Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Know An Amazing Ghanaian Woman? Tell us and we'll give her a gift!

Dear Friends,
Christmas is a time of giving. It's also a time of celebration. A celebration of all that is good.
So let's get moving.
I have 6 yards (half piece) of beautiful Vlisco cloth sitting in my closet. It's worth a little over GHC 100.
I'd like us (people who read and love this blog) to give it to a woman who deserves it.
We'll tell her it's a gift from us all at Wo Se Ekyir.
We'll tell her we chose her because she inspires us.
We'll tell her we appreciate her.
We'll tell her we want to be like her.
But we have to decide which lucky Ghanaian woman gets this gift.
Ideally it would be someone I don't even know. Someone we all decide is awesome.
Help me find this woman!
We have 11 days to Christmas.
We have to find her in this time.
So you tell me.
Who should get this gift?
Nominate someone.
It could be any woman...
18 years and above.
It could be your mother. Your grandma, Your sister, your pastor or any woman in your community. Your wife.
Tell us why you think she's amazing.
Does she have an inspiring story?
Convince us by writing at least a short paragraph in the comments section about why she deserves this gift.

But feel free to write pages and pages if she's so awesome and you have so much to say.
Does she feed the hungry?
Does she impact others?
Is she a local legend?
Does she do it all and still keep on smiling?
If you know a truly amazing woman in Ghana...tell us, and we'll give her a gift this Christmas.


Merry Christmas, yall!

Esi Cleland

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

10 Ghanaian Gifts for Your Christmas List

It's already December. I'm sure some of you have started thinking of what gifts to get family and friends. I know I have. I bought my mom's gift a week ago! So anyway, whenever you get to it, I thought i'd make your job a little easier by giving you what I believe would make awesome presents for Christmas. So if you want to get me something...err, hint use this list! And in true Wo Se Ekyir style, they're all made in Ghana. Enjoy, and add your own suggestions in the comments section.

1. A dress from AfroChic
Ladies, get affordable style in african prints. Clothes for work, party and home. Clothes are made with modern African girls in mind - Kafui, the young professional, Naa Deidei the student, socialite and busy bee and Nana Akua the diasporian and nappy head. Price range GHC 13-40. Shop online at Will be delivered at your doorstep. Pay upon receipt.

2. Jewelry from Stringz Attached
Not your usual beads and cowrie Ghanaian jewelry. Stringz attached has a cosmopolitan feel to it. Very pretty, very girly, and sophisticated. Frankly, it looks Western to me. Nothing particularly Ghanaian about it, except it's made by a Ghanaian. Still, hey, I wouldn't mind one. Looking at the website, prices range between $40-$150. Here's the store

3. A Ghana-made Purse
Lovely clutch purses made from straw and african prints, and decorated with jewels and flowers. There are two places to get this. You can either get it from Kua purses where each purse has a name so it feels like you're buying a pet or something:) They sell for $50 a pop on average. See for yourself here or buy one here

Or you could get it from Diva delicious. Cute, cute, cute. Check photos on facebook
If you want attitude, chic and fabulousity, call Sandi for your purse +233 262 211 717

4. An outfit from MAKSI clothes
Unisex clothing line just launched. Their online store will be live within a week with prices ranging GHC 25- GHC100. MAKSI will be stocked at WINGLOW, 34 Mensah Wood Road, East Legon. There's a party there this Saturday from 2pm - 5pm to celebrate being stocked there. All are welcome. Clothes bought on the day will be on average 10 cedis less than it will be in store. Check out pictures

5. A Bespoke tee from ReneeQ
T-shirts embellished with African fabrics. It's different. Costs about GHC 45 for one. A friend of mine got one so i've seen it feeli feeli and i like. Check out the designs here or just proceed to shop: Oh and for those of you who are wondering what Bespoke means...i know, the word is being bandied about everywhere these days. It means made to individual order or custom-made or unique. Somtin so:)

6. A free CD from M.anifest
They say Christmas is a time of giving. M.anifest gives you a free album. The guy can write music. It will inspire you. And its free. Download the music here: And whilst you're at it, make a gift to Young Entrepreneurs, Africa.

