Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lord of the Slums

The hardest thing about living in Ghana is paying rent. You see, in the rest of the world and most of Africa, people pay rent monthly. However, in money hungry corrupt Ghana, renting means that you are probably paying at least $5,000 up front for your rent. Note: You can pay less, but there are certain necessities I must have...such as water.

You see somewhere in its road to a developing country, landlords became used to the practice of tenants paying rent one-two years up front; some are even willing pay four or five years up front. Yes, it is crazy I know, but with a supposed housing shortage in Accra, a landlord is truly king. So now not only do you have to come up with a crap load of money at one time, but you then have to deal with slum lords.

Now those who know me, know I have never had good landlord luck. A large part of this is because I have a tendency to rent from local people versus those who live abroad, and although I am one of the few people who pay rent in cedis and live in a great place, local landlords are often similar to slum lords.

When you are a foreigner and rent from a local landlord they are really under the impression you should use your money to fix up their place <insert blank stare> And, well, we know that just doesn't make sense for the tenant, especially when you know the landlord will undoubtedly raise rent to an astronomical price in order to get more money and a new foreign tenanant thus leaving you and your investment in the cold.

However, being a veteran of the scene I recognize this and always keep my cool. So when it came time to renegotiate my rent I knew I held the trump card because I had done absolutely nothing to the house. In fact, due to a water issue when I first moved in, the house exterior was actually slightly worse than when I arrived.

So when the negotiations began. I insisted that he keep the rent the same so that I could take the other monies and make improvements on the house and support him in his efforts of painting the house. He quickly declined, suggesting that the improvements I wanted to make were for my benefit and not his. So understanding how the system goes and understanding his lack of business sense I just agreed to pay what he asked, after all he only went up GHS 50, which is equivalent to $25, and I felt it wasn't worth the argument. After all, I am perfectly fine leaving the house, as is, for the rest of my term.

That's why when he showed up on my porch discussing his upcoming painting and concrete work in the house, I was surprised that he thought I was just going to give him GHS 1,000 of my money...absolutely for free. Now rewind, and this was the same man who told me he wouldn't keep the rent the same because the improvements I wanted to make where for my benefit. Also, why would I just give you GHS 1,000 of my money when I have to pay you almost GHS 10,000 in three months? Have you lost your cotton-picking mind?

Fortunately, for me, my patience in Ghana has grown so I simply smiled and told him I wouldn't give him GHS 1,000 unless it was applied to my rent. Because after all, painting the house really is for his benefit and not mine.  But in my mind, I admit, I did yell, "Get yo life right."

As luck would have it though, he had to quickly rush away to the house next door where the man had moved out....and apparently stripped the entire house clean. Looks like the neighbor wasn't in support of his efforts either, but hey that is life.

And now, my friends, you see why buying land was a neccessity and not a luxury. *le sigh*

Until The Next Time Smooches.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cuzzy Bros Accra- It's About People...At Least Some People

I would be a fool to say that racism and discrimination didn't exist in Accra because it does. However, it is not the racism we are used to in the United States. Every time that a Ghanaian jumps for a white man and leaves a man of his own color standing to the side- that is unless he can verify the black man's financial status and sees some financial gain in it, it becomes painfully evident that there are color lines in Accra and unfortunately they are enforced by the people who need to break them the most.

So, although, it is not right. I have become used to being overlooked by negligent staff at various restaurants. In fact, its quite funny the contrast in the reaction I get when with my local Ghanaian friends and my white diplomatic friends. However, I know that I cannot hold management of these establishments responsible because well they can't help if their staff is culturally inclined to favor white people over blacks.  Plus most of the business owners really are genuinely nice people.

However, though some of owners are inevitably jerks as well, which brings us to Cuzzy Bros Accra. This cute little place opened up about six months ago. I was there at their launch and typically go between 2-4 times a month. Now, I have invited several of my friends there and they have declined...their reason, one of the managers, a South African, was prejudiced. I asked them how they knew that and they said they knew him from Rhapsody's and they weren't interested in going.

