Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Third time lucky?

Well, who would have thought? Firstly, that the 7th December elections wouldn't result in a clear winner, but more surprisingly secondly, that the 28th December elections wouldn't result in a winner! Surely the 2nd January elections in the Tain constituency ought to give us a new president of Ghana, right? After all they say third time's a charm.

And by the looks of it, it will be third time lucky for Atta Mills as well, after all it will take more than the extraordinary for my dear party to turn things around now. Then again, I think we're beginning to realise that the 2008 Ghana elections are all about surprises...

Monday, 29 December 2008

Counting, collating, waiting...

Another busy Sunday, to think we've had to go through two national elections in three weeks!

After hearing news yesterday of fights, riots, beatings of NDC officials in Ashanti region, beatings of NPP officials in Volta region and even an ear slashed off in Tamale, I began to wonder whether we are as peaceful a nation as we claim. Over all though, it seems we've had a peaceful election day.

And now, once again, we are counting and calculating, trying to figure out the final result. As it is now, it looks like we can already tell who the winner is. Will be very interesting to see how this will affect the country, in the next few days, and the four years to come.

I just hope they found the slashed off part of the Tamale man's ear, which they were still looking for yesterday evening!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

One year anniversary

Is it one year already?

It seems so long ago and yet time has passed so quickly since the beautiful lady of politics with her head loosely wrapped in a white scarf was assasinated a year ago. I remember how my heart leapt when I heard the news, only to be followed by the fascination that I'd reacted so strongly to the death of a person I had never met, nor envisioned meeting. But of course, there are not many fierce, headstrong and persistent women that we have as role models, especially as political leaders of countries of political instability, like Pakistan, so this unique woman was bound to affect us.

Even as a child, in another part of the world, I remember recognising the strength of Benazir Bhutto and I hope her memory lives on to encourage the children of today, especially those to become women, all over the world to continue bravely fighting injustices.

So this is Christmas

It's been a nice quiet Christmas and I have achieved my Christmas present to myself - not getting stuck in any of the traffic! In the past three days I have only driven between Labone, Osu and Cantonments and I wouldn't wish to have it any other way!

Our Christmas Eve dinner was a complete success! With an uncle, cousin a few friends, my mum and Virgo present, we managed to devour a julbord likened to any one found in Sweden. We had meatballs, prinskorvar (sausages), mustard roasted ham, Janssons frestelse (traditional Christmas potato gratin), pickled herring in different sauces, egghalves with a seafood mayo mix on top, smoked salmon, beetroot salad and some bread and Swedish cheese on the side.

This was of course followed by mulled wine with saffron rolls, gingerbread, soft ginger cake and sweets. In the evening my mum and I sat down to watch Fanny & Alexander, a Swedish Christmas classic, but as the movie is several hours long, we only managed to watch about half of it and will probably watch the second half tomorrow.

Christmas Day was a continued food fest from a full breakfast of varieties, lunch at my cousin's house and a late, late (midnight!) dinner of roast potato chicken and stuffing prepared by moi.

Unfortunately, turning on the TV yesterday brought me back to the realisation that we are about to go into another election, meaning it was all campaigning, campaigning, campaigning. I hope in a week's time we'll be in an equally peaceful Ghana as now, having selected a new president in a fair electon and counting process.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From me to you

As I sit up, waiting for Virgo to get back from a political meeting (yes, at this hour on Christmas Eve, then again, he made it for lunch so I can't blame him), I'm loving the sounds of the UK Christmas number one and thought I'd be generous enough to give you a Christmas recipe as my Credit Crunch savvy gift to you all.

Mulled Wine
(a jug full)

2 liters red wine
20-30 cloves
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon
heaped tablespoon of grated ginger
100 ml sugar

Put the wine in a pan to boil. Grind/crush the whole cloves as fine as possible using a pestle and mortar (note: NOT what is used to pound fufu!).
Add the cloves, cinnamon, ginger and sugar to the wine and bring to boil.
Leave to simmer for at least ten minutes. Add any extra spices as necessary to create what you consider the best tasting mulled wine.

Non-alcoholic version: use red grape juice instead of wine. Halve, or completely leave out the sugar. Simmer for at least 20 minutes and add spices as necessary.
Serve in small cups with raisins or almonds as optional toppings to be sprinkled into the drink to add further flavour.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The night before Christmas

I made the best decision this weekend: I decided to go to Ridge Church's carols night, even though I had no one to go with. It may sound trivial but I blame my Swedish upbringing, it takes a lot for me to get up and go somewhere without anyone accompanying me, in London I could never understand (but I did admire) my housemate Miss Valentine who'd easily go to the movies by herself.

Anyway, as usual I digress! The reason it was a good decision? It wiped away all my 'the EC/credit crunch stole Christmas' bitterness and re-vitalised my usual Christmas spirit. So yesterday I met my uncle at the airport to pick up the Swedish goodies my dad had sent with him. I've also managed to stock up on gas (for the cooker), water, drinks and food for the holiday season, while still trying to get some work done. This evening has been spent brewing mulled wine and baking lussekatter (saffron rolls) and soft gingerbread cake (and of course tasting them too).

Tomorrow morning, we'll start early, rolling meatballs, cooking the ham, etcetera, etcetera. Oh did I forget to mention that in Sweden we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve?

And naturally, growing up in a Ghanaian family, I get the best of both worlds, with Julbord- the Swedish Christmas feast on Christmas Eve, then Turkey, stuffing and all the rest on Christmas day.

Best of all, and unexpectedly, the 28 December elections has created the perfect solemn mood for a simple, quiet family celebration, the way I love spending Christmas. Now I'm just hoping the politicians decide to cool it for a bit so that Virgo manages to join us in our first Christmas in our common home (last year's was spent having delicious dinner at Fiesta Royale, really recommend it, although very expensive).

Merry Christmas to you all!!!

P.S. I promise to document our Ghanaian-Swedish julbord...if I remember to take pictures!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Please do not urinate here!

One of the most embarassing things about many Ghanaians or Accraians is that they seem to have embraced public urination. Bloggers before me have written about this phenomenon, fascinated at the skilled techniques used to perfect this action. I think we've all been visually abused by seeing people empty their bladders any and everywhere. Please note however that this act tends to be restricted to certain groups of society, it seems for every one person who does it, there are two who disapprove.

As a newcomer in Ghana the signs one reacts to are the 'please do not urinate here' signs, in addition to other common ones like 'no taxis allowed'. But today I heard the best story of what goes around comes around and if we spread this story perhaps the public urination will finally end.

A (Ghanaian) man living in the States started feeling a bit...desperate. He stopped at the roadside and decide to whip it out and have a pee. However, a police car saw him and pulled over to detain him. After a bit of questioning they asked for his papers and lo and behold: he was in the States illegally! So now he is on his way back to Ghana after being deported. Please oh please can we find this man and have him lecture on the fact that charity begins at home.

If you don't stop peeing all over the walls of Accra, you'll end up pissing your way out of the land of opportunity!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

December weekend

I just found out a secret and I am so excited. A very near and dear person to me is coming to town in the next few days! The reason it's a surprise is because she's not telling her dad but will rather show up at his doorstep (Dear God, please don't let her shock him too much!). The added advantage for me is I'll be getting my lush Reese's peanut butter cups, American magazines and a few other bits and pieces, which she slyly told me she'd send in a parcel.