Also, Shea Yeleen is trying to raise $4,000 for 120 women in Mali to build a Shea Butter facility to produce for export. Every dollar counts. Donate or learn more about it on

7. A hair treat from Twists and Locs
Spoil yourself or a loved one. Twists & Locs is a natural hair salon. They do twists, locs, bantu knots, whatever. I've been there. Their hair products smell amazing. I even got a chocolate treat whilst they were doing my hair. And they have magazines a plenty so you can keep entertained. The salon is located near chocolate House and after Montran before El Gringo, Osu- Nyaniba, Accra. You can book an appointment on Phone:766891, 026 513 1585. Opening hours are Mon:8:00 am - 5:00 pm Wed - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Sun: 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm. Plan to spend about GHC 20 per visit.

8. A book by a Ghanaian Writer
Books make excellent gifts, so this Christmas, give a collection of 3 books by Ghanaian writers. The first book is CIRCLES by Boakyewaa Glover. The second is Harmattan Rain by Ayesha Attah. The third is The Imported Ghanaian by Alba K. Sumprim. Buy all three books, parcel them nicely and give them to friends, lovers, and family:) You can get all the books at the Silverbird bookstore, Accra Mall. I think they cost about GHC 30 on average.

9. Professionally done photographs
Get your family portraits done, or even err, nude photos for your boyfriend? or girlfriend? Okay, fine. You can wear clothes and pose sexy or something. hehe. I recommend Nana Kofi Acquah, Steve Ababio and Jane Hahn. They've all taken photos of me and I loved the result. Plus they're all fun to talk to, and make the whole thing easy. As with many good things, they don't come cheap. Should cost at least $1000.

10. A custom-made adinkra gold brooch
Get it from Makola. There's a goldsmith in the 3 storey-building that's part of the market. The gold's measured by the ounce and you can get it delivered in 4 days

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ghanaians and Mental health

Written by Marian Sakley anang

Does any Ghanaian language have a word for “depression?” It is impossible to turn on American television and not see a commercial for Cymbalta, Abilify, Zoloft. If you are new to these names, they are popular anti-depressant drugs a growing percentage of Americans just can’t seem to do without. These drugs are meant to elevate mood and boost confidence. Some call it a “happy pill.” They are known to restore chemical imbalances in the brain thus alleviate the sadness, loss of interest in daily living and sometimes suicidal thinking associated with depression. The number of people who depend on these drugs to remain “stable” is enough to shock any Ghanaian immigrant. It is not strange to go to work in the US and have a coworker who you thought was “normal,” you know clam, jovial with everybody, smart even, become unhinged and exhibit pseudo-psychotic or aggressive behavior because they forgot to take their meds that morning. Or because the one they took this morning is beginning to leave the system. You are probably thinking OMG what did I do to make them fly off the handle like that? But nooo….it has nothing to do with you. It’s that time for them to be excused, go to the car and get a fix. They come back an hour later smiling and you are like…”ok…”…until next time. Of course some people are on illicit drugs too, marijuana, and the like.

So I want to ask do Ghanaians living in Ghana get depressed too? Do we get suicidal? I mean growing up in Accra I heard of an occasional suicide here and there, but nothing compared to what I have seen in the US. Ok if we tend to be less suicidal and depressed than the average White person, why is that ? Is it because we Ghanaians have better coping skills in response to stressful situations? And please don’t tell me poverty, poor health, hunger and all the ku me preko lifestyle in Ghana doesn’t take its toll. Ghanaians have not been called magicians for nothing. We have always felt the pinch of living in a tough economy. Yet our mental health doesn’t suffer so much that we need occasional trips to the psychologist or psychiatrist. Genetics play a part in mental health too I must mention. But it is largely influenced by the environment.

Most people who end up with mental health problems have a history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse in childhood. Rape, sodomy, dysfunctional families and physical abuse at the hands of family member and strangers can create emotional and personality disorders that when left unchecked become more severe and manifest itself as psychotic behavior or “craziness” as we call it, over a period of time. Simply put, mental health degenerates if emotional problems are left unchecked. Ghanaian boys and girls are raped on daily basis. Sexual abuse and incest goes unfettered in the most conservative of Ghanaian families. We don’t like to talk about it, but we are hearing more about it every day. Where are the psychologists, the Dr, Phil’s and psychiatrists in Ghana to help this section of Ghanaians with the deal emotional issues that crop up as a result? Do they keep it under wraps well into adulthood? Do they share it with anyone? Their better halves?

