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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I’m OFFICIALLY officially a homeowner

Last year, I paid off the final instalment of my mortgage yay! They told me it would take about 8 weeks to get all the paper work. I thought, it’s Ghana, it will probably take around 3-6 months. It took a year for me to finally get the papers.

Initially they had asked me to chase up one of the papers. I didn’t, simply because I paid $500 for the privilege of getting someone else to do the leg work and Ghana Home Loans (GHL) are a lot quicker to take my money than to reimburse me any money they owed so I said I would wait.

In June of last year, I started chasing up on the progress of the documentation, at that point they had taken my cash so were very slow in responding (I am being very generous, I just got air). As I knew I was going to be in Ghana at the end of the year however, I decided to cool down.

So, in January of this year, I took myself to their office to ask what’s happening, and I was told there had been some delay due to a complication (I stopped listening at that point, the lady was stuttering so whatever she was saying was BS). The adviser asked me to come back the following week but as I was leaving before it would be ready, I asked my cousin to follow up for me.

Now, I had called and written to them back in March 2018 and said, “Further to our conversation today, I attach ID for Mr X who I would like to act on my behalf of all transactions going forward, that includes signing of documents, collection of any documents and any financial transactions”. Simple enough you would think. Obviously too simple or rather too complicated for simple minds.

I don’t know why I didn’t re-send the email but at around 1pm last Monday my cousin called to say he was at the office and they refused to give him the documents. I then had to re-send the email saying, “the below still stands”. What I really wanted to say was “are you dumb, can you not read and follow instructions”, but I am trying to be more zen in my old age and worry less so kept it short and sweet.

So now, a year after I paid it off, and 8 years after I purchased the property, I can say it is mine now. Hopefully one day soon I can sit and enjoy the fruits of my very hard labour (I especially think of this on cold and stormy days like today).

At the time of purchase, GHL was probably the only decent mortgage company in Ghana but most banks are offering mortgages at good rates. If you are thinking of taking out a mortgage I would look around. Stanbic bank is still on the top of my list as I haven’t really heard a bad word about them. I would probably try there first. However, we are talking about Ghana so the process is going to be slow, but some places will be less painful than others.

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My Favourite Driver

I always enjoy my time in Ghana, even when I have been frustrated in the moment, coming back always gives me the post-holiday blues. In particular this trip, I have said it once and I will say it again, it was one of the best trips I have had in a while. I think it’s probably because I had a lot of me time, instead of following Dad around saying hi to family. As much as I love spending time with my Dad and my extended family, how much fufu koraa can one eat.

Today, as I was navigating my way through London underground my thoughts turned to the driver we had in Ghana (as you do when people are bumping into you trying to catch their tube).

Our host provided us with a car and a driver, I will start of by saying that he was a lovely guy with a heart of gold, who was willing to drive us around no matter what the time was. Unfortunately, he lived in Cape Coast and had only just arrived in Accra. Hence, he didn’t know anywhere in town. On the flip side, he didn’t know Accra and that was a whole drama in itself.

I believe it was the second night we were there when some of the girls decided to go clubbing. The drama began when two unauthorised passengers decided to go with the car and leave the other two behind. The club was in the Airport area and we were in the Trade Fair area. The journey would take 20 minutes tops at that time of night. Two hours later and my guy was wondering the streets of Accra completely lost. In the end, he had to call our host, who was not happy, firstly the two girls were not supposed to take the car out, then they left our friends and although I was fast asleep, I heard the next day that our host was just spitting bullets at everyone in the room.

The following night, we went out to get a KFC, again we were in Trade Fair, but this time travelling to Osu, the journey should have taken us about 20 minutes maximum. Over an hour later we finally reached our destination. Now Accra is the type of place that you step out for a minute and you lose your bearings and I don’t tend to travel much around the labadi area. However, what was really annoying was that although this man had no clue where he was going, he must have thought he was racing Lewis Hamilton. Before you knew it, we had missed the junction, and we missed the junction again. We did however go the very scenic route, we passed the stadium twice, we drove through Jamestown and we even ended up in Accra Central at one point, thankfully KFC was open until late, so we got our chicken before the sun came up.