Other than this great news, yesterday was spent at Silverbird Cinema in the Accra Mall. We saw The Day the Earth stood Still. Let's just say, it was of the same quality as Keanu Reeves' other movies, excluding the Matrix ones, if you get my drift. After that we stopped for a brief drink at Rhapsody's and if yesterday is anything to go by, they start charging the ridiculous entrance fee at 11pm so we made it just in time at 22:50!

In true Ghana December style, I have spent today at a wedding I wasn't officially invited to (went as my mum's plus one), which started off with a service at Ridge Churc and then reception at Lababdi Beach Hotel. The decor at the reception was lovely, the couple beautiful and I guess it all went as they'd planned, including the ridiulous wedding poses they stood for for photos. Oh dear, it all took me back to some very cheesy photos I saw at a wedding fair in Croyson several years ago.

Now we're off to the National Theatre for a Night of 1007 laughs. Have a good Saturday!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Two years ago...

As we're having breakfast this morning with a TV-movie playing in the background, what happens in the movie suddenly reminds me of what day it is today. Two years ago today, my dear family member, playmate and comforter passed away. Passed away I say, really she was put down, a decision made by the whole family. What a difficult decision to make!

Before owning a pet of my own, I belonged to the group of people who could not understand people crying over their dead pets, after all it's just an animal. But once you own one yourself and watch it become a part of your family, seeing it as "just an animal" becomes a very distant thought.

With us, all bad things happened to F around Christmas and New Year. First there was the car accident, when she was hit after one of the snowballs we were throwing in the garden flew out on to the road and she followed it, at merely four months old. Then there was the hysterectomy a few years later. And two years ago, after being told by the vet that keeping her alive would be considered torture as her internal organs were failing due to old age, she didn't even make it to Christmas.

Making that decision, whilst half of the family was in Ghana was the most difficult. Out of our own selfishness, we wanted to keep her alive til we could go and see her one last time, but realised it would not be fair on her. In the end, Mr. T called us before going in to Bla Stjarnans Animal hospital and once again 30 minutes later when the 'procedure' was over to let us know how it went. Being in Ghana made it all the harder. Who's going to understand when you say "I'm feeling really low because my dog, my family member of thirteen years has just died". Instead we spent the days until Christmas at home, trying to reminisce amongst ourselves of the great times we'd had with her.

Having F in the family for thirteen years has affected my life in so many ways, despite the fact I lived in another country for 6 of those years. To this day I think leftovers will be saved for "the dog" then remind myself I don't have one. Anytime I'm sad or crying, I expect to see F come to me with big sad brown eyes wondering why I'm not happy and putting her head in my lap until I feel better. Or I remember, when we're all very happy (usually after a football game) and rejoicing, how she'd come and jump around in the middle, making sure she didn't miss out on any of the fun.

My beautiful half-labrador/half-golden retriever is gone for good and as far as I am concerned, I'll never have a pet again. It is such a wonderful experience but the sadness once it's gone is too much, and the need to supress that sadness makes the mourning so much worse.

For the joys of having a dog, read this lovely post by Denise.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Family Values

It seems the Christmas traffic is definitely in town. How could I really imagine that the credit crunch would keep the (Ghanaian) tourists away? Ah well, I guess it's only fun to have some fresh blood in town. Alhough many of us actually wince as we hear them squeal to each other "HI! Are you here?! Which flight were you on? I came with BA!", (often whilst wearing boots, inappropriate for December in Ghana), it does provide a bit of entertainment and variation to every day life in Ghana. Us returnees listen to them and turn to each other saying "Please tell me I didn't behave like that a few years ago?". Funny how quickly you become a local, isn't it!

I'm avoiding the whole rush this year as it's tinted with the slight tension of the elections. Instead, I'm catching up with friends one-on-one in the comfort of my own home. After a veeeeery long appointment at the Rent Office this morning (I'm talking hours and hours) a dear friend came over for what turned into an equally long lunch/dinner. She left me with a cute story of her daughter's reaction to a bedtime story.

As she told the story of a little Ghanaian girl who grew up to be a judge and lived happily ever after, her daughter replied: "But what about a husband and a family, mummy? Did she only become a judge?

Sweet huh? A six-year old who'll not only understand the importance of a career, but already sees the value of family in addition to it.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas: View out of Ghana

In Sweden, as the year draws closer to Christmas, it gets darker and colder by the day. Naturally, the social life adapts as well. From being out and about in the summer, come Christmas time we mostly hang out at home, with a few candles lit in a cosy atmosphere. This is spiced up with occasional outings to julbord i.e. Chrismas smorgasbord (did you know smorgasbord is a Swedish word?), Lucia celebration and a movie premiere on Christmas Day.

In Ghana, Christmas is very much the holiday season in every sense of the word. This is the time when Ghanaians living abroad come to visit, friends from other countries pass by, and most people get a few days off work. When better to be hanging out at bars around town, clubbing at Cinderellas or Monte Carlo and spending days at the beach, Bojo beach, Kokrobite or Labadi if you want to stay in town.

For me, the best part of Christmas in Ghana is the lack of materialism. Nobody really talks about presents or expects them, except maybe those of us who beg for magazines, Mac products and Ferrero Rocher in exchange for guiding those who come to visit! However this year, I realised I will have to find presents for a few people: our house-help and the two kids who live with their father in the boys quarters. (*Boys quarters = smaller house found on most compounds, built for housing house-help and in many modern cases turned into guest houses). Isn’t it funny that the ones I’ll be buying gifts for fall quite low on the list of people I care for, but they’ll probably appreciate the gifts more than most of my nearest and dearest.

Apart from the clubbing, beach-bumming and hotel-breakfasts, at Christmas time there’s always at least one super-duper expensive wedding to go to (usually a couple living “outside” who’ve come to Ghana to have the Hollywood wedding they could never afford abroad) and barbecues all over the place. I think on my busiest barbecue day I managed to make it to one in Nyaniba Estates, one in Legon and then quickly drive up to Aburi to make it to the end of the third one. Hard work, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

Is it me or do less people die around this time? Just don’t remember going to funerals at Christmas, they seem to have their own peak season around April (how morbid!). Either way, it suits me just fine as the season remains cheerful even though Christmas is hardly mentioned at all. The outsiders have come in with a cheery mood and pound sterling or green Franklins and us living here are just happy about our days off and a bit of extra action, together we blend to make one happy, social, partying crowd!

Of course as mentioned earlier, thanks to the Grinch known as EC-CC (Electoral Commission-Credit Crunch), none of that will happen this year. Bitter? Me? Noooo!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Happy Lucia!

OK, so I haven't had cable TV for three years, maybe this next observation is completely retarded, but I just saw a music video which caught my eye. First I noticed the profile of one of the Boys II Men guys, then to my surprise I immediately recognised a bridge from Kakum National Forest. After that were shots of Ghanaian schoolchildren in the traditional ellow and brown uniforms and pictures from Cape Coast (or was it Elmina?) castle. Felt so proud to see my country displayed in a video by a well-known American group! (After that there were further shots from other countries so I quickly lost interest, he he). It' the video of Colour of Love which I know as an old song but I have never seen the video before.

