Ghana English

I made a purchase yesterday, I bought myself a Dutch pot. I have wanted to buy one for ages and a new shop opened in my area so even though my bank card cried as I tapped on the machine, I did it anyway. When I got home my parents asked me where I bought it from, I said there is a new store opened at KTS. Now KTS closed down around 15 years ago but it is easier for me to use that landmark as opposed to saying “you know the store on the high street on the corner opposite the pub next to the McDonalds”.

I don’t know if it is a cultural thing but Ghanaians have a way with the English language which is fascinating, so I thought I would write a little guide so if you are not too familiar you don’t get unstuck.

To begin with I will start of with Tea.

tea

Tea is used to describe any hot beverage, Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, they all fall under the umbrella of tea. Therefore if you want something specific you need to break it down. You would think that saying ok, I will have coffee. Nope. If you want coffee, it’s Nescafe. Hot Chocolate is Milo and Tea is Lipton.

If you are purchasing a newspaper, it is Graphic. The daily Graphic is one of the largest newspapers in Ghana (and not so politically biased) so if anyone asks you for Graphic, they just want a newspaper.

newspapers

We call every toothpaste Pepsodent, every noodle, Indomie and all stock cubes are Maggi and every detergent is Omo. If you go into a store and ask for anything other than this, they will look at you like you are speaking French (we do love our brand names).

If you need a top up voucher for your phone, call out the appropriate service provider, MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, you don’t need to bother going into the details, they will know what you are talking about.

Ghanaians are very polite and use the word “please” in abundance. It’s a cultural thing, don’t ask them to stop saying this word, it’s in our DNA. So for example a conversation will go like this:

“Good Morning, How are you?”

“Please, I am fine.”

Or

“Would you like some cake?”

“No please.”

If someone is going out “please, I am going now”, and on their return “please, I am back” (just in case you haven’t realised that the person is back).

It is not uncommon for someone to call you Auntie, Uncle, Ma, Dad, Sister, Brother (sorry Oprah and Ava). It is a sign of respect it doesn’t necessarily make you old. I remember when I was younger and a child called me Auntie, I was thinking “I’m not old”, now if a child calls me by my first name I get mad, because we are Ghanaians, I am not your co-equal as my elders would say.

Speaking of elders, when you walk past anyone but especially your elders you must greet them with a “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening”, if you don’t, you will be told that you are being disrespectful. I remember I had got so used to saying this that when I got back to UK I was greeting everyone, they looked at me like I was crazy. Then when I went to Ghana on holiday, I smiled at an elderly gentleman as I was walking past, but didn’t say “Good Morning”. He stopped me to ask me why I didn’t greet him.

We now have street names and door numbers in Ghana but ask for directions and nobody is going to use them. This is probably where you get the most chat. What you will probably get is something like this. “ok, so you keep going to straight, and then you will see a woman selling fried yams by the mango tree, when you get there, keep going straight ahhhh, then you will see a shell filling station, you get to the filling station, then branch left onto the rough road, there you will see a storey building, once you get there, keep going straight, and it’s the blue house on the right”. Or if they know roughly where the place is, they will give you that long explanation and then say something like that “when you get to the storey building, ask anyone they should know the place”.

So that’s just my little guide to get you started. At times it’s crazy but I do love my people.

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Year Of The Return

The 19th August 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves in America. The residing president of Ghana has since marked this the year of the return, encouraging descendants from their ancestors to “come home”. Late last year, Boris Kudjoe and his friends came to Ghana to celebrate the full circle festival and I believe that an event will be held this year over the Christmas period with a host of American celebrities celebrating in the country which many of their ancestors once called home. In the meantime, we have had the likes of Steve Harvey, Danny Glover and Samuel L Jackson passing through Ghana.

Now before I go on, I want to say I am not hating on anyone. I have always felt that Ghana had for a long time under utilised the tourist industry so I am glad that many of my African American and Caribbean cousins are not only visiting Ghana and countries in Africa but they are also shining our shores in a positive light. I am also glad that the tourist industry is finally booming and this source of revenue is finally coming into the country. I am extremely glad now when I listen to Black American’s talk about Africa, they no longer see it as one big country and appreciate that there are countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana. It is also good to see that they are looking into their African ancestry to pin point exactly which country they come from. In addition, I had seen a divide between “Africans” in America and “African Americans”, the gap seems to be closing much like black people in UK.

