Monday, 28 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

We've had a lovely Christmas, I hope you have too. This year's Christmas Eve julbord (christmas table) managed to be more Swedish than ever before, with all the necessary goodies present. A perfect fusion first Christmas for Em, who got the traditional Swedish Christmas table in a traditionally hot, hot, hot Ghana!

After eating well, we continued the stuff-fest with mulled wine and the accompanying snacks:

Since then, we've all been completely knocked out. So exhausted we postponed our Christmas Day turkey dinner til New Year's Day, after all, who says it has to be done a certain way.

Happy holidays!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Carols, cooking and camera shots.

Hello. There's no one reason for my almost two week long absence from the blogosphere, there just has not been any time to blog. For the past two weeks I've been in and out of cold and flu states, it seems as soon as I am about to recover, I get busy and fall sick again. Somehow though, I've still managed quite a few appointments, both social and business ones.

So far there's been two Carols nights, a lovely Lucia celebration, the opening of a bar/deli/(soon) restaurant and a mini-launch, or rather introductory session for one of our company's products. In between that I've managed to draft some agreements, handle a few meetings and negotiations and baked, sewn and cooked for Christmas. Any wonder I'm not finding time to recover?

As it is now, after a scrumptious lunch at Captain Hooks with a few of my lovely girls, I feel another bout of flu coming on, so I'll leave you with a few pictures and hope to find more time to blog in the coming holiday season.
Business meeting on an Osu rooftop? Not too shabby for me!

View over Labone...

...and Oxford Street

Bella Roma, deli and bar, found on the side road between Frankies and Standard Cartered:


Omanye Energy Drink, available in a shop near you, soon.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ouch!

Yes, pain is the best way to describe how I've been feeling since Friday. It started with a toothache, I'm ashamed to admit the reason for the toothache, let's just say I ought to have gone to the dentist a loooong time ago. Then on Sunday night I started feeling nauseous, having clearly eaten something I don't agree with. Monday evening, and suddenly my head was feeling very heavy, continued by swollen glands, sore throat and a runny nose.

Have these 'pains' released each other? No, of course they've been overlapping! So since Tuesday I've had severe toothache, flu-like symptoms (don't even mention the pig word, I can't afford to catch that flu at the moment) and an upset stomach, which thankfully has cleared now. What am I doing to cure myself? Since I'm car-less at the moment and feeling a bit too fluey to sit in a dental clinic or any clinic for that matter, I've been curing myself in the most natural way: lots of teeth brushing, gargling and flossing, fresh orange juice and munching on garlic and ginger and of course staying off any spicy or too risqué foods. Don't worry, I'm sure by Friday I'll sort myself out with proper medical care.

For now Em, the internet and funny anecdotes keep me in good spirits. My mum just called me after her ride to Tema in a taxi this evening. As they got on the motorway they were hit by heavy rain and then the most powerful lightning she's ever experienced. As the lightning struck near them, she threw herself forward and clutched the seat in front of her, then once it cleared she asked the driver:
"Did you feel that?!"
He answered: " Yes madam, it was so powerful I even closed my eyes and bent down to hold my knees!".

Erm... who was driving (on the motorway!!!)???

(If you're out there, please have a safe ride home.)

Friday, 4 December 2009

'Tis the season...

We're now firmly in December and you know what that means: Christmas! Last year, the election was the grinch that unexpectedly stole Christmas when instead of being over and done with on December 7th, we had to wait till early this year to have all the results in.

Well this year, nothing will stop me from preparing for the coming holiday. Em and I (poor child, whether she likes it or not, she'll be brainwashed with christmas delights) are getting in the mood by hook or by crook. We already got the necessary Swedsih treats from London. We started with minor decorations around the house on Monday, but soon realised it's going to take a lot more before we can ignore the heat and really get a feel of the holiday spirit.

So I realised the best way to do that is with music. First, with Swedish nostalgia courtesy of Pernilla Wahlgren (a musical artist from a well known entertainment family who's been around for about 25 years):

and Sissel Kyrkjebö (who's actually Norwegian), with the purest of voices for this song, O Holy Night.

Then, last year's favourite, Alexandra Burke singing Halleluja. Now if only I could get a clip of Six pence None the Richer singing It came upon a Midnight clear, I'd be very very happy.

All this serves as a perfect prelude to the Carols Nights I intend to go to. After all, there really is no better way to get into the mood of the season. I believe Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute will be putting on some Christmas concerts, if I could be bothered with the drive, I'd aim to see Ghana School of Law's carols night, as it is the one place you'll hear a few Ghanaian carols (I suspect theirs is on next Thursday).

Last year I cut a lonely figure at Ridge Church's carols night (Virgo was of course politicking at the time), I didn't consider myself lonely, but my aunties who I bumped into thought it looked so sad seeing a pregnant woman all alone in the corner, lol! I hope this year I'll make it to Ridge Church again and maybe one of the others I've mentioned. Perhaps I'll see you there?

The best thing about Christmas? It is the season of giving. Do your bit by clicking the button below. For every click, Pampers will, through UNICEF, donate tetanus vaccin to a child or pregnant woman in a developing country.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Three Zero

It’s getting to the end of my birthday week, yes, I choose to consider the whole week a celebration of my existence! This year I enter a new decade, the thirties! Although I’ve displayed only mock horror at this fact, I have had some panicky moments in the past week. My birthday was last Tuesday and I woke up feeling extremely old and tired. Could this be because all sleep training went out the window once we got to London and Em kept me up all night? Probably.

Wednesday, and my joints were feeling a bit stiff and achy, a symptom many geriatrics complain of. Could this be, because I was still adjusting to UK temperatures and again hadn’t slept well? Possibly, but in that moment it felt like my youth truly was gone, forreva!

Saturday night, as I was threading a sewing machine for the first time in two years (why is another looong story), suddenly my 20/20 vision failed me and it took five blurry attempts before the thread made it through the eye. At this point I was really close to breakdown: is this what being thirty means? A few minutes later I remembered that I had been awake for twenty hours and hadn’t eaten for the past twelve of them. Here’s hoping that was the reason, as my perfect vision is extremely precious to me.

Some people get depressed about turning thirty, but I guess I’ve hit most of the milestones that can cause anxiety. Profession, yes, job, yes, home, yes, marriage, yes, children, one. So far, so good. And yet on Friday I felt a slight panic that the fun and wild twenties were over forever, had I made sure I had enough fun? Then I remembered, my twenties have been a blast!


(Pictures from my low key birthday party at Prampram yesterday.)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Timeout Accra

No, I'm not talking about the magazine, Timeout Accra (which I haven't had an opportunity to peek through but hear is quite good), rather I have taken a timeout from Accra and with me, I have my favourite accessory, Em. We're currently chillaxin in Kent (England) at my dad's place. The last few weeks have been extremely hectic and thanks to several months of sleep deprivation I'm completely fatigued so when the chance of spending a week in London came up, I was nowhere close to saying no.

