Thursday, October 09, 2008

Living in Ghana - What's Good, What's Not?

I've had some ideas percolating for a while. They're not necessarily related. At least I didn't think they were which is why I haven't written about them till now, but today It occured to me that they're all about life in Ghana, the highs and the ills. So i decided to write a piece in typical cosmo fashion entitled 5 ways to titillate your man till his toes curl. Just kidding. This piece is less exciting than that. What I actually want to share today are 5 things I love about living in Ghana and 5 things that I hate about living here.

Let's deal with the bad first

1. Mosquitos
For two days in the past week, I think my dad forgot to spray my room with insecticide spray so I was under mosquito attack. With every bite, I dreaded that I would soon be coming down with malaria. In some ways, I miss malaria. No kidding. I haven't had it in so long that I think it wouldn't be so bad to get it so I can remember what it feels like. That's easy for me to say of course because I am not allergic to chloroquine so all I did whenever I got malaria in the past was to take my chloroquine course and presto! i'd be well again within 3 days. No big deal. So its not really the getting malaria part that I hate about mosquitos. It's the bites, how it itches, and the annoying buzzing, the droning, the wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sounds the winged creatures make in my ears that I can't stand! Why did God make mosquitoes?

2. No Shopping
I've never really cared much for clothing shopping. I mostly shopped online when I was in the US, and thankfully, all clothes my size fit well. I don't have the trouble that many Ghanaian women do when they buy jeans and the hips fit but the waist is too loose. Hint, lose some of that behind. haha. But even if i'm not going to buy anything, it is nice to get up and go to the mall, try on some Lord and Taylor clothing, schlepp your boyfriend to victoria's secret, ogle lingerie and amuse yourself. I've always felt an odd sense of schadenfreude in such situations where I know i'm forcing the boy to come and he hates it, but i'm completely loving that even though he's uncomfortable i'm making him do it. haahaa. If you're a guy reading this, please tell us, do guys actually hate going to VS and shopping lingerie or do they just make like they don't like it? I think that if I were a guy, I'd love opportunities to go finger women's underwear, try on feminine scents like the amazing VS very sexy and angels perfumes and watch my girlfriend try on bras. What's not to love about that? But there's none of this in Ghana. I know someone is going to mention the paltry options we have at the A&C and Accra Malls but really, does that inspire anyone to dedicate a whole saturday to shopping?Also I miss Barnes and Noble. I miss bookstores that have a homey feel. It's not that shopping should be for imported stuff only, but the clothing made by Ghanaian designers are not for the average person's pocket. Nallem, one of the Ghanaian designers is selling clothes for GH 80 cedis, and his clothes aren't so many steps ahead in quality that the tailor in a kiosk somewhere in Ashale-Botwe can't make them, so one cannot exactly go clothing shopping for locally made Ghanaian clothes either.

3. Handwashing
I approached ghanaian-style laundry with enthusiasm, tried to be positive about it and see it as exercise. That attitude lasted two weeks, if that. The first time I washed, I had an allergic reaction to either the Omo or Brillant soap I used and the underside of my wrist became raw, itchy and sore by the time I was done with the laundry. What's really terrible is that in Ghana, it is hot, and I sweat (I'm not one of those women who perspire or glow or whatever, I sweat), and so I have to launder my clothes after I've worn them only once, and then if I pile up the laundry, it smells which means that the longest I can go without doing laundry is two weeks. It's not fun.

4. Nosy People
Ghanaians think they have a right to question a grown woman like me about why I don't go to church or why my hair is the way it is, or why I'm not married. All this prying and kvetching is making me rebellious. They seem to miss completely that I'm a 26 year old woman who owes them no explanations about why I don't go to church. It is especially irritating when you consider that they had no idea where I was or what happened to me in the past six years and never bothered to find out, and now they not only form an opinion about my hair but actually express it too. Hmph!

5. Potholes and Speed Ramps
Everywhere you go, speed ramps and potholes abound. I'm exaggerating but if you live at Ashale-Botwe, or Aben wO ha, or Madina, it sure feels that way. It's irksome to have to slow down so often to dodge potholes, negotiate them slowly or go over speed ramps. The frequent changing of gears kills me.