My issue is that firstly, our current President is becoming another “Celebrity-in-Chief”, he appears to me to be so fixated on the USD revenue flow that it may be to the detriment of the people who are hustling to keep themselves afloat, already, the cost of living in Ghana is I believe the highest in Africa with wages not matching the cost. Yes it is great that there is a KFC in Ghana, but lets face it KFC is for the affluent unlike here in the UK where you can get a decent meal with your change.

My fear is that with this new wave of tourism, the price of goods will sky-rocket (because that’s what we do), if the money was going into the hands of the people, I wouldn’t even mind, but only a small percentage of the population would benefit and it is not usually Paa Kwesi who is bagging your grocery’s at the supermarket.

Ghana has extended her hand to our cousins in the Caribbean granting them visa free access to the country. That is wonderful, for those of us wanting to renew our Ghanaian passports, could they consider dropping the price of the passport renewal. We are paying double the price here for the privilege of holding our black books as it is for the (pre-Brexit) burgundy ones. Look after us small Mr President, that’s all I am asking.

My final issue is those of us in the Diaspora wanting to come back to Ghana. We may not have the fat wallets to invest in a factory, but we have skills that we can contribute to the growth of the country. I believe that I have said this more than once. Yes the year of the return is not for the likes of me that knows where I am from, but we are here and we want to contribute in our own little way.

As I said, I believe the year of the return is a brilliant initiative but there is still so much more that can be done and I pray that this initiative doesn’t just benefit the fat cats at the top but for us all.

For those of you who will be celebrating Christmas in Ghana, enjoy, it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Why Did I Move To Ghana (and why did I return)

Another question I get asked is why did I move to Ghana (and subsequently I also why did I move back).

For this question, I will have to take you back to the late 70s early 80s, yes a lifetime ago. Where I lived there was a very tiny Ghanaian community, we all knew each other and we would meet up once a month at a tiny community centre where our parents would shove us in a room to go play while they ate, drunk and made merry. Outside of our little community on that monthly basis or when there were social gatherings I didn’t really have much interaction with Ghanaians.

In primary school I was the only Ghanaian female and when I got to secondary school I met one other girl who became my best friend, but I didn’t really know what it truly meant to be Ghanaian. Yes so I ate the food and I could understand the language but for the most part I was British. Which was also confusing in itself, I was encouraged to be British but then if I did something that was perceived as “non-Ghanaians” or asked one too many questions, I was always reminded that I was Ghanaian and “we don’t act like that”.

In addition, Ghana was the place that my “naughty” kids where shipped off to, to gain some discipline. So to be honest I don’t know what my perception of Ghana was but it didn’t sound like a place that I wanted to be.

As an African in general, during the time I was growing up it wasn’t as glamorous as it is now to be from the continent. There was no year of the return, afrobeats was unheard of and nobody liked us, not even our Caribbean cousins. Thoughts of Jamaica or the surrounding Islands would bring up associations of sandy white beaches, with Africa it was mud huts and poverty ridden babies with big bellies. I remember once I was asked where I was from and was told “you don’t look African”, meaning you are not dark.

This all changed in 1988, I was just about to start secondary school when we went on a family holiday to Ghana with the family. It was amazing, I just remember that my uncle’s house where we were staying was huge, there was lots of greenery, and of course the food was lovely and fresh. I asked smother if I could stay and go to school there, she said no. My younger sister, when it was time to go back said she wasn’t going as she was home, we all loved it that much. However it would be another 11 years before I got to go back and in that time I had been “brofolized” once again.

In 1999, I went back, this time a lot older and my cousins were driving so we would get to hang out at the beach, go to the clubs, on top of the touristy stuff and those 6 weeks re-ignited my love once again for this country that I knew was home but never actually lived there.

I travelled to Ghana once a year every year from then until 2004 when life happened. Got int a relationship and then became part of a couple and then lost myself in that couple bubble. When the bubble finally burst and I was free however, it got me thinking about “home”. It was all great me going for a couple of weeks a year, travelling around as a tourist, but how could I genuinely say that I was a Ghanaian when I hadn’t been down at the grass roots.

My family think that I moved to Ghana to get away from my ex, but actually although he was the catalyst to me going, he really didn’t have that power over me. I had wanted to stay in 1989, I even wanted to go after I finished University, for me it was just the perfect time and I guess God thought it too because I managed to get a job there. It was a rollercoaster of a ride, some days I would wake up and be totally in awe of my surroundings, then someone would piss me off and I would be ready to pack my bags and return, but I would not change that 7 year experience for the world.

