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...

I miss you!

Last Thursday I missed home. As they say, the grass is always greener. For me that means I am always missing home. In Ghana I miss my hometown Gothenburg. When in Gothenburg, I miss my Ghana. I never win!

But last week there was no reason at all for missing home. I was happy, the weather was ok, I had no complaints. But suddenly I just felt a longing, like the ache of when you miss a loved one. I could hear Ofori Amponsah songs playing in my head, and as soon as I imagined the music, I could suddenly smell the beautiful sea breeze that I'd smell when leaving Tema and heading towards Sakumono. I even pictured myself getting out of my car at the Law School car park with the cacaphony of Makola in the background.

Once I woke up out of my longing daydream, reality hit me: if I am daydreaming of driving to the law school and heading into the mayhem of Makola, I must really, REALLY be missing Ghana!


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