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.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dirty tricks

The Republicans should not think we are confused at all. We know the game. With less than seven days to what looks like a losing battle, desperate times call for desperate measures. And at this point, no propaganda in the world can turn the polls around. The credit crunch also continuously reminds Americans of what the Republicans have done to their country.

So what to do, how to go about salvaging themselves before the elections? What better to do than to attack a Middle Eastern country in the hope that they'll retaliate before Nov. 4th? And if there's anything that can make Americans nationalistic, conservative and most unwilling to vote a non-Caucasian man (with a middle name like Hussein, shock horror!) as their President, it would be an attack by Middle Eastern 'terrorists' in the midst of elections.

Can you think of any other reason why the US would attack Syria for the first time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Seriously, McCain, Bush and other Republicans, this one is below the belt.

But for now, since the US has not confirmed the attack, we'll give you the benefit of the doubt!

Spintex, chapatis & Pictionary.

Between Virgo watching CNN clips of Obama and Iburst just blatantly stealing, I don’t know who to blame for my absence from the blog. Well, actually I have to blame Iburst. Don’t really know what’s been happening but for the past two weeks their charges have been ridiculous (we’ve spent approximately GH¢100 on internet credit in the past ten days!) and yet connection has never been as slow, bad or inconsistent.

At least I’ve had a good weekend. Akinyi is back from a trip to India and invited us over to hers on Friday. Went with Virgo and SQB to her house in Silver Bells. As we were already tired before we got there, we decided to leave after a few hours and started saying our goodbyes at 00:30. The goodbyes developed into a discussion of politics, life and comparisons between Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia which led to us continuing the discussion out on the street by the cars until 3:30! Good night indeed!

The next day started with some TV shopping with my mother at the Mall, where I also met M2B, now known as Mother Superior. Got back and enjoyed a delicious lunch (modestly prepared by myself) of chapati (Akinyi’s) and creamy paneer and peas sauce. Then Virgo kindly dropped me at East Legon where I was picked by big H, Akinyi, the BBC man and Naija boy and we headed to Aburi for a day of crisp air, calm scenery and fresh fruits!

Back in Accra, had another dinner at Akinyi’s, then as friends dropped in we set up a game of Pictionary, where team moi & Ruby kicked ass!!! It is these things I love about life in Accra, when a group of seemingly high-flying adults sit down and chill with a game of Pictionary. Ah, the simple life!

Also, don’t miss the newest spot in town which officially opens tomorrow, but had its grand opening yesterday: Sweetie’s, a huge beautiful bar with a live band and lots of cozy corners, located in East Airport/Airport Hills on the way to Lister Hospital. I think it’s great that the Spintex Road inhabitants are finally getting their own places to hang out (e.g. La Galette and the Chinese Restaurant in the complex opposite Papaye) so that they can stay on their side of town and hopefully stop choking the tiny roundabout at Tetteh Quarshie!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Last minuteism

Why does this always happen? Why do I always do it to myself? Drag and drag with a project until the last minute then have to rush to finish on time? In this case, two agreements that must be ready by tomorrow morning, both of which I'm 3/4 done with, which means that now, at 9p.m. I'm sitting in front of my laptop instead of at a concert at Alliance Francaise. Aaargh!

Last minute-ism is a common Ghanaian trait, unfortunately mine is combined with the (Swedish?) trait of punctuality, which means I relax aaah, then stress and stress to still ensure I hand over work on time. Not a good combination, in fact it is a wonder that I still have low blood pressure.

At least I have refreshed myself for the past half hour by playing Mapouka Magic System, Habib Koite, Salif Keita


Samini very loudly and dancing like a mad woman. All set for a long night of work!

Now I just hope I am able to post this since Iburst has been giving me trouble for the past two days. Anyone else experiencing the same thing? Don't worry, I'll deal with them another day. Grrr...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Tips on moving to Ghana, s'il vous plaît!

Ooooh, temperatures are rising, it's getting so exciting!
No, for once I am not talking about the election, neither the US nor the Gh one. Although, let's not forget that in exactly two weeks time, Obama will make history, or Americans will come out as the most dumb assed 'gosh-darn mavericks' (to use Palin's own favourite words) the world has ever seen.

