Monday, October 25, 2010

18 degrees Celsius is only 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit!!

MY OFFICE BUILIDNG IS FREEZING. You could store meat in this place it is that cold. I checked the various air conditioners and saw that they are all set to 18 degrees Celsius. I grew up using Fahrenheit to measure temperature so I quickly went to my computer to convert it and saw that 18 degrees is 64.4 degrees fahrenheit. People, that is cold!!! I consider that to be jacket weather. Why is the air conditioning set to a level that requires a coat? I keep my office air conditioner on 26 degrees Celsius and am frequently told that my old feels too warm and in comparison to the rest of this Arctic office building my office does feel like a tropical oasis but I need the warmth. I really don’t get this. And this isn’t limited to my office either. I experience this in other offices within Accra, especially banks. Aren’t we hot weather people? This is Ghana, right? I am the one that grew up in the cold but yet seem to be the only one running away from the air conditioning. The funny thing is I’ve seen Ghanaians practically wearing parkas during rainy season and the temperature is probably about 22-25 degrees Celsius but everyone seems to celebrate the intense air conditioning.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unsung Heroes

I need to give praise, a shoutout, much respect and a heartfelt thanks to the people who decide to get up every day and direct traffic at some of the most congested, traffic light/stop sign needing intersections and tunnels in Accra. If you’ve driven around Accra, you’ve seen these people. Usually they are some young men, who stand all day in the often very intense heat with nothing more than a stick w/a bandana tied to it, or a tree branch in their hands directing traffic. It is my understanding that they are not paid by the government and are not trained to do the work they do. Instead they are just private citizens who get up and do this. So far Ghana is the only country I’ve been in where you can get up, pick up a tree branch and become a traffic conductor but it happens. I know they don’t do it just to be kind, they do beg for money as they are directing traffic but they are doing a service and I gladly donate to their cause. They provide a much needed service. I still am not the most aggressive driver and know that without them I would be stuck waiting at places like the East Legon tunnel, or the bridge to the Abbatoir Road for hours hoping someone would pity me and allow me to pass. Without them those areas would be absolute chaos. Everyone would be trying to force their way through and the already high accident rate would increase. So this post is dedicated to those branch wielding traffic conductors all over Accra. Me dase paaaa!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Run up on me at the light, you could lose your life

That is one of my favorite Jigga lines. It comes from Excuse Me Miss Again (remix). And I was reminded of it last night . . . .

I got lost yesterday. Totally and completely lost. And if you’ve been reading my posts you will know that the vast majority of roads in Ghana don’t have street signs, so whenever I attempted to ask for directions I would hear something like “Go straight, straight, straight, and when you come to a big restaurant go right.” That sounds fine but I think I was so freaked out because I was so completely lost, and it was dark that I wasn’t even paying attention to the landmarks given. It was awful. After I had gone straight for about 2 miles without seeing a restaurant I decided to pull over and ask yet another pedestrian for directions. I saw a young man walking wearing headphones so I lightly tapped my horn to get his attention. I rolled down my window and asked, “Excuse me, how do I get to Tema Beach Road?” He said “Oh, it’s this way” and started to open my car door.

YES, that’s right. Homeboy tried to open my car door. WTF! I said, "NO! THERE IS NO NEED TO ENTER" and peeled off so fast I may have driven over a few of his toes. My heart was racing! I was thinking “Oh my God, dude is about to murder me and throw me into the bushes!” Actually, I know that Ghanaians are super friendly and considerate about giving directions. We all know how difficult it is to get around here given that many places are not well lit and there isn’t a proper address system, HOWEVER, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, try to enter my car to give me directions. Things like that will get you shot in NYC. Hell, I don’t carry a weapon but thought, “Do I need to reverse and hit him so he doesn’t take me out first?” (just joking!) Poor boy, it is very likely he was just trying to offer assistance but I wasn’t taking any chances. Believe that the next person I asked for directions was a woman. And I made sure she was a small woman at that.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