My guy was slightly amusing at first but when we had to start paying for the diesel suddenly, it just wasn’t that funny anymore. I remember one day we were driving to the Shell Petrol Station near the airport, I said he should keep going straight, he was in the wrong lane, so he was forced to take a right turn. Then he says, “oh Madam, I was supposed to go straight eh?”, and then he proceeded to reverse back into the main road. Thankfully there were no cars behind us and there was a path for him to get back onto the main road.

Then there was the time we were travelling to East Legon, I must have said take the right turn at the main road about 5 minutes before we got there. What did he do, he went straight, so I asked him if he knew of a short cut? Again, he says, “oh I was supposed to go right at the junction eh?”, then he stops and then put the car in reverse but this time we were on a freeway, I think I may have screamed at him to go forward and take the next turn before he killed us all.

After that he was more cautious, like a bit too cautious, I remember we went to see an aunt in the mountains, and she said to keep going until we got to the Mobil filling station before turning left. He would drive a couple of metres, stop and ask someone where the filling station is. They would say keep going straight, he would say thank you, go a few more metres and ask someone else. The story never changed, keep going straight. It was painful and I had to stay awake though all this because I was the one getting directions from my aunt.

It wasn’t all bad though, he drove us to Cape Coast, and he was in his element because he was the area champion and knew where he was going. There was also that sense of pride when he finally made it from Trade Fair to Osu without unintentionally taking the scenic route, I think that’s when he really got his confidence so much so that he offered to take me to National Theatre one evening, but I passed and took an Uber as I was on a deadline.

There were quite a lot of incidents with our driver, he drove to fast, he didn’t listen, a journey that would have taken 10 minutes took two hours, but he was just a really nice guy so I couldn’t stay too mad at him. I hope he has found his bearings by now or he has got GPS or something.

 

 

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10 things that African elders say to make you feel bad about yourself.

Since my dad shipped out to Ghana for a while, it’s been pretty quiet. Him and smother are like chalk and cheese when it comes to friends. She has like one, he seems to know every Ghanaian living in the UK. Now that he has retired, you never know who is going to pop in for a cup of tea (or a shot of Brandy) and the older I get the more that they have taken my “singleness” so personal.

The comments/questions have been harsher but of course they are my aunties/uncle (as a Ghanaian, any elder is an aunt or uncle even if not directly related) so I just have to grin and bear it. The main one’s are:

  • So, what are you waiting for? I put a question mark at the end of this, but it is more of a statement than a question, they don’t really want to know the answer. Now if this were to be a question, it would imply that there is someone waiting in the wings that I am stringing along or there is a queue of suitors outside my front door and I am batting them off with a stick. If only.

 

  • Maybe it’s because you have put on weight. Men like big bum’s but sometimes it can be too much you know. I’ve managed to drop a couple of dress sizes in the past couple of years, but I have heard this comment. – This coming from an aunt who was a size 20 when I was a size 12 – 14, I guess the moral of her story was to let yourself go after you secure the bag.

 

  • You’re not getting any younger, just get yourself pregnant – sure, why didn’t I think of that, because I don’t know of any single parents out there. I’m also sure if I had a fatherless child that would be a whole other controversy.

 

  • Is it because you don’t cook – the assumption here being that I don’t cook (again a statement rather than a question). I actually enjoy cooking when I have the time, I know I have my faults but the ability to cook something other than cheese on toast. I’m not sure though if the ability to cook is a pre-requisite to catching a man though because I know a lot of Ghanaian girls who can’t/won’t cook and they are doing ok.