I found this hard to believe because I knew the other boss from New Zealand and, well, he is awesome so I continued to go. That was until yesterday's incident.

So picture this, Accra, Ghana 2013. The sun is beating down on the cement pavement and there is a slight buzz in the restaurant from its patrons. As we select our table in the shade a waitress asks us what we want to drink. We order a large water and peruse the menu. She returns, I order. My friend, who is a local Ghanaian, starts to order and the girl walks off while she is in mid-sentence. Doesn't say anything just walks off. Now there is a boy standing there so I ask him why did the girl go. He says nothing and shrugs his shoulders. The girl returns and I then ask her why would she walk off and we weren't done with the order. Of course, she just gives a blank stare and says she thought we were finished ordering.

Now perhaps I wouldn't have been so sensitive, but there have been two distinct times where I have gone to Cuzzy Bros Accra with my white colleagues and been neglected. One time a server even took my friend's drink order, changed it out twice and then took her order....all without asking me what I wanted.  It was only after we called it to the server's attention that she said they were sorry. So for this to be happening a third time, it really was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The manager notices me talking to the girl asking her why she would walk off in the middle of the order. I then proceed to tell him how I feel his staff seems to have an issue waiting on black people. His response, "If you don't like the way we do business you should leave."

So I just laughed, grabbed my purse and left. But it got me thinking. How is it does Cuzzy Bros Accra do business? After all, I can't imagine a customer being chastised because a Cuzzy Bros' server walked off before they were finished ordering. Typically in most of these cases, the owners rush over and apologize. Furthermore, I think this would have been the perfect opportunity to tell me that it isn't true about Cuzzy Bros Accra and that it is not the case. Instead of "If you don't like the way you do business, I should leave."

Now, I don't know if this South African guy is a racist, I can't really say. But I do know he isn't a good business man, but then again, he has made it clear, I am not his target market. I am sure if I was, he would have tried to save the experience for me in some way or form.

It's just sad for him I have a big mouth and a blog. I would wish them ill, but I have a feeling this guy will sabotage himself.

Until next time. Smooches.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dissing the Douche

Woman dating logic. Yep.... we all know this.. How women react when their boyfriend is criticized. Hey, so T heard about your new boyfriend." Ya, why are you dating such a jerk." Well of course he' s nice to YOUL He just want' s to get in your pants and is a total jerk to everyone else!" You don' t even know him that well, you have only been dating for a few days." Ya! He' s so amazing! we' re so much inNow, it is well known I really don't discuss my private life in Ghana; however after a string of jerks, I find it necessary to replay the drama. Because, hell, I can't believe this sh*t happens either, so perhaps writing it down will make it real. Now I am not going to pull out the full timeline of jerks...just a few highlights. The ones that days, weeks, months and hell even years later I can't quite figured out how I got suckered in.

First, there was the Togolese dude. Oh what a sweet guy he was at first. Always catering to me and taking me out to lunches (please note, lunches and never dinner). We would sit in my room watching movies and talking for hours, building a good solid relationship without the physical attachment. I knew I had hit the jackpot, until I realized I was suddenly short of money (longer story, wait for the memoirs) and my jackpot was in fact a long running debt. I was even more amazed to figure out this man was probably married. Hence, his availability at limited times and his inability to stay the night. I remember once he fell asleep and woke up in a cold sweat at 3am rushing to get home.

Then there was the young prince charming, who pursued me for four months, begging to get a chance to date me. Always taking me on dates and giving me the line about hanging the stars and the moon for me. And though I repeatedly told him we had two different objectives in life, he adamantly denied this. Asserting that he was not a child and he knew what he was doing and what he wanted. So finally one day, due to the alcohol, most likely, I decided to give him a chance. We lasted 60 days before it went up in flames. Why you may ask, he decided that I was more serious with my life. Duh, Einstein I told you that five months ago.

After him, came the farmer... who didn't even last long enough to get his own paragraph.

