Saturday, 30 August 2008

I'm back!

The flight is delayed by over an hour. As we finally all board the plane, we are made to sit and wait another half hour because one of the passengers got bored of waiting by the gate and rather went back in for some more duty free shopping. The pilot and all passengers are outraged as she finally gets on the plane (she is allowed on only because that would be quicker than offloading her luggage).

When we land a man tries to shove in front of me when we're going down the stairs from the plane. Here, there's no such thing as ladies first. We're squeezed into the tiniest bus that Aviance has to offer and driven the short distance to the airport.

Once out, after an unusually short and smooth passport check and baggage reclaim, we're welcomed by the crisp midnight air, no humidity in sight. A fight ensues behind us as the airport guys clamp a car that has stopped to pick up a passenger by the roadside.

We stop at Airport Shell so that I can buy some water. I need to slam my two bottles of Voltic on the counter to get the attention of the shop-assistant who's busy chatting to the other shop-girl. She looks at me and says 'you are buying what?' to my bewilderment, since all that is in front of me is my two bottles of water. I point to them and hand over my note. She lazily gives me my change, puts the bottles in a bag and has already turned back to her friend when she stretches out her hand for me to reach out for my bag.

As I make my way out the heavy door a smile spreads across my face: lateness, un-gentlemanlike men, fights and bad service. I'm back in Ghana and I love it!

Monday, 25 August 2008

The grass is always greener.

The one thing we all complain about in Ghana is the lack of customer service. Whether it's waking a secretary up from her desk at the Ministries or telling off a waiter for giving you the wrong food for the third time, we all experience bad service and notice the lack of staff training. Usually this leads to moments of reminiscence of the good old days in London, the States or any part of Europe where you'll eat at a place full of witty, efficient waiters and waitresses who bring you your correct food order within minutes of placing the order.

Well, on Saturday evening, Virgo, SQB and I went for a meal at Bella Italia in Bayswater. Out of the five staff it was clear that two were senior and the other three completely new, had probably never set foot in a kitchen before and were just about to learn English (they were Italian).

After being sat at our table, we had to gesture wildly before receiving menus and placing our order several minutes later. As we made our order, we heard glass breaking in the background: one girl had bumped into a tray and dropped all the glasses. A few minutes later another new girl spilled a full glass of beer into the lap of a man she was serving.

Once our starter arrived we waited several minutes before finally catching the waitress' attention to bring us cutlery to eat with and some olive oil and napkins. The cutlery came, the rest never arrived. Later, we had to gesture for the dirty starter plates to be removed and the main course to be brought in. Although our cutlery was taken away, the staff was more interested in laying the empty table next to us while we adored our food with nothing to eat it with. Never mind, the food was at least tasty.

Today Virgo told me of how he and SQB went for a meal in a restaurant on Oxford Street yesterday. After waiting for fifteen minutes without even being given a menu, Virgo got up to check, only to find their waiter in a corner eating his lunch! A plate of kenke and fish and it would've been a scene straight out of Ghana! When Virgo went to find another waiter, he found one sleeping in another corner. As they finally got hold of someone to serve them, another table called on the waiter: it was clear they had obviously been waiting even longer. Virgo and SQB waited a few minutes longer before leaving after realising they would never even receive their menus.

Service in Ghana worse than anywhere else? I think not!

Friday, 22 August 2008


Coming to Gothenburg has been a hectic, and yet a calm and very casual experience. Usually I stay in town for 3 or 4 weeks, taking days to slowly get used to the different pace and culture before I set off to meet friends. This time around I'm only around for a few days so meetings with friends were planned ahead of time.

As usual the first thing I notice is the clean, crisp air, the bright blue sky and the pacifying atmosphere. I've relaxed, avoided the shops and spent quality time with my beautiful little nephews (who are surely the cutest babies in the world!), my friends and family. It's wonderful that thanks to the internet and phones, meeting once a year is not as akward as it was before, with so many stories to be told and news to be given. Now we can easily pick up from the last text, email or facebook message.

So catch up time has been quality time rather than quantity, we already know what's going on in each other's lives and can rather focus on enjoying the company. Luckily, this meant that yesterday there was even time left over to follow my wonderful friend and her family out to sea for a beautiful evening on one of the many tiny islands on the souths side of Gothenburg. Pictures will follow shortly.

