I work at a dangerous, exciting company

I am enjoying the amazing breeze and the wispy voice of the wind through the leaves of the mango tree less than 5 metres away from one of my windows as I type.
Even though I work at a dangerous, exciting company, I can appreciate the simple pleasures of life in these mountains where nobody knows us.

Khruangbin Radio on Jango is also massaging my spirits.
I wonder why the water from the dispenser today tastes like tap water though… 👀

Ok, so…  Dangerous, exciting company… Is it Oil and Gas? Security? Defence? Shipping?

It might as well be…

It’s a tech company in Ghana, West Africa, but with roots in the United Kingdom. Its flagship product is an app that benefits Oil and Gas, Security, Defence, Shipping, Logistics and other companies, as well as Individuals, and most powerfully, Governments.

After working with the British Police under the Digital and Electronics Forensic Service (DEFS), as well as with Jaguar Land Rover, and the US and British Militaries, Sesinam Dagadu (or Ses) built on his experience developing cutting edge electronic tools, and founded tinyDAVID (where I work).

So the thing is, Ses built this wonderful little app that won the Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Grant in 2015, for use by Ghana’s Ambulance Service to locate victims easily and accurately even in situations where there is no internet connection.

The app, SnooCODE, which was customised for the National Ambulance Service as “CodeRed,” has since earned its share of awards and recognition, including the 2014 Africa Content Awards organised by the UN World Summit Awards, a finalist for the
Africa Prize by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a feature on the BBC in 2016.

All this for good reason, as it is arguably the most resilient and culturally sensitive of the growing number of digital solutions for addressing and locating anything.
It does not need any Internet connection or even SIM card to work, and it does not require the knowledge of any words or vocabulary to be used.
A SnooCODE is a 6- or 7-digit alpha-numeric code, e.g. 3ADU-HCO (SnooCODE for Peduase Hotel in Ghana’s Eastern region). Simple, memorable, efficient.

Now, on to the danger and excitement…
Let me paint a very real picture for you.

Say there’s a disaster like the recent catastrophic cyclone in Mozambique and neighbouring areas, which has displaced 600,000 people… One of the biggest problems in such situations is finding survivors and sending relief or rescue. If stranded citizens have working mobile phones, they can easily use the SnooCODE app to share their location with the Emergency Services, and it will quickly lead the help team to their exact spot.
The app was actually identified by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the wake of the 2015 Ebola outbreak as a way to help manage future disasters.

Organisations can basically use SnooCODE and a drone to drop anything – from a bag of rice to a live heart in an ice chest for a transplant – at point XYZ on the globe. In the jungle, or to the 3rd window on the 69th floor.
Exciting, no?!

Let’s bring it even closer to home (you probably believe such crushing natural disasters are not possible in Ghana).
Ask anybody on the street what our biggest problem is, and about 3 out of 5 people will say “Corruption.”
And where would SnooCODE come in here?
You know how certain assets have been reported as never getting delivered to one entity, while the other party maintains it was?
Without giving too much away, I can safely guarantee that SnooCODE has built-in verification capabilities to solve that, referred to by the World Bank as a potential “sister technology to blockchain.” Unlike most of the digital addressing and location solutions around, SnooCODE has been developed a number of steps ahead to combat problems as Goliath-like as Corruption, barring even the common excuse of “the system was down.”

It is precisely because of this that tinyDAVID is a dangerous and exciting place to work. It challenges one inefficiency in the system after another, and I’m sure you know – lots of “big people” do not like that. Even the average Joe/Joan is making a quick buck or managing to not get fired for taking the company car to a meeting at the local pito bar when he/she was supposed to be elsewhere…
The truth of the matter is that most inefficiencies that exist in our part of the world continue to do so because they benefit a few people, particularly the powerful.

Also, can you imagine how a technology like SnooCODE with so much location data might be abused if it got into the wrong hands?

Fortunately, it was built to work offline, in a way that makes it extremely difficult to hack, and unlike other products in the field that collect users’ personal data (like how often they went to the club this month) and sell to third parties, SnooCODE promises a reasonable amount of Privacy, something that makes it ideal for citizens and governments all over the world. (Although some parties that have approached the company would very much want the power to harvest users’ personal data)…

Ultimately, one has to ask themselves: Do I want to be on the side of History that prospers from taking advantage of the system, or do I want to be on the side that faces the dangers and risks of challenging it?
I, for one, am enjoying this breezy, Internet-radio-friendly, dynamic environment, where we are committed to finding tiny solutions to big problems, no matter the threats…

To be continued…

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Humans are capable of magic

Yo I don’t know why this is now really hitting me, but,

blogging is our generation’s way to preserve our legacy.