At present it is reported that there are only 14 psychiatrists in Ghana in three psychiatric hospitals. Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Pantang and Ankaful in the Central Region. That is not to say people with mild emotional issues should consult a psych hospital, but how well can 14 doctors serve a population of 24 million people? Why are most Ghanaians embarrassed to talk about this? We will rather admit to having cancer and gonorrhea than admit that our mental health is challenged. Is it mentally healthy for us to keep everything bottled in the way we do? In the event that we do admit that we need help, who do we go to for the Cymbalas and Prozac’s? In Ghana if your mental health is so much as deemed unhealthy, you could be labeled “abodam” ‘seke yelo” ‘craze” and the like. Do those Ghanaians who are mentally challenged deserve that label? Or is it that you and I have better coping skills and so we haven’t found ourselves needing the help of a metal health worker--yet?

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm not saying Ghanaians are boring

But one of these days, it would be nice to get a wedding invitation that reads like so

Instead of like this

The Cleland and Sunkwa Families respectfully request your presence on this joyful occasion of the solemnization of holy matrimony between their daughter
Esi Woarabowodzin Cleland and their son James Panyinnyiwofie Sunkwa
On this day November 19th, 2009 at the St. Thomas Acquinas Catholic Church, Accra

Girls Father

Boy's Father

Why do Ghanaian wedding invitations all read, look, and feel the same?
Why are our wedding invitations boring when we're not? Like our living rooms, why do they all look like one person thought it up and the rest all just copied it?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do you know which items make the big list?

I’ve never attended a Ghanaian traditional marriage ceremony. That ceremony which some people now call engagement but which is actually proper marriage, recognised by our elders as well as Ghana law. Even though I haven’t seen one feeli feeli (tr: with my own eyes), I know from akan drama, Ghanaian movies, and hearsay that the bride’s family requests a list.

I’ve been asking around and it looks like every family has their own list. I’m not sure how they come up with this list or even if the young couple have any say in what is requested but I thought it would be useful to generate some sort of BIG LIST on this blog. So that Ghanaians who will be marrying in the future can pick and choose from this list. Here’s what I have so far.

1. Bottles of Schnapps – How Schapps positioned itself as the traditional drink for Ghanaian marriages is an advertising marvel.

2. Pieces of Cloth – Again just like Schnapps has become synonymous with marriage drink, Holland aka Hollandais aka Vlisco is the preferred brand of cloth.

3. Bible

4. Ring

5. Dowry in the form of money

6. Money or cloth for the father, mother and siblings

7. Amonsee (traditional underwear) / panties / bras – Seriously?

What else do people typically request?

What do the items signify?

And for those of you who are married, what did you request?

And now that I look back on this list, it seems we want nothing that's made in Ghana for a Ghanaian marriage. Hmm...

Friday, November 06, 2009

To name or not to name. How do Ghanaian parents name their kids?

I'm not having kids anytime soon. Knock on wood. Unless y'know I happen to chance on one. Accidents happen.
I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt which read "Kids at the backseat of cars cause accidents and accidents at the backseat of cars lead to children" hehe. So I allowed my imagination to ran wild, and I wondered, if I am blessed with one of these accident babies, what will I call it?
How do Ghanaian parents decide on the name?
Since I'm all into Ghanaian names, I'd give a traditional but meaningful first name. Something like Nkwaye (meaning life is good) as a first name. Then I'd give a middle name or string of middle names. Then the last name.
Now traditionally, Ghanaians name their kids after their parents, or other family member they admire and respect. And I think this is actually expected. That is, these family members/parents expect that their children will name their kids after them. Usually what happens is, several of the siblings will name their children after their parents, aunts, uncles and sometimes family friends. All I'm asking this by force?
What if I don't feel like naming my kid after anyone in my family or my husband's family? By the way, here's my disclaimer. I'm not saying this is what I'll do o. I beg. I'm just the off chance that I wanted to do this, would there be a problem?
If I had this accident baby and named it Nkwaye Dossou-Yovo simply because I like the name...but say the baby daddy was called Francois Ocloo. Then would the Ocloo family and the Cleland family be pissed that the baby was not named after them? Not the middle name and not even the last name?
And if I had a second child with a different baby daddy called Promit Senghor and called the baby say Abayie (meaning you have arrived at a good time). Then the baby's name would be Abayie Mammah simply because I like the name. Would my family start to resent that I've finished having all the kids I'll ever have and have not once named anyone in the family?
But they'd not lose hope. They'd maybe count be as a lost cause but they'd count on my siblings to name them.
So what if my siblings also followed my example so that what we end up with is a new generation whose names are not in anyway tied to the parents names. Just because we the kids decided to actually exercise our right to get creative with our babies names by giving them names we actually like and want as opposed to the names we're expected to call them. Instead of following some laid down convention to give the man's last name to the kid as a surname, if we did both the girls family and the boys family setewaa and gave him a beautiful last name we like like Dossou-Yovo and Mammah.
So question. To the people who have kids. And those who are about to have kids...would anyone ever do this? Why and why not? And did you feel pressured to name your kids after your family? If so, is there anyone who resisted it? With what consequences?
And finally, isn't being named a privilege and honor rather than a right? And if so, why would we feel pressured to honor someone? And should we do it simply because it is expected? Even when we don't admire them?
As for me, I'm just dreaming up the possibilities right now but I have no idea what I'll do when I actually bring forth.
And if you don't have kids, do you know what you will name him/her/it when you do.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thoughts of a Ghanaian Abroad

