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. 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...


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