Today is Lucia Day, a day we celebrate in Sweden in honour of an Italian saint (long story). Since Christmas has been snatched away by the Grinch, a.k.a. Electoral Commission, I decided to celebrate this day all out. After spending 4-5 hours baking and cooking (saffronrolls, gingerbread, mulled wine, meatballs and sausages), I enjoyed the afternoon and early evening with a bunch of friends, discussing everything from nurseries in Ghana, real estate developers and the soap opera style lives of househelp!

Feel very exhausted after a physically tiring day (started with a one hour workout at 6a.m.!) so it might be time for bed. Forgot to take photos of the feast, perhaps tomorrow I'll re-stage it with whatever leftovers are available just to give you an idea of what it was like. The best thing about the day was probably spending the whole day without worrying about elections (although the subject did pop up several times). Hopefully there will be more days like that before the 28th!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Experiencing Ghana

Although I've been visiting Ghana since 1980 (not that I remember much of the first visits), before moving here three years ago, I sometimes realise I haven't experienced very normal Ghanaian things. For example, I got on a trotro for the first (and so far, only) time in March/April this year. I felt so stupidly touristy as I kept asking my travelling partner about everything: how do we know when to get off, when do you pay, how do you know the price of a ticket, what if they've increased the price, etcetera, etcetera!

Today I'm once again going to experience new Ghanaian grounds - I am going to Abogbloshie market! Yes it may be the least glamourous market (as if glamourous and market are two words that should ever be paired) but this is where I hear you get the cheapest fruit & veg. Since I've been sending the househelp there once a fortnight and she comes back with an amazing variety of fruits, today I'm taking the opportunity to accompany my mother to these previously unseen grounds. How exciting! Unfortunately I'm still too shy a blogger to actually take pictures of the market and sellers, don't want to offend anyone, but I'll try to describe it all when I get back.
Honeymelon, watermelon, pawpaw and pineapple bought yesterday (the mango is in the fridge!

And of course I needed a good breakfast to fuel me for this exciting day, therefore what better than another plate of pancakes. Mmmmm!
I may have said it before: I truly am a domestic Goddess.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Mangoes, pancakes and expensive chocolates

I've had a good day. Funnily enough, finally getting the official announcement of a run-off has created a calm in me and those around me. For the first time in a week I got a full night's rest, actually woke up at seven which means I managed to sleep through the rooster (who I would shoot, marinate and grill if I had a gun) who crows from 2 a.m. but most loudly at 5.30-6.30, the crazy man who blasts r'n'b from 6 a.m. AND the disgusting man (actually it's probably the same man) who spends ten minutes clearing his throat and making the most disgusting sounds you can imagine. And to think I hear all this through closed windows and with the AC brumming away!

To get back to the point, I woke up rested, so relaxed I actually made pancakes for breakfast before getting to work. But the reason it was a good day is because I finally had my first mango in four months! As I devoured it, every sense pleasured by its succulent sweetness, I realised it had been so long I had actually forgotten just how delicious mangoes are!

On top of that, I finally got a feel of the Christmas spirit...in Koala of all places! With the Christmas carols playing, over-the-top decorations and chocolate tins (Quality Street ridiculously priced at GHc28 or more!!!), combined with the cool AC temperatures I actually felt very Christmassy. Maybe the season isn't lost just yet.

The only odd occurence was the man either stalking me or coincidentially needing to look at all, I mean ALL the products I went to look at throughout the shop! He looked fairly normal, an Arabic, or possibly Lebanese man in his mid-forties, but every time he'd get close (which was all the time) he'd huff and gruff as he reached for the product. In the end it distracted me so much I quickly went to the tills and left.

Oddities, oddities!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas - R. I. P.

As my mind runs helter and skelter trying to analyse this hullabaloo that is the 2008 elections, and I am constantly surprised at how people have hitherto chosen to exercise their franchise, (there, I challenge you to create a sentence with more ridiculous phrases used in conversations here in Ghana, especially on TV, everyday!), it just hit me how bad this re-run will be.

At this point, I am assuming that we will go to round 2, In fact, contrary to my last post and the good intentions of yesterday, I have spent the past 6 1/2 hours (do the maths and you'll realise when I started) analysing statistics to see how we can best strategise to win round 2. Oh the wonderful life as a politician's wife!

Anyhoo, I just realised that if elections are held on the 28th, already ruining Christmas, we are going to go through this hell of waiting in anxiety and stress until (at the latest) 5pm on New Year's Eve! There go the lovely days of partying on those mellandagar (in-between days, 26th-30th December) when most people are off from work and at the same time under no obligation to socialise under formal settings. This is the time when the most fun barbecues and beach days occur, but I doubt there'll be as many thanks to the combination of credit crunch and election worry and even if there are, I don't think I can focus, relax or enjoy myself. Already my heart jumps at the mention of the words "win", "results" or "EC" (EC= electoral commission)!

This year's Christmas tree, proudly decorated by moi!

So now, as I take an hour's (sleep) break before dealing with real work, I guess I can say "goodbye Christmas, it was nice planning for you this year but I guess we'll catch up in 2009 instead".

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Ye ko ye nim? Yere si sem? Oh hell, I don't know!

I was hoping that the next time I write there would be a firm result out, but as it looks now, we're going for a second round. All kinds of information has been coming in, often contradicting and now I think we can use simple maths to determine that the most likely outcome is a second round on 28th December.

I am so tired. The stress and pressure of not knowing what's happening and not knowing when we'll know (that's actually worse, can't they just give us a time and date at which final count will be announced???) has meant that I have hardly slept in the past three nights. Tonight, I intend to have a good night's sleep and for the next few days I hope to stay away from all Ghanaian radio, TV and newspapers, to get back my sane, non-election crazy mind.

I hope I'll be able to focus on work, life and Christmas at least until the 26th or 27th December.

Even as I write, I am looking forward to my election 2008 mental detox!

Monday, 8 December 2008

I don't wanna wait in vain...

As we wait...and wait...and wait for the results to come in, it's easy to get sucked in to the whole election craze. It's on every radio station (except Atlantis of course) and all TV channels and even when you turn off your own, you'll hear the results being blasted from the neighbour's radio or TV.

I've decided to leave election watch for a few hours, I'm actually choosing to work(!) instead. Yes, it's easy to forget how lucky we are that today is a holiday here in Ghana. Imagine if we'd all been working, what an unproductive day it would have been, with staff hovering over radios and texting all over the place to get the latest election gossip. Instead, today is Eid al-Adha, the Islam festival of Sacrifice which follows Hajj. Amazingly, for once Hajj has passed us by quietly and peacefully this year, usually there's a lot of conflicts over complications with transport to Mecca. I am sure this year the Government made sure everything was in order to make sure Hajj didn't interfere with the election.

The latest update I can give you is that it is still too close to call, TV is reporting that NDC leads by about 49% to NPP's 48% while Joy FM had NPP at 50% to NDC's 48%. As you can see it really is useless to follow until all the constituencies' votes have been counted. Hopefully in 2 or 3 hours we'll have a better idea.

Instead I'm going to complete a sublease whilst listening to a radio station I just discovered, Julradio.se, a Swedish station that's dedicated to playing Christmas songs - perfect for a Christmas crazy person like me! I just heard Tänd ett ljus ("Light a candle", a beautiful à capella song by a Gothenburg group))by Triple 'n' Touch, a song I probably haven't heard since the early nineties. The words were so appropriate in our election times, about taking care of yourself in these Christmas times. It brought tears to my eyes
...or maybe that's just from the pressure of not knowing whether my party will win!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Counting begins...