Conventional blogging, like this… (Essay and story writing, for our great grand parents)

Micro blogging, like with Twitter… (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations 😄)

Photo blogging [phlogging? 🤪], like with Instagram…

Also vlogging! like on YouTube.

But I believe conventional and micro blogging (i.e. our words) give a better sense of who we really are, than photo and video web logging (our “image,” which is more carefully curated).

Blogging is basically us writing down our thoughts.

Many philosophers agree with Carl Sagan (I feel like I need to add something like Honorable, or “His Wisdom” because he was one of the world’s most beautiful minds) that writing may be the world’s most significant profession. Actually, in his exact words:

Sagan writing greatest invention
Writing is perhaps the greatest…

When we write (not ghost write or write copy), especially now with digital technology, we leave pieces of ourselves for generations to come. In the past, you had to be Shakespeare to get published, for great grand generations like us to know about you. Today, you only need the Internet.

When we write, we create something from nothing. Whether we write an alphabet, a word or a sonnet, writing (and drawing) is the first step in visualising or actualizing and preserving our thoughts.

When we write, we transcend our space and our time.

We are capable of magic.

Flying with no plane

Continued from previous post

So it was Easter again, and this year, I was not going to miss out on my dream! I had already learnt how possible it was to have some rewarding experiences outside my comfort zone.

One common-sense but still noteworthy lesson is this: expect the unexpected, welcome spontaneity, but always begin with a plan.
You cannot walk into a party with no connections, no game plan, an empty wallet, and leave it all to chance that enjoyment go kill you. That happens in real life only once in a blue moon.
On the other hand, don’t get OCD planning every step of the trip – leave room for spontaneity; for… mystery.
So, on the rainy morning of Good Friday 2017, armed with ample personal research on what I was going in for, plus our plans to spend little on lodging, enjoy the Paragliding experience, and see a bit of the Kwahu festival, my friends and I set off on our hired bus (we named “The Grasshopper”) for the Eastern Region.

We reached the guesthouse our group organizer had confirmed on the booking site, and lo and behold, the unexpected we should have expected occurred – the surprisingly shabby place had no room for us! After minutes of wrangling over the unfairness of the situation, we asked them to show us somewhere else which might have space, and thankfully, they did. On this day that spontaneity decided to wake up on the right side of the bed, the place 3mins ahead we were pointed towards – Rojo Hotel – turned out to be the best choice in the area. The clean, considerably sized hotel was smack in front of the breathtaking Kwahu mountains, with a view of the Paragliders who were having their turn that day. As should be expected by now though, it was not cheap. But considering our situation, it was nothing to complain about either.

Just like for my weekend trip the month before, I had budgeted GH800 in total (again, hoping to spend not more than GH700), with the knowledge that the place we had booked charged about GH50 a night. But the people at Rojo’s told us the few rooms they had available went for GH250 each, though we could comfortably pair up and share the cost. Oh and also, they were already booked (😒 ), HOWEVER, as at 2pm, the guests had still not made their mandatory 12pm check-in… So we grabbed the opportunity and most likely did to others what had been done to us at the shabby guesthouse (thank you, to those who stole our spot! 😏 )

There was no lingering in our functional rooms at all – the mountains were calling!
We hopped aboard The Grasshopper, braved a 2-hour traffic queue snaking its way up the scenic mountain and finally got a taste of the famous Kwahu ohh Kwahu! 

Sorry to burst bubbles, but the festival was, in my opinion, an incredibly more congested version of the Chale Wote street art festival minus the art & culture, plus scores of unruly attendees (and their SWAT-style strapped-to-the-neck policemen to match) and obscure acts constantly hogging the concert stage. There was, however, some delightful fufu and apɔnkye nkrakra, so yayy!

Now, on to the MAIN DAMN THING!