So why did I return, I am going to be totally honest. I just couldn’t afford to live there anymore. I had made a few wrong turns in my personal and professional life which probably didn’t help, but essentially, when I purchased my house it was 1.3 GHS to the USD. A mere 4 years later the Ghana Cedi had depreciated to 4GHS to the USD. I was making the equivalent of $500 a month and my mortgage repayments were $400, the change was supposed to pay bills, service my car and of course buy food. It was also the dumsor era where we could go sometimes days without electricity so that meant buying fuel for the generator (or dying in the heat). So I had to make the decision to come back, and now here we are.

What Ghana has taught me is responsibility. I have to admit, up until probably 2010, I had lived a sheltered life, from my parents, to my ex, to my parents and then even my cousin (for the first few years in Ghana), I didn’t have to worry about accommodation, food, bills as I was either sharing the cost or not at all.

It has also taught me that I am a lot stronger than even I thought I was, here I was in a country that I called home but apart from my family and a couple of people, I had no friends, or any type of network. Today I actually have friends not only in Ghana but dotted around West Africa, Europe and America. This from a network of people I found whilst in Ghana.

Also, I have anxiety about trying something new or going to new places by myself, but I can get over myself and go so if I find myself in Timbuktu tomorrow, I will survive.

Lastly, I achieved my goal of being able to say I have a home in Ghana and I have my home in the UK. I’ve lived in Ghana as well as the UK.

I am British and I am Ghanaian and I am proud of my dual heritage.

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Why Did I Start Blogging

When I was younger I said I wanted to go into journalism. I have never been one to talk so radio or TV was not for me, but I was going to travel the world and write for a living. My hopes were dashed when I got a C for GCSE English and so I went down the numbers route. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have pursued it. We are living in a world where people use “u” instead of “you” and “2” instead of “to/too”, I am no literary genius but I would be doing well now. I could have been one of those hip chicks living in Manhattan, writing by day and drinking cocktails at night, but in any event, it’s still my passion and even if I am doing it for free, I enjoy what I do.

I have had a few messages asking why I started blogging so today I am going to share this with you all.

I got into blogging by accident really. I had just moved to Ghana and outside of my family, I didn’t know anyone. So I would spend my spare time (and some work time), writing to my friends, letting them know the highs and lows of living in my new environment. I would also post comments on Facebook, mostly humorous observations and sometimes general frustrations.

One day I got a message from a colleague back in England who suggested I start a blog. It was 2008 and I really didn’t know about blogging but it saved me from sending out separate emails to all my friends so that’s why I started.

In the beginning, I had no filter, I wrote like I was talking to a handful of friends and in hindsight probably gave away a bit too much information but in recent years it has been a bit more strategic. The basis of my blog is that I am a black woman, a Ghanaian woman, a single woman and a woman who is of a mature age who is just trying to navigate through life. I navigated through Ghana, I am navigating through UK, and my general observations in the two environments.

Can I still go a bit too far, do I get somewhat emotional, probably, but I am an emotional being and this is my life and my experiences and life isn’t easy so you are not going to get any fairy tale stories from this blog.

Today I write because I am passionate about writing. There is something about getting lost in writing that gets all the happiness, the hurt, the joy and the pain out of my system and allows me to re-focus. I also think to myself that even if it is only one person who ever reads what I am writing, they get something out of it. Whether it is a lesson that I have learnt from a mistake I made or simply because someone is going through something similar to my situation, by reading my blog they know that they are not the only one going through it.

I don’t blog as much as I would like to but that’s because this is what I do in my spare time as opposed to my profession but I just want to take the time out to say thanks to all those people who have shared in my journey.

Maybe one day I might get paid to this..lol, but in the meantime I do what I do because I just love to do it.

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Angry Black Woman

I hate social media, I read an article, then I read the comments, and then I get angry at the comments, then I get angry at myself for getting worked up, yet it’s the world we live in. I put my phone down, 20 minutes later I repeat. The article which got me a little bit riled was regarding the reality show Love Island. I don’t watch it, I think I watched 5 minutes of it last season and fell asleep, it was one of the longest 5 minutes of my life, I am not judging my many friends who watch it. It just isn’t for me. The other reason I don’t watch it is that there is always the token black girl who nobody wants and ends up leaving first and it hurts me (don’t ask me why I take that so personally, I am a sensitive person).

