysing eyes of his, he assured himself that everyone was present and in his bed, with his eyes closed. Satisfied, he turned off the lights and went out to study for a few more minutes.

Nobody had moved a muscle by the time he returned, but I can assure you that not a soul was genuinely asleep. Pretending, with our eyes closed, we waited in anticipation for the climax.

The monitor closed the door behind him, and he walked towards his bed. Ever so slightly, every head inclined.

Then it came – the mighty “GBAN!” that signalled that the King had indeed fallen – literally – from his throne.

Every dorm heard our laughter that night. We must have woken up the whole wing. My own stomach cramped up from laughter. I can never, ever forget that day.

He became a doctor, that prefect. And I’m eighty-one right now, but I tell you that still, whenever I see him, I make sure to have a good laugh at him before we separate – not because he deserves it, but because, quite frankly, it was HILARIOUS.


The Price of Insect Pleasure

This is a true story, told to me by the one, the only, **drumroll** Charles Seth Ofori.

When Grandpa Charles was a little boy in Vakpo, there was a certain delicacy that almost all in the village were familiar with: locusts. (Darling, don’t scrunch your face up in disgust; my mother confirms that they are absolutely delicious.) Because they were familiar with this peculiar erm…dish, they also knew the uh…adverse effects it had on one’s digestive system. Charles knew this too. A certain friend and neighbour of his, however, did not.

This person was not named in the retelling of this story to me, but for the sake of this story, I shall christen him with the easiest Ewe name I can think of: Togbui.

So, Togbui was not only ignorant about the locusts’ effects; he had, in fact, never tasted any. Then one day, an individual whom I assume was either very pitying or highly sadistic, introduced Togbui to fried locusts. I’m sure you can tell that what ensued was a kind of painful pleasure.

Take your current favourite food. Imagine as much of it in front of you as possible. Now erase all memory of its taste in your head so that when you dig in, it will be like the first time. Just imagine it. Will you be able to ever get enough? If your imagination is wide enough, maybe you can understand Togbui’s ecstasy and powerlessness to stop eating. I must here resort to borrowing an overused quasi-pidgin phrase to describe his fervency: “He dey go oh!”

Eventually he stopped. There are limits to all the human body’s capacities, after all. Togbui had had his fill. However, what we are aware of that he probably wasn’t was this: a great many good things come with equal or larger prices.

…Which would explain why, the next day, more than an acceptable number of people could hear his loud grunts of agony from the latrine.

Don’t laugh. Someone is there, genuinely suffering in a wrestling match with his bowels, and you dare to laugh! What cruelty! But Charles laughed. My goodness. Why didn’t anyone warn him, eh? Is that how mean people are? I don’t know how long he stayed on the toilet, but I can confirm there was much pain and sweat involved. They should have fed him pawpaw.

That’s the other thing. Not many industrially manufactured medicines were available, but there were, of course, the herbs and the natural laxatives – but even those often took a while to take effect. Our poor Togbui was hence forced to endure that pain until the waste decided for itself that it was ready to depart from his body. Meanwhile, Charles Seth Ofori continued to laugh his head off.

I think it would be safe for me to stay away from locusts as much as I can help it.

-Akotowaa =)

The Other Side

The Other Side

[Akotowaa’s note: Grandpa shared this with me when he came back from the dentist’s a few days ago. Now I’m sharing it with the world. But each story needs to have an input from its teller. Hence, I’ve put flesh on and embellished the truth, as I tend to do.]


Charles Seth Ofori once lived in Rome. While he was there, he had strange friends who did strange things. One day, a friend of his told him a story. It went like this:

“There was a man who loved to eat at the restaurant on one street. He ate there so often that all the staff and other regular customers were on very good terms with him. He gave them good business, after all.

His only weakness, perhaps, was his sweet tooth. He really couldn’t get enough of the dentally dangerous. They did warn him that one day, it could have adverse effects on him, but he never listened.

Then, one day, the unfortunate befell him. As he bit into one savoury, jam-filled tart, he felt an unbearable pain close to the back of his mouth. He dropped the tart, shocked. He tried to take another bite, but the pain only seemed, if possible, to get worse.

“What’s the matter?” asked a friend, looking at him with concern.

Mr Sweet-Tooth tried to explain the sensation.

“Ah,” said the friend. “It seems you have been cursed with the very thing you swore you’d never get: a cavity.”

If he hadn’t been sitting down, he’d have probably dropped to his knees on the ground, and, with his hands raised in despair, screamed, “Noooo!” or the Italian equivalent. Anyway, despite his denial, he found himself at the dentist’s in a few days’ time.

Fortunately for him, he was a relatively wealthy man. Paying for the dental treatment wasn’t really a problem for him. So, in no-time, he had his cavity filled and was ready to be on his way. Since he’d had the cavity on his left side, that was the only part of his mouth the dentist had worked on.

“So just remember,” said the dentist as his client departed, “to eat on the other side.”

Mr Sweet-Tooth nodded his comprehension.

Later that afternoon, when he felt peckish, he made his way not to his regular restaurant, but to the one directly opposite, although it almost broke his heart to do so. Since the restaurants were in plain view of each other, some shocked staff members from his regular restaurant saw him do it.