Whilst Em gets a dose of Grandpa, I'm going to enjoy some much needed, a break from household and work responsibilities and of course, a bit of shopping. I think we all at some point feel time running faster than we can keep up with, and when we do, it is important, if possible, to catch our breaths and slow down for a bit. If you can't (or don't want to) make it to London for a week, I'd recommend a weekend break outside Accra, perhaps at Green Turtle Lodge, Stone Lodge or even a night or two at the serene Afia African Village, right in the centre of Accra (Ministries).

And of course if either budget or time is tight, try my old favourite, head to your mama, papa or anyone you know who'll be happy to take you in for some days and relieve you of your daily chores for some days. Mentally, after two days I am already ready to go back, but physically I still need some more sleep and as such, am happy for the days we have left.


In between shopping, resting and relaxing (possibly the most inactive verb!), we're all getting in to the mood for Christmas and thanks to IKEA, it looks like there's a pretty good Swedish Christmas to be had even in the heat of Accra. See you soon!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ashawo!

I hope the title doesn't offend you (ashawo means whore/prostitute, when one wants to be crude. Originally a Nigerian word, it is the generic term in Ghana now.), but my whole weekend has been tainted by Ashawo.

Firstly I must say it's been a great weekend! After weeks of sleep training, baby finally sleeps through the night and as a result we could get a babysitter (my mama) and go to a friend's birthday dinner at Le Magellan Friday night. When someone after dinner suggested we continue the night at Citizen Kofi, Virgo and I, like the two newly released prisoners we clearly were, screamed in unison "Yay!" (yes,our excitement was rather embarassing). When we got there, just around midnight, we realised that apart from us and a group of girls, there were a few older white men (clearly the target customers) and - you guessed it - ashawo.

After dancing for about an hour they played a song I recognised that I'd been hearing in the past few weeks and of course, when it got to the chorus, I heard what it was - yes - Ashawo! Interestingly, at this point the two prostitutes who had been putting on a nasty, somewhat disjointed mapouka-like show all evening, stood this one out, each suddenly very busy texting away on their phones.


Yesterday, we headed to Tema to what turned out to be the after party of a funeral and whilst waiting for our friend's requested song, the new Slim Buster/Tinny collaboration to play, what did we hear: Ashawo.

The song, an old Nigerian classic from our parents' days, is so catchy in its beat that anybody can end up singing along, if not also dancing. Yesterday, I laughed off a friend's fears that Ashawo might be baby Em's first words the way Virgo continued singing it all day long, however today, I'm slightly concerned. After humming it this afternoon, we got home to hear the same song playing at the drinking spot across the road. Just imagine the reactions of uncles, aunties and the ever present church brigade if at nine months little Em opens her mouth and blurts out:

Ashawo!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wrong number!

The days are flying by with so much to write but no time to put it down in print. Am I the only one who feels like time is racing to the end of the year?

One thing which has often bothered me is the manners of mistaken callers. Usually they answer the call by screaming: Akos? Akos?! When the response is "sorry, wrong number" the caller hits back by kissing his teeth loudly. I've gotten used to these calls over the years and don't let them upset me anymore. However on Sunday, even I was surprised by the reaction.

I received two calls from a woman screaming "Wula? Wula?!" When I as usual alerted her to the fact that she had called the wrong number, she kissed her teeth and slammed the phone down in my ear. Hmmph.

Later that evening, around 21:30, the same woman called again (unfortunately I feel I have to refrain myself from calling her a lady!). Exasperated, I once again told her, "Sorry, wrong number". Her response (screaming):

Dabi, m'enka enkyere me se eye wrong number! (No, don't tell me it is the wrong number!)


At which point I just laughed and hung up. Later on I wish I had stayed on the line and said "OK, sorry it's not the wrong number, I am Wula, yes everything is great, bla bla bla" and wasted her credit til she realised, it was indeed, the wrong person she was talking to.

Well, at least in the end she put a smile on my face. Silly cow.

*Special thanks to the Poet for helping me write in Twi

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Labone

A few years ago I remember complaining about how I missed London's corner shops, the accessibility to everyday products on practically every street corner. What was I talking about?! Clearly, if I had gotten out of my car more often here in Ghana, I would've noticed all our "corner shops".

After getting back to Ghana, and realising that certain things are harder to do with my constant accessory (that's the baby I'm talking about), I've had to give up on some of my regular spots and find other options. For example, for weeks I wondered how I'd coordinate baby and breastfeeding so that I could have my hair braided, something I usually do at Auntie Alice salon. I thought of the long queues there and told myself, surely there's someone in my area who could sort me out with some cornrows.

Then, on my way to a funeral three weeks ago, the zip of my traditional top broke. I panicked for a second before I reassured myself and my mum, that surely, there would be a seamstress somewhere on this or the next road. That day, I asked a girl in the neighbourhood to take the top for me, find a seamstress and bring it back to me once the zip was repaired.

A few days later I finally decided to explore the area myseld, and even I, with my optimistic opinions of our road, was surprised at everything I found. Less than 100 metres from us, there's a seamstress, a hairdresser (who actually agreed to braiding my hair at home, solving all baby related issues), a laundry service, a drinks shop, a newly opened corner store, a fruit & veg stand and of course the local drinking spot that keeps us 'entertained' e-v-e-r-y evening til 1 a.m.

Within a 500 metre radius, there's a pharmacy, dentist, clinic, forex, school, day nursery, restaurant, clothes shops, etc! Granted, Labone isn't exactly in the deepest of forests, but our road looks very quietly residential and in all my almost two years of driving on this road, I had never noticed many of these places.

Well, it's good to know that even without a car, most of the weekly errands can be handled in a 2 or 3 minute walk, this knowledge was especially useful to me as I went car-less all of last week. But that's a whole other story...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

All Hallows Eve

The twentyone year old man gets home and hears his father calling erratically. Once he follows his father's voice and locates him in the kitchen, it is already too late. His father is heaped on the floor in an unconcious state. The young man runs to call his mother, who's shopping in town, completely unaware of the tragedy that's taking place at home. She drops her would-be purchases and calls a friend to drive her home as she knows she's unable to safely drive herself home, after hearing the news of her husband's collapse. Little does she know her husband is not only unconcious, he's actually dead.

In just a few seconds, a whole family's life changes forever. The two sons are fatherless, the wife suddenly a widow. And it is not only the family that is affected, by Thursday morning, all his work mates will come to realise what happened that eery afternoon dated 090909.

The news reaches us today, on All Hallows Eve: our good family friend, known to us for about 23 years, and in recent years my brother's colleague, died so suddenly, unexpectedly from a brain hemorrhage on his kitchen floor. His wife cries to my mother, wishing my mother were with her in Sweden as she does not know how she will cope another day.

Already before I heard the news I had decided to abandon Halloween celebrations and rather light a candle for those who have passed on. However, the heat and Labone power cut, stopped me from getting my matches out. Well, if I were to light a candle, today it would be burning for you, Åke. Rest in Peace.

To the rest of you, happy halloween from my own friendly ghost!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

WFP Productions: the Poor Ghana Child Show!

My mid-morning browsing today lands me on an article (Swedish) that has made me feel slightly sick. Apparently, at the G8 summit in July, held in Rome, Ghanaian children were flown in to be fed porridge by the wives of G8 leaders (English)!