Speaking of the black girl, I can’t remember if she wrote the article or she was interviewed but it was along the lines that black girls will never win Love Island and she went into detail as to why. In the comments section there was a lot of backlash from what I understand to be my paler faced counterparts basically telling her to get over herself, one person said what’s her problem, one of “your lot” one this year. I am not going to go into detail as to why the statement was all kinds of wrong, you either think it is or you don’t, what I would say is that the lady in question was mixed race her father of black heritage and the mother white. Why does this make a difference:

In the totem pole of life in the west you have the level of attractiveness goes as follows, the blonde lady, the brunette lady, the mixed heritage lady (or other “exotic looking”), the ginger lady and the black lady. It’s not everyone’s standard but I am generalising. I also generalise the black lady as although we come in all different shapes and sizes and shades, we are seen as light or dark (don’t argue with me, even some make up brands only sell two shades for black women).
In addition to being on the last rung of the totem pole we also have this label that seems to follow us “the angry black woman”. If my paler face counterparts have resting bitch face they get asked “what’s wrong babe”, a black women has resting bitch face and they are making the world feel uncomfortable with their anger.

I am not a confrontational person, I grew up with 3 other females all with larger than life personalities and I was always made to feel like I have to be the responsible one. With that instilled in my psyche, I have learnt to keep quiet in an argument or walk away, not always the best as it does end up festering at times but that’s between me and my therapist..lol
On the rare occasion I have had to speak my mind in a setting outside my family, I have been told “easy, no need to get so angry” – i.e., angry black woman. So I keep quiet, there is no “what’s wrong babe”, I am told rather that I am being intimidating. Now, I’m 5 ft 4” (163 cm), how, who or what am I intimidating exactly. I should be intimidated by the fact that I am with a group of people who don’t look like me, who’s culture is totally different from mine and where I am the minority. Plus I’m short and the majority of these people are much taller than me yet I am intimidating?

Angry Black Woman
So yes, the young lady had a point that she would never win love Island, and there it appears that the further lighter on the colour spectrum the perception is more passive and the darker, the more aggressive so whatever she said she was always going to be seen as an angry black women. Which is quite sad considering we are in the midst of this #metoo movement, looks like the buck stops before it gets to the likes of me.

However in conclusion, we come in all shapes and sizes and shades, we are allowed to get angry without being labelled angry black woman and we can get upset about injustice without being told to get over ourselves because that’s our reality. Thank you.

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Ghana is doing just fine?

I came across an article titled “Africa is doing just fine, thank you”. It listed all the innovations happening across Africa, after reading it, I thought about Ghana when I arrived in 2007 to the last time I was there earlier this year. My thoughts, we do have a lot of roses amongst all the thorns. Off of the top of my head, I can name quite a few:

Places to Hang Out

When I arrived in 2007 and even prior to that when I used to go over for vacations, the only place to really hang out were Osu and its infamous Oxford Street, Cantonments, Airport Residential Area had a few hidden gems and then around the beachfront. If you were lived where I lived, it was quite a hassle getting into town due to traffic so I ended up only going out at night or having to strategically plan my day so that I wouldn’t get caught up in a traffic jam. Today we have around 7 shopping malls in and around Accra and 2 in Kumasi where you can just go and sit, grab a juice or a coffee (or something stronger if you prefer) and there are an abundance of restaurants, bars and clubs popping up on all sides of the city so you don’t have to sit in traffic for hours on end just to go “chill”.

Mobile Money

I remember signing up for it in 2008 and not really thinking anything of it, today it is one of the biggest innovation in Africa to date. Mobile Money is a way of making money transactions through your phone using only your sim (yes that’s right folks, no app involved). It is an e-wallet which is used to store money and can be used for the payment of goods and service as well as the transfer of funds to friends and family. It is simple to use and is popular with just about anyone so even your Grandma in the remote part of a village can use it. I believe this initiative started with MTN but now all the service providers have jumped on board.

Kotoka International Airport

I can almost forgive the last government for the years of “dumsor” with this one. On 27th December 2018 I touched down in Accra and for a second I thought I was back at Heathrow. No more waiting around on the plane while they bring over the steps to disembark from the plane. No more waft of hot air as you finally leave the plane and sweat dripping down you by the time you get to customs as you are crammed into a bus from the plane to the terminal. I don’t even remember being in the queue at customs that long (although that might have been the effects of the brandy I drank on the plane). What I do remember though is that the airport is first class and rivals any International Airport in the West.

Tech

Google has built an AI lab in Accra, Uber has firmly established itself in Accra with similar platforms breaking into the market. The tech industry is accelerating in Ghana and while I am not an expert in this area all I can say is watch this space.