“Don’t worry,” they said to each other. “He’s our most loyal customer. It’s probably just a one-time thing. He’ll be back soon.”

But the next day, they saw him dine with their rival again – and the day after that, and the day after that. Finally, unable to take it anymore, the manager of the restaurant decided to personally confront him. So, one day, as he was walking out of the rival restaurant’s door, the manager stopped him.

“My good man,” he said. “We’ve noticed you haven’t been eating with us lately. If it’s a fault of ours, you needn’t be afraid to inform us. We’d love to have you eating with us again. If we’ve offended you in any way, we deeply regret it. It’s the pasta, isn’t it? We can fix the puttanesca sauce. I KNEW it was too spicy…”

If left on his own, he would probably have gone on for a long time yet, but Mr Sweet-Tooth cut him off: “Oh no, it has nothing to do with you.”

“Then what happened? Why have you abandoned us?”

“Because after he filled up my cavity, my dentist told me to eat on the other side.”

The manager, after digesting this, developed a sudden compulsion to slap him, but seeing as how that would have been unforgivably rude, resigned to face-palming himself.”


Charles Seth Ofori, sitting in the dentist’s chair at age 81 for his check-up, was told by his dentist to “eat on the other side.” He cracked up, remembering the story. But all the dentist saw was a batty old man with a tooth problem.


-Akotowaa =)

And he bought his groundnuts!

My Grandfather, Charles Seth Ofori, never could fully comprehend the narcissistic tendencies of the female mind. But that didn’t bother him much when he was a teen in Achimota School.

Charles was too poor to own shoes, so he went around barefoot. Going barefoot didn’t really bother him much — but being broke did. It meant that as his friends bought peanuts from the seller outside, he’d have to sit and watch enviously. But when he did get money…who cared about shoes? He bought his groundnuts.

And on one fateful day, a flash of wisdom came upon him and he decided, “You know what? Today, I’m not going to spend all my money on groundnuts, I’m going to use my money to make more money so I can buy more groundnuts!”

So, do you know what he did? He took his money and he went off to buy a simple camera for fifteen shillings, and he joined his school’s photography club.

It shouldn’t be very hard to imagine girls swooning over a guy who knows how to work a camera (S/O to Nana’Shutter, who will probably never read this, but whatever.) It wouldn’t be very difficult, either to imagine a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls stuck in JHS, desperate to feel like models for a few minutes. And this part, Charles was totally fine with.

During the weekends, the girls would ask him to take photographs of them, a nd later, he’d go and develop them and collect money in exchange for their portraits being delivered to them. It was an efficient system. The hardest part about the job was keeping his mouth shut as he went on with his photoshoots; constantly battling the voice in his head that never ceased to comment on the pointless vanity displayed by the girls.

Charles would take one full-frontal picture. He would be satisfied. The girl would not.

She would proceed to turn to the side. Charles would take the picture and be satisfied. The girl would not.

To amend the dissatisfaction, she would then place a hand on her hip. And still, Charles would take the picture. He would think, “This must be it, now.” The girl would not.

She would turn her back to the camera and twist her head in a futile attempt to make her gaze meet the lens, and tell Charles, who would be staring in baffled wonder, that she could not hold this pose all day, and that he should take the picture.

What Charles thought, but didn’t ever say: “But you paa, how many pictures do you even want to get? And next week too, you’ll be back because you don’t have a picture of yourself in that particular dress? But with the pose you’re holding, can anybody even see your face? Even me, the photographer, I wouldn’t recognize you. Ei! Another one again? And you want me to print every single picture? Why, are you building a shrine?”

[Author’s Note: Okay, fine, I added the shrine part myself, but that’s what I would have thought.]

But for every photo he developed, the more money he would get and so he never complained. It was all business, after all.

And in Grandpa’s own words, as he told me the story a month ago, “I gave them the pictures, and I bought my groundnuts!”


What Happened to Grandpa Last Saturday

Hello, beautiful people who waste your time reading what I write! I promised myself to begin an entire category dedicated to my Grandpa, called “Stories of Charles Seth Ofori.” A lot of people seemed to like the first story I wrote about him, involving a missing wallet and the lack of water. (If you haven’t read Pipes No Dey Flow, click here.)

So, here’s another one (or actually, three.)

What Happened to Grandpa Last Saturday

         Just so you know, I’ve saved the funniest story for last, so if you get bored, keep reading…Or you can just skip – but I don’t want you to, so please don’t.

Grandpa Charles went to the airport on Saturday to pick up my dad’s sister’s husband, Johnny. (John and Mary, I hope you’re reading this.) Three mentionable things happened. I’m going to write them out in story-form because it’s what I do best. Note: These are in the order Gramps narrated them to me, NOT the order they occurred. Also, the events are true but the direct speech is not. But which great writer doesn’t embellish the truth a little bit? Okay, here we go.