5 things I love about living in Ghana

1. People call me Woarabae
People in Ghana can pronounce my middle name, and they use it all the time. It is such a refreshing change from being just my first name and last name, neither of which is original or inspiring. But Woarabae, now that's at the very least interesting. And now that the original Woarabae has gone to the village ( i think they put stuff, and money in her coffin to help her cross the river that many Akans believe a person's soul crosses in order to get from our world to the next), I feel bound to keep the name alive.

2. Custom-Made Clothing
My aunt bought me 3 pieces of beautiful Ghanaian cloth (4 yards a piece), and then asked her seamstress to come to my house and take my measurements. I asked her to make me clothes that I'd seen in some Boston Proper catalogues that I brought along with me to Ghana from the US. I have no doubt that they clothes are going to turn out great and i'm going to end up with about 5 pieces of clothing all of it costing me no more than GH 60 cedis. That's pretty sweet.

3. Knowing People
Since I've been home, I don't think I've attended a single function without bumping into some old friend. It was such a great feeling to enter the "social center" (this is really a canteen) at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital today and know 90% of the medical students who came in while I was there eating or to go to the pharmacy to look for a friend, and the person I meet there is someone else I went to high school with, or to walk into Ecobank and see familiar faces all around. I received 3 calls this week from people I haven't spoken to in 8 years, and all because they happened to hear from someone that I was in Ghana, took my number and called me just to say hello, and be buddies again. And it doesn't even feel wierd. I don't think for a second that they're stalking me or worry that someone gave another person my number without first checking with me. I know these people, so even though I haven't seen them in so long, I'm excited to hear from them, and it feels good that they make the time to check on little old me.

4. Living well on GH 200 cedis
In the month of September, I had more fun than I have had in a long long time. I went out more times than I ever did in the US, and my total monthly expense- that is, the money that came from my own pocket -was a grand total of 200 cedis, which is equivalent to $200. The delights of living in Ghana! This does not include rent, or bills (Actually water and electricity cost very little), but still...

5. Random Acts of Kindness
During my first week at work, I mentioned in passing that I was hungry and a young engineer whom I hardly knew at the time brought me chinese food which he had in his car. I was floored! Why? Because I wouldn't have given my chinese food to a stranger who didn't even know I had food. I was so impressed and thankful and, I shared the food with one of our drivers who also shared his portion with two other people and the whole cycle of sharing that I witnessed was quite moving. Soon after, another old friend gave me two free tickets to a club, then yet another gave me tickets to a concert, and it seems as if it has been an unending cycle of giving. I mentioned earlier that my aunt bought me the pieces of cloth, and even a stranger paid my tro-tro fare for me one time from Madina to Ashale-Botwe. The fare cost 30 pesewas but I was so touched by it and thanked him effusively. I need to relearn how to give like that.


  1. Nosy people and mosquitoes, same problems I have in my life in America.

    Enjoyed the read.

  2. I agree with your list--most of those things are what i hate/love too esp the handwashing...i am not looking forward to that at all when i get back home. the losing of the behind though...that is easier said than that since I seem to have been made exactly that way so no matter how much i lose my bum is still huge while my waist is tiny so the jeans still dont fit my waist too well.I have tried every exercise, given to me by my PT,which is supposed to tone the behind but my bootylicious genes just won't let me.hmmm you are so lucky and I am soooooo jealous

  3. Nice ... why don't u get someone to come do your laundry. It doubt that it costs enough to dent your budget, plus it creates employment.

  4. I agree with Esinam about the jeans - it really depends on one's bone/ body structure, and even losing weight and fitting into smaller pants does not necessarily change the hip to waist ratio. And I also agree with Kobby about the handwashing... get someone else to do it! Most people will be grateful for the 10 or 20 ghc that you can offer, and it'll free up a lot of your time. They can even iron too...

    I'm especially guilty of point no. 5, i.e. not knowing how to give anymore. I'm at least trying to do that with the guys I date, but even that... hmm. When did this stingy, calculating, new me emerge, constantly looking for repayment for the smallest things? I blame the US...