To show the work the World Food Programme had been doing, they put on this spectacle which also included the children dancing and singing. The whole affair cost approximately (brace yourselves) $500,000! From what I have read so far, these claims are not confirmed by the UN but have been spread by the Swedish development agency, SIDA. Like their own representative says, I too can only hope that it is not completely true.

I don't even want to delve into a discussion on every human's right to dignity, the use of these school children as 'show dogs' for the WFP, etc. but I am now focusing on being annoyed at the fact that so much money was spent on a show of WFP's good work. Talk about defeating your own cause! Imagine the many homes, schools, books, clothes, shoes and food that could have been bought with that money!

Reading Sarah Brown's blog (that's Gordon's wife) gives a different angle of the story. Here the event is captured more as an opportunity for the Ghanaian children to sing and dance for the G8 leaders' wives and for the wives to see first-hand the work that is being done by the WFP. However, I still do not understand why an organisation that is dealing with poverty and how to help those in need would not see it more fit to simply set up a satellite link, Skype or in any other way communicate with a village where their work is being done and allow these wives to experience it live, rather than 'first hand' at such a cost.

(Picture borrowed from SIDA)
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. And whilst I hope your morning got off to a better start, I'm still fuming and wondering:

If so much was spent on flying these schoolchildren all the way to Rome, completely out of their natural scenery, why oh why are they still wearing those distinct yellow/brown uniforms?!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

To pierce or not to pierce...?

Over a week of hardly any internet access and so much I've missed to write about! The football! The Ghana@50 inquisition! The Ministry of Foreign Affairs fire! Thankfully Abena has summed up the week quite well. On a personal note I also managed to squeeze in a 2-night sleep in at my mother's in Tema.

Other than that, we (after all, where I go, baby goes) also made it to a funeral last Friday (sans bébé), a wedding last Saturday and another wedding yesterday. These social outings highlighted an irritating unspoken Ghanaian rule:

A baby can only be a girl here if she wears earrings! I had experienced this before, when everybody and anybody would say "what's his name?" or "what a sweet boy!" even though I'd be holding little M in her girly, often pink or purple dresses. But yesterday's experience was almost laughable.

Walking in to the reception of my Law School mate's wedding, another classmate greets me:
"Your baby is so cute, what's the name?"
"It's M".
"Oh, really? I actually have a client, a lady named M, but tell me is it usual to also call boys that?"
"No, she's a girl".
"Oh! I see...But, where are the earrings?!"

And that was just the start of the ridiculous afternoon. Every person who passed or greeted us reacted in the same way. I shouldn't be surprised, I myself don't wear earrings on a day-to-day basis and have received comments about that several times. Older lawyers in court will come up to me and (out of kindness) remind me that I've forgotten to put on earrings today, but I shouldn't worry, the judge will probably not notice that I am naked in the eyes of the court. (Since when are earrings part of a female lawyers court dress code?)

Since M was born, I have considered whether and if so, when to pierce her ears. After a while I settled on doing it around the age of three, and even then, it would be mainly to satisfy Ghanaian society, to make use of the many pretty earrings she has already received as presents and stop her potentially being bullied at school (lol!), as I couldn't care less, whether she goes earringless her whole life or not. But does that mean that I'm going to suffer the next two and a half years hearing these comments? Or the kinder, but equally annoying kind advice on where I can go to have her ears pierced (hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in case you're wondering), in case the problem is that I didnt' know where to find an earpiercer.

I just don't feel comfortable putting tiny earrings in my little girl's ears as she is of the hyper kind, pulls at everything she can hold on too and then puts it all in her mouth (this includes, my own earrings whenever I wear them). Funnily, in Sweden, there wouldn't be a question of her piercing her ears until she might want to do it, probably some time in her teens! What's your take on this strange culture clash?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

Every year, and sometimes every season, we notice what is happening to the world, how global warming is changing the climate. Last year I wrote about the delayed Harmattan and this year, arriving in Ghana mid-September, I was surprised by the cool, rainy season-like, Julyish temperatures that were still around.

While the Western world and parts of the East adapt their lives to protect our environment, it seems in Africa we're still too busy talking about other issues: war, famine and corruption to name a few.

When are we too going to make the environment a priority? In our case, changes made for the environment are often beneficial to us in other ways too. Changing our toilets to the water-efficient Half-flush/Full-flush system means we can reduce our water use and as a result combat our severe water shortage. Switching to energy lightbulbs (which has already quite effectively been done), lightens the load of the Akosombo Dam, as does an increased use of solar panels for electricity.

During my stay in Sweden this year, my favourite program was the World's Greenest Homes, an inspiring Canadian program that saw the crew visit households across the globe that are using energy efficient means to run their homes. Ghana is a perfect candidate for adopting many of these energy efficient ideas, after all we have enough solar, wind and water energy to power most of our daily household appliances.

While Ghana is producing ethanol to provide Sweden with one third of its ethanol consumption, one must wonder, when will we produce for ourselves? When will we use more environmentally friendly means of transport to travel within the country, instead of flying from Accra to Kumasi or Tamale to Accra?

When, in a country where thanks to the humidity, my kitchen bin naturally turns its contents into compost after being left to stand for a week, will we sort and recycle our waste and use our compost to plant new trees instead of burning our rubbish in plastic bags at the roadside?

Let's pay it forward, to our children, their children and generations to come. Let's do what we can to prevent further climate changes in the future.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Newcomers

Following Kajsa's lead, I too must recommend a new drink. Like with all other things, it's a bit exciting when there's something new in town to taste, try or visit. For me, the latest drink you'll find in my fridge, is Guinness new product: Alvaro. Available in two flavours, Pear and Pineapple, I can tell you that the pear flavour is scrumptious, taste very similar to Swedish Pear cider! The Pineapple flavour I'm sure is lovely too, I'm just not a big fan of pineapple flavoured things (except the fruit itself!).


Another newcomer in town is Lara Mart, located where Sotrek used to be, opposite Bywel's in Osu. It's nice to have another option to Koala in the area, the shop is well stocked, has nice neat aisles, a good meat counter and even stocks Apple Tango!


Customer service in Ghana is a whole topic on its own, but at Laramart I realised the best thing about it: Here, customer service is honest, not falsely friendly or giving well-rehearsed answers. As I drove up to Laramart, just to ask for directions to Sotrek, the security guard happily gave me directions to his employer's competitor and when asked whether Laramart actually had its own meat counter, he said: "yes, but I think Sotrek's is better"! (In my opinion, Laramart's turned out to be better.)

I decided to check out the new supermarket anyway and I was happily surprised. One staffmember approached me, was very helpful without being too forward, but as I made my way to the till, he asked "how do you find our prices, quite expensive isn't it?)!

I love the honesty! However, in both the guard's and the shop attendant's case I think they were wrong. The meat counter was good and the prices, although not cheap, were in the same range as Maxmart, Koala and Shoprite.

Friday, 9 October 2009

That One!!!!

An hour ago I thought it was just a rumour, but after checking BBC's website, I realise it is true: Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize! Can this man do anything but go from strength to strength?? I doubt that anyone, even a hardcore Obama-fan like myself, could have imagined or foreseen this a year ago.

One of the reasons for selecting him? "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future".