In New York, Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

Ahhh! It's good to be in NY!!! For the most part I enjoy my life in Accra but NYC will always be my first love. It was where I was born and raised so how can I feel any differently? I've never been away from the city for more than four months at a time until now. I've been gone for about eight months!!! I missed it so badly I was even looking forward to seeing the graffiti. I have about 48 hours here. I plan on eating tons of Thai and Mexican food, helping out the economy by shopping like a mad woman and of course spending time with family and friends. We will see how much gets accomplished.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I’m going to stereotype and say that Ghanaian women love fake hair. As a matter of fact I am pretty sure that starting a church or selling weaves are two of the easiest and fastest ways to get rich in Ghana. I admit that not ALL Ghanaian women wear fake hair but many, in fact the vast majority, prefer wearing some sort of hair attachment to their own hair. And I think I am the newest convert. I was never a weave wearer when in the US. At most I would wear my hair in tiny braids that ended in loose curls. I would often do that when I wanted to take a break from chemical straighteners. At one point I wore my hair in braids for about two years (not the same braids, I removed and redid them about every 8-10 weeks). I did so because I wanted to grow all the chemicals out of my hair and wear my hair in its natural state. I succeed in growing the chemical out and cut off all the chemically relaxed hair but wore my hair naturally for only about three months before going back to chemical relaxers. Sadly, I didn’t feel that I looked my best with natural hair.

I’ve continued relaxing my hair since I’ve been in Ghana and have worn braids to take a break but recently felt the desire to try something different. So I got a weave. Not a video vixen weave, by that I mean long flowing hair, but a weave nonetheless. My weave was a short bob with bangs, or as said in the UK, a “fringe.” I LOVED the weave. Loved it! In fact I have since removed it and am seriously contemplating getting another one. Having it in my hair made my morning routine so much easier. I barely spent any time styling my hair, I pretty much just brushed the weave into shape and went about my day. I didn’t worry about humidity, sweat or rain. When the hair got wet, it dried and fell right back into place.

I used to think that women who constantly wore weaves were being fake. I also thought of it as unprofessional. When I thought of weaves images of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown came to mind and who the hell wants to look like them? Additionally, I’ve read articles and essays debating whether the wearing of weaves by Black women indicated acceptance and adoption of the European beauty ideal (Fair skin, slim bodies and long flowing hair). Writers have even likened the wearing of weaves by Black women to skin bleaching. I don’t completely follow that line of thinking but have thought that women who constantly wore weaves had some sort of insecurity issue. And now look at me! I wore a weave for a month and am thinking of other possible weave styles. I loved the ease and versatility of it. So now I am thinking that maybe I was thinking about the hair issue too deeply. What’s wrong with wearing weaves and constantly changing one’s hair length, texture or style? Why can’t a Black woman’s hair be like her attire and change daily? Does it really matter if the hair is fake or not?

pictured above is a signboard on Spintex Road (a very busy street in Accra) advertising hair weaves.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Steve Madden + Gucci = Stucci

I have a pair of flats by Steve Madden that I have worn to the ground. I wore them to commute to and from work. Ghana streets are not very pedestrian friendly. Many don’t have sidewalks therefore, if you are walking you are either walking along the side of the road in red dirt or loose gravel. The soles of the shoes were pretty thin to begin with so after months of commuting via trotro, during rainy season, the soles were basically non-existent. In fact the soles had become so thin that water would seep into the shoe through the soles. I took the shoes to a local shoemaker/shoe repairer and asked him to re-sole the bottom. I also dropped off two other pairs of pumps to have their heel taps replaced. I showed him the Steve Madden flats and explained that I wanted a rubber sole slightly thicker than the original sole. He said sure.

I was shocked when I went to retrieve the shoes. I looked at the bottom of the Steve Madden flats and saw that he did replace the sole with a thicker rubber sole. But they weren’t the average rubber sole, the new rubber sole had interlocking Gs all over it. That’s right, interlocking Gs as if they were a pair of Gucci shoes!