Written by: Mad Lion

Consider this: I attended some of the best schools in Ghana. I’ve studied in Europe. I live and work in the U.S. as a Project Manager with a software development company.

Now, looking at where I currently am, should I leave the U.S. and relocate to Ghana?

I think not. I’ve convinced myself that I may not find a job at home that will pay me what I’m worth. And what am I worth? I ask myself: if I’m sitting at a table somewhere in Sikaman, with a group of my peers who are equally trained and skilled, albeit in Sikaman, working on a project that will generate value for our common employer, why do I expect to be paid more than them? What gives me the right to expect more pay?

I believe it’s a question of opportunity. I am the one who made it abroad, against “all” the odds. I’m the one who is automatically expected to be successful by virtue of my esteemed journey. I’m the one who is expected to have something to show for the opportunity given me (in my case, I’m expected to be thrice as successful, having been to Germany and the U.K., and finally dropped in the Land of Opportunity). Imagine this: On one of my trips home to Sikaman, I chanced upon my Science teacher from elementary school. Amid the barrage of “Where is Kofi Mensa? Where is Kofi Mensa?” questions he asked – Kofi Mensa being my genius brother – was the question of where I currently live, and what I’m currently doing. “I live in Europe,” I say proudly, “studying engineering in Europe” His response?

“Oh, Europe? Then you have no problem!”

Think about that for a moment. I hope you feel the extent of the expectation. And it doesn’t end with my Science teacher. I speak with many of my friends who live in Ghana and have never travelled abroad, and their common prescription to my relocation ailment?

“Don’t come home – life in Ghana is difficult!”

I’m expected to succeed in life before returning home. And what does it mean to succeed in life? It’s not spoken out loud, and there’s no definitive list of possessions to acquire in order to move from the “Yet-to-be” column to the “Has been” column. And yet I’m expected to succeed before returning home to Sikaman. At the very least, I’m expected to have something to show for the opportunity given me, being the one who made it abroad.

Subconsciously, we’ve created a story in our minds of the journey abroad. It’s complete with characters (ourselves, admissions officers, connection men, “Nkrataa wives,” etc), a plot (the struggle to make it abroad, the finally arrive, settling, the first Western Union Money transfer, making money, more Western Unions, building a posh house in Sikaman, coming home, living the good life), vivid scenes (skyscrapers in New York, gardens in New Jersey, fountains and sausages in Hamburg, and snow… You couldn’t have gone abroad if you don’t have pictures of yourself in the snow; people will assume you hitch-hiked to Sogakope and hid in a hut for 2 years, pretending to be abroad).

I like to think of it this way: we view the trip abroad as an opportunity for a man to leave his village and travel many miles to a town where gold is mined. Let’s call it Mining Town. It’s a place where people make their fortunes. The journey is tough and expensive, but the returns justify the hardship. Once a man struggles and gets to Mining Town, and once he settles, the people in his village (and, many times, he himself) begin imagining his pile of gold growing. The longer he stays (should he be hardworking) the more gold he should have. Now, why would such a young man in his rightful mind want to leave such a place without enough gold and return to his village, given the opportunities that Mining Town presents? Worse still, how can such a young man arrive home, after, say 10 years, with no gold to show? Surely, he must have squandered his fortune on young women and strong drink?! In short, “W’ambo bra!”