As I write TV3 is reporting the (unconfirmed) results from some constituencies. At first I was getting a bit concerned as the results were not in my favour (or were within too close margins for me to relax) but after a while I realised that they are simply taking results from different polling stations (there can be several hundred polling stations in a constituency), so it really doesn't say much about who will win...yet.

To take part of this historic moment I took a quick 90 second walk to my closest polling station. They had already started counting and there seemed to be a happy mood among observers, many kindly even moved to give me a better view when they saw me take my camera out. The mood seemed to be at risk of changing when the final results were counted, but rather than fight or argue over the results it seemed the winners rather teased the losers, who accepted it, heads bowed in disappointment, as they all walked home.

On our way back from a quick trip to Labone Junction for fried yam and kelewele, the roar and street celebration had already died down, after just 15 minutes. I guess we'll have a peaceful evening around this polling station at least.

Electoral Commission counting the votes

Curious observers

Observers happily rejoicing as the NDC wins this particular polling station.

Ghana Elections 2008!

Who will win?
(Below: Nduom of the CPP, Akufo-Addo of the NPP, Atta Mills of the NDC and Mahama of the PNC)

I guess that is what we are all wondering now as elections have just began. On the news they've shown people who have been queuing outside their polling stations since 1a.m., clearly showing Ghanaians' desire to "exercise their franchise" (a phrase I heard for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th time this week).

Finally we are getting to the end of a year of political talk and campaigning. The world's eyes are on us and they, just like us, hope the elections will run smoothly. Went to an amazing rally on Friday, but the most entertaining sight was seen on our way there. In a trotro that was proudly waving the NDC flag, there was a woman in a CPP t-shirt next to her friend in a NPP t-shirt, both happily doing the kangaroo dance as the NPP convoy went by. The driver (who most likely put the NDC flag on the van) happily smiled and waved to the NPP supporters.

We laughed at the lack of loyalty the driver and CPP woman were showing to their parties, but mostly we were happy to see the good-natured mood of these people of varying political backgrounds, enjoying themselves together.

Let's hope that this will be the general mood of our elections today, after all we are one people, most of us even a mix of several tribes (because let's not ignore the tribal factor in this), who will live together no matter who wins this year. So I hope all of you who can vote get out there and do so peacefully today. Unfortunately we don't have the CNN high-tech election watch here, but 72 hours after voting closes we've been told we'll have the final results.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Enjoying a weekend in Accra

Forgot to mention that my friend, LN, did manage to enter the country last Friday, despite my illegal immigrant status. As she was only here for the weekend, we tried and successfully managed to pack as much as possible into her stay without it being too hectic.

On Friday, after a nap for both of us (she arrived on the 5.35am flight), I drove her to Roman Ridge for her only planned meeting. As we got there a bit early we had a drink by the poolside at Mplaza. I was rather disappointed at their service and design, but after browsing their website, perhaps that's part of their appeal and adds to their security status. Maybe ensuring customers off the street are not attracted makes their special guests feel safer?

From there we headed to Tribes restaurant at Afia beach hotel for lunch, where I had the lasagne as usual...and it tasted better than ever! Then we got back to the house, relaxed a bit and worked a bit. In the evening we went for dinner with Virgo and SQB at Le Magellan, which was followed by drinks at Rhapsody's. Well, on the Rhapsody's porch. Can you believe they're charging GHc20 entrance fee per person!!! Actually what's worse is that people are paying!

After such a full-on foodian day, we started our Saturday late, with a fruit breakfast of pawpaw, pineapple and watermelon.

Then we headed to Oxford Street to buy some dresses (how come I'd never noticed the cute dresses sold on the roadside before?) and after a quick "fika" (coffee break) at Melting Moments in Cantonments, we made our way to the Poetress house in the lovely Trasacco Valley.

How better could we top the scrumptious meal and company we enjoyed there than with an evening drive to Aburi to hang out with big H and Akinyi. This brought on an interesting discussion about South Africa and the current status of racial relations there and between them and other Africans.

Sunday, being the day of rest, started with a leisurely drive to Tema to pick up Christmas decorations from my mama(!!!, more on that later...) then a trip on the beach road, through Teshie Nungua to Labadi beach. After our beach fun, we went for lunch at Buka, behind Oxford Street (it's so much fun to see a fufu&groundnut soup virgin enjoy her meal), then chilled at home before I dropped her off at the airport. The only thing we didn't have time for were the planned drinks at Holiday Inn before boarding the flight.

I think I did a good job of showing LN the best bits of Accra within 60 hours. What do you think?

Harmattan in Ghana?

Is Harmattan here already? Every time a new season comes into play, I have an eerie night. Can’t sleep but there’s no sense of restlessness, just anticipation. Last night was that way. Since 2 I’ve been waking up and at 4.30 I realised there was no point trying to sleep any longer. Unlike other sleepless nights I don’t feel sleep deprived, just ready for the day (although I’ll probably spend my lunchtime napping!).

From my experience, the Harmattan begins around New Year’s Day, could it have come early this year? If so, it is time to enjoy our only non-humid season (great news for those of us with natural hair: this is our once-a-year opportunity to straighten it!), which unfortunately means lots of dust and cracking dry skin. Time to stock up on the "extra dry skin" body lotion: white cracks on black legs are so not a good look!

*"The harmattan, a dry desert wind, blows from the northeast from December to March, lowering the humidity and creating hot days and cool nights in the north. In the south the effects of the harmattan are felt in January." Ghanaweb

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Global village – the perks and repercussions

So far my generation more than any other has reaped the benefits of globalisation, probably even more so than those younger than us. We have been able to travel, study and work in other countries, settle with partners from other cultures and keep friends, relatives and loved ones close to us no matter where we are in the world, thanks to new developments, the internet, Skype, Facebook and of course, blogging.

And yet now, I think for the first time we are seeing the side effects of living in a global village. The credit crunch is causing the economies all across the world to collapse like a house of cards. I doubt we ever imagined that we’d be this interlinked. When America first mentioned its economic crisis it was quite reasonable to imagine the UK would also be affected. Iceland’s fall was based on maladministration more than anything, but when the rest of Europe went into recession, the strength of the links between the nations’ economies was made clear. And yet it still comes as a surprise that China’s economy is also struggling. Wasn’t China meant to come up as the giant nation taking on the U.S.?

Somehow, with all its confidence as a new superpower I think China may have forgotten who buys its products. If the consumer in the US or Europe has no money and no credit to shop for, of course its production will diminish. And that is the problem we’re suffering from now. The banks are too cautious to give us credit, so you and I don’t dare/can’t afford to shop. As a result, sales and revenue decreases, leading to people being laid off, which in turn leads to more people having too little to spend. Vicious circle or what?!

Could it be that China’s and other economies’ only saviour for now is the African market? Although we in Ghana are also part of the global village, and very much so, due to the lack of a credit economy, we’ve so far managed to stay above water in these days of recession. But before we breathe a sigh of relief, let’s not forget that we still have a lot of money coming in from Ghanaians living abroad, coming to buy land, moving back to Ghana for good, investing in businesses or simply assisting relatives in Ghana with their expenses. I already know a few people who’ve cancelled their trips to Ghana due to lack of funds this year and it’ll be interesting to see if there will be a significant reduction in Christmas tourists and ‘returnees’ and if so, whether this will have any effect on our economy.

