Monkey Business

I don’t really have the personal attachment to the British monarchy as others do, and I am all for live and let live. Prince Harry met and fell in love with a woman who has a drop of colour in her and good for him. I don’t get what all the hate is all about, but then again, I am busy trying to live my best life in the hopes that just one day, I may find my own prince.

I do feel though, the need to talk once again on the whole white privilege, it seems to consume some people to the point that it blinds them. I as much as anyone would like to believe that racism doesn’t exist, we all got along and that when I walk along the street somebody would like/dislike me for the person I am and not the colour of my skin, but as much as I try not to pay attention to it much, it exists and I have to deal with it.

So, a broadcaster by the name of Danny Baker tweeted a picture of two aristocrats holding a well- dressed chimpanzee with the caption “Royal baby leaving the hospital”. Unless you, live in a bubble or under a rock, then you would know that the biracial wife of the British Prince recently gave birth. Had it been the old days, this man may have been beheaded, however in modern day Britain, he got the sack.

For those of you who are thinking, what’s the big deal, this is my point of view. I am a child of the late 70s and early 80s. I have been called the N-word, I have been compared to a monkey, I have been asked if I like bananas. I have been to the zoo and been told “isn’t that your cousin over there”, this is as a child, and so yes, I am offended.

The next defence is that he apologised and deleted the tweet. No, he made a half-arsed apology, tried to make further jokes. Then moments after he was fired, his words were “I’ve literally been thrown under the bus”.  He only really “understood” what he had done once he was fired. Doesn’t sound like someone who realised what he had done and had any remorse. Sounds more like someone who after being fired tried to play the victim before then actually issuing a formal apology. Plus, no sir, you were not literally thrown under the bus.

He then went on to say, he didn’t realise that it was “that” baby, once again, unless you have been living in a bubble, or under a rock, you know, plus your job is in media, you know.

Then his defence was that royal babies are like a performing circus or something to that nature. Why had he not used that image when this new-born’s three other cousins were born not so long ago.

Supporters have defended him by saying that he has never said anything racist in the past. I don’t know what he says about anyone in the comfort of his home when there are no “blackie’s” around, and at the end of the day, this is a baby with a black grandmother, a mixed race mother and even if he has the tiniest drop of black in him, it’s there. The monkey image in relation to this child, at best it’s offensive, worst case, racist.

Now I live by the rule that you have every right to say whatever you want, just as I have every right to get offended by what you say if I deem it to be racist, sexist or just plain rude. What I don’t need you to do is tell me what I should or shouldn’t get offended by, or to be told to get over it. Either you apologise for your offence and keep it moving, if not just keep it moving. We don’t need excuses and we don’t need to be told how to feel. Thank you.

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Diaspora Town Hall Meeting – 2 years of good governance, change is happening – Part 2

It was a weird set up. There were seats on stage for the panel to sit, but they only went up for the question and answer session. Instead, the panel sat down in the first row of where the audience was sitting so each person had to go up onto the stage to give their presentation and back down again. Logistically awkward in my opinion but I wasn’t the organiser so what can I say.

The first presentation came from the majority leader. It was a talk on how well Ghana was doing in the last 2 years. Inflation down, GDP doing great, economy improving, free high school education implemented. I do have to commend them on the free high school education, it pained me driving through Accra seeing little boys and girls hawking on the streets when they should be at school. Something that I was given as a right as a child here in the UK and not a privilege, I do hope that subsequent governments do not get greedy and take this right away.

He also touched on the importation tax which has been recently slashed. The spin was that they listened to the people in the diaspora and realised that costs were way too high. Too be honest, I don’t know how anything in Ghana is priced, everything is so expensive and you feel like it was taken out of the air. If you read between the lines, in the past year Ghana’s importation has increased by 4% and Togo’s has increased by 300%. A large percentage of Togo’s increases come from Ghanaians who to avoid the absurdly high taxes in Ghana deciding to go through Lome and trying their luck to smuggle their (mainly) cars into Ghana. The Togolese government, well they haven’t been playing ball in stopping this because it’s money in their pockets so Ghana has finally had to take action.