I met a Ghanaian man in Duesseldorf once. He'd been in Germano for 7 years. Prior to that, he’d been an Engineering student at Tech (the Kwame Nkruman University of Science and Technology in Kumasi). When the chance arrived for him to study in Germany, all his friends at Tech thought he was marvelously blessed; the guy was actually going to Germany! He got to Duesseldorf, took a full year to learn and sprechen Deutsch, started school, struggled a lot with school and work and life abroad, couldn't quite find a job after school. In his 7th year he decided to visit Sikaman, carrying with him his only suitcase and a small piece of cloth he’d bought for his ageing mother. In the meantime, many of his friends from Tech were married, some had built their houses and populated them with lovely children, most had good jobs and were eating fattened Tilapia for lunch, etc. Upon seeing the dejected figure he cut, his elder brother posed the dreaded question: "Boga, so, after 7 years abroad, is that all you have to show?"

After 7 years abroad…


As I sit here today today, I’m a young man 7 years into my journey to the Promised Land (6 of which, mind you, were spent in school). I’ve been in the mines proper (the workforce) for a full year, and although I do have some gold dust to show for my efforts, it’ll fit in the palm of one hand. The winds of responsibility are also not helping matters much, regularly blowing away my dust particles. In fact, should I catch a cold and sneeze heavily, the gale will blow my small fortune away. So how different am I from my Boga friend? What do I have to show for my trip to Mining Town, and how long will it take me to feel confident that I’ve succeeded in life?

The starting point of my journey was the hustle to make it to Mining Town. The widely accepted endpoint, regardless of how long it takes, should be the triumphant entry into Sikaman someday, to cut the sod to my American House and live the good life.

Let’s return to the table at which we begun.

What could entice me to leave Mining Town now and sit at this table with my peers? In my mind, I could return from the U.S. to sit at this table if I’ll be paid the amount of money (or similar, in real terms) that I would have received in a comparable job here in the U.S. It’s not that I’m better or smarter than my equally-qualified peers at the table – far from it, and I wouldn’t be as ignorant as to think that way (if there’s one thing Sikaman has no shortage of, it’s smart, capable people). However, I feel that I’m the one who made it to Mining Town and had all the opportunities in the world. I’m the one who had the chance to mine real gold. And if I should leave that opportunity and return home, then I should have as much opportunity (in fiscal terms) as I “could” here. That’s in purely economic terms; life’s a lot more than economics. However, that’s part of the reason why I find it difficult to relocate to Sikaman. There are others (some incomparable to money).

Let’s look at the distribution of opportunities. In Mining Town, should I lose my job, I’ll have the opportunity to find an equally good one (although this logic may not quite hold in these trying economic times where H-1B visas are the order of the day, and one has 10 days to find another job if laid off). Should I find a good job in Sikaman, however, what’s the chance that I’ll find an equally good one if the company goes under, or if I lose my job? There aren’t many of such good opportunities in Sikaman. Likewise, at the back of my mind, I’m expecting an equally comfortable lifestyle in Sikaman as the one I have here (although I live in a one-bedroom apartment). I’m expecting to have a nice car in Sikaman (although I drive a wreck). I’m expecting to be able to save as much money (in real terms) if I moved to Sikaman as I’d be able to save here in Mining Town (although my fast-dwindling gold dust can hardly be called savings). The list goes on. At its core is the expectation that I should have the American Dream in Sikaman if I were to move back.

Many will wonder whether this expectation is realistic. In my view, to answer this question is to think about where one expects to end up in life, if he/she stayed in the U.S. We expect to live comfortably and have money. Granted – few of us can be said to live comfortably now, and most of us have less than $10,000 in our bank accounts. But the key point is that we expect to have much more within the next few years of work, realistically or otherwise. We expect to have the American Dream if we keep at it. With our families and friends in Sikaman warning us not to return, one can be pardoned to assume that there’s no such thing as a Ghanaian Dream. But there is a Ghanaian Dream – one that many of us know. It’s of the triumphant return to the land of our birth, after years abroad, bearing riches with which to build lavish houses, live a lavish life, and bask in the admiration of our peers. We’d be described as having come “from outside.” We’ll be called “Akatakyie.” That’s the Ghanaian Dream that many of us know, and it’s often the sequel (Part 2) to the American/European Dream that we crave.

