In the suburbs of Accra, where some of the streets were paved and the majority potholes ridden and dusty, there is a town called Madina. It is famed for its bustling commodity market and blossoming mobile phone vendors. Unlike the slick sellers at the famed Kwame Nkrumah Circle who are notorious for selling bars of soaps housed in Samsung cases for the price of the phones, the guys around the Providence bank were legit. And their price tag was reasonable too.
Madina was also famous for its Zongo. A predominantly Muslim community, the wake up alarm here was the Mu’azzin’s call to prayer. But even before the “Allaaaaaaaaahu Akbar” was heard, Kwabena was awake. Fanning himself in his dark cubicle as the sweat dripped and poured from his body, his mind was preoccupied with the same thing it had been for days. Not even ECG’s power outage could take the energy away from the light bulb that had been ignited in his head.
Inside his rectangularly shape room was a perfectly lined up selection of sneakers. The first in line was the Jordan Retro 7, his most prized possession. They were sold for over a hundred dollars. How he was able to get it remains a mystery. And then there were the “air force ones”, “chuck taylors” and “perry’s”. Of course the shoe boxes were also stacked in the room. What use were a bunch of shoes decorating a room if their boxes were not lying nearby to prove their newness?
There was his 40 inches LG flat screen TV protruding from the wall and the air conditioner too which had been rendered useless by the erratic power supply. All these possessions were cool and expensive but very mundane in Kwabena’s eyes. There was a large poster which barely cost him 10 cedis, covering an overwhelming part of his wall. It had three colors; blue, white and red. And 50 stars which had a funny way of shinning even without confetti strips.
Kwabena bought the star spangled banner poster when he was 16 years and made a promise to himself at the time to visit the land where it was made. Lucky for him, it was not one of the many products made somewhere in a sweat shop in Guangzhou. The tag read “Made in The USA”.
The call to the Fajr prayer was now being heard across the neighborhood. This Mu’azzin had a special addition to the conventional call. “..Wake up your household for prayer. He who has a kettle, use it. He who does not, use a bottle. He who does not have a bottle, use a calabash. He who does not have a calabash, then sorry for your destituteness”. His Kano accented Hausa added some panache to the already hysterical appendage to the Azan.
As bodies rustled against bed sheets and feet started moving in the compound outside, Kwabena slowly got off his bed and moved to his washroom. Few people had personal restrooms in Zongo. Even as he washed his hands, face, head and feet, his mind was miles away. It had drifted to the concrete jungle he had seen several times in the Hollywood movies he had downloaded from the shady torrent websites. While others counted their prayer beads en route to the mosque, he counted down the days until his interview date. It was no different as he stood in the line for prayers. His only prayer was “O Allah, grant me a visa to America”.