Have you ever dreamt of flying with nothing but your own body?
If you haven’t, don’t worry – cruise with me.
Imagine lying face down in the backseat, being driven down a highway at a cool 75, on a lovely, breezy day.
Now imagine yourself in the same position, going at the same speed (or accelerating, if you want), but now with no vehicle underneath or around you, your body up in the clouds. I imagine that’s how it would feel to just… fly.
Now, imagine yourself sitting in the car cruising without a care, at maybe 25, then imagine yourself still going – no car now, up hundreds of feet above the ground, with the houses and farms and roads quite visible, not a sound but the wisps of air kissing your ear.
Add an expert pilot behind you and a few strings attached to some large cloth above – THAT is how it felt to paraglide. Safe as being driven to the beat of Beyonçe’s Party.

But first, let’s talk a little about something a little deeper than our fun experience – solidarity.
The morning after we visited the Kwahu festival, we had a filling breakfast and got a ride with the pilots to the paragliding grounds. (We’d returned the night before and met with providence! The pilots’ parachutes were bundled at the front desk of our hotel! THE PILOTS WERE STAYING AT OUR HOTEL!)
So we made the climb up the beautiful mountain (no traffic this time) in their bus, getting to chat a little and prep ourselves for the adventure.
We got to the take-off grounds and met a small crowd. After a few minutes, the name checking and late registration begun. And guess what? We were first on the list.
A few people who missed their turn the day before were already set to go before us though, so we settled down and watched, and freely joined everybody else cheer whomever was about to take off.
And that’s what I mean by solidarity. Everybody knows how daunting the task looks. Everybody knows how fast their heart beats even with the calmest demeanor. Everybody knows that the next person could use a word of encouragement.
The pilots were super nice. The crowd whistled, cheered, applauded…

And one by one, each of us had our turn.
And no matter how awkward or scared or nervous somebody appeared at take off, each and every one braced themselves, jumped off the cliff to applause and soared!

 

Of Beaches, Cocktails & Flying with no plane

Seeking adventure? Willing to be homeless for the weekend? Ready to party from dusk till dawn? Love random conversations with strangers on a beautiful breezy beach over beers or palm wine, about anything from deep thoughts of the cosmos to tickled musings on how Wanlov manages to tread hot, stony, weedy or manure-filled paths with his bare feet? Resilient enough to carry your suitcase-on-wheels from the campsite across the hotel street to the swimmers’ bathroom every time you need to take a bath, so you can keep an eye on your stuff? (You will love this part of the story!) Want to have a “bona fide bucket list experience?

Happy May Day! You’re employed, you earn a living… even if not, you’re alive, and hopefully healthy. Thank God it’s Monday!

And thank God it’s not too late to have those experiences you dream of, the kind that you just ache to share with your best friends, or grand kids, or fun people at a bougie mixer, or just random ones on the Internet like I’ve been moved to do (but have been feverishly procrastinating) since 4th March 2017, even as I made friends on the bus to Busua beach, Western region, for my 1st taste of Asa baako (which means “one dance”) – Ghana’s “Bush fabulous” (self-described on their website), popular but still quite underground beach music festival and jungle party.
(Here’s a tip: You may not have the time to read this in 1 sitting, but if you leave it open in your browser and remember to go back to it for those dumsor times or long waits in traffic, you’ll enjoy the whole flight!)

Now first, I would just like to state that I am aware of how difficult it is for most people (especially myself) to plan, save and embark on a trip anywhere – even one as seemingly simple as a weekend away from Accra, in the Western Region. But sometimes, a chunk of the difficulty is from a lack of information on the different options available. So by the end of this post, I hope you will realize how possible and fulfilling it is, and be inspired to expand your world, perhaps for the next holiday wink

Continue reading Of Beaches, Cocktails & Flying with no plane

Continuing the Convo

I’m not ecstatic with myself.
I have not done half as much as I hoped to do (life!), especially with this blog.
Yet.

One main thing I promised myself was to not be lazy with feedback – to respond honestly to comments as soon as I could.
But alas! 4 months, 4 posts, and I’m now really getting down to it.

Still, better late than never!

I may not yet have a large audience, but to all you cool peeps who read, and give me feedback, whether on here or off, bless y’all!
I really appreciate it.

Not only does it make me confident that I am saying something relevant…
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@armahhesse You actually highlighted a part of the story I thought would rather not be the 1st point of focus (since it dwelt a lot on how we aren’t taught such “lessons on survival” in school). Ayekoo! 

