Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Flee Ghana

Following your dreams is never an easy feat. Now mind you, its not that everyone is not capable of following their hearts desires, its just that not everyone will have the courage- the gusto to stand out from the crowd and do what no one is doing.

So when I moved to Accra, Ghana, three years ago, I was excited to see the large number of pioneers like myself, who believed not only in the future of Ghana, but the future of Africa as well. It was even more exciting to see the number of Diaspora descendants who were making the concious choice to move back and make the sacrifices needed to move Ghana forward. We came mostly from the UK and the US, but there were others from Holland, Denmark, France and other European countries. We came in droves and we were excited about what the future held.

It's why three years later, I am disappointed by the number of people who have left or who are deciding that the terrain is just too tough for them to cut it. Now, its not like I don't understand. Not only is living in Accra, just as expensive as living in any other busy metropolis in the world, but it is also just as dog eat dog. Living in a place where many are left to their own devices can be overwhelming. In fact, it is overwhelming. Especially when you add cultural difference and language barriers on top of it all.

It also doesn't help that gas has gone up four times in one year, inflation in March was 14.1% and the cedi is free falling against foreign currency like a kamikaze. Who wouldn't want to flee for the promise of a secure pay check in dollars and pounds?

Me and a handful of others, who have refused to be moved regardless of the circumstances. Perhaps some of us thought life in Ghana would be easy and low cost. Perhaps we forgot that we can't afford to eat at the best restaurants every night and that having the newest car isn't as important as making sure you have working capital for your business; especially in a place where access to capital is almost non-existent..Maybe the sacrifice and the craziness of Ghana is just too much for some. After all, living in a place where lights and water are irregular will be enough to drive any Westerner insane. But it is said entrepreneurship is about living a few years like most people won't to spend the majority of years living like most people can't. And I for one am still up to the challenge.

So as the exodus prepares to depart Ghana, I wish everyone good luck on their new journey. I hope that everyone makes it back, not only for visits, but to stay. And may we all live our own destiny and dreams according to the visions in our hearts.

Until Next Time. Smooches.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lazy Black Woman

For those who are fans of Maya Angelou, you will remember the book, "I Know Why the Cagebird Sings." If you have never read this book, well, I just need you to get your life together and add this classic to your summer reading list. But for those of us with refined literary taste, let us reminisce on Angelou's time in Ghana, where she discussed feeling as an outsider.

Now people often ask me, how is it living in Ghana as a non-Ghanaian and I tell them I don't see a difference. Why you may ask? Because, I have one competitive edge over Maya Angelou and other "African-Americans" who move to Ghana, my father is African. As a result, I was already well acclimated to certain areas of the culture. In fact, I swear my Sierra Leonean blood is one of the main reasons that I have yet to get malaria. Therefore, I often forget that many people, who do not know me, may assume I am just simply an African-American.

That is until, I get the friendly reminder that some perceive my place of origination as my place of origin. But what is even more interesting is the perspectives that Ghanaians have about African-Americans. And the other day I learned another interesting perspective, "African-American women are lazy."

That is right, "lazy". Now I feel the need to put this in air quotes because I know how the mouths of African-American women across the globe just fell open. It is true, African-American women are known as many things, including: "sassy", "aggressive", "dominating", "know-it-alls". But lazy?!?!?! I don't think you could find one person who knows an African-American woman to agree. But of course, I had to explore this train of thought to see exactly what was meant. After all, Ghanaians do speak the "Queens" English, which can sometimes differ from "Yankee" or American English, so I didn't want to jump to conclusions.

Upon elaboration, it came out that "many" Ghanaian men don't like to marry African-American women because the men think the woman will not work hard and then be quick to divorce to take 1/2 of their money. So to make it short, it appears there may be some Ghanaian men out there who believe African-American women are marrying with the intention of gaining access to your assets. Isn't that an interesting theory...very interesting in fact. I think its time to write a letter to the television stations and ask them to quickly ban, "Real Housewives of Atlanta," " Basketball Wives" and "Celebrity Starter Wives"; it is killing the reputation of black women in Ghana obviously.

And although, I wanted to quickly dismiss this thought I will say this. It may appear that African-American women are quicker to divorce. Ghanaian women do seem to have an uncanny patience with their men that just isn't found in the Western world. However, let us never confuse patience with laziness. African-American women do work hard, even if they don't work hard on their relationships. But I am not sure if I even believe that. What do you think, do African-American women throw in the towel too early on their relationships?

Until Next Time. Smoohes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lap of Luxury

You are sitting and watching television and unexpectedly everything goes dark. For a moment, you wonder did you forget to add more money to your pre-pay  electric meter, but then the familiar sounds of "Oh!" fill the air. This is the universal verbal cue for lights off in Ghana. Because undoubtedly the interruption of power has interrupted whatever business or pleasure you were doing and well you have to verbally display your dismay at the same time as your neighbors; I'm sure its some unwritten cultural rule.

So the sound of silence feels the air, and then the waiting begins. Maybe its just two hours today, or perhaps 6, if the power gods have frowned on you prepare for 12-18 hours of darkness, and well those are the most dreaded times. Lying in a dark room, no air moving, musquitoes chewing your body, as you wonder which will kill you first malaria or heatstroke.

How I remember the times and problems of the common Accra man. Le sigh and then I moved up. You see the Jeffersons moved to the upper East Side, the Evans in the end moved out the projects, and I my friends have moved to Roman Ridge. A part of town where the power is always on and the tap is always flowing. It is the promised land in the city of Accra and I have been lucky enough to make it in.......for a quite a reasonable rate might I add.

When I first came to look at the place and they told me the power never goes out and water always runs, I knew it was a hoax. After all, living here for three years has taught me that nothing always works in Ghana. So yes, I was extremely skeptical, but for the price they were calling I decided to give it a try. Plus, it really really is a cute apartments and finding a decent apartment in Accra is probably like finding a decent apartment in New York...almost impossible. So I grit my teeth paid my year's rent and moved in. And much to my surprise...they were right, everything works.

Over the past two months my water has only not ran for 6 days, which is like 10% of the time. A statistical miracle I'm sure for most countries in Africa. And the lights never go out. And when they do. I simply just sit and within 30 minutes they are back, and 30 minutes is actually considered a long time.

Ahhh, the lap of luxury. And yes, I enjoy every moment of it. Now I will admit sometimes when my friends are forced outside of their homes because of lack of power and they invite me out, I do feel bad declining their invites. But moments like this also give me a better understanding of Marie Antoinette. I simply pick up my remote, flip through the channels, plug in my cell phone and turn up the fan and say, "Let them eat cake." I'm in Roman Ridge B******CHES!

Until Next Time Smooches.