Why is there so much counterfeit stuff in Accra? I realize that the goods are mostly China made products but why do we have such an appetite for it? I've seen so many Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci purses since I've been here and know that 99 percent of it is fake. Is it that people don't realize they are purchasing knockoff goods or is that they want those brands and settle for the counterfeit ones because they can't afford the original?

In the meantime I can't wait for the next rainy day. I will be sure to wear my Stuccis and leave G footprints all over Accra!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

They finally got it

My blackberry pearl was stolen off of my desk today. I am pissed! I was in my office and an older gentleman walked in, unannounced. I should have been immediately tipped off because people are generally guided into my office by the receptionist or office manager. The man quickly walked over to my desk and started showing me papers. He actually placed a few on my desk while pointing to them and mouthing words. It became clear to me that he was not able to speak. I didn’t know why he was in my office but his behavior was making me nervous so I told him to leave my office and go to the reception area. He quickly snatched up his papers and walked out of my office. I stood up after he left intending to go ask reception about him and noticed that one of my phones, the blackberry pearl, was missing. I then got up and went to the reception area and asked the office maintenance worker if he had just seen a man exit the office. He said yes but didn’t know where he had gone. I said, “That man just stole my phone.” We exited the office, told the security guard in the lobby and attempted to look for him but were unable to locate him. I am livid!

I am also wondering why that phone is such a hot ticket item. I had a similar incident happen with that same phone when I worked in NYC as a prosecutor. I was interviewing a child who was the victim of a crime when I stepped out of the office to speak with a supervisor. I left my phone on the desk as I did so but upon returning to the office did not see the phone on the desk. I looked around the desk and moved some files but still couldn’t find the phone. At that point I called the cell phone and heard it ringing, in the victim’s mother’s coat pocket! I kid you not. I stared at her as she removed the phone from her pocket, placed it on the desk and said, “Oh, this isn’t my phone.” Of course it wasn’t her phone!! Her phone was a big red phone that looked like the first cell phone ever made. I allowed her and her child to leave my office but in hindsight I should have had her arrested. Who comes to a prosecutor’s office and steals? I guess the same kind of person who pretends to be mute, walks into a firm and steals a cell phone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

how NOT to commit a crime

Ways to guarantee your arrest after committing a crime:

(1) go by the name Shaka Zulu

(2) be a muscle bound man who wears your hair styled in a Mohawk bun

(3) appear in a Ghana television ad prior to committing the crime

(4) appear in a major Ghanaian group’s music video prior to committing the crime

(5) be a bouncer at one of the most popular night clubs in the city where the crime was committed

(6) after ensuring that numbers 1-5 are in place, commit the crime sans disguise!

I’ve been in Ghana for only six months but even I know Skaka Zulu. He is a bouncer at the club “The Office” now known as Reggie Rockstone’s Office, has appeared in the popular Ghanaian group 4x4’s music video for “Fresh Onez” and has appeared in a Tigo commercial. Tigo is one of the major cellular phone networks in Ghana. You can’t miss the dude. If you’ve seen him once you will remember him. First off, he’s a big, muscular man, secondly his hair is styled in a way I HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. I mean NEVER. It is like a Mohawk, sort of kind of, but there is also a bun in the middle of his head (see picture for visual assistance). And thirdly, he is always dressed in all black and wears an assortment of traditional beaded necklaces. Basically, what I am saying is that the man stands out. And not only does he stand out, he works at one of the popular night clubs in Accra, has been in a popular music video and appears in a television commercial that runs ALL THE TIME. Could he be any more conspicuous? So why, with all of this going on, would he chose to commit a crime? Is there anyone in Accra who wouldn’t recognize him? Did he really think the victims would forget his face? Did he think they would confuse him with someone else? I mean how many diesel, Mohawk/bun wearing men named Shaka Zulu are there in Ghana?