I don't think any further words are needed to describe the uniqueness of Obama. Today I am proud of the world! While Americans (well, about 30% of them) are screaming out against Obama and the proposed healthcare reform, the world is celebrating him for his vision and potential. Isn't it funny that your own people will always be the last to recognise your achievements?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Baby on board

I knew my girl-about-town days would change once I got pregnant and had a baby. Maybe I'd only get out a fraction as often as I used to before and for evening outings I'd have to get hold of a reliable babysitter to take the baby for an hour or two. But a few weeks ago, I waas clearly informed that my out and about days are O-V-E-R until further notice from the bosslady herself (read: baby).

Heading out to see the Black Star as part of the centenary celebrations, I had gotten the most reliable babysitter of them all - my mum. I'd left some boob juice in the fridge, prepared evening porridge and even set up for her nighttim bath before heading out to relax alone with Virgo for the first time in months. After settling in to watch the play, I got a call, probably 25 minutes into the play. I could hear the little one screaming bloody murder as my mum told me to start making my way home.

The journey from National Theatre to Labone has never felt longer, as I could hear her screaming echoing in my head. Once home I ran to the bedroom...and was met by a baby who started smiling as soon as she saw me! A smile that clearly said: think twice before going out without me again. I guess it'll take some longterm gradual weaning before I try another long outing again.

Another clue to that I've been away and been off the social scene, is that I completely missed the opening of Citizen Kofi. After looking blank the first few times it was mentioned, it didn't take me long to understand what it was. This is Ghana after all, not too many places will be opening at the same time. Still, I have no idea when I'll be trying it out, when I'll go for sushi next or even head round the corner for a Twist pizza!

For now, my entertainment consists of visiting friends, having them visit me and daytime ventures to the Mall or checking out All Pure Nature for pampering items for both baby and me.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Man, the cock, the crow.

There's a cock that's been living on our wall. Lately, it's been crowing louder than ever for longer than ever. A few weeks ago, it got unbearable. My heart would jump and I'd awaken from its loud crow at 2.30 a.m. After the first shock, I got up, slammed the loovers a bit and the cock moved further down the wall, leaving us with a bit of peace.

The next night, it seemed to come back with more strength, first waking baby, then me, then Virgo. Our whole night was ruined, so as you can imagine we were far from happy when the crowing started on the third night. I woke up to find Virgo getting dressed in the middle of the night. After a while, I heard steps in the grass by our window, a cock's yelp, then the scurried steps of a cock running away (Virgo had thrown pebbles in its direction and it had ran away). The rest of the night we slept undisturbed.
Man - 1 Cock - 0

The next night,in a genius move, Virgo went outside our bedroom window as early as 9p.m., chased away the cock, and we actually went to bed smiling.

Man - 2 Cock - 0

We thought we'd found our recipe for success, so Virgo did the same thing the following night, but somehow, by 3a.m. it had forgotten all threats of pebbles being thrown at it and came back crowing louder than ever (after all, it had had a night's rest).
Man - 2 Cock - 1

Still, we thought we'd give our early night pebble chase another go so that night, same old story, a few pebbles were thrown on to the wall outside our bedroom window to get the cock to move down a bit or jump back into the neighbour's yard, where he belongs. However, a stroke of really, really bad luck hit us. The cock mistakenly jumped/fell into our garden and didn't seem able to fly back up on to the wall. This situation made it crow louder and more frequently than ever, and so begun our night of hell with crowing from 10p.m. onwards, til 6a.m.
Man - 2 Cock - 1,000,000!

But now it seems, a cool chic, a hen that hangs out in our garden has managed to walk the crow out of our garden and back to his own land and it hasn't found its way back yet. After those nights of complete hell (after all, do parents of a six-month old really need anything else to keep them up at nights???) we're hoping for a bit of peace.

FIngers crossed!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Kwame Nkrumah: his greatest legacy

I am half Ga, half Akim. My husband is part Ga and part Akuapim. Among my friends and family, one is part Ewe, part Fanti and part Ga, one is part Akuapim and part Ga and another is part Akim and part Ashanti and there’s a whole mixture of Ga, Krobo, Fanti, Akim, Nzema and Hausa. Speaking to other African nationals I realize that this tribal mixing is very unusual outside Ghana.

So what is Nkrumah’s greatest legacy? In my opinion it is breaking our tribal barriers. In his quest for panafricanism, he had to first break tribal barriers before breaking national distinctions. By transferring civil servants to places in the country that they had no tribal link to, e.g. sending an Ashanti to Accra, a Ga to Koforidua and a Fanti to Tamale, tribal interaction was forced on Ghanaians. A young Fanti who’d been stationed in Tamale for four years would sooner or later look for a spouse and marry out of his tribe.

In addition, the system of boarding schools meant that at an early age, pupils would learn not to discriminate along tribal lines, after all a student at one of Ghana’s boarding schools, e.g. Aburi or Mfanstipim would easily find that at least three other tribes were represented in his class. At reaching university age, most pupils would have a close friend or girlfriend/boyfriend of a different tribe and many would have learnt more than a few phrases in a language other than their own tribe’s.

In a time when Ghana stands happily among few of the African countries that has not experienced a civil war, as so many others have in the past and present, we must be eternally grateful to Osagyefo for this legacy.

(Picture from my great-aunt's album. Like Abena, I have so many questions to ask about it, but now I can't stop wondering, is there a picture of Kwame Nkurmah in every family album?)

And although it seems some insist on trying to re-introduce tribalism, I dare say it’ll be hard to start a tribal conflict here. After all, if there’s a war between Gas and Akans, which side do I stand on? My situation is not unique, look around you and you’ll find that most of those around you belong to more than one tribe.

For that, Kwame Nkrumah, we thank you.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Kwame Nkrumah: Nkrumah never dies!

Yesterday I asked 'what exactly are we celebrating this coming week?' We have our Independence day, Republic day, etc. so how come we’re also celebrating the birthday of a man who’s been dead for 37 years? My conclusion is that that in itself shows the greatness of the man?!

Those alive during Nkrumah’s time tell me of his charisma and popularity. This is a man who was more of a celebrity than a head of State.
“Kwame Nkrumah - show boy”, “I want to see Kwame Nkrumah – show boy!” the Makola women would chant when they saw him in person, heard his speeches, or at any time they felt like it.

My older family members inform me that when Nkrumah spoke on the radio, people would rush to hear and there would be complete silence whilst he was on air. They often remember getting goosebumps as his eloquence pierced through the airwaves and caught the attention of each person in the listening crowds.

(picture borrowed from panafricanperspective)


The Young Pioneers, Nkrumah’s youth supporters (see Poet's excellent definition of them here, would cheer “Nkrumah never dies!”. This later became an everyday expression and it seems, is still true today, Nkrumah never dies!

As I write, I am surprisingly reminded of this fact. How? Microsoft Word spell-check recognizes Nkrumah in its vocabulary!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Kwame Nkrumah: the celebrations begin

"While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to man."
Maya Angelou

A quote by one of my favourite persons, from her time in Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana. Was she right? Partly yes, as I believe Ghana's legacy today is still the kindness and empathy of its people. However the quote may somewhat take away focus from the many, many other achievements of Kwame Nkrumah as we approach what would have been his 100th birthday.