 

  • Maybe you need to lower your standards a bit – let me think about that one….erm, no

 

  • You should come to my church – *crickets*

 

  • So you were in Ghana for all those years, not even one – oh there were a few but I’m still single, what does that tell you

 

  • I have someone who is looking for a wife – I have PTST from some of the guys I have been introduced to, don’t want to go into too much details before it sparks up again.

 

  • Time is not on your side oo – thanks but I’m still alive an kicking, not out of the race just yet.

 

  •  Are you sure, well *pause* you know – yes I like men, but thanks for the concern.

 

It’s all good though, what would I do without having African elders in my laugh, I would have nothing to talk about.

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Privilege

Almost 10 years ago, my good friend came to visit me in Ghana. I had just purchased my house and although she had spent the first couple of days in a hotel, she was the first to actually stay in my new home. I will always appreciate that even when my furniture consisted of a bed and a couple of garden chairs, she said she came to visit me and not nothing else and stayed with me in my new house for the rest of her duration.

So before I start this piece I want to shamelessly plug her new book, “Black 365” by Christiana O’Connor, it is available on Amazon. This book looks at black history, one person a day for 365 days, I am probably not articulating myself well in this present time so all I can say is go to Amazon by the book, it’s well worth the read, not just for you but your generations to follow.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. My friend Christiana and I went to Elmina Castle when she came to visit me. I remember during the tour it was mainly people of African origin except for this one French guy. I remember at the end of the tour, the guide said something like let us not forget what we went through. After he said that, the French guy, well it appeared that he had a whole white burden on his shoulders as he just looked at us and said “sorry for my ancestors”. I actually felt bad for him, simply because in France, he probably never had think about this because he was the majority and racial issues were probably not his problem, but now here he was the only white face in a sea of blacks and all he could say was sorry.

I thought of this guy recently due to a couple of issues that have come up in the last couple of weeks. The first issue was an actor whose family member had gone through a traumatic experience. The victim was white, but the perpetrator was a black man. When the actor heard what the victim had gone through he was so mad that he would walk up and down the street looking for a “black bastard” to basically take his frustration out on. Now, I can understand that this guy was angry but he basically said that because of one black man, a whole race of men were going to be held responsible for this crime (in my opinion).

Now the other day, a politician made a point about comic relief. For those of you that don’t know, comic relief started over 30 years ago, it is a charitable organisation that raises money for poverty issues domestically and in Africa. Now from what I can understand from this politician, he had an issue with a particular white “saviour” who had gone to Africa on behalf of comic relief and had issue with Africa being portrayed as this poverty stricken county who cannot function without foreign aide.

In the first instance the situation happened decades ago, in the latter the author was talking in present day terms. In both situations I am not going to give my opinion on who I thought was offensive or why but in both situations the race card was used in a seemingly negative connotation. What I found though is that in the first scenario, as this happened decades ago, the “privileged” simply said “get over it”, it happened decades ago, this is not a race issue. The same people said that the second issue was a race issue and the author was being racist against them.

My issue is that you need to see the situation in it’s entirety and use the same issue, both were offensive (if you are truly looking at this in a balanced point of view) so in both cases either you get over it because they said what they said or you are offended because the race was used. People need to use the same energy but it appears that when it comes to the “under privileged”, they need to get over it but when it comes to the privileged, there is an outrage.

I could go into a big debate into these two issues, but it can go on for ages and people think what they think, there is no point me trying to sway there opinion. In a perfect world, people would look at this type of issue more balanced, but when you are not used to dealing with this type of thing on an every day basis it is difficult to see why other people are offended when someone uses the race card until it happens to them.

I like to think back to the French guy in Elmina, he probably didn’t get it until he was the minority in a situation where he was forced to think about race (even if it was 400 years ago). For me I think that unless the “privileged” become the “minority” even if it is just for a day, there will always be a problem. My hope is that one day we all get to see things from the other person’s point of view just like the French guy, then we will be more mindful and think twice before we speak. This is not a PC issue, this is just a being kind to our fellow humans regardless of colour issue.