Now, off to get ready for a traditional Ghanaian outdooring in a modern Ghanaian, Swedish, Morrocan setting!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

London people

A quick post whilst freeloading in the Apple Store. Actually looking for some software for work, but couldn't help but check on the blog. Funnily enough it hasn't felt strange coming to England, it's all the same old, same old. I had forgotten how dirty it is, that there may be rats around (my biggest fear in the world), but also how kind and friendly people can be (well, in the outskirts at least, in the City no one has time for that). Yesterday I fell on the slippery ground (it had rained) and immediately passers by were running towards me to check if I was ok. Of course, this happened in Croydon, in the Westend I would have been high street roadkill!

The English don't suffer from the social incompetence of the Swedes who think everything is too embarrassing (Gud vad piiiiinsamt!). In Sweden, we restrict ourselves from giving up seats to the elderly or pregnant on public transport, even though we want to, just in case that person who is offered says no, imagine the embarrassment! Of course 'we' does not include me, my family or any of my friends ; ) Since I had mentally prepared myself for this coldness, so foreign to Ghana, I am constantly pleasantly surprised everywhere I go. Hopefully, I will also be pleasantly surprised when I get to Sweden, not provoked as I usually am each time before I've even reached my house. Then again, who cares, I am there to enjoy the little time I have this visit for my friends and family, especially new family members.

Can't wait!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Out of the country.

On English soil for the first time this year. So far it feels good. It was a wise choice, arriving on a Sunday, so that my relaxed Ghanaian nature isn't shocked by the stress of central London.

After a nap at my dad's place, I am ready for a little tour of the shops for clothes, magazines and browsing the food shelves.

I felt the most interesting thing when we left Ghana. A feeling of something different, without really knowing what. Then I remembered what it was. Before, years ago when I'd come on holiday, departing from Ghana was always associated with sad, negative feelings. Leaving Ghana and not knowing when I'd be back. Would it be in one, three or seven years time? Waving goodbye to uncles and aunties who'd see us of at the airport and feeling that sting of jealousy over all those people who have their relatives in the same country or city. Then, as the plane would lift, tears would well up as I'd say a silent goodbye to my country, my homeland, that I still never really got to know properly.

Last night, as I looked out over the beauty of Accra at night, the feeling was very different. With a smile on my face I mentally said 'See ya. I'll be back before you know it'.

And as happens so often, once again I was reminded that moving to Ghana was the right choice for me.

I love you, Ghana! Me ba sesya wae.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Takoradi in Pictures 2

Have a great weekend!

Takoradi in Pictures 1

No time to write, just got back from Takoradi and am now on my way on further travels. So here are a few pictures from my 24 hours as a political tourist, after all when I received an invite to go to Takoradi for NPP's rally, how could I say no?

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

How do I get out?

So, I am still here illegally. I've taken it in my stride, handed in all relevant documents a few weeks ago, but it seems unless you really call in your contacts nothing happens. Wasn't really concerned until I realised it may affect a planned trip off the continent. So a few days ago, I changed strategy and applied for a re-entry visa.

Today, as I was called in to sign a document, I happened to mention that one of the big shots at Immigration was my classmate at Law School. 'Oh, madam, but then call her!' the immigration officer burst out, 'that will solve all your problems, your visa will be ready tomorrow morning'. So I was forced to try her number. This is what I had dreaded. How can I only pick up my phone and call this person whenever I need something, especially when I never spoke to her in school, except to say good morning? In my world it seems rude, greedy somehow, or åpen as we'd say in Swedish to just take from one person, and never give back. After she sorted out my residence permit last year and helped me with some work issues, I promised myself I'd at least call or text at Christmas to show kindness without favour, but of course I forgot.

Anyway, now that I finally called her, her phone is off and the status of my application unknown as the date of departure grows scarily close. But really, what's the worst that could happen? Can't I just leave the country and pay for visa on arrival on my way back in?

I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Today I witnessed an accident. As I was driving to a designer in Tesano, a car hit a motorbike. What shocked all of us who were driving behind the accident, was the heart-wrenching scream from the motorbike rider. We could all feel the fear of losing life in his voice. It affected us all, so that everybody stopped, as if we were all scared that we had almost died. Annoyingly, the only one not to stop was the person driving the car that hit him, instead he quickly sped off into the distance.