And now we are getting into the good ones. The young real estate mogul, who conveniently told me after the commencement of our relationship that he had a girlfriend in New York, the man who went from divorced to separated and then finally admitted his wife was just really out of town and now for the cherry on the cake..

The eligible bachelor in his mid 40's. After dating for two months, decides its time to have the talk about our relationship. Totally, yay right?!?! Then the conversation started. The talk consisted of him telling me that he has had a girlfriend for the past two years, but he met me and liked me so decided to give it a try. Then when I acted shocked his response was why would I be so naive to think that he was single. After all, he is extremely eligible. He further commences to tell me I should understand him and we can still date...if I can understand him. You guessed it, this is the moment that crickets start to chirp loudly and the blank stare comes across my face.

This moment  also made me realize two things. 1) Never trust a man and 2) I can no longer drink on dates, its obviously clouding my judgement process. In the meanwhile, keep me lifted up in prayer because its becoming obvious that when it comes to dating I have the decision making skills of a 10 year old girl.

Until Next Time. Smooches.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Africa's Middle Class, Blind to Their Own Rising

Last week, I had the privilege of taking place in one of BBC's Africa Rising Debate. The debate, which took place in Accra, examined could the middle class drive economic growth in Africa. Now, believe it or not this is a sensitive topic in Africa. Why? Because many people who are in the middle class classification really don't feel middle class. In fact, many question if there really is a middle class in Africa. Some will even swear up and down the statistics have been skewed to create a phenomena that doesn't exist.

Now, I would ridicule these folks and call them conspiracy theorists, but when I was sitting in that audience last week, I agreed. After all, when I was middle class in the U.S., I was afforded the privilege to drive a nice car, with all of the latest accessories, I vacationed and ate out until my heart was content, and well shopping was a great way to fill my spare time. However, since moving to Accra, I will admit my middle class life is a lot less glamorous.  For instance, in order to keep transportation costs down, I have to take the tro-tro (a private bus, which resembles a death trap). I have also had to forfeit the abundance of fine meals at the best restaurants for more traditional dishes at side carts, and shopping is not even an option. Not to mention, the burden of always watching my money. Because in Africa, you either have it or you don't.

However, when I really sat down and analyzed the situation, I realized that many of us in the middle class are just ungrateful. Yes, it is true, that if you have ever lived outside of Africa, your middle class life probably was more glamorous, but we were also living on credit dreams. Which means, that it only seemed we had more money, when in fact, we were just slaves to a developed economy.

Now, we will all admit there is an issue with reasonably price goods and services in the market, but when you really think about it, isn't that why we all moved here? To create industries, services and goods that were comparable to the developed markets. In fact, many of our perceived challenges are really just opportunities, waiting to be pounced on.

So yes, I think the middle class can help drive economic growth. But only if we can stop sipping on our overpriced beers long enough to realize that our money and time is better spent investing into the economy instead of what is in our bellies or on our backs. We, the new middle class, must realize that yes, we don't have access to all the things our counterparts in the developed world do, but we do have access to one thing they don't; a plethora of market opportunities.

Until Next Time. Smooches.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gossip Guy

Sometimes living in Accra, Ghana, often seems like reliving high school. There are the pretentious kids, who are living off of their parents legacy, the popular ones who seem to be everywhere all the time, the rejects who just keep themselves to avoid all the drama and then, of course, everyone's favorite, the gossips, also known as the mean know the ones who are secretly insecure and are consistently trying to gauge why they are better than someone else.

The sad thing about this phenomena, is that, in Accra, many of the men seem to fall into gossip group. For those who have known me for years, you know that 80% of my friends have always been males. Mainly because we can fight and be cool the next day and, well, they do make great protectors if my big mouth gets me in trouble.Most importantly though, we don't gossip. We discuss our ambitions, how we can work together, bust a quick freestyle, but we never discuss other people's business. Why, because we don't care about what the next person is doing, unless it has a direct effect on us.