At least it’ll give us something to worry about after the elections are over…

Venice going under

Apparently Venice is flooding due to recent weather, and of course, for a city like Venice that means more than in other places, We spent our pre-wedding honeymoon there (well actually it was a business trip but we couldn’t have been happier with the location!) and were constantly amazed by the structure of the city and the fact that it was built this way centuries ago, How daring to build a city on water!

I can’t imagine how the floods will affect the city, after all it is already practically covered in water and everything, EVERYTHING runs on water. Have a look for yourselves:

The Police


Bin collection

Administrative Tribunal

Water up to your doorstep

The beautiful view!

Isn’t it funny, although I’m close to Labadi beach (actually I was there on Sunday) and I’m greeted by the sun everyday, I still find myself missing that lovely time in Venice just a few months ago!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Illustrating the political game

As our countdown gets to 6 days (only!) left to the elections, I have to pay special tribute to Akosua who draws the comics for the Daily Guide newspaper. Throughout the year, her comic strips have entertained me. However a quick review of the archives (read: a read-through of the pile of old papers pouring over themselves by Virgo's bedside) has me wondering if her comics are following the trend of the campaigns. Going from decently and entertainingly following the goings on, to getting as dirty as the politicians themselves! See for yourselves:

Focus on the internal structure and which running mate to pick...

...talk of old leaders threatening to regain power...

...boosting one's own credentials...

...then recently, our politics reached a new low with attacks by opposing parties, some wavering waaaay outside the realms of politics and (unfortunately?) documented even in cartoon form. Brace yourselves:

So Abena, although you missed the actual talk that morning, you'll have a fair idea of in which direction it headed, but don't worry, even those of us who saw it didn't catch these gory details, they were all said off-air.

Now I can only anticipate what juicy drawings Akosua has in store for us this final week!

Whose life is it anyway?

I suppose the Mumbai attacks deserve a mention. Frankly I was hoping talk of them would die down before being hyped up. It’s the last thing we need in a world already full of animosity and fear of terrorism.

This morning, on CNN, a couple is being interviewed about their experience on the scene. The wife says: “I saw a dark-skinned man holding a backpack and I thought, he looks like a suicide bomber”. The stupidity of mankind!

I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that she’s allowed to voice her prejudice of dark-skinned Asians with backpacks or the fact that she’ll feel justified in thinking so and that the “dark-skinned Asian” in this case actually was a terrorist, albeit not a suicide bomber, both of them helping fuel the prejudice view that plagues Asians in the UK carrying backpacks, most usually containing their babies’ diapers or university textbooks.

Meanwhile we are once again reminded that one life has more value than another. As the death toll of the Mumbai attacks hovers around 200 on its fifth day of constant media coverage on all the international news channels, what do I see scrolling quickly by as a quick news-strip? “300 bodies at mosque in riots in Nigeria”

Then again, I guess there were no Western tourists in that Nigerian mosque…

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Thieving illegal immigrant

I wonder if paying your yearly dues should be the only measure of a lawyer in good standing. Apart from being reminded of my illegal immigrant status today, I also realised I am a thief. A petty one perhaps, but a thief none the same.

I've been trying to arrange so that a friend who's coming to visit can get a visa on arrival. Up until last year this was very easy, you just arrive and stand in the right queue with $100 ready and you're through. Since January though, Immigration has tightened the rules and now the person inviting you needs to get approval of the Director of Immigration before they'll let you through. Anyway, a few minutes after calling my contact at immigration for information, he calls me back to remind me that since I am not even a Ghanaian and on top of it don't hold a valid residence permit, I'm the worst person to invite a foreigner into the country! You'd think I could've worked that one out myself. I guess it's time I work on my own permit before visitors start pouring in for Christmas (I returned to Ghana after the wedding on a visa on arrival, then forgot all about my permit).

This evening as I was reading through my favourite interior design porn, I realised writing I had never noticed on the front of the IKEA catalogue.


I must have looked like the cheekiest little thief as I actually picked my catalogue up from the checkout, directly put it in my bag and walked out!

This evening, sushi at Monsoon was cancelled and I never made it to the textile exhibition at Goethe Institute, instead I'm going to continue browsing my way through my pile of interior design porn.

Enjoy your evening!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Team building the Accra way.

Baywatch is showing on Mnet Series. For the first time ever I am able to appreciate the genius that is David Hasselhoff. How smart to build a series on boobs, high cut red swimsuits and bimbos and himbos! What better way to become the series to be shown in more countries of the world than any other (true fact)? I mean, why bother even dubbing or adding subtitles, who is really following the script, the viewers are only interested in the long running scenes and the the...bouncing.

Anyway, as promised, I'll write a bit about the team building day. Here's my "successful" program:
We started by an introduction to why the day was being held and a short talk about how the company was doing. Then, the team was divided into groups of four and given questions to each answer before we'd meet and go through them together as a team. Since I made up my own questions, I know I can share them. Basically:
1. How long have you worked with the company?
2. What is currently your greatest challenge at work and why?
3. What has been your best ever day at work and why?
4. What needs to be done to make each day resemble your best day at work?

For each exercise, I randomly divided the staff into groups and equally randomly picked team leaders for each group.

The next exercise was the most fun. I built a "house" out of Lego, then the groups were to copy what I had built. Each group had to, at the same time send one person to look at the building for only 5 seconds, then that person had 25 seconds to tell the other group members how to build, before they were allowed to send another person of to observe the building. If I were to do it again, I'd give them 10 seconds each, five is just too short (or maybe my building was to complicated).

I think this game proved the most popular because it involved a bit of physical exercise (running to look at the building), playing with Lego and the general excitement of building something half of the group had not seen, whilst at the same time working against the clock. It's important to make sure as the organiser that you've actually built the house with the pieces you give to the teams to make sure they can actually do it.

The most interesting and developing part of the day was the discussion and analysis after each game (we played 2-3 more games, but I can't bore you with all of that!). This was the opportunity to realise what the employees felt about work, what changes they felt were necessary and helping them understand how the games were useful and help developed teamwork.

All in all, a great day enjoyed by everyone involved!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Birthday blogging

Was going to write about the team building day, but the day has been too long and now it's too late for that, will have to do it tomorrow. Today, although I've been out, I feel I've been quite isolated, mainly driving around in my car. I'm waiting to hear who went to the Zain concert and what it was like. Did Wyclef, Eve and the rest show up?

Anyhoo, without much to say I still felt I should write on my special day. After a rather busy day (emails, emails, emails, taking braids out and re-braiding hair), a delicious birthday dinner at Le Must in Cantonments, and now with Virgo snoring beside me, I am feeling more tired by the second!

So here I am, a year older, none the wiser, and without the one thing I wished for for my birthday...still no mangoes!!!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The beautiful Ghanaian countryside

Back from the retreat after an exhausting but fun and successful day. The day was spent at Stone Lodge, you get there by turning right at the Asutsuare junction on the Akosombo road. After we finished our activities, we went to Afrikiko in Akosombo for a boat ride to the bottom of the Akodombo Dam and drinks by the riverside. Such a lovely, chilled day!
Stone Lodge

The Akosombo Dam. Here, any surplus water is released, something which hasn't happened for over 15 years.

The peaceful life on water.

