Today, I will be telling you all about Asutsuare, a town that hosted me for National service. It is this same ASUTSUARE where students and people gave me ideas that informed the tales I have been sharing. Let’s get right into it!
My shoulders sagged as fast as my eyes settled on the name of my host town on my appointment letter. ‘What kind of place is this? And how village-like is it? How come it’s suggestive of Eastern Region or Ashanti Region but it is rather found in Greater Accra? I was surprised.
Later my father briefed me about the place. He told me there used to be a sugar factory there. That means industry, so ‘they certainly could not be that bad’. I thought to myself. He also said I will use the Tema-Akosombo road, where I will go past Shai hills, Afienya, Doryumu. All familiar places. My memory of the view of the mountains on that road was enough to put my mind at rest about the conditions of Asutsuare.
Making the journey there was interesting. There is Asutsuare junction, which leads to the town, but we rather passed by to the next junction-Akuse to go through there instead. What a place!
O how I sighed on alighting at Akuse junction! The view was sweet. No noise, quiet taxi station and a few stalls at the side of the road showcasing some foods and fruits. It felt like in the middle of nowhere. Well, that should have told me something but it didn’t until I sat in the taxi for about thirty minutes. Only then did I make meaning of it. If I was in the middle of nowhere then it will certainly take a while for a taxi to fill up.
My neighbours and I
From Akuse junction we passed by the mountains, stretched along the road. We then went through what looked like a canopy of trees as we approached the Volta River Authority (VRA) basic school. There was a bank, a number of microfinance firms, a marketplace, shops, a hospital etc. O how that encouraged me! But soon I saw the reverse as we drew close to Asutsuare. Nothing but a clinic and a few buses for a lorry station? ‘Eeeiii! How will I
survive around here?’ Charlie reality check! Asutsuare is a small town bounded by all the beautiful mountains I keep mentioning. At its heart are large fields of mostly rice, vegetables and maize.
It is known for its bridge. On entering through the bridge the bus or Taxi takes you to the bus station, and from the bus station, you are left on your own. Yes, that is how far the ‘buses and taxis services’ go. From there all the okadas (motorbikes) are at your service! Haha!
My people speak Dangbe. So just like it is typical of the Ga-Adangbe people, you are expected to be able to speak their language once you are on their land. And they, in turn, will forever struggle to pronounce a word from yours! I run! You are sure to be referred to as awots3 (brother) or awony3 (sister) all the time in town. Well, that is polite and homely.
‘Town’ and ‘Estates’
Asutsuare is divided into two. There is the town and the Estates. Estates actually refer to the bungalows that used to house workers of the then sugar factory. That part of town has not changed much. It is still seen as where the elite lives – thus teachers, health workers, bankers and the like. The town is where the town’s folk are. Estates have good lighting and water conditions. Much cannot be said of town in this regard, however. I guess these differences explain the terms Estates and town well enough.
The sugar factory is no more. But in its place are rice farms. These farms are irrigated all year round by the Kpong Irrigation Scheme (KIS) under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).
Most families in Asutsuare own rice farms; it is just the norm. Even young people own farms. Rice is planted and harvested for about three seasons before a year ends. There is a ready market for rice produce so it is a very lucrative venture. Most of the local rice we find on our markets come from there. Those who do not have lands and the other resources to farm work as labourers, for farming activities such as transplanting, weeding out, harvesting, scaring and threshing.
There are also the industries. Among them is Golden Exotics limited (GEL), known for the production and importation of bananas. These industries create more employment opportunities for the local people. So it is either one works as a factory hand or as an entrepreneur, managing his farm.
Since the main means of transportation is the motorbike, most young people are also into the Okada business.
The issue about these employment opportunities though is the deception it creates for the students. They are easily deceived into leaving the classroom to make quick money.
Hence it is an ongoing battle for teachers and parents.
In Asutsuare I learnt to eat banku and pepper with fried fish regularly. I didn’t know this collabo could be appetizing, so much that I would love to eat it often. Banku became easy to prepare. And Oh tilapia no be problem (it is in abundance). You only have to make a choice between the freshwater ones and that of the fish ponds. Even fried yam is sold with tilapia. Yeah, tilapia is affordable like that. Plantains are also in abundance there. It is usually what you find in most people’s backyard gardens.
Provisions are however quite expensive over there.
We do not have a market. We have market days instead-on Sundays. Market days for me was my primary school English reader story, come alive– market days in Asesewa. There is a grand display of various foods, clothing, household items and many more. The whole town comes alive as people buy and sell amidst hearty conversations.
It is easy to find most items during this time, as compared to other days since market women come from various surrounding towns to sell their wares.
And on Monday mornings I always saw a thing or two on my kids from the market (a new shoe, cardigan etc). I would engage them with talks on their role at the marketplace and they will rant on and on before we get on with the lesson.
Somewhere 2011 at the Aggrey Memorial SHS library flipping the pages of ‘Santrofi on National service’, little did I know that it was just a matter of years and I will be narrating my version. The prose was a lovely one, inspiring, even, let me admit. Only, that even did not make me wish to teach for national service.
You know the myth surrounding teaching for national service. It is considered quite ‘lame’. Who does that? When there are chances of landing a good job and subsequently climbing corporate ladders if one serves at a corporate organization? I mean I would even feel unserious back then to wish for something like that.
But hey, here I am. Doing. C.
I loved Asutsuare for the weather. It could rain anytime. I loved the greens everywhere and the mountains I could see from almost anywhere I stood.
I miss the serenity of Estates. Yes, that is where I lived. I miss the mountains (I could get out of my bunk just to catch a glimpse of them). I would walk from a point where it seemed to get closer with every step I take. From there, it looked like a huge painting in the skies! It was always so overwhelmingly beautiful.
I miss the shouts of ‘madam’, ‘madam’ from my students on Sundays while I passed through the lorry station on the Okada, on my way to church. I miss everything. Actually, I am glad I took this not so much of a good idea shot for my service to Ghana.
I like the opportunity the experience afforded me to understand certain social issues better since they were presented to me from a whole new angle.
And oh I can also brag about knowing someplace other than Tema where I have lived all my life.
So there you go, like we say it, that’s ‘Asutsuare for you to see and envy’. Do visit there sometime to transact business or go sightseeing. And when you do tell them, madam, Margaret sent you.
Asutuare post by Margaret Blankson
Other Stories by Margaret
- Tales of an NSS Teacher: allawa
- Tales of an NSS Teacher: Our Day
- An NSS teacher: trotro on the mountain
- Tales of an NSS teacher: classroom management
- Tales of an NSS teacher: A Date at the rice farms
- An NSS Teacher: Ek3 mini
- Tales of an NSS Teacher: May Day
- Tales of an NSS Teacher: Today
- The Magic Carpet: An Aladdin Inspired Story (Candy Replies)
- We are Ghanaians everywhere!
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