The government also patted themselves on the back for increasing passports from 5 years to 10 years. Now when I got my passport in 2008, it was a 10 year passport, somewhere between then and April 2019 this was reduced to 5 years, why, I don’t know. Please don’t pat yourself on the back for doing the right thing.

Following on from uncle majority leader, there was a presentation from the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ghana Ports and Harbour authority on the different ports and harbours and expansion projects, it was a bit rushed due to time but there were slides. I would love to share the link to where these slides are but that information was not given to us.

After that, there was a presentation from a representative from Ghana Revenue Authority on setting up a business and tax laws and some guy who presented a very confusing talk on importation tax (again rushed due to time even though this was what everyone was interested in).

Lastly there was the question and answer session. Now why can’t Ghanaians just ask a straight out question without having to give a whole background story, then repeating the question about three times. They got it the first time, let it be and give the mic back so somebody else can ask a question. There were some really good questions and some really bad questions, unfortunately I didn’t write them down so everything I write down is coming from memory.

There was a lot of questions around corruption and basically what was the point of the special prosecution office. The deputy attorney general was on the panel and gave a lot of lawyer speak which didn’t actually answer the question. The highlight of the night, Mr Charles Bissue was at the programme (as an observer not a guest), is currently under investigation for illegal mining after an expose came out. Somebody in the audience straight outed him and a little bit of damage control had to be done from the minister and deputy minister for information.

Some points that came out from the Q&A session are:

The government will be rolling out one ambulance to every district.

The $1.2billion dollars owed to the NHIS has been paid, so in theory it should be running like a NHIS service and you shouldn’t have to pay up front before you are even seen.

There have been 79 factory projects identified and to be signed off under the 1 district 1 factory initiative.

Airport officials who have been caught taking bribes have been sanctioned and initiatives are rolling out across the public service to curb bribery and corruption.

Railway projects are under way.

Not sure what’s happening about National ID cards and the ability for Ghanaians in the Diaspora to vote because the answer was a bit sketchy.

Somebody asked if UK cars could be exported to Ghana, waste of a question.

Speak to the Trade Officer in the UK if you want to import Made in Ghana products into the UK but do not meet international standards.

That’s all that I can remember for now, but apparently the event was live streamed so you could probably go to the Ghana High Commission website for further details (www.ghanahighcommissionuk.com)

Next events are on the 3rd May with the homecoming Ghana media launch, on 18th May is the homecoming Ghana roadshow being held at the Ghana High Commission Belgrave Square.

This event could have been so much more valuable if it was better organised and started on time, but hey this is Ghana, we set the bar low.

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Diaspora Town Hall Meeting – 2 years of good governance, change is happening – Part 1

On the 6th April I took myself to Wood Green to listen to how well the new government has done over the past couple of years and see if there are any ideas I could get as to how I can invest in Ghana.

I will start of by speaking on the positives of this programme. Honourable Minister of Information – Kojo Oppong Nkrumah. The former Joy FM broadcaster was articulate and on point. He answered every question directed towards him without any BS, and anything he couldn’t answer on the spot , he said honestly that he would take it away and come back on it. Unlike some who when put in a tight corner would become defensive and borderline insulting, he was patient and kind and you showed that he genuinely cared about the interests of his audience. He is probably one of the only ministers who I would say is truly qualified and truly deserves his post. For this reason, and probably this reason alone I stayed almost 6 hours in this North London centre.

Yes, I stayed 6 hours of a 3 hour programme. It was supposed to start at 3pm, it started at 4.45, I should have known when they were given out water that it was going to be a long night.

At 4.17pm, the host Linda came out to say there would be a slight delay due to a technical issue. No apology and did that usual Ghanaian thing when people get upset, rather than apologise, became very defensive. Now I know that the expectation is that Ghanaians are going to be late but this isn’t a birthday party or a christening, this was supposed to be a professional forum. Why do we pander to tardiness instead of holding people accountable to time. We talk about “International Standards”, but apart from charging everything in dollars, I really don’t see what these standards are.