So is there a Ghanaian Dream that occurs entirely in Ghana? Let’s call this The Domestication Dream. I know many who have lived the Part 2 Ghanaian Dream (from Sikaman to America/Europe and back to Sikaman with means). They are the ones we commonly look at and consider to have succeeded. Look at where all the big business people – all the people who live in East Legon and these other posh neighbourhoods, and drive all the big cars – spent the first 10 to 15 years of their working lives. Look at many of the top politicians who have money. Look at many of the young people working in Sikaman for their wealthy parents. We consider many of them to be the new young professional elite in Sikaman, working and making their dreams come true in Ghana. But who are they working for? Where did these employers spend the first 15 years of their working lives?

I’m not saying that every productive/successful business in Sikaman was started by people who came “from outside.” That would be somewhat ignorant and rather uninformed. What I’m trying to communicate is that there is indeed a Domestication Dream (take Domod, for example, and Darko Farms, and Christo Asafo, etc), but it’s far less common than the Part 2 Ghanaian Dream that we know so well. And you will often find that a good number of people who start companies to make the Domestication Dream possible for many other Ghanaians came home “from abroad.” That’s why so many of us cling to the idea of the Part 2 Ghanaian Dream. Many Ghanaians living abroad hope to come home someday to live Part 2 of their dream, and we view Part 2 as being near-impossible without Part 1.

The Domestication Dream is possible. However, the opportunities available to live this dream, though clearly existent, are few. If we all come from abroad today, many are they who will find that these opportunities have been exhausted, and who might feel they missed out on Part 1 of the dream. And once Part 1 is missed out on, going back to America/Europe to re-live it is extremely difficult, as those of us who have experienced multiple visa rejections (not to mention the arrogance of characters such as Bra George at the German Embassy in Accra) will tell you.

But this is not to discourage anyone from the pursuit of the Domestication Dream, for I know a number of people who are living it to the max. There are opportunities in Ghana, and they’re worth looking for. True – they’re few. But they’re not as far between as we may think, and once they’re found, they tend to be very rewarding. Increasingly, these opportunities are becoming more numerous, and from what I hear, they pay quite well.

Should I leave the U.S. and return home, though? I don’t think I’m much closer to an answer now than I was when I first picked up my pen. I’m a step closer to accepting that the Domestication Dream is possible. I’ve also started seeking out some of the opportunities that could make this dream possible. And since I have huge interests in Ghana and know that there’s a chance I could be paid as well as I think I’m worth, I think it might be worth taking the chance “at the right time.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When we sell the wrong dreams

My friend Nasa and I were jokingly saying we want to get dysentery or malaria so we can benefit from the weight loss associated with these maladies. Sick, I know. Even sicker that I started wondering what it’s like to get dysentery or cholera. I told some friends I want to get dysentery so I can blog about it. Yeah, writers block can make a blogger that desperate. All for you, dear readers. Woman here is willing to get dysentery so you can gain an insight into living with dysentery in Ghana, as you read this blog at Starbucks or wherever the hell y’all log into

You know what they say about being careful what you wish for? Well, when I was seeking a new experience last week, I had no idea that I was about to experience the real deal, something unwished for, and that when it happened, I wouldn’t want to blog about it. Imagine that your car did 3 summersaults, then crashed on the motorway whilst you’re driving and you survived. That’s some story alright. But who would want to blog about that? You’d just want to get on your knees and thank whichever God you serve for being alive.

See, the experiences that really make you grow and stretch...they don’t make for good blogging material. Who wants to read about real, raw, honest, stuff? It’s not “feel-good”. It’s not fun. So i’m sorry that I promised a fun blog and today, all I have to share is something that leaves a funny taste in your mouth. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to remind you that our world is a dangerous place. That some Ghanaians feel trapped and are looking for a way out... any way out. That maybe honesty is a luxury. That we live in a society that sells the wrong dreams. And that when we sell the wrong dreams, people will find ways to have those dreams. Even dishonest ways. And if they do, we pay the price. That we’re all vulnerable. I wish I didn’t have to tell this story, but it’s the only story I have and it’s true.

So let me share with you what happened to me before tomorrow comes and we all snap back into life as we know it.

After nearly a year in Ghana, I moved from my parent’s home. I found a nice little one bedroom self-contained place at North Legon. Spacious living room. Roomy bathroom. Lots of light. Good floors. Great neighbourhood. Tarred roads. No kiosks. Almost an affluent neighbourhood. Someone said I’m socially climbing. Which made me laugh because I’m hardly trying. My new neighbourhood seemed to me like the kind of place where people live in their guarded, high-walled houses, disconnected from the life on the streets...hardly the kind of place you’d expect to find desperate people. And now that I think about it, not exactly my kind of place...but I guess I was tired of looking, and so because I liked it, I rented it.