No, this time I am talking about that big, life changing decision that a person close to me has had to make. Getting married, your thinking, or having a baby or buying a house? No, moving to Ghana of course! My fellow Ghanaian Swedish friend has after years of sensible consideration and contemplation made the decision and will be joining me in this beautiful country in just a few months time.

So now, as the veteran 'diasporan re-locator' I am the one advising on what to think of and more importantly, what to bring for the big move. We had a long discussion yesterday evening and will probably continue in the week as well, so I'm reaching out to all of you out there to contribute with any tips on what to bring (whether it be food, toiletries, furniture or electronics) or think of before coming here. Since I have been here as long as three (!) years, my memory of what I longed for and missed when I arrived, is not the freshest.

So do come with suggestions, after all I want to do everything to make sure any relocator to Ghana enjoys it and stays!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Banku, bereavement and birthdays

What an enjoyable weekend!

It started with an evening chat in Cantonments at my cousin's house on Friday night. Saturday was spent visiting a recently widowed colleague, then off to Virgo's friend's house for (delicious!) groundnut soup and fufu. After that a quick trip to the in-laws turned into a 5-6 hour discussion on politics and the upcoming elections.

Sunday started with a church service in Korle Gonno for my aunt who'd been buried on Thursday, followed by the usual family gathering with 'small chops' and banku and tilapia.
(Picture from Virtual Tourist)

After a rest at the house with no electricity (or generator), my mother, Virgo and I then joined my uncle and his family for a lovely birthday dinner at Imperial Peking and to my surprise I had never noticed Granada hotel, which it is part of.

It was a weekend full of Ghanaian food and family values. The nicest part of it was seeing how people actually come together when someone has died. In this case, Mrs. D's husband, her husband of approximately 38 years, who passed away just a week ago. During our visit which lasted an hour or so, about five other people stopped by. Rather than creating an intrusion, which I had always assumed it would, it seemed to create a nice opportunity for her to speak about what had happened and for the visitors to praise her husband, without anyone putting pressure on her to serve drinks or food.

However, the 'light off' (that's power-cuts to you non-residents) in both Accra and Tema during the weekend lead to memories of load-shedding days, which I hope, nay, pray will remain a very distant memory!

Friday, 17 October 2008

The heat is on

It's hot. Too damn hot. Last week I thought my few weeks abroad had made me sensitive to the heat and humidity but now there's no denying. It has begun. The steady rise in temperature that culminates in Otso Klikli, meaning that until March/April it's just going to get hotter and hotter and hotter. Even thinking of it makes me feel warm again.

The windows are closed, curtains are drawn, to prevent any rays of sunshine from bringing in extra heat and the AC is at its coolest, and still, I'm hot. I guess my mum was right, for a person born during one of the coldest Novembers in Sweden, moving to Ghana would require some adjustment. Still, I don't remember feeling this way last year, of course, then I was in my old job in that freezing office where I had to wear socks at my desk and wrap myself in a pashmina (ah, the good old days)!

Somehow the rising temperature is a lovely metaphor for these times of elections too. With two and half weeks to the American election, beads will be trickling down our faces when we hear whether history will be written or whether the Americans will disappoint the rest of the world again, and just over seven weeks from now, we'll be bathing in sweat (sorry, but it's true) as we wait to hear the fate of Ghana, by then, longing for the dry winds of Harmattan.

But for now, to do my best to distract myself from the fact that for the next six months I'll be suffering in the heat, I'm going to catch up on the latest exciting blog which I hadn't heard of until yesterday, that of one of my favourite 'commentators', Posekyere! Now I just wait for another favourite to start blogging, her life and opinions seem interesting enough to fill pages.

Sijui, that's you!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Poverty is a state of mind - View out of Ghana

"Poverty is a state of mind" is an expression I have always enjoyed and lived by. It has helped me through the days when I was dirt-broke but never poor. What is poverty? Is it having insufficient funds or is it simply an abstract phenomenon? Since moving to Ghana the abstract nature of poverty has been clearer to me and no time has shown that more than now.