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Planning for Brexit

We experienced a big recession around 2007/2008. Smother blamed the labour party, I blamed the conservative party but as you know we don’t agree on much especially when it comes to politics.

We are going through a tough time once again and this time the blame lies with Mr David Cameron. In his quest for power he offered the British public the chance to leave Europe, what he didn’t believe was that they would turn around and do that. Now the country has basically come to a standstill, nobody wants to tie up their working capital, companies don’t know whether to stick around or move elsewhere, some companies have already yield to the pressure and collapsed. It is a trying time with a lot of people (me included) nervous that they will walk into their office to find out that there is no job.

The way I am feeling now, is the same way I was feeling 11 years ago. If I am going to suffer, why am I doing it here, in the cold, where everything is grey. At least in my country, I have the heat, everything is in colour, and of course good waakye. Furthermore, my eyes are wide open this time. I know the mistakes I made, I know what to expect, I know what is expected of me and I know where not to expect too much.

So what’s stopping me this time?

When I was in Ghana over the new year, I was in my happy place, but I also had enough money to fund my happy. In London I just find it difficult to be in the same happy place so there is something about Ghana even when it has frustrates me at times that makes me want go back. However, it has to be under better circumstances than when I left.

Last time, I just through caution to the wind. I was able to secure a 3 month’s leave of absence, throw in a bit of luck and I had a job. Also I didn’t mind that they gave me a tiny salary, I was just happy to be in Ghana and I believed the dick that told me that Ghana’s cost of living is much lower than UK.

When I started my career, I started from the bottom, I don’t regret that as I met some lovely people along the way, I learnt a lot and to be honest I don’t think I would have the patience and the drive to do what I do if I hadn’t laid that foundation. This time around, well this is the one thing I will not compromise on, not to sound cocky but I am good at what I do and to go back even a step would frustrate me and earn me my “difficult” reputation because well I would become difficult (I can’t help myself, I get my bossiness from smother).

Part of me just wants to get up and leave but unlike last time, I have responsibilities. I would need what my friend calls “F U money” because I know it won’t be as easy as last time, last time I was in a pool of players, now I am competing with this same pool for the top spot and while I have paid for the house, there is the little things like electricity, transportation and oh yeah food that I would have to consider. It’s funny how fearless you are when you are younger and even as a single person you are so much more cautious.

So what are the options. Ride this storm out.

Ride this storm out and pray an opportunity comes up.

Become a contractor this would allow me to go back and forth and see any opportunities whether it is as an employee or starting up my own business. I know Supply Chain and logistics is what I know but the question is what exactly.

Whatever the case, unlike my government, my Brexit requires proper planning and I won’t be leaving here without a deal.

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New things I learnt about Ghana, and some things that I forgot

I have just come back from a glorious 2 and a half weeks in Ghana. Although I have spent new years in Ghana as a “local”, it was the first time I had spent the festive period as a tourist, and it was fantastic. The first 10 days were spent on a girl’s trip so lots of going out, eating out, and late nights and of course my favourite pastime – eating waakye. The last week was spent catching up with friends and family and sleeping off the first 10 days but all in all a wonderful time.

 A few observations for when you are travelling that I thought I may share with you. The first being Uber. It is safe and cost effective if you don’t have a car and you don’t spend the first 10 minutes of your journey haggling the price to something that a reasonable person should pay. Uber doesn’t use the most luxurious of cars, you probably won’t get air conditioning and even when you send the location of where you are and where you want to go, you may find the pick up location is half a mile down the road and he will still probably ask where you are going. However, emphasis on safe and cost effective. The normal taxi drivers are hungry these days and not to scare you off them but one or two have been known to hold their passengers at gunpoint for cash and a phone.

On a positive note though I did meet a nice taxi driver called Nash who I need to give a shout out to, we went out on a magical mystery tour of Accra and he didn’t charge me much so occasionally you may get a nice one.