But here in Accra, I, and many other women, have noticed that many of these dudes seem to be bitch made. Since relocating to Accra, I have noticed that a large group of men sit around in circles collecting information, either from women or each other, only so they can try to relay to someone else what they think they know is going on.

I crack up at the slick mouthed dude, who tries to evoke some emotion from me based on some information pilfered from a third party source, especially when I know they don't know what they hell they are talking about. These moments also make me grateful how much I have grown over the past decade plus, because those who know me from the Jackson State years, know that I really don't take kind to undercover comments, and yes, I have been known to embarrass people on a wide scale level. Why you may ask? Because I am never embarrassed about anything I do, nor do I ever feel the need to justify it. I admit, I don't like everyone and I am ok with that. It is a well known fact that I date, but also know that I have a variety of guy friends, which I am not dating. Despite your jaded perception men and women can be just friends. I have been successful at it for more than two decades. And yes, I am in all of the right circles, because I am a master networker; I owe that attribute to Capitol Hill.

All I can do is hope that one day these feminine dudes in Accra  grow out of this bitchassedness and eventually enter into manhood. Where men mind their own business and not the affairs of others. Because after all, we aren't making each other money. So I leave you with this to think about:

Great minds discuss ideas, Average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people. Good luck.

Until Next Time. Smooches.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

White Man Fever

In Ghana there is an epidemic. It is startling, unnerving and really, when you look at it, completely disgusting. What is this phenomena you may ask? White Man Fever, aka, young Ghanaian women dating white diplomats and businessmen. Now, let's clarify. I am not against interracial dating. My little sister is married to a white guy and I have dated several white men in my past. I also support the well rounded, educated Ghanaian women who are involved in interracial relationships. But the difference between all of us and the girl who hasn't finished junior high school or senior high school, is that we are all evenly yoked with our mates.

It is very unfortunate that not all Ghanaian women have this same advantage. As I may have pointed out in the past, education is not free in Ghana. So although school technically is free, families must still be able to provide uniforms, books, transportation and food for their school aged children....which can quickly add up. So often times what happens is not everyone in the household goes to school. It is also sad, that the college system here is highly competitive. With only a few universities in the country, only the best students get placements at universities like University of Ghana Legon and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Furthermore, like most things in Africa, college expenses are paid out of pocket; so this means, you either have the money to go to college or you don't.

As a result, it seems many young girls, due to familial circumstances are unable to attend school. So what do they do? They aim high. They date high profile married men, diplomatic staff members and other members of the expatriate community. Now, its not upsetting that they are trying to marry up, because let's face it women love security. However, I do think its unfortunate that many of these women can't intellectually spar with these men, making them vulnerable to emotional and mental abuse. The part that really pisses me off,  most of these women don't even realize it.

I have heard a successful white businessman, call the young African girl he was with stupid, while she affectionately looked on because she didn't get the analogy between wood and her head. I have seen white men, with little experience in the country, make blanket statements about Ghanaians while their dates politely chew their meals not daring to challenge her potential love. Because after all, she needs least financially.

But at what point does it become too much? And at what cost does it come? When I was in America, any American would have jumped on anyone who said anything negative about America or its people, and as an African-American, I bet not let a white boy talk to me crazy just because I am interested in tasting some white chocolate.

But here it is acceptable, and its scary that marrying up is more important than marrying a man who respects and understands you. It also makes me grateful that I am not only educated enough to know when someone is insulting me, but also know that I don't have to take it. America, may not be the best country in the world, but at least it has taught me that I deserve the best and I don't need a man to get it.

Until Next Time Smooches.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Google Me Baby...

Google, over the past decade it has become the essential dating tool for most people. With the ease of a few keystrokes, google can tell you all of of the wonderful awards and charity work your potential mate has done, show you their previous work history and addresses and helps you discover that perhaps your seemingly perfect mate has a long wrap sheet and unpaid child support...... but at least he still photographs well in times of duress. Whatever the case maybe, google is there for you.

