...back to places Introduction
January 5 2004
I don't think we're in Togo anymore Toto.
Independance square, in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
Arriving in Accra, the capital city of Ghana from Togo feels like:
- When you stop holding hour breath
- When you come in from the cold
- When you rollerblade on pavement after being on the sidewalk
- When the furnace that you didn't know was keeping you awake
- When somebody turns on the light while reading in a dimly lit
- Like getting out of a 1 hr traffic jam
- Like walking into an air-conditioned room after being in the
scorching heat all day.
- Like finally having a TA or teacher at university who can actually
- Like finishing exams
What do I mean by all these metaphors? Simply put, Togo is a place
where many things just aren't right, but with time you get used
to them. At the same time you don't really realize the pressure
that building up inside until you experience something "normal"
Accra, the capital of Ghana, while nothing spectacular, is the
closest I have felt to normal since I got on this continent, and
so in the absence of Togo, it feels great.
It has well maintained roads, overpasses, streetlights, stoplights,
fast food, hamburgers, pizza, air conditioning, busses that leave
at a set time, sidewalks, trees, etc. All very "normal".
It's hard to describe exactly how this feels, but think of how
you feel in any of the above situations and I think that is pretty
Somebody who went to school in Accra from Canada warned her that
Accra was tough. Well, it's definitely not when one is used to Togo.
I found myself feeling lighter than I have since I got here, that
I could just be, normal (well, as normal as a Yovo can be in Africa).
I spent a few evening at "Busy Cafe". Here, they have
an internet cafe that has a relatively good connection, 100 computers
with LCD flat monitors, is air, and plays a nice mix of background
music and background music sound levels. You see, in Togo, if anybody
plays music, it has to be CRANKED UP TO FULL VOLUME AT ALL TIMES
SO THAT YOU CAN'T HEAR THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU. Furthermore, it had
a small movie theatre that plays recently released DVDs, and next
door is a bar and restaurant. I ordered Busy Chicken both nights,
which is like KFC. And the meat didn't fight back when I tried to
eat it (Togo chicken gets way too much exercise), which actually
took me by surprise.
I even had ice cream for desert.
Hey, this is the lap of luxury right? KFC, 3 scoops of ice cream,
and a reliable internet connection?
So, I guess it's nothing all that special, but I am now convinced
that luxury is a relative, not an absolute thing.
When I get back to Canada, I am sure that I will be in heaven for
a few weeks as I settle back in to the way I know things to be,
but I suspect that they will very quickly become just "normal"
again. After all, who is going to drool over KFC when you can have
Swiss Chalet (and almost for the same price these days)?
This leads me to the following hypothesis: "Contentness is
generally a differential of satisfaction".
We'll call this "Tim general theory of contentedness"
This is nerdy engineering speak meaning that we are content only
in comparison to how content we were the day before. So, let’s say
that today I had a satisfaction level of 5. If yesterday my satisfaction
level was 3, then today I will be very content. If yesterday my
satisfaction level was 7, then today I will not be very content,
even though I have the same level of satisfaction as in the previous
Get it? If you don't, well, read it again.
Taking Tim's theory of general contentedness into account, A person's
net contentedness over the course of their life will only be how
much more satisfied they were at the end of their lives that at
Well, most babies seem pretty darned content, and allot of old
men seem pretty darned grumpy, which is a net negative contentness.
That means one must have been uncontent for more of their life than
Even if you are more satisfied at the end of your life, you have
to be ALOT more satisfied to have a positive net contentness at
the end of your life.
All in all, you will probably be content for about 50% of the time,
and not content the other 50%... According to Tim's theory of general
That is, unless you can find something bigger and better for every
day of your life. Our means are slightly more finite that that.
So, how do we get around this?
Basically, the solution is to concede that Tim's theory of general
contentness is just not true, and CHOOSE to have joy every day despite
the circumstances, and be thankful for everything.
I can't believe I just described happiness in terms of math, I'm
such a geek.
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