Here is the official story

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Romance Scams

I just came across this article and honestly I am stunned. I feel so very sorry for the deceased and his family if it is indeed true that he committed suicide due to this internet scam but I am also shocked that he was involved in such a thing. I mean in this day and age who still falls for these wire/send/transfer money to West Africa scams? They are so common place and so obvious that they’ve become comedic material. Seriously, I’ve heard comedians making fun of these scams. Who hasn’t received an email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian business man with a business idea requiring $10,000 wired to an account? Shoot, even on eBay I’ve seen sellers state “WILL NOT SHIP TO WEST AFRICA” on their eBay auctions. Not to mention that the embassy websites warn their citizens about romantic relationship and business ventures when traveling to foreign countries. Here it seems that the deceased never even traveled to Ghana and was instead just sending money to some woman that he had never met. I can’t imagine how lonely and desperate he must have been to fall for this.

What’s really sad is that had he just used the money for a plane ticket to Ghana he could have easily met a female here. Come on, who here in Ghana hasn’t seen an older foreign man with a young, pretty Ghanaian girl???

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There is a door in the road

I was jamming this morning to Notorious Big’s greatest hits supplied by my dear friend Aaron. I wasn’t just jamming, I was snapping my fingers and rapping along with the CD. I had been driving for more than an hour and was only 15 minutes from my house so the music was really helping my spirits. Accra traffic is normally pretty bad but it is downright unbearable after a rainstorm and it rained pretty hard yesterday. I was in the middle of my verse saying:

You was a Reebok vandal, now you wear Chanel sandals
I made you, why would I play you?
Think about it while in the streets you roam
It's Dom P's and Chris'ties in the fridge when you get home

when I heard a loud bang to my left. I looked and saw a car door in the street. Yes, that’s right, a car door. Luckily no car was following closely behind the car that LOST IT’S DOOR. I mean really, wth is going on here??? Doors are falling off of vehicles???

When I looked again I realized the door belonged to a trotro. I should have known!

I know the story sounds incredulous so I’ve provided photographic evidence.

Picture 1 shows the trotro mate removing the door from the road and picture 2 shows the trotro mate standing near the trotro while holding the door. See, I told you!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kufuor plus two more?

John Kufuor is the former president of the Republic of Ghana. He served two four year terms just before the current President. I thought Kufuor did great things for Ghana, there was quite a bit of economical growth and infrastructure development during his terms in office. I became particularly endeared to him when he appeared on KSM’s “Thank God It’s Friday” a local television show. The show aired while I was in Ghana last year and during the program Kufuor spoke lovingly of his wife Theresa Kufuor. He explained that they had been together for over fifty years and met as teenagers. They also have five children together. He painted the picture of a loving, happy marriage so imagine my shock and dismay when I heard the allegations that he fathered twins with a woman named GizeleYajzi. Apparently these allegations first surfaced in 2005, however they resurfaced again this week. Ms. Gizele Yajzi claims that Ex-President Kufuor fathered her seven year old male twins and also went on to say she had the children out of love and not any attempt to blackmail the president. DNA testing has not been performed and Ex-President Kufuor has never even seen the children.

After hearing the story I came home to discuss it with my family members. One said, “And so what?” When I asked, “What do you mean” she said, “So what if he fathered twins with another woman, is it our business? It is between him and his wife.”

While I understand that Ex-President Kufuor is married to his wife and not to the public doesn’t it matter when a political leader steps outside of their marriage? Or is that a private matter between him and his partner? Especially here in Ghana where polygamy was once the norm and is still very much accepted. Or does a political figure’s extramarital affair only become an issue when that political figure lies about the affair to the public (*cough* *cough* Bill Clinton) Thoughts?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gate 1, My Car 0

I am driving but I drive in absolute fear of trotro drivers who are biggest bullies on the roads of Accra. I have attempted to gather courage and continue on my path as they pretend to careen into my vehicle in order to cut me off but I back down each time and allow them to jump in front of me. Why? Because I fear they will hit my car. And I know that if they were to hit my car I would be left with the expense, so I drive as if I’m driving Ms. Daisy and just hope I arrive at my destination unscathed.