Roads and Infrustructure

Ok, we are still battling the potholes however every time I go to Ghana I see improvements. New roads being built and old roads being improved, where as previously potholes were merely patched up I can see proper long term solutions for the state of the roads. The road from Adjinganor to school junction used to be a nightmare. What was a 5 minute journey felt like a lifetime as you had to dodge all the potholes where the rain had washed away the little 2 by 4 patch work that had covered the roads. On my last visit they are constructing the road and I actually see people working on the road (not sure if they have finished yet, heard it has been completed). Additionally as you drive through Accra there is some magnificent buildings, probably not on the scale of New York but can definitely rival or in some cases beat the architecture in London.

Is the economic climate in Ghana still an issue, I would be lying if I said with all these new innovations and initiatives that are coming in, people are now suddenly on par with the west, however it is far from the shithole county it has been described.

What I will say is that, isn’t it about time we started seeing our country in it’s glory. Unfortunately, in the media and even when we talk about Ghana we focus on the corrupt politicians going cap in hand to the IMF for a bail-out (only to “chop” all the money within the party). We see the poverty, we see the religious leaders praying on the weak and the vulnerable and we see the huge disparity between the haves and the have nots.

It’s about time we look at what we are doing right and find a solution for everyone to gain a piece of the pie without having to kill our brother to get it.

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Rejection/Redirection

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

A year to the date after being made redundant, I have found myself in the same position again. This is probably the 4th time I have been manoeuvred out of a job and while I miss that regular income, one thing I have learnt from living in Ghana is to always have a contingency plan. With every job, I have my main savings and then my temporary savings pot to tide me over for the moment. Today, as I said, I do miss that regular income but I have to trust in God and believe that this is the time to reflect and do what needs to be done.

To be honest, I never really had time to think these past 8 months as I would be up at 6, out by 7am and home by 7pm, with only a 30 minute break I day (which I would mainly miss), my days were work, home, eat and sleep (sleep is really important).

The reason they let me go is that they said that, they their inventory was high and I wasn’t being proactive enough to reduce stock. Now let me take you back a while. First Brexit happened and sales started to decline. However, the company had committed to buying a certain amount of stock every year. My suggestion has and is, stop buying crap that you don’t need. I am not a sales person, I can’t give you the magic formula to sell your stock, but I can advise on what needs to be bought and where you can save money. Furthermore, it was a small company, live within your means people. I won’t go into my personal feelings about certain people I worked with because that’s my perception and that’s all subjective but it is hard working with disingenuous people and have a smile on your face when you know that they are stabbing you in a back.

Does this sound like sour grapes, maybe, do I sound petty, more than likely but the same people who were attacking my character are now the same ones doing my job now as I am not being replaced for now. Furthermore, this is a company that sacked their cleaner to save costs (and the staff had to do the cleaning), so whatever I did, unless I pulled a rabbit out of a hat, the writing was always on the wall.

I had a nice little contract role prior to taking this up where I was actually adding value but I got sucked into the “I need to get a permanent role”, in hindsight I should have stayed where I was but no regrets though, only life lessons. This is what I have learnt so far:

1.       Permanent is not always best, there is comfort in having to not jump from job to job and if that’s what you feel is best for you, then go for it, especially in an uncertain economic environment. However, it can consume your whole life, and well gone are the days when you have a job for life so it is up to the individual and what their vision is for their life.

 2.       Always listen to your gut. I took over the role from someone who they said was not up to scratch. I did feel a bit uneasy accepting as the whole interview process was very cloak and dagger. It felt like dating a married man who leaves his wife for you. If he can do that to her, he can do that to you. After I started hearing about the contributions my predecessor gave to the company, I never felt my seat was totally mine.

 3.       Forgive people their foolishness. I found myself not only having to remember what I had to do but sending out the same communication about 10 times because nobody read their emails until they actually needed that information. My boss read my emails during our weekly meetings (so basically once a week), then I was accused of poor communication. Reach!

 4.       One-Man business run the same in almost every country. At the end of the day, they have the final say so take that into consideration when making that decision to accept. If you have worked in fairly large corporations it is difficult to make that transition unless it’s your own.

 5.       Lastly, something I need to do for myself. I tend to take my job way to personal. I don’t have children, so my job tends to be my baby. If I am going to stay working in any company, I need to learn that “poker face” and play the game without selling my soul. I need to learn to smile even when the people around me make me so mad that I just want to hit them in the face.

 As always, I have learnt more life lessons (or re-learnt in some cases) and if I want to move from an employee to an employer, I know what I should and shouldn’t. I will not however compromise my integrity so it is good that we parted way.

On a positive note, I will not take this as “another rejection” as rejection is subjective and it is one person’s opinion of you, it doesn’t define who you are. To quote Steve Maraboli

“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was being redirected to something better”.

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