Sea or Desert

BY: ABLAH

With his white earpieces firmly stuck in his ears, the middle-aged barber skillfully run his barbering machine in the mid-section of his client’s head and angrily declared, “What does he mean? … That’s why I have stopped picking his calls.”

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He kissed his teeth and continued, “growing up, I noticed that in our culture, if you did anything without the consent of your elders, and whatever you did backfired, you wouldn’t even dare come back home complaining to these elders, for obvious reasons. So why is he disturbing us with calls as if we consented to his trip? What does he think of us?”

In spite of the loud sound from his television set, which was showing some music videos, one could hear every single word Fearoo, the barber spoke. His counterpart, who was equally skillful wasn’t present at the time, thereby creating a queue of clients on his long fake black leather sofa. I had accompanied Obodai for a haircut. In all, there were five men awaiting their turn.

I don’t usually accompany Obodai there, but I kind of felt like taking a stroll with him on Saturday evening. So we ended up at Fearoo’s. I kind of like the way barbers are upping their game lately with neat and nice décor for their shops. In Fearoo’s case, the walls of his standard sized shop were cladded in nicely designed wall paper. His air-condition worked very well. His “home-use” large television set was so clear, one could virtually feel the pictures come alive with each roll of a scene.


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Sweeping was done with a long brush after each haircut so the porcelain tiled floors were clean. Lately he has added body massage to his services. He is yet to launch that aspect though. Perhaps, during the festive season.

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I easily deduced from the telephone conversation that he was chatting with a relative who was also complaining of how often a brother of his, phoned to request for assistance to be brought back to Ghana.

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“Sometimes I just don’t get it. You work very hard, save the equivalent of 4,000 American dollars, and then with your cash and all, you will your life into the hands of a “Connection Man” who claims to have the power to transport you through some dodgy means to Italy through one major gateway – Libya”. What at all are some of us looking for?” The barber went on and on, complaining about his relative who is presently stuck in Libya, and who sees everyone as having a responsibility to deliver him out of that bondage he’s found himself in.

Libya seems to have become purgatory where most migrants prepare to face the deadliest stretch of the Mediterranean Seas. Does the huge span of water not scare them? And the desert some of them tread to reach the North African desert country, does it’s prevailing weather conditions, scanty water and animals not kill some of these travellers? I know, it’s the desire to make live worth living, but do the culprits really get to realise the desired worth of their existence?

I couldn’t believe the fact that the gentleman travailing in Libya had actually saved up that much money to enslave himself in that land which flows not with milk and honey. Why did he not continue to Italy as soon as he arrived in the desert country? Or it wasn’t easy so to do?

When he had ended the call, the barber, Fearoo, wisely apologised to us for being on the phone for that long, and explained his argument to us. According to him, this said relative came to live in Accra to work with him for about two years, before starting his own business as a professional shoemaker. In his words, “Massa, if this brother of mine makes shoes for you, you would think they were imported. He used to go to Kantamanto to buy secondhand leather bags and rip them apart to make nice shoes.”
“He was doing so well, in about a year and a half, he was able to marry a hard working woman who owned a small chop bar. They were both doing relatively well in terms of finances”, said Fearoo. “He hid his plans from me, I who brought him to make a living in Accra … he hid his plans which he hatched with his wife from me. It was after he had left that his wife told me about the trip. Final destination was Italy”.

“What on earth makes them think that those who live in Italy, Spain and those other countries are basking in wealth?” Asked an elderly client. “I know a few friends in Italy who would willingly travel back to Ghana if they had money to buy tickets. Yes, they desire to relocate. But the means to do so is a real problem”, he continued.
“They go away and when they plunge themselves into trouble, they blame the government in power for neglecting them. What at all is wrong with Ghanaians?” commented the young man whose hair was being barbered.

A discussion ensued from the Libya discourse. The young man who was to have his hair cut before Obodai recounted the experience of a school mate of his who died on the desert. He said they only heard of his demise because amidst the group he was trekking with, there was another Ghanaian who knew the deceased. It was he who mournfully saw the need to phone Ghana to inform the perished man’s relatives of his demise. This was weeks after the loss because it took days for them to arrive in Libya.

Hm, USD4,000. Oh, the things one can do with that kind of cash in terms of business. Why would anyone lose their life, dignity and cash because of such a voyage whose end cannot be determined? I hope and pray Fearoo’s relative arrives in Ghana unharmed.