My morning routine consists of me calling the house help to open the massive iron gate so that I can leave the house and go to work. Well, our house help was not available to open the gate the other day and I told my cousins not to worry because surely I could open the gate and drive the car out of the driveway myself. Ummm, no. I managed to get the gate open and secure each side of the gate, (or so I thought) and then went to drive my car out of the driveway. I thought I had made it past the gate when I heard a bang and then a screeching sound. I looked and realized that the gate had been not properly secured and instead had hit my car. And as I drove the car past the gate the gate scratched my bumper leaving a trail of brown paint. I’ve officially had my first accident in Accra and no it wasn’t with my arch rival, the trotro driver, it was with an iron gate.

I’ve been so busy worrying about trotro drivers that I failed to realize the real danger lies with the gate at my home!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

To give or not to give

There is a little kiosk by my office building that sells assorted sodas and snacks. The kiosk is run by two very friendly women. One woman is especially nice and always compliments my outfits. Some weeks ago she approached me and said, “I’ve started a charity and would like you to donate clothing. Can you bring some clothes to me tomorrow?” I said, “Sure, I will look through what I have.”

I walked away and thought to myself, “Charity! She’s the charity.” I didn’t at all believe that she was starting a charity and needed clothing donations. Instead it seemed that she wanted a clothing donation from me for her own personal use, either to wear or to sell. But then I felt badly. What if she really was having some sort of clothing drive? Or what if she just wanted the clothes for herself? So what? I have a ton of clothes, why would parting with a few items be such a big deal?

I saw her again this morning and she again complimented me on my outfit and then said, “Oh, have you been able to find something to give me?” I told her I haven’t looked but I think I will go home tonight to look for something to “donate.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm driving!

I've started driving!!! It is both liberating and terrifying. I am happy to no longer depend on people for rides, fight with taxi drivers about the fares and deal with the insanity of tro tro but driving in Accra isn't easy. First, though running late is expected and culturally accepted most drivers in Ghana exercise very little patience behind the wheel. It is not surprising to have someone honk their horn at you just seconds after the light has changed from red to green. Secondly, rules of the road? Hmm, not really sure they exist here. Cars make abrupt turns without indicating, cars are operated sometimes without any lights, drivers often speed unnecessarily and to top it off many of the roads here are in bad condition. Therefore, as someone new to driving I take my time and probably piss off many drivers who find themselves in the unfortunate position of driving behind my vehicle.

In addition to all that I have said above you kind of need a mental GPS system to drive in Ghana. I'm sure it comes with time and experience but for now I am suffering. I try to stick only to main roads because I am sure to lose my way when I attempt short cuts. Very few streets have obvious street signs and there isn't a real address system in Ghana. Directions to one's house often go something like this:

"Take Spintex road to the coca cola round about, then go straight until you reach Mr. Bigg's. Upon reaching Mr. Bigg's take a left, drive straight until you see the sign board for ER internet cafe, then make left and drive until you see the kiosk where they repair shoes, then take a left and go over the speed bumps. My house is the white house just after the third speed bump. There is a woman who sells roasted plantain and ground nuts at the end of the road, if you see her, you've gone too far."

So imagine trying to get accustomed to driving and having to deal with directions such as this. It isn't easy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rogue Miners?!?!

On Monday I heard a story about Chinese miners mining illegally in the Western Region. I later read the full details in The Daily Graphic. Essentially some Chinese citizens have descended upon Ghana equipped with various mining tools and are extracting precious minerals. I am both shocked and incensed. Apparently this has been going on for more than a year and nothing has been done to stop it. This mining activity has heavily polluted the River Ankobra which is used for drinking water by people in that area. I am at a loss for words. There is a Mining Act in Ghana (the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703)) and so far as reported everything these miners have done is in violation of that Act and yet nothing has been done to stop them. How can the government stand by and allow this to occur? And as for the miners, I'm astounded by their gall and audacity. Can you imagine setting up shop in a foreign country and just pillaging their resources? Why did they think they could do that and why are we allowing them to get away with it?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don’t mind me, I’m just digging