As we flew in to Accra early Friday morning, I saw my wonderful, well-planned Tema and the Accra-Tema motorway beneath me, both products of Nkrumah's work. All over Accra, we are reminded of this great man's succesful struggle for Ghana's freedom and his vision for the future of Ghana.


Unfortunately, much of the good work has been undone and it'll take us a long way to retrace our steps and get back on track. However, Ghana is still considered a trailblazer, leading the way for other African countries and in the week that he would have turned 100, the fact that we acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of Nkrumah's regime, is in itself a step in the right direction.

Are you celebrating and if so, how? I for one am trying to find a babysitter so I can make use of these tickets.

What can I say, it's good to be back home.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Nine

Today's date will be a one off in our lifetime, just as the previous years' 080808, 070707 (when A LOT of people got married as it was a Saturday as well), etc have been.
So how to remember this day? Well I for one am hoping to hear from a friend who's expecting, with her calculated due date being, yes, the ninth of the ninth of the ninth.

No matter what, the coming baby will be special, unique and loved but we all think it'd be rather cool if he or she were to arrive today. If anything it makes for an easy date of birth to remember!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Rain, rain, go away!

Oh dear, should we be worried about the floods that are taking over West Africa? According to BBC News, between 25 and 32 people have already died in Ghana and more in our neighbouring countries. Annoyingly, I got more news from BBC's website than from Joy's. I had hoped to read about the floods in further detail on Joy's website, but it seems theirs rather showed a summary of what I had already read.

I guess as I prepare to make my journey home, I'll have to wait a day or two before I hear more news on these floods. Do feel free to fill me in!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Job hunting - tips, anyone?

Becky said...

Hi Maya, I came across your post in a search for a part time job to enable me take an IT course. I'm very desperate because the course will be starting soon and I can't join if I have a full-time job but i need to keep doing something to be able to pay my fees. Pls help me if you hear of any part time job.

Thank you


Well, how do we find jobs in Accra? Unfortunately, it still seems easiest to get a job through whom you know. Both employers and employees will tell you that after getting through hundreds of applications they finally got their employee/job through contacts rather than applications.

So how do you get a job without knowing anyone? My best tips? Call or meet the employer before sending in an application, that way your name will ring a bell when the application arrives. Or befriend a staff member who can tip you off when there are vacant positions in the company. If you know anyone on a higher level in your desired field of employment, get them to coach you on how to successfully get a job in that field or get them to use their contacts for you (Ghana is small, for example,the bank manager at e.g. Stanbic will very likely know managers at Fidelity Bank.)

And of course, don't let anything stop you from applying through newspaper ads or web pages, you may just be the lucky one who gets to sign an employment agreement.

Good luck Becky!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Tottenham, towels and Twi

Hmmm, the past two days I've made the same mistake and can only come to one conclusion: hungry babies are extremely difficult to bath! Apart from constantly wriggling about, they try to drink the bath water (yuck) and eat their towel.


Our move from Kent into London (well, the outskirts of it) has made me feel like I'm getting closer to Ghana. As a south London gal, I know there are huge Ghanaian communities in Tooting, Streatham, Norbury and most of the Croydon boroughs, but it seems the North is housing even more Ghanaians! Here in Tottenham, a short walk took me past the Golden Stool (restaurant/club/pub) and Yaw's Salon. Wherever I go, if I don't hear Twi being spoken, it's because the people are speaking Ga! And at Tottenham Hale station a ticket attendant actually recognised Virgo and called out one of their party cheers, I tell you, it was strangely surreal!

Either way, it's good to know that if need be, I can most certainly find some abenkwan or kelewele just around the corner.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Family time

The world is warm in red, orange and yellow tones with soft music playing in the background... or is that just my life at the moment? After a very long (unplanned and involuntary) separation, Virgo is finally here in London with us and we're spending some much needed family time. The days are filled with walks, trips to friends and family, cooing over the little one (and me hiding the piles and piles of shopping I happened upon in the days before Virgo arrived).

And London weather couldn't be better, since I arrived almost three weeks ago I don't think it has rained more than twice, light drizzles both times. There's a warmth and sunny glow wherever we go. With the fan humming in the background and light snores heard from both husband and baby, it is time for me to shut down and I can only hope that you too are enjoying this August night.

If I'm not around for a while it's because I'm spending all my time loving my little family.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bits of my baby

Quite a few times I've been asked to show pictures of my darling daughter. I haven't yet. I'd love to show her off to the world as she's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen, but at the same time I am an intensely private person (I know what you're thinking, why keep a blog then?). I don't want to display too much of her and later regret it, but whilst I debate whether or not she'll visually be a part of this blog (and of course, ask Virgo what he thinks), I'll leave you with some of the best bits:

All she got from her mama was her nose (and possibly lips, we're not sure yet).


Eyes that follow me EVERYWHERE


I hope I never forget these chubby little hands...


...or feet

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Boss, I'm leaving oh.

As my previous post showed, I've been thinking of Ghana a lot. Apart from missing the good stuff, I can't help but think of the practical bits as well. These include possibly looking for a new home in the next few months, finding new househelp and how to settle a baby in Ghana in one of the hottest seasons.

Our previous househelp left without a word to us. After the first two days of absence we thought she may have matters regarding her recently deceased father to deal with and hadn't had time to come to work. After the next few days we began to worry as this sudden absence was very unusual for her. It was only after speaking to one of her acquaintances that we were told she had decided to leave because of medical problems.

Her way of leaving is very typical of staff in Ghana. I am not only speaking of househelp (although the best stories you'll hear are of the many dramatic tales told by home staff on their last day). In the law firm that I previously worked in, the accountant told our boss early Friday that "today will be my last day". A lawyer intern didn't show up on a Friday and the next Monday we were informed she'd headed to London and wouldn't be coming back. Actually, when I think of it, I was one of the only persons during my time there who gave the requested notice before leaving (yes, I've already patted myself on the back for good behaviour).

Why is it so difficult to give notice in Ghana? Could it be the backlash of a family-like setting in our work places? After all we go to the weddings of fellow staff members but are also expected to go to the funerals and memorial services of their relatives. Is it possible that once you've hosted your boss at a family funeral, it is too hard to look him/her in the eye and say "I've found a better paying job."?

Either way something must change as it is so impractical for the employer, so embarassing for the employee who'll have great difficulty facing the employer and other staff members again, but in our case it is also a bit tragic because had she just come to us, we'd have helped her with her medical treatment and we could've stuck to our agreement for her to leave work 1st August to go back to school at our expense.

Now, for the fear of a little embarassment, she'll have to seek treatment without any salary and I can only wonder what will happen to her education and future.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Ma fe wo paa!

I'm missing home paa. So many things have led to this: travelling further south by leaving Sweden for England, hearing Twi all over the place when out and about in London, but most of all, after a fully Ghanaian day yesterday, I've got Ghana and only Ghana on my mind.