It brings attention to how we can be in very different situations, but still share the same or similar sentiments.
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@Kofi Thanks for making those of us who may be jealous of your lifestyle think again 😜  

It keeps me on my toes – inspires me to keep at it, and do more…
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Charley, I had to Google “cultural appropriation” and read on Wikipedia after that ohh 😅
But I love that you gave me something to learn and write further about! @Bev
Please send me a virtual kick in the butt if I don’t do that soon! 🙆🏾

It opens my eyes to the struggles of other people – some, even very close friends whom I may have never known were going through such difficulties.
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@RMCFIsEternal I’m sad you’re having to deal with all this. But I’m glad you’ve consciously planned to have a positive outlook. Stay strong! And maybe, listen to the wisdom in the comment below…

It reinforces my faith in a subject – better yet, a lesson – I keep having to remember from time to time.
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😘  Amen!

Aaaaaaand a lil’ ego boosting doesn’t hurt 😉
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Thank you all again!

Let’s continue creating thoughtfully, critiquing constructively, thinking rationally, and sharing sharing sharing! 😁

Peace out!

Orientation Day

Somebody is going to die today.
Another will lose their home of 35 years in a flood – or a foreclosure.
One student will walk out in the middle of this class.
And six of you will drop out within 2 weeks.
Good morning, class.
Welcome to the School of Real.

  ,” I texted my best friend Anne, sitting 3 rows behind me.
“I’m scared. But excited!! And anxious!! All at the same time!!!”
Leave it to Anne to get hysterical and abuse punctuation in the middle of Training Day.
I turned around to look at faces – see if I was the only one freaking out, or maybe I was dreaming…
But no, every single face echoed my thoughts:
if this is just the 1st day of high school, WTF have I gotten myself into?

Madam continued:

In a few years, some of you here will get married. Some will have children. Others will look on in envy. While the married ones stew over the walking-out-the-house-when-we-want times they so terribly miss – “the good ol’ days.”
Some of you will get high paying, high-octane jobs that can own your souls, while some others get on their knees – literally – for their daily bread.
Others still will wander around in their 50s, not quite sure of anything, of their neighbours, of just what to do with themselves…
Most of you, in any case, will use only 6% of what you learned in school in life.
And ALL of you, at one time or the other, will look at yourselves in the mirror and intensely dislike what you see.

But ALL of you, will also have moments – no matter how fleeting – of inexpressible beauty! The taste of water on a parched tongue, maybe after a grueling workout… the first words of a child… your first orgasm… a perfect slam dunk… a prestigious award on an international stage, or a “thank you” from a stranger for an unexpected kindness… overwhelming emotion that moves you to tears… infectious laughter at the dinner table… cooking delicious jollof and sharing with hungry friends…
And these are the times you must try earnestly to appreciate – to fully experience, to treasure, absorb into your bank of memories. The times that can inspire greatness bigger than any one person, times like the moment in a garden under an apple tree as one apple fell in the breeze and changed human understanding of the universe forever…

Now, go out and stretch for a 10-minute break.

How does anybody do it these days?

Hello, Friend.

There is one question on my mind this cloudy Monday morning. One baobab question with many branches…

Tell me, how do you get out of bed every morning, give your soul some chicken soup, and head out into the unknown? How do you step out the door every time, knowing even without reading the news, of yet another act of violence some kilometres away? And if it’s 10,000 kilometres away, knowing your Auntie May, or Cousin Edem, or Daddy dearest is “up” there, striving to send “down” some of the famed milk and honey? And if you’ve got all those you love safe and sound just a drive away from you, knowing Abu and Issah – only a couple of the loan sharks you owe – will be visiting your workplace today? And if you are free from all debt, all student loans, all utility bills, all social security taxes, knowing you can count your bank balance on the fingers of your 2 hands? And if it’s more than your 2 hands, knowing you have to go and face that horrible boss who makes you want to pull a Motherfuckah Jones? And if the boss is rather as benign as The Office’ Michael Scott, knowing you have to sit for 8 hours listening to airhead Ani endlessly talk about who is going to fund her next weave? And if all of work is sugar n spice n everything nice, knowing you have to go back home to face four walls and talk about your day to fluffy four-legged Koko, because you’re either alone, or there’s nobody who’ll understand? And if there’s actually someone who’ll understand, you can’t begin to express all the feelings, can’t unload all the weight, because you fought bitterly with her this morning over the lumpy porridge she made for you?
I’m genuinely curious. Take a minute to let me know.

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P.S. I hate to sound cheesy, but first, just breathe. And realize – If You’re Reading this, You’re Alive, And It’s Not Too Late.

Peace,

Zara.