Luckily the motorbike rider had been smart enough to let go of the bike and quickly gained balance onto his feet, so as to avoid being ripped and torn apart with his bike. We all watched in shock as the bike skidded and turned over, travelling about fifty meters before finally hitting a traffic light.

What a reminder of how quickly life can be taken away. And for me, the rest of the day has been spent thinking of my uncle whom I never met, since he was hit by a bus while on his bike, having his life instantly terminated at the tender age of 25.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Engagement, parties...and of course, death.

The weekend was as fun as planned. The engagement was wonderful. For the first time ever there were more 'young people', more friends than aunties and uncles. And although a high society affair, it still felt relaxed, intimate and plain haooy. The best thing about it was seeing how genuinely happy the bride and groom were.

(As you can see, the dress code was white, the normal colour for any joyous occasion in Ghana)
From there we carried on to a party at Platinum Gate, Regimanuel, then another one at Airport Hills in a beautiful house with an amazing garden. Unfortunately I left my camera in SQB's car so I have no evidence of the beauty. For the first time in Ghana I saw the lovely Voss water bottles, wonder if they are for sale here, or if they guy extravagantly imported his own?

Sunday afternoon, and how better to spend it than with groundnut/palmnut soup and omotuo at Agbamami in Community 2 (Tema), followed by a visit to M2B, who is by the looks of it, ready to pop now!

As promised/threatened, I beat all the lovely ladies at our game of Scattegories.

And yet, of course the was a slight shadow over the whole weekend of fun after finding out that first Bernie Mac and later Isaac Hayes, had passed away. What a shame to lose two extremely successful black entertainers before their time. Two people who often put a smile on my face or made me laugh. Bernie Mac with his jokes and eyes-popping-out look and Isaac Hayes, every time I remember his, well, Chef's song Chocolate Salty Balls on South Park. Who else could have pulled off a line like "Put 'em in your mouth and suck 'em"!

Guys, you'll be sorely missed.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Change of a dress

Another event packed weekend, for better or for worse. Last night, dinner at Virgo's (prepared by me) for Virgo, myself and SQB. Today, touring Makola looking for materials for events yet to come. Then, plans to get ready for the Hostess' engagement which takes place today. I thought it was at 1p.m., really it was at 4p.m., which is lucky because at 2.30 today I was told the dress-code was white only, meaning I couldn't wear my beautiful strapless top and skirt I had soon 'express' yesterday.

(picture really doesn't do it justice, may have someone take a picture of me in it later to show what it actually looks like)
After this news from Akinyi I had to make a quick dash to MKOGH to pick out a lovely white dress, which according to the sales girl was so beautiful on me there were no words to describe it! Well, at least she worked had for her commission!

Got home and realised the dress is actually see-through. Hm, would usually care and try to find something to line it with, but since I'm already committing the all-time faux pas of not wearing earrings (they're all gone!), I might as well go all out and shock them. And La Baselette has promised disgraceful cleavage, so together we can be the tarty Europeans at the engagement!

From there, there's a 40th birthday party somewhere in Platinum Gate (Regimanuel)this evening, then tomorrow a tour of the uncle and aunties in Tema and Lashibi, before heading to M2B so I see her before the baby comes, and get another chance to beat her at Scattegories.

Have a great weekend!

Early bird

It always happens. The irony annoys me each Saturday. During the week, I struggle each morning to get up. I, once known as an early bird, who used to be the human wake up alarm at sleep overs during L.M. Engströms days, now hate every early morning. I frown and squint, whilst taking as much time as possible to roll, literally roll out of bed. Using my hands, I lead myself through darkness to the bathroom to get ready. Only once I've had my shower, I open my eyes and face the bright daylight. The only thing that really pushes me out of bed each morning is knowing that if I don't get up in time, I will face the over all most annoying factor about living in Ghana: traffic!

However, on weekends, the story is very different. At 5.40 my eyes open wide and no matter what I do, I can't go back to sleep. This happens whether I've gone to bed at 21:00 or 2:00. The chance of resting, enjoying a sleep-in that I have longed for all week is gone, snatched away by myself. The weekend is spent working, socialising or just lounging around with friends, but sleeping? No.