The day was spent parading baby to all the relatives. We started off with lunch at the Baba Foundation in Norbury, a Ghanaian Community Centre. My eyes teared up as I looked out over the wakye, jollof, banku&tilapia, guinea fowl and red red that I hadn't seen in so long. The feast, which also featured a starter of fried yam and kelewele was topped of with Malt. The only thing that made the day even better than that meal was getting confirmation over and over again, both there and at the cousin's house in South Norwood that we later visited, that my daughter is the most beautiful baby in the world (as if I didn't know!)

Today, I realised that Marks & Spencer in Bluewater probably had a 60% Ghanaian customer base as everywhere I turned I could hear twi being spoken. Then, getting home to my dad's place, where traditional highlife was blasted as the scents of kontomire in the making wafted in to the sitting room, my heart began to beat faster and I couldn't help but exclaim:

I MISS GHANA!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Last few days of Swedish summer

So at the end of my stay in Sweden I did complain a bit much about the state of the country. It may all have been true, but I also had a good time there, with family and friends. Here's a few pics from my last few days in town.

There was a lot of cake-eating, with five birthdays in the last thirteen days it was almost an every-other-day feature. Most cakes prepared by yours truly, here a raspberry gateau.

We spent the last ten days in a family friend's flat, enjoying most of our time in this cosy North African inspired room with a decaf cappuccino...and some leftover cake!

On our way out for a last minute errand on the last night, we saw this:


an amazing testament of the power of nature. This tree has been there long before the 23 years I have spent in this neighbourhood and yet a windy night has managed to pull it up from the roots.


Not only is nature powerful, but unpredictable, how else do you explain why all the other trees surrounding it remain standing?

Swine flu coming to get us!

Uh oh...So I know I said I didn't believe in the swine flu hype, imposed on us by the pharmaceutical companies, but having a little baby means I don't want to take any risks. This means that here in London I'm avoiding public transport as much as possible. I've been looking forward to getting back to Ghana where I'll cruise around in the comfort of my own, swine flu free car in my swine flu free city.

But now news hits me that swine flu has reached mother Ghana! And the idea of the H1N1 virus spreading around in temperatures that bacteria flourish in and can easily be passed on to me through loovers, by hawkers or inconsiderate public sneezers has me a bit concerned.

Please oh please let this virus pass and leave Accra without affecting us too much, preferably as smoothly as bird flu did.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Doing the dual lingo.

When I was a child us siblings used to speak Swedish at home. It was only when we realised that things were said by our parents beyond our understanding that we each in turn learned how to speak English. Then, out of laziness we developed our own form of Swenglish/svengelska, basically a basa basa mix of Swedish and English, picking a word from either of the two languages, whatever came first. Somehow we even got our parents to speak this Swenglish with us. It's been hard for people outside our family, whether English speaking, Swedish or bilingual, to follow our personalised blend of these languages.

After years of living in England, my Swenglish has tilted more towards English, it's now an 80%/20% mix instead of the former 50/50. English is the language I consider my home language, I think of family, relatives and relaxation when I speak it. Swedish, although that is the language I am more confident in and have a better grasp of, to me is the language I use with friends and associate with life outside the home.

At the beginning of my pregnancy I decided I'd have to speak Swedish with my children in order to carry on the heritage. In real life though, I have put this off further and further as I just can't seem to speak this at home. First I said I'd wait til we got home from hospital, then I said after she turned two months, then three months. In the end, I'd speak Swedish to her when around people I'd speak Swedish with. I finally decided I'd have to start speaking it fully with her once I left Sweden, after all then she'd never hear it from anyone else.

However, yesterday when we left Swedish soil, it just wouldn't come naturally so I told myself that being the end of the month, I could have another day off (logic?) and set my final deadline as Aug 1st, today. Well, so far so good. I guess I made it easier for myself by getting inspiration from IKEA in Purley Way (don't ask me what I was doing there on my first full day in London) and every now and then I'd stop myself from saying something in Englsih and rather say it in Swedish. The poor child will end up completely confused, but hopefully she'll benefit from it later.

Little by little we'll get there and in a few years time I hope to have a daughter who's fluent in English, Swedish, Ga and Twi. Poor kid.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Motherhood and travelling.

My life in Sweden is about to come to an end. Towards the end of the week baby M and I will be leaving our birth country, heading for rainier pastures. As a first time mother, I'm a bit anxious about this. Sweden is an extremely baby friendly country. Because of the fantastic parental leave opportunities (yes, parental rather than maternity, as father's also go on paid leave) the whole country has been adapted for mother, father, baby & pushchair. Everywhere you'll find a lift, ramp or side road to be used as an alternative to a staircase. And here in Gothenburg I have not yet seen the rumoured "no pushchairs allowed" signs that apparently have popped up in Stockholm.

So naturally, public breastfeeding is accepted and you'd rather be considered the odd one out if you have anything against it. But as we now head to London for a while, I am bit concerned about how breastfeeding and baby handling will be perceived. From my days at Starbucks, I know it's a baby-friendly place, but I can't remember seeing pushchair on the Underground or experiencing anyone being nice and helpful to a new mother (like me!)

I know that in Ghana I'll be fine. If I feel too embarassed to breastfeed (why would I, considering my own boob juice observations) in public, I am never too far away from my car and as long as the AC is working we should be cool in every sense of the word. But for London, I think I'll have to purchase a "privacy" blanket to shield myself with so I'll never have to experience of someone yelling "put ´em away!". For now let me focus on an even more difficult task: how to fit four months of living in my 20kg baggage allowance.

Do you have any advice in life with a baby in London?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Racism lives

Another event makes one doubt whether it is worth it for foreigners to live in Sweden. A fire broke out in a block of flats and six people died, a mother and her five daughters.(English link!) Heartwrenching, isn't it? What makes it extra sad and scary is that according to witness reports there was an unusual delay before the emergency services arrive, a delay which may have cost the victims their lives. Why, you ask?

The fire occurred in Rinkeby, a Stockholm suburb with a majority immigrant population. This is not the first time something like this happens. When the fire of Gothenburg broke out almost eleven years ago, emergency service took 15-20 minutes to arrive at the scene even though the closest station was a five minute walk away. Why? They claimed they couldn't understand the distress calls that were made, because of the broken Swedish that was spoken (despite the fact that the numerous calls made were by foreign children born and raised in Sweden (i.e. speaking very coherent Swedish)).

Alexandra Pascalidou (Swedish), a blogger, writer and a person who actively speaks out against racism, also adds that when she called the emergency services after her mother was the victim of a break-in in the aforementioned Rinkeby, she was put on hold for half an hour and no rescue ever showed up. What to do? If this is how the emergency services behave, what hope does the average Abdul Mohammed have?

And just this weekend I encountered my first ever verbal racist assault. Is it any wonder I look forward to leaving soon?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Vegetarian in Ghana?

Paul McCartney, a known vegetarian has gotten together with other celebs to promote having at least one meat-free day a week. Apparently, meat-production amounts to 18% of the world's gas emissions so if we all chose to stay off meat for just one day a week these emissions could be drastically reduced.

I read the article and considered how this could be effectively promoted in Ghana. It wouldn't be a problem for me, I could have a normal breakfast, porridge and fruits, spinach and feta pie for lunch and greek pasta salad for dinner.