While waiting, I was eavesdropping on the conversation in front of me. A lady asked the gentleman sitting next to her where he was from. He must have said he was from Ghana, and so she asked him what tribe, for which I think he started to get uncomfortable. She said she was Fant-Ash (half-fanti, half ashanti, which kind of tickled me). Eventually he said he was from the volta region. She did point out something that I totally agree with and that is, if you ask an English person where they are from, they would say Birmingham, London, Yorkshire etc.. Yes we are all Ghanaian and proudly Ghanaian but I don’t think being proud of your tribe diminishes any other tribe (although we do know what happens).

When the meeting eventually started, there was again no apology, Linda just dived right in with a accentuated accent, she dived straight in, with a few jokes that fell flat I don’t think she even realised audience that were basically fed up. I don’t think I would hire her for future events.

His Excellency the British High Commissioner gave an introduction. He reminds me of that uncle who has little nuggets of gold in what he is saying, but he talks so much that you just want him to finish and sit down.

There was a dance troupe, I would  love to tell you how good they were but rather than using the stage space, they were down just in front of the first row so where I was sitting I didn’t see much. Also by the time they came on, people were either tired, going to the restroom, going to work or going to take care of their kids.

Nothing once again on help for those of us who want to invest our skills for the development on Ghana (but I have yet to have gone to one of these events that focus’ on careers).

At 8.30, two and a half later than scheduled, it was all over. I do hope they look at how badly executed this was for the next time, but who knows. Watch out for part 2 where I delve deeper into the content.

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Lost Soul

Lost soul

Back to my favourite subject, love and romance. I’m almost 42 now and although there is still that part of me that would love to get married and have a baby. It’s a good to have at this point. I can’t dwell on what I could have had or what I don’t have, I just have to live my best life with what I do have. Looking back at where I have been in the last 5 to 10 years, I’m in a good place, of course it could be better, but I have good people in my life and after hitting rock bottom a number of times, I know that the only way is up.

So, I was talking to my sisters and smother the other day and they were talking about marriage, and I said, I don’t think that I want a white wedding. It’s something that I wanted in my 20s and 30s but for me right now it’s just a load of added expense that I would rather use to build a loft extension on my house or take a trip to the Cayman Islands or something.

What I did say however, is that I would do the traditional marriage. To me, that is not an engagement, it is what is says on the tin. In addition, it is also bringing the two families together and I am really big on family.

Smother’s argument was that once that “contract” is signed with a white wedding, it is difficult to leave the marriage and if he does the law entitles you to half of what he has. I don’t blame Smother, it’s not just her view, there are a lot of auntie’s that think the same way, especially the generation above me. While, yes, I have spent my whole life avoiding being someone’s “baby mama”, at the end of the day, even with that contract, if a man is going to leave. He will leave. If he is going to leave you with nothing, he is going to do that too. If he is going to be a cheating whore, he will do that also, that piece of paper just means that you’re entitled to a long drawn out court case if worse comes to worse.

Now I am not completely dead inside. No if the time came, I would go for the traditional wedding. Nowadays they call it an engagement but back in the day it was the traditional ceremony, so I am going to call it just that.

The traditional ceremony is not just about the couple but the two families coming together. The ceremony is usually held at the woman’s parents house (although these days the more lavish ones are done in a hall). The gentleman arrives with his family, while the woman is awaiting to be summoned from another location. He provides the woman’s family with a dowry, money for the bride’s father and presents for the mother (usually cloth and some other bits and pieces). Normally 2 bottles of schnapps are accompanied by other drinks, he also gives a present for the bride, ring and a bible. He also has to pay “Akunta Sika”, which translates to “brother-in-law money” because you can’t take their sister for free like that. Each family appoints an “Abusa kyeame” or family linguist to speak on the family’s behalf. He (normally a he) introduces the two families, the man’s side first as they are the “visitors”. The linguist on behalf of the female asks for their mission and the male’s family in turn state that they seek the bride’s hand in marriage.

After all the pleasantry’s the female is then presented where she is told that this guy has turned up with all these gifts requesting her hand in marriage, should they accept them or not, and she says “yes, please go ahead and take it”. Job done, you’re married.

Now in the case of issues in the marriage later on, you can’t simply sign a piece of paper and walk away. Families will have to get involved, items will have to be returned, it’s a long drawn out process. Unless you’re in the worst relationship in the world, you would really have to think twice before coming out of the marriage. To me, unless abuse is involved, it would be easier to stick it out and work it out.