As the credit crunch has hit, bashed and violated the Western world, turning national economies upside down, some nations are coming out on top. Previously wealthy nations are suffering to handle the state of their current economy. Iceland provides the perfect example, shocking the world by being on the brink of bankruptcy, when it was previously considered a rich nation. And just days ago Ghana was mentioned on international news as a nation whose economy was booming with a highly rated stock exchange, despite the global credit crunch.

So, a little (but great) nation in Africa is suddenly soaring economically while the rich world tumbles and falls. Who's poor now? The mindset we've been brainwashed with outside Africa for decades, of starving children with flies sitting on their faces, definitely does not represent the picture of Africa today, of Ghana, especially the Ghana to come in the next few years as we observe the economic boom that will come our way.

Does poverty only refer to pecuniary insufficiencies? From my first day in Ghana I had to re-think the idea of poverty. What we have materially in Sweden, England and other countries does not measure up to the value of warmth, humanity, kindness and generosity of mankind that we find in Ghana. I repeatedly tell people that in my three years here I have NEVER felt alone. Not for one second, ever. Whereas in my heyday in London, even at a dinner table full of friends I could feel completely lonely. Here, I am rich, there I was poor, not matter how many pound sterling were in my pocket. Although I am making less money than I have ever earned before (don't worry, I am working on sorting that out!), my life has never been richer before.

So whether we look at poverty as a matter of finance or as a word to describe any form of riches we may or may not hold, today we must reconsider which people, which countries and what other aspects of life that we regard as rich or poor.

What is poverty? Just a state of mind.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Back on the social scene

For the first time in ages, I had a weekend without pressure, work or travels. Friday night was spent having dinner at SQB's house then falling asleep in front of the Golden Compass. This was a nice relief after the migraine-filled day I had, thanks to the sunshine at Ala Adjetey's funeral and enhanced by the brutally loud music blasting from the funeral (or wedding?, engagement?) next door.

I had already planned with my fellow married friend that we'd go out on Saturday and enjoy ourselves whilst our husbands worked the weekend. We were meant to quickly pass by La Baselette's mother's 70th birthday party before heading to an event at the Office at 9p.m.

In usual Ghanaian standard, the evening did not turn out as planned. Instead, the 70th birthday party turned out to be a blast with a great mixture of good seventies music and hiplife, food and drinks. We stayed till after midnight, then briefly passed Monsoon ( at this point our 'entourage' consisted of about 8 of us friends of La Baselette, a Dutch/Swiss film crew here to film the elections and a Swedish/Asian couple. We headed to the Office and as usual I was right, referring to it as an overcrowded, small and cold place, but within thirty minutes of arriving the crowd had reduced to a point where we could enjoy the music and even have a bit of space to dance.

However, after the suffering rehabilitation I suffered the whole of Sunday (mostly sprawled on my bed), this although I stuck to my no-drinking-till-Christmas plan, means that I realised age, or simply the lack of going out really does take a toll on you and so it may be a while before you'll hear of me being out and about again. Then again, I'm sure there'll be enough election parties (Nov 4 and Dec 7) and maybe a teeny birthday party for myself in a few weeks time where I can sip some Halleluya wine and still enjoy a bit of socialising!

Castro's back!

For weeks I have been wondering what's happening to Fidel Castro. It has been so quiet since Raoul took over I began to fear Fidel was no longer with us. Then, this Saturday he spoke out again. There are certain men who must be admired simply for the fact that they don't give a damn about what anyone thinks and therefore say exactly what they want. Castro is definitely one of them. There are not many of his comments I can disagree with relating to his opinions on the American election.

Personally, I never thought a black man would even get this far in a US election during my lifetime, but just as I begin to be impressed by the forward thinking nature of many Americans, I come across this video, which once again reminds me of the narrow-minded nature of the stereotypical red-neck.

...and suddenly, just like Castro, I can't help but feel it is a miracle that Obama is still alive, with all the ignorant, hateful people around in his country.

Monday, 13 October 2008

A nation of peace

...or something like that has been a constant message in the media for this year's elections, promoting the fact that we should all ensure peace leading to the December election. So far it seems to be working.