But how to do this with our traditional meals? At first it seemed quite difficult, how do I eat my fufu and groundnut soup without chicken, my yam and abenkwan without fish? What is Red Red without fish (just Red?), jollof without chicken and rice without meat/corned beef stew?

But on further thought, we have quite a number of lighter vegetarian dishes/snacks. How about Kofi Brokeman (roasted plantain with groundnuts), kelelwele (fried, spicy plantain) or is anything as good as fried yam with fresh green pepper?! And I guess for one day a week we can all sacrifice and have our Red Red just Red, our Wakye with only Kosya (egg) and Abenkwan with beans instead (try it at Agbamami, it's yummy). Add to the Kontomire without meat, replace the meat/fish in your Garden Egg stew with...more Garden Eggs and swap the corned beef stew for egg stew and voila, you have quite a few dishes to play with. I'll definitely give it a try when I get back.

The Ghanaian Swede obsesses about Swedish foods when in Ghana and writes about Ghanaian dishes whilst in Sweden... why is the grass always greener on the other side?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The Ghanaian and the Flu

I did say I'd write about being black in Sweden and the ignorance of Swedes when it comes to Africa, but apart from not finding the time to do so or having constant internet connection, it's a topic that leaves me worn out when I think about it too much.

But after hearing the latest, I have to vent. A few days ago I read about a boy who sat in a hospital's A&E with clear swine flu symptoms for an hour and a half (sorry, only found a link in Swedish). I quickly commented that, in these times of a "pandemic", a swine flu patient sits in the open with other patients, but when anyone is diagnosed with malaria in Sweden, he/she put in isolation in the Infectious Diseases Department (true story, happened to my father). Please do correct me if I am wrong, but I have never heard of malaria spreading from person to person as infectuous diseases do, in fact a malaria patient is of no harm to other people around.

And as if to prove my point, a friend came to tell me about her father today. After feeling poorly, he was diagnosed with a heart condition and admitted into hospital. But because he had arrived from AFRICA (Ghana), he was put in isolation as a precaution from him spreading any diseases. Have you heard anything like it before?!

I don't even know where to start on this one. In my mind this is a clear case of discrimination and a breach of his human rights, because surely no patient should be exposed to the infectiuous diseases department if not carrying an infection? And I doubt very much that if he were a blond, blue eyed Swede arriving from Africa with any medical condition, he'd be treated the same way. What annoys me even more is that Africa seems to be the continent least affected by this "pandemic". But, like I told my friend, let's look at the bright side and think that in these times of swine flu pandemic, he'll be isolated from that and any other that would be spread by even a sneeze on a normal ward.

(If you're wondering why I'm keeping the quotation marks around pandemic, it's because I'm still not believing the hype any more than as a ploy by the media and pharmaceutical companies to cash out on natural human fear. Once you can prove to me that this "pandemic" kills more people than regular flu, then I'll start listening)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Picture of the print

Finally, a picture of the previously mentioned Obama cloth! Now, I'm not sure there's any way it could not have been tacky but somehow it feels just so OTT with all their pictures on it, surely it could have been done in a more tasteful manner.


(pic borrowed from ghananewsagency.org)


Apparently there are 5 different designs. I have only seen these 2 and find I prefer the one below to the other one.

(pic borrowed from a friend's facebook page, not sure where from originally)


What do you think?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Little Angels

Certain people come into our lives and with the smallest of gestures on their part, make a great impact in our lives. Like the woman who like an angel has made it possible for my friend M to get the labour she wants.

In my case the "angel's" name is Pierre. Pierre is no one in particular, he may be a cruel man in his personal life and in his mind all he did was his job. However, for me, he is the man who finally sorted out my internet issues after 20 days of starvation. And the fact that he did it on a Sunday (I had given up all hope and was going to call the company again tomorrow) makes the act all the more heroic.

Gone are the headaches, tense neck and shoulders and the irritated frown I've carried for the past few days after each time I've tried to go online without success. I can now erase my letters of complaint out of my brain, no need to even keep a copy in the recycle bin! Pierre will probably go ahead and call another customer after finishing with me, not realising how much his bit of weekend overtime(?) work makes a difference to us customers out there.

To make life extra sweet, the lovely babygirl decided to take a nap from just as Pierre called, for two hours right until now, leaving me just enough time to do all the necessary and unnecessary browsing I needed to do. And the fact that all this happened after I had devoured some palmnut soup with both fufu and yam (pounaa, of course) here in Gothenburg, after months without Ghana foods, makes my Sunday just about as good as it gets.

Hope you've enjoyed your Sunday as much as I have!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Connected!

No, I have not gone underground, buried in my own envy over not being in Ghana during Obama's visit. I have been deprived of internet connection for the past seven days...and counting! The only reason I am online now is because I have travelled all the way across town to Mr. T's flat to use his broadband. It seems my internet provider can't handle a bit of rain, because since our first proper rainfall last week, they're mast collapsed and there are no set plans for when to restore it. What? Never would I accept such bad service from Broadband4u, Iburst or any other internet provider and yet here in abrokyi, I've had to put up with it because of their extremely long phone queues and the fact that they don't have a physical office. Even GT (Ghana Telecom)'s dial up service back in the day used to work during rainy season, and the rain we've had here is nothing in comparison.

Anyway, now I'm going to catch up with Obama reports, reply emails and blog comments, then, when I am in my best fighter mode, I'll deal with Tele2/Comviq. Sorry guys for not replying comments until now!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ghana is the name!

Like many others, I'm in the middle of watching the Michael Jackson memorial service. As much as I didn't want to contribute further to the media frenzy around his death, I just wanted to inform those of you who are not watching that our very own Ghana was mentioned, possibly twice (didn't Al Sharpton mention it too?). Queen Latifah read a poem written by Maya Angelou for Michael, in which she mentions the Black Star Square of Ghana!

Trust my idol, the ever creative, intelligent and inspiring Maya Angelou to continue her work as an ambassador for Ghana, continously making sure our country is firmly put on the map.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Yesterday Farrah Fawcett was buried. Yes, for those who don't know, she died last Thursday, a few hours before Michael Jackson. As soon as the news hit that MJ had died, I thought "Poor Farrah Fawcett, she's gone and done a Mother Theresa".

If you can remember as far back as the summer of 1997, Mother Theresa died five days after Princess Diana and the day before Princess Diana's funeral. SkyNews, after discussing Diana's death for hours and hours spent approximately 30 seconds informing us in a very "by the way" manner that Mother Theresa had passed away. In the same way, as the grotesque media coverage of MJ's death continues, it seems the media networks are struggling to remember to mention Farrah every now and then.

And this does not only happen to celebrities. I remember a classmate's father's funeral that we went to in Takoradi a few years ago (yes, for those of you not living in Ghana, you are quite often expected to attend funerals of classmate's parents). The man in question was a former army man and High Court judge and was buried with all the fanfare attached to the army. 12-gun salute, soldiers carrying coffin and Ghana flag present, not to mention the hords of lawyers and judges that travelled from Accra. Unfortunately for her, Esther Appiah (I promised I'd remember her name to give her some importance, but to be honest I think it was something else) was buried in the same ceremony. The priest spent about 45 minutes talking about the late judge before sparing Esther about 3 minutes. I cringed as I saw her family leave the church from their mid-row seats (because of course, the judge's many guests had taken all the front seats).