I rented it from two men, Kofi and Sammy. Sammy used to live in the space I now occupy and he told me that his mother is abroad, and as he was about to join her, she’d told him to rent the space out for 2 years. As is the practice here, I paid my two years rent in advance, signed a housing contract, and moved in.

About 10 days later, as I’m about to get ready to go to work, I hear an insistent knock at the main gate. I run out in my itsy bitsy night clothes, to let in an old woman, who, accompanied by a youngish man, informs me that her daughter owns the house and that Sammy did not give them the money. Great!

It is at this time that Kofi the caretaker, who was present when I signed the housing contract, and who lives in a different part of the house now comes to tell me that Sammy had actually gone abroad but had been deported back to Ghana. Niiiice! So my rent has been spent by Sammy and no one knows what to do.

Initially I’m shaken. I’m not sure what to do. So Ms. Independent calls her parentsJ. But what can they really do? It’s the kind of thing that makes you wish you had more people to rely on, and makes you realise that however dysfunctional your family is, they may be the only people you can really ever count on.

Over the next few days, one of the neighbourhood boys tells me that Joe the caretaker is planning to run away. I tell the old woman this and she turns around to inform Kofi that I plan on arresting him. Somehow I manage to take Kofi to the Madina police station as I suspect him of colluding with Sammy and because of the tip off. But at the police station, there is a long line, and the sergeant allows only the 1st three people to stay inside. He instructs the others to stand outside. So Kofi who has to stand outside runs away by the time the sergeant gets to me. Wow!

That was 3 months ago, and I am fine. The owner of the house came 2 weeks later and asked me to move out. I refused. The police fully back me, saying that since the owner of the house entrusted the house in the care of the two men, if they chose to rent it to me, she has no right to evict me. I’ve settled quite comfortably into my space and now that Kofi has run away and Sammy, having been deported back to Ghana has gone underground, I have the whole house to myself. Sweet!

This is where the story would usually end. I mean I got what I want. Why should I care about Sammy? But Sammy wrote a letter to her aunt begging her forgiveness and saying that he did what he did because it has always been his dream to travel abroad. As he was not getting any help to make this dream come true, one night, as he was praying God gave him the idea to rent out the house in order to realize his dreams. Sammy did not seem to me like a rogue. And all the neighbours who hear of his misconduct are shocked. They describe him as a very respectful, deeply religious boy. His grandmother describes him as a good boy who was misled by Kofi. She thinks that it was Kofi who planted these travel ideas in Sammy’s mind. So the question I ask myself is how did a good boy like Sammy get so sold on the dream that he would act contrary to his general good nature by doing what he did?

The allure of life abroad. The whole country seems sold on this dream. It doesn’t matter whether they’re educated or not. Rich or not. Recently it was reported on that Ghana topped the number of green card lottery winners. In the middle of an economic recession, Ghanaians are scrambling over themselves to go to America. Pregnant women in Ghana are doing anything to have babies in America. Ghanaians abroad, even those who have lost their jobs, holding so tightly to America, it makes me wonder how they swallowed the lie so whole.

I think many Ghanaians who do desperate things to travel or remain abroad do so because the only dream they know is the American dream. Or the Abroad dream. In recent years we’ve seen people wearing t-shirts that read “I’m the Ghanaian dream” or “I’m the African dream” and it makes you wonder what the hell they’re talking about because currently, there’s no such thing. The dreams we’re currently selling are not our own. Maybe that’s the problem.

What would the good life lived fully in Ghana look like? What would the Ghanaian dream look like? A life in which your starting capital for your business comes from Ghana. And your house is built or bought using money that was made in Ghana. And your skills are developed in Ghana...A life where we look inward for solutions. A life where we feed and clothe ourselves. Where soon to be parents believe so strongly in the possibility of making a good life in Ghana that they see no reason to facilitate their children’s emigration by having them in America. A life in which I’ll have my children in Ghana, educate them here, and equip them so they can build businesses, and create wealth and employ Ghanaians educated in America or even the Americans themselves. A life in which people who want to be doctors do not sneer at curing malaria. In which the highly educated are interested in solving basic problems because that’s what we have. A life in which we too can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about life because we have found solutions on our own. A life in which our cultural festivals are so relevant and top of the mind, my kids can brag about them in the ways that some Ghanaians today can talk up the Kentucky derby. A life in which our young can dream dreams solid enough they need not borrow those from America. A life in which our dreams are truly our own.