So, in conclusion, if/when the time came, a wedding to me is like meh, but I am a traditional girl and love what a traditional ceremony represents. So that to me is what counts.

I’m not a complete lost soul.

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Eating out in New York City

I have become one of those typical Ghanaians that travel to another country to only eat Ghanaian food. To be fair though, US and UK have similar types of food and a burger is a burger to me. On my first night I had salmon and rice and it made me sick as a dog the next day so when my friend asked where I wanted to eat the next day, I said let me stick to my own food.

The first Ghanaian restaurant I visited was Accra Restaurant in the Bronx. It is quite a spacious place and more like a chop bar/canteen with the food laid out so you can say “I want that, and that, and what soup is that”. I decided to go for the Waakye and fish. Before I start, as you know everything in America is BIG. She asked if I wanted the small or large portion. I asked for the small, but to be honest, I should have just shared the Banku and Tilapia with my friend. His portion was enough for two people, mine was enough to last me the whole week. The lady gave me practically a tray of rice with macaroni, gari and not one but three pieces of fish. When we sat down, I asked my friend to get me a take away pack because not only do I eat slow but when I see a lot of food on a plate it suppresses my appetite. The waakye wasn’t bad, I’ve tasted better, however apparently, they are known for their Banku and Tilapia (wish I known that before).

The next day, on to Brooklyn where I had rice balls with peanut soup at Akwaaba restaurant. Akwaaba for those of you that don’t know means welcome. On first impression it was anything but welcoming. The whole restaurant was probably the size of my bedroom with about 3 tables, a restroom the size of my wardrobe and the kitchen area. We ordered the rice balls with peanut soup which to be honest was really nice but her customer service skills did not match her cooking skills. First of all, she looked in judgement at me when I had my little shot of vodka bitters before my meal. Then when the food eventually turned up and I asked for extra ginger she brings it out for my friend (a guy) totally dismissing me.

The lady did soften up a little though, apparently she had staffing issues so she decided not to hire anyone and do it all herself. I’m guessing she was really tired doing it all on her own so had to feel some sympathy for her. This little place in Brooklyn reminded me of some of the places I used to eat in Hackney. A lot of Ashanti “Bogars”, they’re loud, they’re proud, they eat and they leave without leaving a tip. No wonder my girl couldn’t crack a smile.

The last place I went to was back in the Bronx. Mama G’s restaurant. Mama G sat at the front of the restaurant, not to meet and greet but just so you know that she is the madam of the house. She gave a little smile but she just had this air of “this is my house, what do you want?”

Now they did the best Waakye, I had rice, meat, gari and macaroni. All I needed was an egg and it to be wrapped up in a banana leaf and I would have been transported back to Ghana. Mama G’s seems to be a popular spot not only for Ghanaians but African Americans also. We had one plate between two people and it was just enough (to be honest everything I ate could have been shared between two people).

One thing though is whether the Bronx, Brooklyn, Hackney or Peckham, a Ghanaian restaurant is a Ghanaian restaurant. The only difference is in London you will hear the odd “innit” and in US “man” but you can take the man out of Ghana but never can you take Ghana out of the man.

 

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What are you waiting for?

I have just come back from a short break away to the US. My aim is to do a trip other than Ghana in any given year, but now that I am back in my office, I wish I was going back to Ghana and not the UK. It could also be that I hate my job but hey that’s a story for another time.

On the way back I was thinking to myself, once again, what’s the hold up. In the UK, if you are not careful you end up existing as opposed to living. Everything is so expensive, and you pay for just about everything apart from the air that you breathe. So, you end up going from work to home which is why I am trying to get to the gym (the mind is willing, but the body is tired), and my star 100 events so I don’t get stuck in a rut.

I was telling smother, that I gave myself 3 years and then I was going back to GH, after telling me all the cons and none of the pros she topped it off by telling me that when she first arrived, she gave herself 5 years. In 3 years’, time she would have been in this country for 50 years.

So why is it so difficult to go back especially in a country where you are not favoured and the people like the weather are mainly miserable. Why is it that the intention is to come to England for a short while and live out this dream and even when it turns into a nightmare, end up existing.

My theory is for the fresh newbies, it is paper matter. You can’t leave the country without documentation and well I am not going to lie that little red book does carry a lot of weight.