On Friday I attended Peter Ala Adjetey's funeral and fittingly found a seat somewhere between the lawyers and the political party representatives. Peter Ala Adjetey, a veteran NPP man and lawyer drew crowds of lawyers and members of the NPP party. Having been a speaker of Parliament and therefore having a state burial, other party members, former leaders and ministers from all party backgrounds were also present. About halfway through the service I realised Akufo-Addo, Rawlings, Mills and Kuffour were all sitting within 75 metres of each other.

A buzz went through the NPP audience when Akufo-Addo in his speech criticised Rawlings regime and all eyes turned to Rawlings. When during the story of Ala Adjetey's life it was mentioned how he commemorated three judges brutally murdered by Rawlings, I couldn't help but wonder what it felt like for Rawlings to sit at the front row, knowing the huge crowd was watching his every move. I was later reminded that Rawlings had even detained Ala Adjetey during his time in power and couldn't determine whether it took great guts or great audacity to attend his funeral.

Either way, I was extremely impressed by all the political big shots and the audience, that no one took the opportunity to campaign (Akuffo-Addo who spoke, did not in any way attempt to promote himself) and neither the personalities nor the crowd showed any animosity towards each other, even though we're less than two months to an election with a lot at stake.

The whole funeral almost ground to a halt as Kuffour was doing his goodbye rounds when leaving, every person wondering what would happen when he would reach Rawlings. Before he got there, all cameramen were already in place, almost blocking him from accessing Rawlings. Both men satisfied the crowd by showing greatness as they reached for each other and shook hands. I felt enormous pride that at such a time and with a very dramatic past two decades, these to opposing leaders could smile and shake each others hands.

As soon as the handshake was done, the composed nature of the crowd dissolved into a chaotic but good-tempered soar as people found their way to their political groups. A funeral which had looked like a staunch NPP event due to Ala Adjetey's background, showed itself quite mixed as a huge crowd of supporters rushed to greet and cheer Rawlings.

It was only then I realised what a composed crowd it had been. Men had stood side by side with their political opponents for hours, containing themselves to this point and only exposed their affiliations to celebrate their leaders rather than fight amongst each other.

Aaah, what a peaceful land!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

That One

Yesterday, after catching the replays of the presidential debate (I have finally recovered from the fact that I stayed up til it started, fell asleep after a few minutes and woke up as soon as it was over, argh!), I spent most of the day remembering the 'that one' remark.

In my opinion, it feels like through that remark and the fact that McCain can hardly ever look Obama, sorry, that One, in the eye or even look at him, the feelings he has towards Obama go far beyond professional rivalry and rather thread onto severe personal resentment towards him. Not wanting to brand anyone a racist, after all it may be Obama's youth or the fact that he could take away McCain's last chance of becoming a president that causes the hatred, I still feel that I would not be surprised to catch McCain refer to Obama as "boy" or by any other derogatory term.

Anyhoo, the main reason for this post was not to speculate on McCain's feelings towards Obama, but rather to refer you to that One's latest website. Do check it out, it put a smile on my face. More than anything, I love to see a bad thing being turned around to something positive and I am always amazed at the American ability of commercialising EVERYTHING!

Now what's happening with our own election? I know the guys are busy on the campaign trail, but it feels like the buzz in the news and on the streets is still very much focused on the US elections. Time to get the insider info so I can hopefully get back to you with some juicy political gossip!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Buying property in Ghana?

I cannot talk about anything else until I mention the assault that my dear friend Ruby's sister suffered, being beaten by her real estate developer! It is such an important read for any person interested in buying property in Ghana as these developers are apparently notoriously known by lawyers and other professionals and yet seem to get away with whatever they do. Please read the article which states their and their company's names, to ensure you're not their next victim.

Unfortunately this merely adds to the already difficult and risky venture of attempting to buy property in Ghana, with all the land disputes, multiple sales, additional costs and litigation generally involved. (Believe me, even I have experienced some of it).

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

My Wedding

Let me first give you some advice: Don't plan a wedding in Sweden when you're in a scorching hot Ghana. Why? It's easy to forget what the temperatures are like when getting towards October in the Nordic regions!

