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meeting madam mercy

In Notes on 4 February, 2012 at 4:20 am

it is the seemingly mundane, everyday encounters that delight the anthropologist inside me. i had one of these magic moments when i met madam mercy at the resource centre for persons with disabilities in saka saka, tamale.

i had seen the centre’s sign board countless times on bicycle trips between home and town. every time i saw the sign, it raised questions in my mind. i felt compelled to learn more and took the chance when my manager forwarded me a grant opportunity to work with people with disabilities.

madam mercy stood out to me immediately. the first time i met her she was wearing sunglasses. she has chin-length golden braids that curve against her cheeks. she radiates a calm confidence. when i told her my name is mona, she asked me if i’m from the dagati tribe – her tribe in the upper west region of ghana. i laughed and said no, but i would happily become a dagati. she said mona is a popular name among dagati people – it means ‘queen’. you can see why i took an immediate liking to this lovely woman.

the second time i met madam mercy, the rest of the group was at a sports day in jubilee park. i opened the door to the centre and saw madam mercy lying stiffly yet peacefully across a wooden bench. a small radio chattered next to her. on top of this cacophony i said, “madam mercy…madam mercy? sorry to disturb you…” she woke up from a light sleep and said she was glad i came.

i learnt so much from madam mercy that morning. since it was just the two of us, we were able to safely share thoughts, ideas and feelings that wouldn’t necessarily have been raised in a group. we spoke about “development” issues but the sentences that stood out from our encounter were less political, more spiritual:

“we have five senses but when you lose one, god in his way gives you one that is special that you can use. ”

“if you cannot see, you have the inner eye – that is the heart.”

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