The School’s Puppets Want to Turn Us into Harry Potter

Note: I’m not even going to try to be nice in this post.

One weekday, last week, I sat at my designated table for formal breakfast, and was already having a relatively bad morning, when a monitor/prefect (I don’t remember who) said, “There is too much movement in the d-hall. Could everyone please take their seats now.” This announcement was repeated at last two more times, and I was flabbergasted. And then, suddenly, I was seething with anger.

Let me tell you what formal breakfast is like. You’ve got your designated table, where you have to sit for every formal breakfast and formal lunch. On your table is cutlery, milk, sugar, bread and margarine. We’re getting to the catch now.

There are water heaters at specific points in the d-hall for hot water. So you have to get up to fetch it.

The d-hall department has Milo available if you don’t want the tea or coffee beside the heaters. But the Milo trays are always placed on or near the stage. So you have to get up to get it.

On certain days of the week, there’s porridge or boiled eggs, or salad available. They are either in the front of the room, or at the back. So you have to get up to get them.

And sometimes, the d-hall kitchen staff do strange things like provide three plates, six cups and no knives for a table meant to be set for eight to ten people. If you want to get what you’re missing, you have to get up and walk to the counter for it.

There are more factors, but I’m sure you can see by now that on any ordinary morning, there may be a need to get up and walk a fair distance across the room at least once.

So when I heard this nonsense about “There is too much movement in the d-hall” coming from a prefect/monitor’s mouth over the microphone, I was like, alright, who’s pulling the strings here? And what possible logical motive could they have for pulling them in the first place? There is absolutely no identifiable reason not to just let the strings be, slack.

I am telling you, this “too much movement” business was killing me. People were moving about exactly how they moved about each morning, and even if they weren’t, I failed to see how this was a legitimate problem.

  1. Would the number of A*s and grade 7s have decreased if people overly utilized their legs before 7am?
  2. Did every extra step a student took cause one more patient to die quicker in the hospital?
  3. Would the world freaking end unless people’s botosses were firmly glued to their chairs (while they starved because they couldn’t get to their food)?

Now, you see, I don’t believe whoever made that announcement was silly enough to have thought of it him/herself. The idea that our student population is “an intellectual community” has already been established to be a fallacy, but we aren’t that silly – not on our own, at least. No, this was an obvious case of Idea Postulation. Some teacher had gotten it into his/her head, straight from the invisible speakers manned by the Controllers, to try fixing ish that ain’t broken. He/she had, in turn, whispered into a monitor/prefect puppet’s ear the instruction to do the dirty-work of announcing it, and just like that, all their strings were pulled at once.

And so I was there, not so quietly ranting out of bewilderment and frustration to my table-mates about what a splendid show of daftness this was, until I realized, much later, what the truth was:

The school’s puppets were trying to turn us into Harry Potter!

It was all a trick, a gimmick! They’d all realized, in terms of magic powers, some of us were blossoming too late, and so took it upon themselves to awaken our powers by force/necessity. It all makes sense now. All we need to do is start practicing our summoning spells, sitting down!

Accio, Milo!

Accio, hot water!

Accio, Tom Brown!

And boom, the stuff is on your table like you’re a certified witch/wizard. A simple stunt to sift off the Muggles from the gifted Purebloods, right?

3-expectopatronum

Ugh. I’m tired of it all. Seriously.

Last Wednesday, I went to semi-formal supper (which is like a formal meal, except with slightly more relaxed dress codes, and you can sit at whichever table you want), to find that there were pieces of paper distributed to each table, demanding the name of the table and all its members.

Later, the explanatory announcement came from a monitor. Somewhat paraphrased:

“It has come to the attention of the d-hall department that there is too much movement during formal supper. So there are papers placed on your tables – write the name of the table and the names of everyone sitting on them, and these lists will be printed and sent to the whole school. From now on, this is where you will have to sit every Wednesday night.”

LOL, I was legit going mad in my head. There were so, so many reasons why this was all bull.

For one thing, the d-hall on Wednesday nights has half the tables set with rice, and the other half with fried yam. What if I want yam this week, and rice next week? Yet if I sit on a yam table and walk over to a rice table to get food to bring back, I’d probably get either a “Why didn’t you just sit on a rice table in the first place?” or a “There is too much movement in the d-hall!” Absolute nonsense.