  5. 1. For some reason the fact that you want to get a disease that's the leading killer of children under 5 in Africa is mildly disturbing.
    2. No straight man would ever want to "finger women's underwear [and] try on feminine scents". I think you were going for "ripping off women's underwear and taking in feminine scents while you kiss a woman's neck".
    3. Agree with previous comments. Get someone to wash 'em or buy a washing machine.
    4. If you figure out a way to deal with this let me know.
    5. Necessary evil considering the condition of most cars in Ghana and the erratic driving habits of Ghanaians. You could always switch to a car with automatic transmission...
    1. No comment
    2. Thief
    3. It gets old after a while
    4. You can live well on $200 anywhere. Just have to know how to do it
    5. Kindness is overrated

    Your blog is awesome!

  6. Greetings,

    This was a good post!

    I was wondering:

    What is a fair price to pay in Accra for a driver?

    What is a fair price to pay in Accra for someone to do laundry (two to three loads per week)?

    Is there a set price among the local people for paying for custom-made clothing, such as 10 cedis for skirts and 15 cedis for dresses? Does the price vary according to the seamstress?

    I want to be sure I am not receiving the obruni prices! *LOL*

  7. The evangelist:
    I think 100-200 bucks/mo is fair for a driver depending on qualification/experience

    For laundry, pay anything between 10-20 bucks depending on load.

    For custom-made clothing, the seamstresses charge 10-20 bucks for a dress, lower for just a top or skirt, whilst the designers charge 30 bucks and up.

    To everyone else, thanks for all the feedback and positive comments. Visit this space often, spread the word, and send me suggestions/ideas/topics you'd like me to write about.

  8. Esi,
    Next time you go buy lingerie, please give me a call. I really don't understand guys who don't go to such places. I now know more about cup sizes and such. ;) However, if its a general shopping trip count me out. Plus you'll have to pay for my taxi/ tro-tro fare when I come over. Plus don't forget to ask me if I'll like to grab a snack.

    You've also forgotten that
    1. You don't get speeding tickets in Ghana. YOu can bribe your way through every traffic offence in Ghana.
    2. You can stay with mom and dad as long as you like. You don't have to move.
    3. The weather is wonderful!!!!

    1. You have to pay five years rent advance before you can get a place to sleep, that is if you decide to rent a house.
    2. You have to learn how jump over open gutters with your eyes closed without hurting yourself.
    3. Taxis do use pedestrians as target practice, especially at zebra crossings. And you have to learn how to drive like one of them otherwise, you'll never get anywhere.

    PS: I just gave your number to Sidney so expect a call from Kumasi, where he now works.

    @Evangelist- I wouldn't pay more than 150 a month if thats your full time driver, but judging from economic conditions, you can add the extra 50. That driver would be smiling.

  9. Mosquitoes buzzing in my ears and nosy people are certainly one of my biggest pet peeves about living in Ghana. Concerning the mosquitoes, I usually expose a limb as a sacrificial offering to the mosquito and that sometimes works. :)

    As a dreadlocked woman, I got used to hearing "hey, rasta girl!" yelled at me several times a week, but what I couldn't stand was people who went out of their way to call me aside wanting to know why I had locks and preaching to me about how that displeased God ...

    But despite the trials and tribulations of life in the motherland, I miss Ghana terribly and can't wait to come back.

  10. i was in Ghana for 3 weeks after a 4 year thing i hadn't missed was the dust!! And if there is no AC in your car...forget it...the sweltering heat when i had to go the market with my mum. oh and not to mention the traffic..but the worst thing was...there was nothing to do after i had visited all the lounges etc. and then when there are 'lights off' all my neighbours' noisy genrators burst into life! The mosquitoes seem to have a stronger more determined bite..they seem to hold on much longer hahaha.
    i loved the home cooked meals, the fresh chicken light soup, the fresh fish which had never seen the inside of a freezer, and all the malta guiness i could drink. (sold for a $1.50 here in Jersey..what a rip off) Yam (puna) was cheap and easy to get. oh i sound like i fit the fanti stereotype - all my fod memories had to do with food--shame on me!!!