It is unfortunate though, that google doesn't seem to provide the same dating assistance when living abroad, especially in Africa. You see, Westerners seem to be the only people to name their children with no rhyme or reason. This means that in many Eastern societies you find the same name over and over again. I guess its great for the simplicity of remembering names, but horrible for the desperate woman stalking a potential mate via google.

I mean, really how many people can be named Kofi, Kwame and Justice? And do they really all have to have the same last name?

I just thank God, that I am African-American woman, which gives me the super sleuth gene. You know the one that makes you hunt down second and third cousins, as well as an old elementary school friend of your current lover. After all, I need to be able to make generalizations about you before the first date; I am 32 and ain't nobody got time to find out six months down the line you are crazy.

So wish me luck, Lord knows that I need it.

Until next time smooches.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buying Borders

Recently, I had the once and the lifetime experience of crossing four African borders in one day....with no passport or id. Yes, in hindsight, it wasn't the brightest thing I have ever done. After all, although I do plan on having a racy memoir, getting arrested and detained at an African border indefinitely is not something I want to include as a highlight of my life. Especially, since I have already been arrested, twice. And if you ask me that is enough for one lifetime.

Alas, somehow I made it down the sunny, highway lined with beaches, coconut and palm trees into the commercial center of Nigeria, Lagos. Why, you may ask? Because in Africa everything is for sale, including borders. In all honesty,  I was actually amazed at how easy it was to cross over the borders and come back.. without looking like a resident of any country and speaking just enough pidgen English to answer basic questions.

In fact, my country of origin confused many of the immigration officers. "Where are you from Nigeria or Cameroon?", the immigration officer in Benin asked. My answer, " I dey fo Ghana-o." At the Nigerian border, they thought I was Liberian and at the Togo border, well, they were just confused and couldn't quite understand where I was coming from or why. However, since I was going to Ghana and not staying in Togo they let me pass, with one simple question." Do you have a Ghanaian passport?", "Yes," I immediately lied. "Let her go," the man responded. And I crossed the border, as the immigration officer chided me never to travel without my id again. You have to love the patience of the African immigration officer.

The hardest border to cross over was actually Ghana. As we attempted to cross the border from Ghana into Togo at the unauthorized point I was immediately called out. "You, come." the officer said pointing to me and my friend. So I slowly walked over wondering how I could mask my American accent. "Where are you from?" "Ghana" I responded. "No, you aren't," he said. Now, of course, I have to be passionate about my heritage, so I instantly replied in my best Ghanaian accent, "Me, I am Ghanaian. I have just grown up outside."

Now we probably could have easily crossed thereafter, but unfortunately my friend, who speaks several local languages told the gentleman she didn't speak any English. The trouble with the lie...he asked her the question in English, not a local language. So after having our luggage searched and told we wouldn't cross the border a gentleman entered. As he lectured us for five minutes he carefully studied my face. Then he says we should go, when we walked outside I noticed he was preparing to walk with us.

As he led us into the immigration officers' compound, I instantly become paralyzed with fear. After all, where were we going? Realizing an arrest may be near, I start telling the officer he should just lead us to the buses and we will go back to Accra. No, he insists, we will cross. So as I think about who I will call to verify my identity. I suddenly realize he is walking us across the borders...Ghana and Togo. Of course nothing is for free, so I collected his phone number and we have since been on two dates....yes, he still thinks I am Ghanaian. I am waiting to see how it all works out before I break the news to him he has been deceived. Yes, it is ratchet, but I am ok with that.

On the way back into Ghana, I was again stopped at the illegal border thanks to an unscrupulous taxi driver and a rude guide. The trouble this time was not because I was an  American, it was because the illegal border guide didn't speak to the immigration officer. After all, if you have ever visited or lived in Africa, you know the greeting is very important. So after begging his forgiveness, the guide effectively led us back into Ghana and I was safe.

Now would I do it again, definitely not. But was it an interesting experience...most definitely. In fact, I would say it was a rockstar experience.I mean, lets be honest, how many Americans can say they rode a motorcycle to cross over the Nigerian border? Me, that is who.