Secondly, what on earth do you gain from taking away an aspect of our freedom that isn’t even harming anybody? Of course, during semi-formal supper, people tend to sit with their friends, or people they’re comfortable with. And in fact, the way humans are, we fall easily into trends – so much that it’s likely that 90% of students sit in the same positions every week, anyway. So you might think it’s not a big deal to make us do something we were going to do already.

But it is a big deal, to take away my freedom to choose! Say your favourite dessert was ice cream, which you ate every Saturday afternoon, by choice. How would you feel if you were suddenly told, “Okay, now you are not allowed to have anything but ice cream every Saturday afternoon for the rest of your life, and if you decide one Saturday that you don’t feel like ice cream, you will be punished”? Like, what effery.

And every time something like this happens, I find myself willing in my head to whoever is announcing, “Please take a moment to listen to the nonfa [redacted] coming out of your mouth and stop pretending like you think it’s worthwhile and sensible. Use your head. Use your power to fight back to the puppeteers. Please, please fight back.”

Never happens.

Interestingly, this school is a place where I’ve realized the prefects and SRC have no power.

The dining hall appears to be where majority of the puppet activity happens. I remember when one of the daftest instructions for formal supper seating came a year or two ago, the prefects were told to enforce it. But it was stupid, and some of the ordinary students tried to tell some of the prefects that it was stupid, but I remember being shocked speechless when one of the prefects (which, by the way, achieved major recognition for her fantastic IGCSE performance) responded, “It’s not me o – orders from a higher power.”

Higher power.

HIGHER POWER.

I’m telling you, that day, I gave up.

Anyway, what am I doing, still ranting about this? I need to go off and practice my summoning charms. Accio, yam! Accio shito!

-Akotowaa

If you’re still not getting any of the Puppets analogies, refer to this post which has the link to my novella, here.

4 Sure-fire Ways to Know That You’re a Wizard/Witch/Bewitched in West Africa

Classically, in many civilizations, people attributed the things they didn’t understand to the gods, or to something supernatural. Thus, a lot of belief systems were born. Where does the sun come from? Oh, it’s actually a god. Thanks, Akhenaten.

Aten
Nah but forreal – Akhenaten just up and made this Aten guy up and said “Worship by force” and there you go. Sun god.

What are earthquakes? Oh, Titans are fighting, and Poseidon’s mad. My daughter is sick; her temperature is high. Now, I have no clue what a “fever” is, so it must be a fire demon inside her, heating her up. Stuff like that.

poseidon
Nah but forreal – Akhenaten just up and made this Aten guy up and said “Worship by force” and there you go. Sun god.

So, after about 17 years of existing in a Ghanaian society and being exposed to quite a few real and virtual people of other nationalities and cultural experiences, I believe I am entirely qualified (please note that I am being partially sarcastic) to state the four things which I am pretty sure will guarantee that you are either a wizard, witch or bewitched.

Let’s go!

  1. Introversion

For so long, we have lived in cultures rooted in social practices. What is a private study room? What is a quiet library? What kind of nonsensical time-waster is “people-watching” while sipping coffee? Oh no. We don’t know what privacy and solitude are o, please. Sometimes, even sex could be an outdoor public act. It’s not about your personal life; it’s about our culture. So now, when your relatives come to visit you and you get bored after two hours of pointless conversation where all the important topics have been exhausted, and retreat to your room, it’s antisocial blasphemy. Don’t do that ish, man. Come downstairs so aunty Something-or-the-other can tell you how your nufu has grown or so that uncle Whatsisface can ask you if you’ve found a girlfriend yet.

Okay, but on a more serious note, we don’t seem to be able to understand that introversion is a thing that exist, even – gasp! – among Africans! I’m tired of people looking at me strangely because I don’t enjoy loud parties or going clubbing for hours on end. I’m rather exhausted from the irony of how much people like to talk about how the youth don’t read enough, but I get blasted for being antisocial because I read a lot.

Photo 15-02-2015 22 48 07

My favourite activity, writing, is a solitary one. But people will take it upon themselves to worry about my mental health and social life on my behalf. Of course, it can’t possibly be natural to enjoy solitude. Man is a social-creature, and as such, he must be surrounded by other social creatures 25/7 (Yes, I added an extra hour!), n’est-ce pas? If at any point, you human, a social creature, would rather be alone than engulfed, there must be something spiritually wrong. It’s an evil spirit. We rebuke it!