  11. I totally agree with most of these comments! I'm in Oz and of course there are flies and mosquitoes here too, consolation I hear is that the mosquitoes don't give malaria, but of course being Ghanaian I have to ensure I kill any mosquito withing arm's reach, even if it means dropping everything to do that. It gives me much satisfaction to know I killed it. The general acts of kindess, hmm I think it depends on where you live in the world, I move from the UK to Oz and I was so shocked at how kind everyone is here, it feels like I am in Ghana again. I can't begin to count how many free lunches and dinners I've had in less than 2months! It's awesome. You forgot the lifts in Ghana where you don't have to worry about being kidnapped, well at least it was like that when I lived in Obuasi, you get that here too in Oz. Perhaps if you live in a city anywhere in the world the ppl are the same and if you live in a small town like I do here and did in Ghana, live is one big generous cycle.

  12. why do Ghanaians think that anyone who lives abroad and has not returned home is wasting life.
    i detest briebery and corruption!!!!

  13. I am really enjoying this blog about Ghana. I plan to move there myself from the US. I am glad to hear about it since I have never visited and was not born there.

  14. The good things about Ghana surely make is an important destination to travel by cheap flights to Accra and the not good things will surely be of no concern to a travel as he will concentrate on the better ones indeed.

  15. I find this blog quite funny! Esi sounds very interesting and well spoken but what I'm tripping on is how being bootilicious has become wrong. having a hips and ass means you're ugly? smh.

    I've noticed that trim or plastic girls are always 'trying' to be beautiful than all other forms of females! Skinny girls are always on some ish like "we're sexiest. we're more attractive. we're divas *whatever that means* we're the ideal!?" lol.

    Anyways, I'm glad somebody knows that having that protrution back there is genetic and a person has no control over it (even when stereotyping can make you wanna lose all those FEMININE stuff *cos I've Never in my entire life come across a man with such contours, as in hips and ass*)....
    Nikki Minaj had booty implant surgery? ain't it obvious that those curves are exclusive to women? that is any woman, (not only Ghanaians)
    Google Diana Escotto aka Miss Dr,; Mariela Bella aka Dominican thickness and see whether they are Ghanaians. I know Latinos, Ricans and Asians who have those feminine proportion!

    and for the record... Mariela Bella, a very beautifully contoured *with ass! lol* model/ who was doing extremely excellent working on her own would have to trim to about 35lbs less than her weight, 165lbs, cos she is going to be signed to some British modeling agency! in that interview I heard her say "the whites don't like these curves!" and I was like "WHAT!?!"

    they despise women with curves ([some American bootilicious models have *Real Women Have Curves* as their slogan but since I don't wanna hurt somebody's feelings I wouldn't say that!]) but claim it's cool to be gay? wtf!
    Beauty has a unique meaning everywhere so how come these white folks want to tell us how we should perceive it?

    is R Kelly Ghanaian? but I recall him sound like
    "Girl your booty so swole
    How you get them jeans around it
    Girl your booty so swole
    Why you think I'm singing about it
    Hit it hard from the back
    And then I go to sleep and dream
    about it
    It's like that ass is crack
    The way you got me feenin about it" in the song rock star?

    I recall T.I say " her booty big enough to swallow up a g string"
    is he Ghanaian?

    wait a minute..."we need more ass on them models" Kanye? is he Ghanaian?

    what type of girls did Chingy use in the video of his hit song "right thur"?
    what of 50cent's "disco inferno"?
    Nelly's "tip drill"?

    hold up. lolz. is Cherokee Dass Ghanaian? Pinky? Ms Cleo? Beauty Dior? Ayana Angel? Mz Booty? Hershey Rae? Marshae triple X aka Armanda Fitts? these are major names from US in the adult entertainment industry (and I don't mean to condone their job) THEY ARE NOT GHANAIAN! but they done gained a fortune though they have huge asses!

    This is becoming too much! you have a flat backside and you want it, cool, but don't hate those who have it!

    @the lady who thinks GOD (nature) was to make her look more feminine than most...... I just discovered another breed of humans!
    I love me some booty! come and arrest me! lol

  16. Ghana is a beautiful place and people here are very caring and very loving. Living in Ghana would be a great experience, so i am planning a trip to this place in near future.

  17. Anonymous bibiaaaaa, Omu s3 o p3 big booty saaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Eruade - pervs everywhere.