Until Next Time Smooches.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

David Baldwin Barnes- The Legacy

Well, folks, as we all know I was giving up this blog to do But over the past few months, I have realized that certain things just aren't appropriate for the other blog. In fact, I feel like it censors me, like I have to make everything relevant to the topic. So in order to appease all 26 of my fans I am coming back to goneiighana, so that I can continue to share personal experiences with people. But dont fret I will also be doing as well...yes, I am greedy, but the fact of the matter is I just really have a lot to say, especially now.

I find myself fortunate in life because in my 32 years on this earth, I have never had a close friend or relative die. I mean, yes, my grandmother did die in 2011, but she had lung cancer and was 76. So although it was a shocker, it wasn't really a shocker.

But last week, death came knocking on my front door delivering the news that David Baldwin Barnes, was dead. Now, some of you reading this blog know David, but for the others that don't let me give you some background.

I met David almost five years ago in Washington, DC. My first thought was, "Damn, who is this foooinnne, skinny brother?!?!" It was unfortunate for me at that time he had a girlfriend. But that never stopped me from admiring him or becoming his friend. Fast forward two years later, David and I both lose our congressional jobs. Me, I decide to move to Ghana. David he decides to hang in least for a little while. But eventually, he decides Ghana should be his new home. Now, I can't take all the credit for this decision considering his best friend, Chris, was already on ground in Ghana doing farming, but I know I definitely helped influence him. We spent hours talking on skype and I even convinced this boy to cut his locks. Which, if you knew David, was a feat in itself.  So he arrived in Ghana, January 21st, 2012, bringing me my fat girl snacks- Butterfingers and Starbursts.

He and his friend Chris lived in the boonies, aka the cut, aka the village (well sort of), so we never really saw much of each other. Occasionally we would randomly bump into each other in town or exchange phone calls if either one of us was in need of information or we had some other random request. But somehow as fate would have it, we spent New Years Eve together.

You see, Accra is the size of a matchbox so there is less than one degree of separation; especially if you have lived abroad. So, although it was surprising, I was not shocked that David was dating a friend of friend.So we spent the weekend together and we laughed. Ok, I am lying really it was my friend and I that had great laughs at the expense of Kuukua, his girlfriend, and David. It was unfortunate that Kuukua and David decided to arrive in Busua late. Therefore, when they arrived the only room at the guest house left didn't have a private bathroom. Considering the bathroom was like a camping latrine from a horror film, its no surprise they wanted to use our private bathroom. What did surprise them, is that we charged them. That's right, we made them buy us each a beer. The look on David's face... priceless. It took him half the trip to get over it, but by New Years Eve we were all chummy again, sitting around the bonfire and then later watching fireworks and dancing on the beach, ringing the New Year in.

So when I got the news last week that  David died in a motorcycle accident last week in Accra, Ghana, I instantly broke down in the ugly cry. At first so many emotions ran through me, especially that of guilt. How could I play a pawn in destiny's cruel fate to take David's life? After all, David would have never thought about relocating outside of the country if Chris and I weren't already abroad. But now, one week in I know it was his destiny.

You see David did everything bigger and better than everyone else. He dressed better than his other colleagues, his infectious personality made his 6'4'' frame look bigger than life and his wide smile could be compared to no other. Therefore, I am not surprised that David decided to go out in a way he would be forever remembered. After all, die in your sleep in old age...Nah, that was way too boring for David.

It doesn't make losing him any easier, but knowing David, he is loving all of the attention-even from afar. As his friends and family celebrate David's life this week may we all learn the importance of doing things your way, in your own time and to your own standard of perfection. That is the way David lived each day of his life and I hope to live my life the same. After all, living a life where you follow your dreams and overcome fears and obstacles, is what David would have wanted for all of us. So today I will chase my dreams harder, laugh a little louder and love even harder all in the memory of the great David Baldwin Barnes.

We love you and miss you.