And I usually manage to get through it feeling relatively energised, only feeling the weariness, tiredness, sometimes complete exhaustion, when? Monday morning, of course!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Where to eat in Airport Residential Area

Ok, so on request by Sijui, I am to list places to eat in Airport Residential Area that are not too "ex-pat heavy" (my words, not hers). I was going to mention Goka, the Nigerian restaurant, but apparently it's shut down. Unfortunately the rest of the places are probably ex-pat hangouts, but almost everywhere is these days.

Well, Neighbourhood, shouldn't be. Found on the road leading up to Fiesta Royale junction (orange house on the right side of the road) it's a pool-table hangout for younger guys, but the rooftop is breezy and the burgers were good (at least when I was there), it's quite a nice place for an after work drink.

Round the corner, the next left turn when heading towards Fiesta Royale, on the right side of the road you'll find Choco Pain, a little café with some pastries and from what I hear, nice baguettes too.

From Neighbourhood, heading towards the other and, the t-junction into the residential area, on the right side of the road before you hit the t-junction, there's a Lebanese restaurant, that used to serve delicious sharwarmas, unfortunately last time I was there, it wasn't that good. However, they also have an ice-cream bar and a play area for children.

On the Nyaho Road Clinic Road, heading towards where you cross the railway, there's Poke House, a place renowned in Accra (and to which I still haven't been!). Here, you can get traditional Ghanaian food and snacks like kebabs or fried yam and pepper.

There's also Cuppa Cappuccino on 3rd Close for a breakfast coffee and opposite it, the place formerly known as Jazz Tone. For a nice evening meal, the Italian restaurant, Michelangelo's is recommended (directions please!)

Unfortunately Airport isn't my area of expertise, but I hope the guide helps. For other good places, visit Old Bob's Place in Osu (Papaye down and left, it's on the left side of the road as the road bends right), either for drinks with the loyal regulars or for a scrumptious dinner, have banku and tilapia at Blue Gate (Papaye down on the left side of the road), have drinks, fried rice and chicken at Celsbridge in Labone around 7p.m. on a weekday and enjoy a cozy but relatively cheap dinner at Le Must. And of course, a smoothie from Smoothy's is a must, I recommend Boneshaker (best suitable for anyone, who like me, does not like banana in drinks).

Does anyone have more tips for Sijui?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Kind spirits at the gym

There's a boy of about ten, possibly twelve, who follows his mum to the gym. The boy, who is quite short is very fat, obese in fact. Every day, comments are made, either to him or behind his back, or looks shared over his size. Usually he follows his mum around, hangs his head and looks a bit sheepish, moody, knowing that if he meets someone's gaze, they could easily tell him loudly, "if you want to lose some of the weight, don't just stand there, get on the machine!".

But today, there was a change. One of the fittest and most popular guys at the gym took the boy under his wing, saying "come, let's try running outside". When the boy was getting tired and slowed down, he took his hand, it was the sweetest picture, seeing them running hand in hand. And when he really was too tired, they both stopped, rested and chatted. Both of them even took part in the sit-ups competition (which I took part in and won!), amidst laughs and jibes.

I have never seen that boy work so hard, and yet I have never ever seen him that happy before. It's amazing what a little support and kind words can do.

Virus buster

Hm, getting a new, better anti-virus wasn't as great as I thought. First of all it is so good it has excluded all, yes, ALL programs until I allow access. And somehow the internet was blocked, so for a whole 36 hours I had no access. The agony! ;)

Strangely, I realised the world hasn't fallen apart, actually, everything is pretty much the same as it was some time on Tuesday...

...except that I need to catch up on some blogging.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The rest of the weekend

Didn't forget to tell all about the rest of the weekend, just haven't had time yet.

Saturday was meant to be spent in Tema, going to the funeral of our local shopkeeper's husband (the links are never to distant for one to be invited to a funeral), but an offer to go to the Ada Asafotufiami festival, with a promise of being back in Accra by two changed those plans.

So off we were to Ada, me tired and hungry but excited to see what was waiting. Once we arrived, after a one and a half hour journey, I was amazed to see the amount of people that turned up. I have never heard of the festival before but judging from the groups of people from all corners of the world that were there, it must be bigger than I thought.