Afrikiko Water Front Resort

Why are we cutting down our living nature?

More on the actual team building day later...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Team work and good old gossip.

This weekend I have the most interesting task so far. So interesting, that I am skipping a funeral I really should go to (biggest Ghanaian faux pas ever, but Virgo will represent me) and missing most of a birthday barbecue, but will probably make it back there for leftovers at least.

A friend who I'm doing some independent legal work for has asked me to run a team building day for his company on Saturday. Learning of my past as a Starbucks employee probably made him think I'm much more of a chirpy cheerleader than I actually am. But not being one to say no to a challenge, I have agreed and just spent the last two hours researching team building exercises. After discarding the ones that seemed too fluffy and cheesily American for a bunch of Ghanaian construction workers, I think I have a handful I can work with. Now, all I have to do is find all the tools and materials I'll need to make it happen...Where's a Woolworths (the UK, not SA version of it) or a Panduro Hobby when you need one?

Meanwhile, a Swedish blogger writes about her heavily pregnant friend who realised that her husband of about 8 months has been cheating with a woman from his office, a woman with a live-in boyfriend. Her revenge? Finding the mistress' Facebook page and sending a message to ALL her friends and her boyfriend with details of the sordid affair and photos to prove it. (She also dumped her husband). As much as I'm impressed by her strength and actions (her baby is due in a week), I can't help but feel her husband is getting away easily with his dignity intact, while the mistress will be shamed forever. After all, the most random people can be our Facebook friends.

Even more interesting, how would such a thing be dealt with in Ghana? The sentiments towards affairs seem...slightly more relaxed, I get the feeling some people would send a message back to the wife going "Ah, but you, why?", leaving her seeming as the one who has overreacted.

But most of all I wish I knew who these people were so I could get hold of that Facebook message and see exactly what she wrote and what the following reactions were. But that's just the scandalous gossip in me talking...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Missing my season

My heart is crying. I can't help it. After reading in other blogs (Swedish) that it's snowing in Sweden, how can a November born like me do anything but cry and long for the snow, the winter, the beautiful chill? For the third time I'll be spending a birthday in the heat (I know, everybody in Europe is hating me now, but come on, the grass is always greener!), then constantly having to remind myself that Christmas is actually coming, and soon!

Last year I spent 5 or 6 days in London in early December. it was just what I needed, letting the body chill to a certain temperature till every sense was refreshed. And what made it even better was that my lovely little brother, Mr. T was in the city at the same time! (I managed to surprise, actually completely shock him, by tracking him down at the Ghana High Commission in Highgate where he was bored, waiting to submit his Visa application to Ghana). We had the best time! For some reason we are the most compatible shoppers, but since we have our own friends in Gothenburg, we only ever shop together in London, and have the time of our lives! Of course we took regular breaks for gingerbread lattes and cranberry muffins at Starbucks (OK, now I think I am actually going to cry!).

This year, the damn election is postponing everything, but I guess I should have seen it coming when I married a politico. Well, fingers crossed I make it for the planned January London trip instead. We are hoping for the best ever after Christmas sale thanks to the credit crunch!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It’s the little things in life…

…that cause the most laughter. Today at Ecobank, the customer at the next cashier was asked why he’d come all the way to Osu to cash a cheque. His answer: “I live on Spintex and I went there to do it. I left the cheque, went to have my bath, came back and they still hadn’t finished!”

At this point the customer behind him joins in to complain about the bad service at the Spintex branch, and he continues:

“Oh that place is so close to my home I would go there all the time but it’s not good for my heart, kraaa. If I want to get sick, I go there, but I don’t want to so I come here. The Osu branch is much better for my heart. In fact the other day I went there and spent a whole two hours there and they didn’t finish, then I went to, eh, wo fre ni sen, the Ring Road branch. Can you imagine after A WHOOOOOOLE two hours they hadn’t finished with me? Hm!”

And they say Ghanaian acting is not good! The expressions and intonations the man used to tell this story could have won him an Oscar!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Come back sweet...friend?

This year I was ready. I prepared myself mentally and for once resigned myself to what was about to happen. Late August I said my goodbyes and patiently looked forward to the next time we'd be re-acquainted.

But now it's been three months and still there are no signs of a rendez-vous. My birthday is coming closer and I 'll be damned if it's not part of my home by then. Each day my home, my kitchen, looks emptier as the longing and desperation for it grows. I guess all that's left to do now is to scream in dispair:


Sunday, 16 November 2008

James Bond hits Accra

Yesterday I did what would have been impossible a few months ago. I had almost given up hope it would ever happen as it happened months after the promised opening. I went to see a movie at Silverbird Cinemas at the Accra mall!

Virgo and I went to see the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, believe it or not, it's the first Bond movie I have ever seen, don't ask me why. As we got into the mall I said if we follow the popcorn scent surely it would take us to the cinema, and so it did. Once we'd gotten up the stairs, it was like any other movie theatre in the world. The AC was on such a low temperature that it actually felt like we were in a wintry November land.

The whole experience was great, cosy seats, good movie and a perfect, relaxed way of digesting a feast of fufu and groundnut soup! When we left the mall at a few minutes to midnight, we looked out across Tetteh Quarshie and Airport area and realised it looked like any metropolitan city in the world.

Accra (and Ghana) is definitely moving forward (for want of a better, non-political phrase...)!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

View out of Ghana: Football

When I came to Ghana before moving down, in the days before I could drive myself around, I'd constantly ask taxi drivers why they had U.S. or Israeli flags in their cars. The answer was usually, because these are cool countries. When I suggested having a Ghanaian flag instead I'd be met by laughter and exclamations of "Oh, madam!".

It was first during the 2006 World Cup in Germany that I experienced Ghanaian patriotism. Our team did us proud with their first ever performance in the tournament. However, the patriotism seemed to last as long as the tournament and as we celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007 the love for Ghana seemed lukewarm. As a 'returnee' who will always love and cherish dear Ghana, it is difficult and sad to see how many of those born and raised here don't feel the same pride and respect for the country.

So imagine my joy when we hosted CAN2008! Suddenly the Ohene Djan Stadium, central parts of Accra, nay, Ghana as a whole went red, gold and green! Never have Ghanaians so proudly displayed their love for Ghana, and gladly this display has continued long after the end of the games.

Meetings were re-scheduled, agreements had to wait to be drafted, bosses' warnings disregarded, as the country stopped for a few hours to watch Ghana play. Relationships were compromised (not only my own) as partners had to choose between the love of football and that of their partner (I stand my ground here, football is more important!).

And it is not just for the love of football that this happened, after all when Morocco played Namibia, life went on as usual. Ghanaians love football, they love watching Ghana or Ghanaians play, how else would you explain that there are so many Chelsea fans here when Arsenal is clearly a better quality team? ;)

The real question that remains is how much we love the beautiful game. Willing to sacrifice our jobs, reputations and relationships to watch 22 men run after a ball for 90 minutes, I can't but wonder whether Ghanaians love football more than themselves and our beautiful Ghana itself?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Money, money, money...

It's funny how the world works, how history affects our culture and values. This becomes very clear when observing how money and status are dealt with. In Europe, especially Britain, it's all about old money and pedigree. You may be dirt-broke but with a Lord before your name, you're everything. You won't be respected for driving a Hummer but rather a Jaguar, Rover (or whatever the Queen rolls in, sorry, I don't know cars at all!). The bourgoisie will never let anyone in based on how much money they've made, only based on their noble background.

