In the Time of the Strike:

My five week “Grace” period

During the University of Ghana’s (UG) five-week strike, everything was simple. There were no classes or campus activities, the faculty was nowhere to be found, and the only people on campus were the international students. For the first month my world consisted of: the International Student’s Hostile (ISH), the market right beside it, and occasionally the Bush Kanteen. It felt like an extended orientation—I was stuck with the same group of people and restricted to only a few places for fear of getting lost.

 But it wasn’t as mundane as it sounds. In that five-week grace period, I was able to go to some really cool events like the ”Close Up Salsa-Azonto dance competition” at Independence Square and visit tourist destinations like the Jamestown lighthouse. The best part, however, was living with my roommate, Grace, who turned out to be a lot cooler than I’d expected.

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 On my first day with my roommate, we definitely did not click. I tried to be friendly, but she basically brushed me off. Plus, she left the ceiling fan on during the night and immediately turned it back on whenever I turned it off. This was sure to be a long semester.

 The next day, I decided to give it another try. Aside from her crack-of-dawn singing, she was decently pleasant that morning. Her friend, Mariam, came in and helped her move some furniture around before they left for class. Excited by the prospect of having the room to myself for a while, I jumped out of bed and immediately began to rearrange my side. Just as I was gearing up to push the wardrobe into place, she rapped on the door.

 I quickly kicked the table away from the door in order to let her in. She and Mariam squeezed inside as I tried to explain why the room was so disheveled. I expected her to be annoyed, but she seemed to understand what I was trying to say. She removed her old, leaking fridge and dragged it into the hallway along with her microwave and a large bag filled with her stuff. At first, I thought she was moving out because she couldn’t stand me, but then I realized she was leaving in a couple of weeks, and was just starting the move-out process early.

After that, I couldn’t really place a finger on her. She was friendly most times, but also a bit distant. I figured it was because she was a few years older than me and almost done with school. She often talked of her talented friends like “Joy, the designer” or “Gloria, the hairdresser.” I listened to her stories eagerly, trying to get a feel for the ins and outs of the country. For about a week we politely coexisted.

 One day I was sitting in the International Programs Office complaining to my friend Maxwell that, unlike most students, I already had a roommate.

Out of nowhere, he asked, “Has your roommate ever mentioned that she is a singer?”

“I dunno, why?”

“She’s a celebrity. Your roommate is a celebrity.”

“Nahh. Really? You sure?”

“Yeah, look her up. Her stage name is Kaaki.”

 We looked her up. I still wasn’t convinced. Then I showed him an Instagram photo that she showed me earlier that day.

 “YEAH that’s her!”

“OH MY GOD! My roommate is a CELEBRITY.” I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

For the rest of the five weeks, I lived a charmed life. After revealing to Kaaki that I knew her secret identity, things warmed up immensely. She became like a big sister to me. We talked about boys, our dreams, and our goals. She confided in me about her journey to stardom and her struggles thereafter. I even accompanied her to visit her stylist, Joy, and got to see her performance outfit before anyone else. After week five, Grace finished her last exam. She packed up the rest of her things and left to record more songs. We exchanged Whatsapp details and promised to keep in touch.

Shortly after her departure, the strike ended. I got a new, less famous roommate, started my classes, and had to reorient myself to a campus of over 30,000. My charmed life was officially over. It was time to face reality and be a real student.