Then there are the kids, the amount of times my dad said he was waiting for us to finish school and then he was off (he’s still here although he does have the luxury of going back for more than a month a year).

Then by that time, you get to middle age awaiting pension and if you are lucky to get to that age, before you know it you are old, and a stranger in your own country. Let’s not forget that Ghana is not for the faint hearted. It is a country that you don’t realise the crazy while you are in it but step out for a minute and going back can be difficult. Things that we take for granted here become the biggest frustration. For example, you could be standing in the queue waiting to see a cashier when one big “oga” comes in, jumps the line and you are waiting for half an hour just to get your little cedis out of your account.

I remember one day wanting to change some money from cedis to dollars, I don’t know why I didn’t just go to the forex bureau down the road, but I went in to my local bank (Ecobank) thinking I have an account there it shouldn’t be a hassle. I was asked to write a letter explaining what I was planning to do with this money. Now I wouldn’t mind if it was a large amount, but it was $200 hardly enough to start money laundering.

It is a crazy, frustrating country but it is my crazy frustrating country. To me, be the change you want to see. Unless we go back in our numbers (which you know you want to), nothing will change. For me, I don’t want to see myself here 10, 20 or 50 years from now so hoping an opportunity comes up. At least with all it’s issues, Ghana still has the sun.

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Vision 2019

I want to start this off by paying homage to my God sister Akua. She is the type of person that just draws people to her. We could be walking through town and a 5-minute walk would take an hour as everyone stops to say hi and have a chat. Even if she doesn’t know them, by the end of the day she would have made new friends. We took a trip to Portugal in 2017 and she made 2 new friends, some guy even stopped her while we were in Accra shopping at Shoprite. I hate on her a little. No not really, I love her dearly which is why when she ran her Women of Vision event last month I had to go and support.

I went to the 2018 event and to be honest, I had no idea what it was about and no expectations. I had a A3 card and a lot of cut outs and affirmations that didn’t really make any sense. By the end of the event it was like that course that you take where everything seems complicated but by the end of it all the pieces come together.

In brief, it is a set of goals that you want to achieve by the end of the year. It can be pictures or words, but the “vision” is put in a visible place to remind you of what you need to be done by the end of the year. They don’t all have to big hitters, I used a mixture. So, for example the big one for me was to be mortgage free. Also, knowing that I was being made redundant I put down Supply Chain Manager. Smaller ones were going to Portugal and Ghana and then there was the elusive “finding love”. Then I wrote down affirmations like “This is the start of new adventures” and “Put God first and you will never be last”, just to have positive thoughts in my head when I start my day.

There is no need to write how you are going to do it, the fact that it is there, in your face every morning gives you the motivation to plan (and pray). So, with the case of my mortgage, I worked my way backwards, I knew that by the end of May, my income was not guaranteed until I found a new job. So, based on what I was making, the balance and that deadline I would need to save up x amount. Thankfully, I beat my deadline by 2 months.

The easy hits like Portugal and Ghana they just happened to coincide with Smother’s and Akua’s birthday respectively, so I just had to budget for it and show up.

The supply chain manager position didn’t come so easy, but it did happen eventually, and I got a really good contract role before I landed this position. It has actually made me think about contracting (I hope to blog about that another day).

Finding love, it’s a carry forward..haha, well what I will say is that consciously or sub-consciously I have let my guard down and am less uptight and trying to be less controlling of my circumstances. I will leave it at that.

So, it does work, probably 90% of my vision for 2018 became a reality and now onto 2019.

It has been a slow burner I must say however I am off the ground. My aim is to go to the gym more (I went once this year, I need to do better), I want to travel more to places other than Ghana (I have booked one holiday), that is in addition to Ghana (because it’s home). I want to write more, and I want to take my career to the next level (whether in my current occupation or my passion). We shall see how the vision pans out at the end of the year.

I know some may be familiar with the vision board but my vision for Akua is to go global with this event. It is not just about the vision, but she is not one of those women who talks about supporting women and empowering women, but she lives and breathes it. So, wishing her all the best. She will be running an event called the healing table soon. I will let you know how that goes too, if you live in the East London area check it out.

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