 

  1. Mental Illness

This is a fun one. I wonder if people got depressed in Ancient Africa, and if they were oppressed due to others’ denial. The way the recorded history of Africa is, I doubt I will ever find my answer. But I find it hard to believe that every African was always mentally alright, never suffered from anxiety, or was never even born autistic.

However, for some reason, we believe it’s a myth on this side of the world. We, who have some of the most religious and superstitious countries in the world, can’t believe in something that we can’t see manifested on the body. I guess somehow, it makes sense. If we don’t like believing in what we can’t see, it makes sense that we worship(ped) so many physical idols and crafted statues to appease our senses.

“You’re depressed? What kind of disease is that? Get on your knees and pray to God to unbind you from that spell that your neighbours have cast on you, oh! I’m sure it was that woman down the road. Ever since her husband died, she has been trying to inflict her own sorrow on others. Tofiakwa!”

Sometimes, it sounds funny, but it’s really not when people start offing themselves not just because of their ailment, but because of a simple lack of understanding in their own communities. It really is nonsense. Despite all my religious joking, I’m actually a Christian, and time and time again, it amazes me at the “Christian” community’s lack of willingness to simply understand each other, so they can actually be useful. Talk about being exhausted of members of your own community. We’re unconsciously excommunicating people all the time.

  1. Imagination

I bet you didn’t expect this one. But it’s there! See, let’s do a simple survey. All you West Africans who were banned from reading Harry Potter or any book of the sort when you were younger, raise your hands! (My hand is up.) You’d be surprised at the number. My grandfather got the first three HP books for me on my seventh or so birthday. My mother seized them all and handed them to the semi-literate house-help to keep. Apparently, if I were to read Harry Potter, I would become a witch. Interestingly enough, I never had the Wizard of Oz seized, or even Sleeping Beauty. Some witches are more witchy than others eh? I don’t get it.

My favourite animals are horses. My favourite fictional animals are unicorns. But you, let me try mentioning the words “unicorn” or “dragon” in the house and see how all eyes except my little brother’s cloud in alarm. A close family member has called me “bewitched” behind my back before, in all seriousness, no jokes intended. I don’t know how to make you understand. Perfectly practical parents gave birth to a daydreamer daughter who’s always writing and can’t keep her head out of other worlds, and it ALARMS them to ridiculous extents.

unicorn
Damn, that sexiness, doe!

Incidentally, on an entirely unrelated note, I don’t know any Ghanaian fantasy and sci-fi authors. That is not to say that they don’t exist; I just don’t know them. If you do, though, be sure to holla at me in the comment section or tweet at me @_Akotowaa. (Anyway, shout-out to Nnedi Okorafor for being awesome!)

 

  1. Artistic Aspirations

The crown on the cake. This is the best one. Wahala don come if you, in your black skin, born to respectable parents who have toiled for years to put food on the table so that you can clear it and wash the dishes, as well as open the gate and pass them the remote, dare to come up and tell them that you want to be an artist. A de3n? All those school fees they paid, and still, no sense was knocked into your head? You want to waste this quality education? Tofiakwa. Please, we are paying in advance for law school. Gyae saa nkwasias3m.

Now although I’m not blind, and can see that Paulo Coelho is Brazilian, his story strikes so close to home. When his parents found out he wanted to write for a living, they sent him to a mental hospital. When he came out, they thought things were fine – not knowing, he had joined a theatre group. *hands on head emoji* They found out and sent him right back, where he underwent electroconvulsive therapy. That’s basically when they give you electric shocks until you pass out. The man’s biography is insane. I feel like if we could do some here, on this continent, we would. Our only remaining alternative, however, is to send us to the pastor so he can pray for God to cure us of our ambitious folly (which clearly comes from an inner demon who makes its host reject sense).

I imagine that there are parents who would love to perform an exorcism if their children were ever rebellious and bold enough to stick adamantly to their aspirations. After all, you must be possessed if you insist on following a career path that leaves you entirely broke. Right? Right? Sigh. Sometimes, I feel like I’m so done with this place.

 

So there you have it: 4 sure-fire ways to tell if you’re a wizard, witch or bewitched in West Africa. Do you pass any of the tests? I display all 4 symptoms on a daily basis! 😉

-Akotowaa