Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pimping the system: Free food and asheka

As long as I can remember, the notion of every person needing three square meals a day has rung from sea to shining sea. The truth is, I don't remember having three square meals consistently ever since I started living in the USA. I can't afford it and even if I could, I probably wouldn't. Thanks to my Mum, I do get 3 excellent meals when I am in Ghana though. I make sure to eat two heavy meals each day, within 8-10 hours for the second. This is the mantra I follow, unless I am really hungry. Well, this morning, I was really hungry. It was about 11am and I began wondering where I'd have lunch, what I'd eat and how I'll get the food. After spending $20 on the two previous days' lunches, and a further $20 more on dinner Thursday night, I voted unanimously not to purchase food. Cuz I'm a hustler, baby!

I made a couple calls to some Stanford students who had meal plans. I finally retrieved an ID number, that's all I needed. I confidently walked up into the dining hall, rattled the ID number like it was mine and my ticket to lunch was 'bought'. The first thought that came into mind when I had gained entry was "I'm going to make a killing". You know how a 'striker' earns the ladle for a Presec dining hall table and impatiently awaits the grace. Folks, I had gathered a ladle. I packed as much as I could eat and the thought of getting free food from a Stanford dining hall truly gladdened my heart. I took sooo much food, the only person I could think of who would challenge me in an eating competition would have been Michael Phelps (that guy is a beast). I am training for the next olympics my people, but before I take my next swimming class, I am 'taking' Phelps out cuz he's about the only thing that would stand in my way of winning that gold medal. Mad props to Jason Dunford for making Kenya and Stanford proud at the Olympics too.

I settled down on a table and started enjoying the major 'asheka' I had pulled off. My Presec brothers would relate. You know when you feel your school or institution has ripped you off? Or treated you bad? Not given you enough money? Followed the prospectus to the 'tee' and showed you no mercy? When you get a chance, to get something for free or pimp the system, you must earn as many gentleman bucks as you can get. Strip the organization off all the rewards you can get. Now, that is 'asheka'. I stayed in the dining hall long enough to make sure I didn't waste any of the food. Like old times, I even sent some food out of the dining hall. The 'blue magicians' (old students of Presec) would bask in this glory. Should I mention that I have like 7 more free meals next week? Yes, I also slept at the Holiday Inn last night.

Grad students live for free food. Departmental meetings, seminars, candy stack in the office, cultural shows, athlete training sessions; we are there to 'raid'. This summer, I decided to spend almost nothing buying food (groceries don't count). I passed the test with flying colours. Other than the odd dinner here and there, I ate mostly food I conjured up myself, or free food I got from friends and other sources. With the help of a friend who perched at my place all summer, we 'raided' places that shall remain anonymous that we didn't need to buy groceries anymore. Call it hustle, call it theft, call it shameful, call it survival; I call it 'pimping the system'. "I no dey shame for food, anything wey I go do, because adefoode I am in love with you, oh oh, oh oh". Adefoode in Twi means getting things for cheap, in many cases that apply to the MIghTy African, it means getting things for free.

I hated it when I was the victim of 'asheka' in Presec. So it must not be fun to be the victim when I am on my 'spree'. But, do you know how much food goes to waste in the dining hall? I do pay fees, don't I? (even if it's not from my pocket). I am the customer, the consumer, the one who the service is dependent on to keep the service running. So if I get something for free or a great break, so be it. Can they add eating as an Olympic sport? I have faith that I can win Ghana a medal in one of those events.

PS: Asheka is a Presec lexicon which means 'cheating'. (I hope you didn't just drop your jaw cuz you ain't getting any food). Examples include; serving a group of people food and taking the lion's share, scrubbing the bath-house but not well enough, a teacher teaching less than what he is supposed to teach, a teacher brushing off a student's question and leaving him more confused, a school asking for fees for a literary supplements and furnishing the students who paid for it with one literary supplement; you get the drift right?
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