Every morning my lovely neighbor drops me at Danquah circle. From there I take a tro tro to Nima police station. This ride takes no more than ten minutes and costs me 20 pesewas, which is about 14 cents. Trotros are operated by a trotro driver and a trotro mate. The tro tro mate is responsible for collecting the tro tro fare from the passengers, opening and closing the door of the trotro and yelling out the tro tro stops. Today I boarded the trotro and took the only available seat, the one directly next to the tro tro mate. From that seat I had the pleasure of watching the trotro mate pick his nose from Danquah Circle to Nima police station which is the about two miles. I kid you not. The man picked, he dug, he extracted objects, examined them, flicked them and then dug again. I winced each time he flicked something and prayed it wouldn't land on me. He stopped only to open the trotro door, allow passengers to sit and exit and collect fares. It was as if he was performing nasal surgery on himself. I really hope he finds whatever he was digging for.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secret Lovers?

I never carried handkerchiefs while living in the US. I mean never. I didn't have much use for them. I rarely found myself sweating like Patrick Ewing at the free throw line in the fourth quarter of a Knicks game. Too bad I find that occurring far too frequently in Ghana. As a result a handkerchief is now a staple in my purse, along with a bottle of water, some Odomos (mosquito repellent cream), handwipes and antibacterial gel. Oh how the contents of my speedy have changed.

Despite the fact that I constantly buy handkerchiefs I don’t have a constant supply of handkerchiefs. Why? Because they disappear. I leave the house with one and come back without it. Or I will do the wash and place seven in the wash and but later find only two. I want to know where do my handkerchiefs go!?!? They mysteriously disappear much like my socks did in the US. You know how it is, you do a load of laundry and upon completion realize that some of your socks are no longer in pairs. Well my handkerchiefs are vanishing much like my socks. Are hankies and socks getting it on together in some far off, distant world made of cotton? Are they procreating sockerchiefs? Seriously, what is happening to all of my handkerchiefs?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray, run amuck!

I just realized I never gave the background story on how I became a tro tro rider. Nor have I even described a tro tro. Tro tro is Ghana's public transportation. Basically a tro tro is a vehicle with multiple seats used as public transportation. The cost of a tro tro ride depends on your destination.

I didn't move to Ghana knowing that I was going to be a daily tro tro rider. In fact I purchased a car for my stay in Ghana to avoid that. I bought the car through a person who shall remain nameless. I provided said person with the money for the purchase and shipping of the car in December of 2009 and was told the car would be in Ghana by the end of February, just in time for my return to Ghana.

Well, I returned to Ghana in February of 2010 but my car didn't actually arrive at my home until July 14, 2010. There is so much I can say about all that occurred between February and July but that would lead to the creation of a whole new blog. During the time between February and July I often took tro tro to cut down on taxi fares.

I've titled this post "bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray, run amuck!" because the car I finally received does not match the car I was sent a picture. But you know what?? It is finally here and for that I am grateful. Additionally, this car, though not what I expected, appears to be decent so I will be RIDING! Well once I get over my fear of driving in Ghana. LOL

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Today is Tuesday!!!!!

Tuesday is not normally very exciting. It isn't Friday, the day that signals the end of the work week, the start of the weekend and two days off of work for most; it isn't Wednesday, Hump day as some call it and the day that signals the halfway point of the work week; but Tuesday is a very celebrated day in my life. Why? Because there is a little restaurant near my office that sells some delicious red red and fried plantain and that meal is sold on, you guessed it, Tuesdays! I discovered this red red and plantain sometime in March and it has become my weekly Tuesday lunch. It may also be the cause of my ever increasing waist line. I'm not going to let that little fact, well maybe not so little, more like chubby fact, separate me from my favorite meal. I'm off to enjoy . . . . . . . .

and maybe I will take a long walk tonight.