As I landed in London a week before the wedding and immediately froze my butt off from the cold, I suddenly realised how stupid it was of me to choose a strapless dress for my outdoor wedding in Gothenburg at the end of September. Anyway, being the bride, I was the last to arrive and therefore probably suffered the least.

We arrived in a sunny Gothenburg, which (surprisingly to others), as usual was milder than the harsh British autumn. On the Friday when the sun came out strong around 12.30, I smiled, knowing that my one o'clock wedding the next day would be fine, the sun would have had half an hour to warm up the place before the ceremony got going. That evening my friend K pointed out that she'd heard it would be extremely windy the next day, a fact I quickly brushed off. Did I also mention I chose one of the highest, windiest points in Gothenburg, the heights by Masthuggskyrkan (choesen for its beautiful view, not its windy nature)?

The wind turned the whole event into a torturous ceremony for those used to warmer temperatures, but all the same it was a lovely, intimate and very relaxed day with my nearest and dearest.
Windy City

The veil finally manages to escape

Cutiepie A

Then we changed into kente for that Ghanaian touch

Me and my mama

Naturally, Sunday and Monday were warm, sunny and less windy than my Saturday!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Emotional reading

On the topic of reading, I just finished a fantastic, but oh so emotional book. I almost didn't write about it because it is in Swedish and as far as I know it hasn't been translated yet so it felt a bit unfair to my non-Swedish speaking readers to write about it.

However, this book took over my emotions for the whole four, five days I spent reading it. Mig äger ingen ('nobody owns me', or directly translated 'me, nobody owns') by Åsa Linderborg is the story of her upbringing and her father's life from when she was three, the age at which her mother left them. She perfectly portrays the life of the daughter of an alcoholic man. What makes the book so sad, in my view, is the love and affection for her father that shines through the awful childhood she has. From not washing (her body, that is) until the weekend visits at her aunt's house, to her father taking money given to her by her grandmother, to buy booze.

It is the love and the lack of accusation, resentment or bitterness that makes it all so sad. The fact that the father did show her love and she loved him back no matter how horrible their reality was. The realisation of how beautiful their life could have been had her father not been caught in the chains of alcoholism. Saddest of all is that this is the reality for so many children of the world, a reality that haunts these children into their adult years.

As I read through the last few chapters, I had to stop after every two or three pages, pausing to try and stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks, but it was impossible. The Ghana International Airlines staff looked at me strangely when I, with red, puffed eyes asked for some tissues then dove back into the book.

I finished reading an hour to landing and twenty four hours later I still feel sad every now and then when I recall something from the book. I wish this book could be given to all alcoholic fathers for them to realise how they sculpt and damage their children's lives. Then again, I doubt that any reading can help when you're in the deepest grips of alcoholism.

Lastly, I hope that this book will soon be translated into English (if it hasn't already been), so that you all get the opportunity to read it.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


I'm back in Ghana after a whirlwind trip which took me to London, Pisa, Venice, London, Gothenburg, London, Nice, Monte Carlo and back to London. I knew I looked forward to getting home - after a while the constant travelling gets a bit much - but until we passed airport roundabout, Holiday Inn and those places, I never realised just how happy I was to see my beautiful Ghana again. The reason for the trip, and the reason for most of my stress and lack of writing in the past several weeks wedding!

The wedding was a perfect blend of my roots, held on a beautiful cliff in Gothenburg with, erm typical windy Gothenburg weather, but with a reception where Hip- and Highlife was played in the background and jollof, chicken and kelewele was a staple dish served. More of that later though.

As we landed I realised it was the first time in my life, and bear in mind I've been flying to Ghana since 1980 (although I probably didn't remember those earlier flights), that I saw us landing at Kotoka in daylight! It felt amazing to be able to point out Legon Hill, Action Chapel, the Accra Mall (actually that is seen even at night) and other sights. Perhaps it was being able to see all these places so clearly that lead to the excitement that overpowered me when I got out of the airport.

I had a smile on my face all the way to the house, soaked in the warm, humid air and as I continue to postpone the unpacking of my bags (probably for another week or two), I look forward to, and I am glad, to start my new married life here, at home in Ghana.


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