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:


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.


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