Several chiefs and political party leaders were present and to the background sound of gunshots and marching bands we heard them speak. The origins of the Ada festival are to encourage and sustain peace in an area that previously experienced many disputes. This message was shared by the chiefs and the party leaders.

After being invited to dinner at a beautiful resort in Ada, we finally left to head back to Tema and Accra, reaching Tema around...8p.m. Needless to say, I missed the funeral.

Instead we headed to Labone, rested for about seven minutes before it was time to head out again with SQB to the National Theatre for the comedy evening: Night of 1006 Laughs. AS promised, there were lots of laughs, and lots of people, in fact more people than seats, but selfish me, I stopped caring after I got my seat!

Sunday started with a well deserved sleep-in before heading to Teshie-Nungua to visit M2B who is now 16 days away from delivering her baby! Several games of later I headed to Akinyi's were I got the longed for chapati and finally got to see the Surprise baby (will have to elaborate on that later).

Unfortunately it seems a weekend full of fun is more tiring than a weekend full of work, so now I am struggling to keep my eyes open. I'm hoping for the early night I should have had yesterday, but yesterday was AGH's send off back to Sweden at the beautiful, breezy poolside of the Holiday Inn.

(Picture stolen from InterContinental hotels)

If you haven't been, go there, it's the best sea breeze you can get in Accra sans mosquitoes.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Socialite Extraordinaire

After working so much last weekend, the plan was for this weekend to include lots of rest. All I had planned was a certain funeral I'd have to attend out of duty. However, as usual things don't turn out as planned. I thought it would be nice to catch up with K over a drink. And since I hadn't met AGH and June in a while either, I invited them too. Then of course, there was my new Zambian friend whom I met after we had been shuffled from branch to branch by Ecobank. And of course Virgo and SQB.

Naturally, being Ghana, most of these people came with additional friends, Snoop and the Poetress also joined and instead of a quiet catch-up between four friends, we had lively discussions over seafood platters in a group of people from 9 different countries!

The venue? Chester's Place in Osu. I chose it as I was tired of the regular hangouts, Monsoon and Rhapsody's and Honeysuckle has become too smoky for me. It was nice to be back at Chester's after not having been there for two years. Accra is all about finding your own 'spots', I think I'll make Chester's Place and Old Bob's Place my regular joints from now on.

Chester, the owner, a self-proclaimed socialite extraordinaire was unfortunately not in his best mood. I wish he had been so that my friends could have caught a glimpse of his larger than life personality which he exhibits as MC for charitable functions and in his hilariously over the top radio ad for Chester's Place. (which I promise to upload if I can get hold of the recording).

From Chester's we, predictably, moved on to Rhapsody's which was packed, full of all types of people and blasting good music. The strangest thing is how dressed up people were. It's a restaurant, a bar!!! What's with the sparkling halterneck tops and stilettos?

The story of the rest of the weekend will be told shortly...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Plastic Fantastic

Wow, I wish this article would be followed by a blog. It will be interesting to see how anyone is able to give up all types of plastic for one month. My first thought was that in Ghana it ought to be easy, a lot of our things are fresh, bought straight from the market which can be put into cloth bags rather than plastic bags.

For many, water is where a lot of plastic is wasted. Water sachets, water bottles, bags of ice, etc. Virgo has taken a small (tiny, I know) step towards reducing his plastic consumption by buying the standing drinking container:

Instead of adding to the already huge stash of water bottles.

Christine Jeavans may find difficulty living without plastic in England with all its pre-packed food and other products, but doing the same in Ghana means you'll meet all kinds of scepticism and manage to offend people. Every time I decline a 'robba' (plastic bag) in shops, I'm met by a frown. Instead of being happy that I'm saving them 2 or 3 pesewas, the shop assistant is rather offended that I don't want her bag, in the same way she would be if I rejected food in her home. Mentioning that we must save the environment is sometimes met by puzzled looks, as if saying, we have so many things to worry about, you want to start talking about the environment???

But we must do something now, before it's too late. Already, even I am noticing climate changes in Ghana, which tells me we have less time than expected to sort out the mess we have created. Where to start? Does anyone want to test the life without plastic experiment for a month? I don't think I am in a place yet where I will successfully complete the experiment, but I would be extremely happy to hear anyone else try it. For now, I'll do my best to reduce my already relatively low plastic consumption.


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