1. Johnny Hulede had just arrived from Maryland. Charles Seth Ofori was there, at least fifteen minutes before the plane was scheduled to land, because Charles was never late. Ever. After the mandatory greetings came the hustle of trying to find one’s luggage, through the sea of heavily-clad, noisy individuals, sweating in the heat they had forgotten after being on that freezing plane, the conveyor belts of Kotoka International Airport.

One suitcase of Johnny’s was much heavier than Charles had anticipated, and that old body couldn’t be expected to do so much labour. Johnny himself had to use a considerable amount of strength to hoist it up onto the trolley. Together, they wheeled it out with great effort, all the way to the car.

Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched by a crafty pair of eyes, which continued to watch them as they made their way from the airport’s exit to the car. Only then did the owner of these eyes deign to reveal himself.


“Afternoon, sa,” he said, with a salute. Charles, who was popping the boot open, turned around to stare at him. If this spying man had been any wiser, he would have trembled under Charles’ unwavering scrutiny. He was not that wise, hence, he did not tremble.

“Make I help you wit de log-age, sa,” he continued. “I tink sey ibi heavy wey I see you pushing da trolley from da airport inside.”

Charles, of course, was having none of it. The result of his examination proved to be true: the man wanted money.

“Herh, herh, my friend,” said Charles coldly. “If you actually wanted to help us, why did you not help us from the exit?” The man had no answer. “What is the use of your help, now that we are already at the car?” Still no answer given. “You people, all you want is money. I don’t need your help. No, no, don’t even try to explain. You want money, isn’t that it? For doing no work at all.”

Image (2)
Guys, my grandpa is not this ugly in real life. Forgive my crude art.

The man’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly. How to describe him? One word: flabbergasted.

Together, Johnny and Charles managed to lift the suitcases into the old car’s trunk.

“Good…g-good afternoon, sa,” stammered the man, and departed in shame.


2. There was a man who had a brother. This man lived in Ghana. His brother lived in the USA, which happened to be…exactly where Johnny had come from! Now, everyone knows that snail mail can’t be trusted to deliver money safely (especially if it is through or to Ghana), so this was the plan they had carried out: the man’s brother had given Johnny the money to give to the man upon arrival in Ghana.

Said man met Johnny at Charles’ car in the parking lot of Kotoka International Airport.

“You got the moola?” he said, after greeting both Charles and Johnny. (Okay, he didn’t actually say that. I just wanted to use the word ‘moola’ to make him look more gangster-y. Unfortunately, he was 120% un-gangster-y.)

So Johnny was all, “Oh yeah, yeah!” And after rummaging around a bit, found the cash. It was quite a lot, I tell you. But this man was untrusting, a trait he shared with many of his Ghanaian brethren, and so, of course, he had to count the money before he could leave. The trouble in this was that the back seat was full of all the extra luggage that Johnny had brought. Charles’ trunk just hadn’t been big enough. Johnny was sitting shotgun. So the only option left was for the man to sit in the driver’s seat as he counted the money – because everyone knows that in Ghana, you don’t count large sums of money where anyone can see you. Are you freaking ASKING to be mugged?!

Anyway, Charles graciously gave up hi seat for this young man to make sure his package was intact. When he was done, he said a polite “thank you” to Johnny and proceeded to leave.

False strike.

Charles was Appalled, with a capital A.

“Young man,” he called out. “How can you be so rude? So you have your money, and because of that, you don’t even bother to say goodbye to the octogenarian man who bothered to stand outside in this heat while you comfortably sat in my car counting your money?”

The man shame-facedly apologized profusely. But Charles wasn’t done. Once an Ofori gets started, who dareth interrupt? Charles began to lecture him for about five more minutes about: how he understood perfectly because Ghanaians were all the same; how people generally have lost respect for their elders entirely; how people can abandon rationality and manners in the midst of cash, etc, etc.

I can only speculate about how the man must have felt ten times more ashamed than he would have if Grandpa had just accepted the apology and moved on in life. But that is not the way of Charles Seth Ofori.


3. Backtrack to when Grandpa Charles was waiting for the plane to land – a result of being freakishly early, as usual. Two men stood beside him, obviously waiting for (a) passenger(s) as well. Now, you know these cordial Ghanaians – always unafraid of making small-talk with complete strangers when they’re bored.

These two men decided to strike up a conversation with Charles.

The first asked him, “So who is it that you’re here to pick up?”

Grandpa replied, “Oh, just my son-in-law.”

The man nodded understandingly, with such gravity that you’d think that waiting for one’s son-in-law was akin to sending a very important minister to a Parliament meeting. So much wisdom and intelligence was encompassed in this man’s nod, which was all consummately shattered by the next words that came out of his mouth: “Is it a man or a woman?”

No mercy. Charles couldn’t laugh. Had he just heard right? Had he actually just been asked the most moronic question he’d heard since the beginning of the decade? Apparently so! Because the second man had erupted into laughter.

“Don’t you know?” said the second man. “This man is speaking the Queen’s language!” He then explained how the “son” part of son-in-law referred to a male person that was married to your daughter…

Image (3)

(Now I, myself, do not know the difference between “Queen’s language” and normal English, but I’m just quoting what Grandpa says he said.)

Grandpa wasn’t laughing (yet). How to describe his facial expression in one word: flabbergasted.