In Sweden, because of a very recent background of being (relatively poor) farmers and labourers, being rich and showing it off is still considered offensive. "Det sticker i ögonen", (loosely "it pains the eyes") to see someone driving around in a huge ML in the city, or wearing too much bling.

America, has and will once again be considered the land of opportunity. Even though it's been centuries since it developed, America will always be the land of the noveaux riches, where you will always be applauded for coming from nothing and showing off how far you've come by flaunting your assets.

It seems in Ghana we are struggling to decide which of these cultures we will align ourselves with. You have the posh families of Accra seeming to follow their colonial roots, meaning it's all about who your mother and father are, not what you've achieved or how much money you're earning. Meanwhile this battles with the Naija/Ashanti/America mentality of 'flaunt what you've got', which leads to some rather painful decorations in homes of gold, gold, gold, clearly indicating "look at me, I'm rich!". And then of course, there's the Ghanaian jealousy, which to me resembles the Swedish jealousy, although the Ghanaian one is slightly more resentful. Either way it means one must be careful to show just how well one is doing to avoid making too many enemies.

I'm not sure where I stand. Naturally being raised in Europe, I'm not quite used to the whole flaunting and bragging mentality, but sometimes find it very refreshing and entertaing. Still, it seems until something is done about the bitter jealousy in this society it's safer not too stand out too much!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Lather up!

Although I'm watching the Presidential Debates on TV, I feel there's been too much politics in this blog so I'll avoid the topic...for today. Today we had another hot day. And whilst another blogger was pondering over peeing-techniques (funny post, just wish I hadn't read it while eating lunch!), I've been wondering what our soaps are made of.

Even what you use to wash your body betrays your cultural background. While I would never be caught washing with bar soaps and rather use my shower-gels, body scrubs and body gloves for sponges, Virgo insists on taking his bar soap and net-looking sponge EVERYWHERE! His bar soap, Geisha (with its ridiculous TV ads), was the reason we were stopped in every damn airport in Europe. Apparently in the x-ray machines it looks like a solid explosive mass (translate sprängdeg, anyone?).

Any way, I digress. What I meant to talk about was the funny...smell the bar soap leaves behind. I use it every once in a while to wash my hands when nothing else is available, or for clothes requiring handwash, when I'm too lazy to look for the Omo. Every time I use it there's a smell of old oil, grease on my hands. I feel like I've dipped them in an old chip-pan full of oil. This occurs with other soaps too, not only Geisha. As I know fat is used to make soaps (it is isn't it?), I can't help but wonder: is old oil and grease from pots used to make the big brand soaps of our country?! Any answers?

Monday, 10 November 2008

History in the making.

This morning I woke up and after hearing the news, quickly got out my laptop to write about the sad news of Miriam Makeba's death. However it seems someone beat me to it. Hm...no hard feelings, just great minds thinking alike I guess :)

Either way, it feels like I've been living history for the past few days. Of course, Obama has a lot to do with it. But Miriam's death reminded me of how fast time is flying and the world changing with it. In 2004 I worked as a substitute teacher in Älvsborgs kommun (my home council) in Gothenburg. As I was teaching the 4th year class (9-10 year olds) I nostalgically asked them how they remember the end of apartheid. As a few hands went up I was reminiscing parties were we sang Eddie Grant's Gimme Hope, Jo'anna and Miriam Makeba's Pata Pata, then I was quickly brought back to reality when the first person who got to speak said "When we were born Apartheid no longer existed".

I discussed this with La Baselette's white South African friend (who lives down the road from me here in La) and we both agreed that it's surreal but amazing that those who are 16 years old today know Apartheid only as a segment of history! Of course it can be both good and bad, they may not appreciate historical liberty fighters in the same way as we do, but in the end it's only a good thing because it means the world has come so far. I doubt a 14 year old today knows as much about Stokely Carmichael as I do, just like someone who'll turn 14 in 2022 will not see the relevance of Martin Luther King Jr. after being raised with a black president.

Any way, before I ramble on any further, today also felt historical as I took part in the opening of the new Flagstaff house, now to be known as Golden Jubilee House. This will be the residence of the next president of Ghana. Strangely enough, until now, Ghana has not had an official residence for the leader of the country, unlike most other countries, e.g. the US, UK, Nigeria and Liberia. It was a nice ceremony with fantastic dancing from a traditional northern dance group.

Of course, being the socialite extraordinaire, I particularly enjoyed the VIP mingling inside the palace(?), meeting and greeting Ghana's celebrities. Oh yeah, we don't have any celebs do we, rather it was me and a room full of ministers and foreign dignitaries.

Above: In the middle with his face turned sideways, Ghana's Attorney-General, Joe Ghartey.

What a girl wouldn't do for a free lunch!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Good Friday?

I guess most people had a rather unproductive day on Wednesday, after spending the night watching Obama win...or was that just me? Either way, that, plus a lovely relaxed evening with K yesterday and a completely non-work oriented day today, topped off by a visit from Akinyi this evening, means I am now, on a Friday evening buried in my Conveyancing & Drafting notes, Conveyancing Decree, High Court Civil Procedure Rules and Rent Act, trying to sort out some matters for work as soon as possible. Oh the joy!

Well, at least I have been granted many options for how to spend my Saturday in a fun, relaxed manner: either lunch at the Poetress' house with Mother Superior attending, a trip with SQB to the bead place on the Dodowa road, accompanying my mother to a funeral (hm, sounds more like a potential chore) or hanging out with Akinyi and the gang in Aburi.

And although my heart always beats for the beautiful hills of Aburi (calling them mountains is ridiculous to anyone who's ever stepped outside Ghana), I think lunch at the Poetress' will win this time, after all I was in Aburi just two weeks ago.

What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The land of opportunity.

I am in shock. In disbelief. Although it was what I wanted, what was anticipated, I never dared to assume too much. The 44th president of the United States of America is Barack Hussein Obama. I am yet to have a proper reaction, there's been no laughter, no crying, just hands on face, staring at the TV. This could be due to exhaustion, after all it is tiring to stay up all night watching the numbers come in, state by state.

All I can say for now is thank you. Thank you America. Once again you have proven that you are the land of opportunity. The land I love to hate, the people I love to mock, have proven me wrong and I could not be happier. Obama's victory may not be beneficial to Africa in terms of funds and aid, but his victory means so much in the battle of race and ethnicity across the world. To think that people in their sixties can remember a time when they had to sit at the back of the bus, will now salute a black president. The man who was only the third black senator in American history, has made it to the top.

What makes it even more beautiful is the fact that he is a mixed raced man. A product of love between Africa and America, growing up in Asia. What person could personify unification of the world more?

Naturally, we should not forget that it is because of his competence that Obama was elected and as such, I look forward to watching how he handles the critical situation his country is now in and I hope and know he can handle it successfully. Lastly, I must say McCain showed great dignity and humility in his speech conceding defeat and I think he deserves all credit for that.

Now, I hope to be off to bed shortly, knowing that I will wake up to a world that is facing a brighter future. Once again, thank you, America!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Who will win?

It's getting so close now. The world is anxiously waiting. Has any other election gripped the world like this one? No matter who wins, history will be made. Will America see its first female Vice President (tofi akwa!) or its first African-American president? That brings me to another issue that's been on my mind for a while: is anyone outside of America actually supporting McCain??