Well, it all taught me a lesson I am happy to pass on. Let's make our mark on the world so as to not be buried in oblivion. And no matter what you do, never, never die on or around the same day as someone more important than you, because even in death you can be treated like a 2nd-class citizen.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Goodbye Michael

How cannot I not write about Michael Jackson? Last night I logged onto facebook and was shocked by the news. No matter how we perceived Michael Jackson, there's no disputing his musical genius. As soon as I heard of his death, some of my favourite songs passed through my head, Man in the Mirror, Dirty Diana and The way you make me feel. I always hoped that he'd get the opportunity to wash away the Wacko Jacko tag before he passed, unfortunately he didn't, but hopefully we'll focus on remembering his talent.

After spending a day out of Gothenburg, with lovely weather, friends and food, I got back into town just before the shops were closing. As I walked through the main mall to get to a department store where I could change my daughter's diaper, I realised that almost every shop I passed was playing Michael Jackson's songs.

MJ: the whole world mourns you!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Crazy sun worship?

Yesterday I took some sneaky photos. If I were a man I'd probably be called a pervert, but I had to take them as they represent something that perplexes me. Once again, since Sunday, the sun is out and with it, the bodies. The block of flats I stay in probably contains about hundred flats with a green area in the middle that has a playground and a barbecue area. Yesterday when I was getting my breakfast ready, I noticed this outside my window:


Then, as I opened the blinds in the sitting room I saw this:


What amuses, but perplexes me is how these women lose all their inhibitions as soon as there's a bit of sunshine, these are after all women who would probably not change anywhere outside fitting rooms in shops. Sometimes they also lose their sense of moral decency, like when I saw a woman around Clapham Junction tanning on another person's grave!

Two things that entertained me even more was that the woman in the latter two photos was tanning on the green patch behind the flats where most people let their dogs...ease themselves AND when she got up to go in (probably to have lunch because she came out within an hour), she actually put on clothes!

(Special thanks to my lovely camera for allowing me to capture these moments, through my blinds and in the comfort of my own home!)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Happy Midsummer!

I don't know what happened to me. I guess I'm just a sucker for traditions. I had decided that I wasn't doing anything for midsummer as it's one of those holidays that doesn't mean much to me, it's mainly about boozing and eating. Well, I guess the constant brainwashing in adverts and on Good Morning shows finally got to me, because yesterday, midsummer eve, I to a long walk with a good friend, bought herring and sour cream to have with the potatoes I already had at home, then walked back through Slottsskogen where I caught a bit of the celebrations. As you'll see the midsummer pole looked a bit dreary, probably from the rain. Many women had a crown of flowers on their heads and some were even dressed in traditional folkdräkt, see below.







Then of course there was the dancing around the Midsummer pole to the traditional songs and dance moves.

And today, after a lovely afternoon dessert of strawberries and icecream, my evening snack was a miniversion of a traditional midsummer feast, topped off with a glass of non-alcoholic champagne. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Obama all over your body?

One of the things I miss seeing whilst out of Ghana is the beautiful textile prints. Especially Friday's traditional wear, when staff in most banks and offices wear cloth. Many of them have even had their own print designed, because practically everything has a design, whether it be the church you belong to, the bank you work at or a special occasion. I even own three different Ghana@50 prints! (How many do you own?).

Now I hear there's a new print about to be released: the official Mills/Obama print! Can you believe it? There's even going to be a separate "first ladies" cloth featuring photos of Naadu Mills and Michelle Obama! As amusing as it sounds, I can't wait to see the designs as I am so curious. Wish I were there...

(The only cloth I can adore whilst here, a beautiful piece a friend lent me for me to carry my baby in)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Swedish National Day

On this 6th of June, Sweden's National Day, there's been a lot of discussion in blogs and on TV about integration and rasism. TV4, a television station has been showing a trailer as part of their "nollrasism" (zero racism) campaign. The trailer shows a tennis game between a fat, older, white man and a fit, younger, black man. Even though the black guy keeps winning the balls, the referee continuously gives the point to the white one. The white man, Svensson, wins the game and at the end of the scene it is written across the screen "in real life it isn't a game".

I like the trailer, and I think any black or foreign-looking person in Sweden can understand it as it depicts our reality. Most of the time we are judged before we've had the opportunity to achieve, even if the person we are up against is not as competent. However, whilst googling the trailer I found a few people criticising it. I'm always open to hear other's opinions so I read one criticism. To my disappointment, the person criticising it has nothing sensible to say, but rather claims that the only message it gives is that Swedes are fat and useless and always discriminate against foreigners. As mentioned, for anyone who has experienced racism, the message is very clear: it is NOT that all Swedes are incompetent and racist, it is simply showing how foreigners are often discriminated against, even when they are clearly more competent better at the job, as you can assume a fit, young man would be than a fat older man at playing tennis.

After being here a few months it is sad to see that nothing has really changed. I doubt the children growing up today are growing up in a more tolerant, less ignorant society than I did nearly thirty years ago. Clearly, I'm not the only one who feels this way as my friends in inter-racial relationships are looking to move to other countries so that their children won't grow up in the same environment they did.

This is a complete digression from what I wanted to talk about, but it is a more important topic. I have been meaning to write about being black in Sweden, but there's too much to say and it's too exhausting to think about that it's often easier to not think of it.

I wanted to talk about the National Day, but now I've completely lost my track. :)
In the early nineties, racism and nazism became a fashion with skinheads seen all over the place, foreigners being beaten up and murdered and refugee camps and mosques burnt down. At the time skinheads claimed the Swedish flag and the celebration of being Swedish. As a result for many years it was considered taboo to display the Swedish flag as it meant you were a racist. Sweden has worked hard to reclaim the flag and by making 6th June a National holiday in 2005, the government has tried to encourage national celebrations and pride in being Swedish. But on the news this morning a survey showed that only 40% of Swedes intend to celebrate, with many of those celebrations quite dubious, e.g. "it's my wedding anniversary so we're celebrating" or "I'm preparing a hen night for my best friend".

I didn't have any plans at all and since the weather's been awful (minus 3 in the night!), I think I'll just stay in with a few cups of hot tea. Happy National Day!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Last weekend of May

...of course any homesickness I had disappeared when the weather went from ok to great! This whole weekend we've had up to 25 degrees and sunshine, without the humidity of Ghana which usually prevents me from wearing my natural hair straight. The weather is a major issue in Sweden especially as we head towards summer. It can turn from 25 to 12 degrees overnight. When the weather is good, so are people's moods and suddenly everybody is out and about. For us that meant carneval in Hammarkullen (an area mainly inhabited by foreigners), picnic in Slottsskogen, the main city park and walks along the river, Göta Älv.







Above and below: Röda Sten, where a soldier apparently collapsed and bloodied the rock. Every year the rock is re-painted red to remind us of his blood (and almost as often private persons sabotage this by painting the rock a different colour or adding white dots for a polkadot effect!)



Leaving us all a bit tired...

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