For mobile phones MTN is the best, they may not have the best data packages as compared to the likes of Vodafone but MTN has 4g which makes a difference in a country like Ghana. I made sure to keep my MTN post paid line but also had a Vodafone chip as well (you will find that a lot of people have more than one phone) and the two just didn’t compare especially when you want to make WhatsApp calls.

Speaking of MTN, one thing I forgot is how people are busy minding other people’s business. When I used to work their I had a very good male friend who treated me like I was a normal human being as opposed to the “British” girl who fell from the sky. He is a flirt and flirts with any female who is in his way but of course people presumed we were in a sexual relationship (we weren’t).

So, I thought, I have the time, I am going to check in and say hello and, in the evening, as he was going in my direction he offered to take me back to my area. The looks thrown my way was hilarious, it was as if he had just picked me up of the street. One guy even went out of his way to say, “my greetings to your wife”, so I asked how many times this guy has greeted his wife. This was the first time ever. Go figure. Back in the day it would have bothered me, but now, I just have to laugh, people are going to think what they are going to think, I am just out here living my best life.

I’ve been to both Cape Coast and Elmina castle, I have not done them both on the same day but couldn’t do them both on the same day (too emotional). I prefer Elmina to Cape, the reason being, while Cape was for the most part owned by the British and tells how they contributed to the slave trade, Elmina has more of a history and you get to hear about the figures such as Yaa Asantwaa who fought back. Whichever one you choose, if you are accompanied by a Ghanaian, let them go ahead and make payment and if you can’t speak the language just keep quiet until payment has been made, it’s the difference between paying 5GHS and 40GHS.

They say the cost of living in Ghana is cheap(er) than here in the west. It’s a lie, if you don’t take time you will spend over £100 in a day. When you compare the prices to UK you may think at first “oh that’s the equivalent of £5, or £10 etc..”, but remember that money adds up. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nice restaurants and clubs in Ghana that outshine any of the ones over here, but if you are on a budget, you need to find the right balance. You can buy Waakye (rice and beans) with your choice of protein for no more than 15 GHS (£2.50) from a street vendor vs between 30 – 60GHS (£5-£10) from a restaurant. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like much but it adds up and think about it, how many times do you pay a tenner for Chicken and chips. I might sound cheap but trust me, in Ghana, you spend so much money on incidentals (something always comes up to make you part with your cash), you need to consider your spend.

If you are buying foods to cook at home, don’t buy it from the supermarket, I don’t know how they calculate their prices. The local markets sell at a much cheaper cost, the food is locally sourced (and the money is going to the local vendors directly). You may have to haggle a bit but that’s all part of the fun.

Be weary of Ghana guys (and girls), if a guy whose never travelled to the UK says the word “innit” more than you do, alarm bells should start ringing. On my flight back to the UK I got speaking to a young lady. She had been in Ghana for a couple of months and started dating a guy while she was out there. She was huffing and puffing because they had a huge argument on the day she was leaving and he blocked her calls. I believe that as she was going back, she was no longer fit for purpose so an argument was orchestrated to bring the relationship to a halt. Now I could be wrong but I’m probably not.

One last thought is that 2019 marks the year of the return and the government is putting a lot of resources into boosting tourism. I didn’t get to see the Hollywood stars this trip, but I did see Oswald Boateng walking through the lobby of Movenpick Hotel. Saw Fuse ODG and Reggie Yates at the This is the New Africa conference, had a conversation with D’Banj and got to hang out with local celebrity Bola Ray (thanks to my beautiful cousin). Why am I telling you this, no reason, nothing like this has happened to me before so I just wanted to brag hehe. But in all seriousness, Ghana is and will be the place to be, if you haven’t been, you need to plan a trip, if you haven’t been in a while, it’s time to go back and if you are a regular, keep on travelling. Here’s hoping that the new National Carrier comes into fruition and BA doesn’t start charging silly money for flights.

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