Sweden is in majority behind Obama, Germans, if they were voting, would be 80% behind Obama and in France, out of our deliciously arrogant Frenchmen, 93% would readily vote for Obama! It is clear whom the world wants, now we just have to wait and see who America wants. As much as it is looking promising, they have disappointed us before, so I will wait and pop my Champagne when I am absolutely sure.

The main discussion topic around town (read: Facebook) is where to watch the election. It looks like Virgo and I will head over to SQB's, but just in case we don't manage, we're finally, as we speak, having our DSTV installed in the house. Another good option is to take in the moment with Americans in Accra at Headlines down the road from me in Labone.

What are your "valvaka" (that's Swedish for Election watch) plans? Whatever you decide to do, I hope I and you can meet dawn with a great new President elected. A President who stands for change, a change desperately needed in America. I hope and pray that two mavericks will not be selected, especially as I fear the main maverick may not survive the tough job of leading the US through a credit crunch and all else which comes with leading the world's most influential nation. If he were not to survive, it would mean him giving way to the most ridiculous maverick political history has seen in my lifetime; a maverick who makes a drunk Jeltsin seem the most respectable politician!

Ah well, in just a few hours we shall know. Enjoy the Valvaka!

Africa unite

I really wasn't going to write about the election today, but it's too close, too exciting not to mention it! I hope things go my way, but with these things (and previous Florida practices) one can never be sure. It's only sad that Obama's grandmother didn't hold on for another day or two to find out the results.

The only other news item which manages to distract my attention from the election is the situation in D.R. Congo (please, that's NOT pronounced Doctor Congo, a mistake both BBC and our own GTV reporters have made in the past). With supplies finally being sent to the victims of yet another autrocity, what were they given? Food? Drink? No, soap and some plastic malarkey. Come on people, let's give them what they need to survive before looking into their hygiene requirements. Besides, without water, how the #¤%& are they meant to have any use of soap??

Picture of UN officials delivering aid, borrowed from the BBC

Well, on the issue of need, a topic which often comes up is whether Obama winning will be beneficial for Africa. Bush gave a lot of funds during his presidency and past experience tells us that Democrats tend to focus more on domestic affairs rather than international matters.

Should this be a worry for us? Should we not be more worried about the fact that such an issue is still being raised? Why is the huge continent of Africa looking for help and rescue from America? It is time we take matters into our own hands, build our countries and help each other. No more excuses! With the kind of wealth we have on this continent, it is disgraceful that due to maladministration we are still relying on help from the West. With what is happening in D.R. Congo, it is our African Union which should be providing support in the same way the European Union could give funds to Sweden after the huge loss of timber during Hurricane Gudrun in January 2005.

So how do we get there? I'm hoping we can 'do a China' and quietly restructure our countries (starting with Ghana of course) and after a few years shock the world by coming out with a booming industry and economy, where we'll be able to say 'thanks, but no thanks' to any support offered to us.

Of course, the proud, boastful African man will never do anything good under wraps, but rather starts screaming 'we've found oil, we've found oil!' before the first drop has even hit ground soil...

Friday, 31 October 2008

All Hallowes Eve

Oh how I love Americans! After all they entertain us more than any other nation of people. This time, politics have even taken over Halloween fashion! The new popular female costume is that of...Sarah Palin! Shops have sold out within days of stocking her costume. However, it's not only popular among women, but more so with men. I wonder how Sarah Palin and her fellow Republicans feel about that!

Rumour has it even Lindsay Lohan intends to dress as her. If you are on your way to a Halloween party and want to follow this trend, check this blog for tips on how to perfect the look.

As for me, I'm about to head off to bed with a fever which seems to be cooling down, and thanks to ECG, the lights in all of Labone have just gone off. How do I know it's all over Labone? I heard the screams of disappointment long before I realised they were off! Gotta love Ghana.

Happy Haaaallloooooweeeeeeen!

(OK, lights came on after twenty minutes, how else would I send this post...?)

Dangerous driving

There are certain things that make driving in Ghana just a bit more dangerous than it has to be. For example, trotros and taxis stopping anywhere at any time, but also traffic lights not working. At times each of us has to cross major junctions simply by continuously edging forward, look left, right and straight then going for it and hoping for the best.

In the past few weeks I have noticed something even more dangerous. On two occasions, I've been at traffic lights where lights are working in one direction but not the other! Both times I have been on the main road where the lights have not been working. Knowing I have right of way, I'll sail through, only to see a car coming against me from the side, and then noticing the green light it has been given!

This happened at the Community 8/12 traffic light on Hospital road in Tema two weeks ago, and today at the junction Korle Lagoon to Mortuary road/Korle Bu to Makola. There, I was turning left from Korle Lagoon to Korle Bu when I saw a trotro coming against me. Thinking 'these crazy trotro drivers' I suddenly saw in my rear view mirror that he actually had a green light!

With all we have to deal with on the roads, isn't it a wonder we survive each day???!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ten years on...

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in Gothenburg for a week, half-term, the first time back since making the big, adult move to London. I remember the arguments, my little brother wanting to stay out till the party ended at 6 a.m., my mother standing her ground. All factors working against Mr. T. Mr. T and I asking my mum why she was being so strict this time, come on, it's not every day there's an all night Halloween party for under 18s. My mum firm in cutting Mr. T's curfew by an hour or two. Something deep down inside her must have told her to do that.

I had my friends over for 'tjejmiddag' (dinner with the girls), we enjoyed, chatted and laughed. Just after they left, Mr. T came home with his best friend. By the time he had made it to the venue, he only had twenty minutes to spend inside before he'd have to head home to make the curfew. Instead, he saved his entrance fee and rather hung out with his friends just outside the entrance to the make-shift club. He left at 23.40. At 23.45 it all broke loose, hell.

Picture from Aftonbladet

I had promised to wait for him and met him at home around midnight. We talked for a bit then headed to bed. Before I woke, there had already been action in the house. Best friend's worried mother calling, demanding to speak to her son before she'd believe he was alive. Panicked older brother calling to check that Mr. T was really alive and safe. My parents not sure what was happening until they turned on the news.

The next days were filled of numbers, 48 dead, 53 dead, 72 dead, 61 dead. It settled on 63 in the end. Mr. T at the ripe old age of 15 was in and out of hospital, checking on his friends in the ICU, or worse, waiting to hear who had passed away.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. Lauryn Hill's album which I bought on the 29th of October still reminds me of that week, those days. Track 3 (I think?), Ex-factor, still brings me to tears when it's played. That was my song of grief. And yet, I was not close to anyone who passed away.

Ten years on, I can only wonder how the families of those young children, teenagers, are coping. Probably wondering where their sons and daughters would have been today. Ten years on, how are those, that made it but suffered from nightmares for years, surviving, those that had bite-marks indented in their thighs, from weaker people trying to hang on and get out with their everything, living? We can only wonder and hope that something like this never happens again.

Text reads:
The night of 30th October 1998 a massive fire broke out in this building.
Sixty three teenagers lost their lives and several more were injured.
Gothenburg became a city in mourning

I know the number is small, I know worse things happen everyday in the world. But in Gothenburg, this was, is, our tragedy. When 12-23 year-olds leave their houses to go to a Halloween party and end the night in bodybags.


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