Is this too much to ask?

PS: Apparently 2 days ago, someone pitched a tent at Circle so people could get their photos taken and forms processed for entry into the US green card lotto. Cost? 6 cedis. Filla and photos supplied by Sir Kiwi

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I don’t know how to explain it. I have short of words!

Written by: Sir Kiwi

Yesterday I was in a cab on my way home when the driver called over a pure water seller. The boy looked to be about 8 years old. Maybe it’s because I have a younger brother and most of my memories of him still put him at age 7 (and not 16) but I was moved. At 11.30 am, this boy was out on the streets selling pure water. He was inhaling noxious fumes from poorly-maintained vehicles and enduring the heat from the sun, which was reasserting its monopoly as the only star in our system. I got angry. I was angry at Ghana, at the leaders who allow this to happen and do nothing about it. The last thought that ran through my head when we left him behind and headed towards my destination was that maybe I was deluded and we had no hope. Maybe I should hop on a plane and leave. Then The Black Satellites happened.

Now, maybe it’s because it’s been a while since I was in Ghana when a national team was playing but the intensity shocked me. The streets were quiet. My neighborhood groaned and exclaimed in unison. My neighbor gathered his children around him and loudly prayed to God to “show his favor” on the Satellites. My mom could not bear to watch and left the house to go for a walk. This was passion I did not get when I was watching matches by myself on websites with commentary in Arabic. Everyone kept telling me how this was nothing compared to the World Cup and CAN 2008. I could not imagine this getting any more passionate. When Agyemang-Badu rolled in the winning penalty, it was bedlam in my house. The streets in my neighborhood came to life. People poured out of their houses. Men were peeling off their shirts and pounding their chests. Drivers were honking. Women were blowing on whistles and singing and clapping. Cue the carnival! People whipped out the flags and started marching up and down the streets. The music flowed and it was simply awesome. This was home.
I started taking pictures of the children drumming and dancing. They saw me with the camera and turned the performance up a notch hoping to be captured by my lens. They were happy. They sang patriotic songs about Ghana and did the Satellites’ goal celebration dance.
They were proud. My thoughts turned to the pure water seller and I imagined him doing the same thing somewhere. He was probably beating on the tub that usually holds the water sachets and running around with no care in the world. I started feeling bad that I had almost given up on my people barely 3 weeks into my return. My people are proud, passionate, hopeful, determined and I had forgotten. Our energy and heart means we will eventually find our way or at the very least, we will know where to find the whistles and drums to dance away all our troubles.

P.S. The title of the entry comes from a woman who was interviewed during GTV’s coverage of the celebrations in Accra.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

100th post and a sneak peek into the future

This is the 100th post on this blog! And I thought it would be good to think through where we started, where we are, and sneak a peek into where we’re headed.

Our beginnings
This blog began with a clear identity embodied in its name, Wo Se Ekyir. This name came from a Ghanaian saying that goes wo se ekyir nyɛ wo dɛw a, ɔhɔ ara na etafer. Meaning if the backside of your teeth does not taste good to you, you have only that to lick. So here I found myself. A Ghanaian in Ghana. And I felt that the Ghana I knew and loved was real and yet because we had no way to articulate it, we didn’t fully grasp the beauty and fun that is Ghana. Our problem was that we couldn’t articulate our genius. Our specialness was intangible. So this blog started as a way to make the intangible tangible. A place to talk about the charley you dey kai moments. The ordinary things. The kinds of things I’d talk about with Ghanaian friends. To laugh, to reminisce and to celebrate the madness that is Ghana.

Wo Se Ekyir was a good name if you understood what it meant but I received complaints from some of you who did not know what it meant (including akan speakers) so 6 months later, the name changed to Wo Se Ekyir : What Yo’ Mamma Never Told You About Ghana. I felt that the addition...What Your Mamma Never Told You About Ghana, gives some clue that it is a Ghana Blog, and is also fun and catchy and would encourage more people who stumble upon us to check us out. With Wo Se Ekyir alone, if our Ga or Dagomba siblings cannot read and understand it, they might overlook the blog and miss out on sharing in the fun. Importantly the name fit with the blog’s identity as something different, fun, interesting, maybe even funny, and authentically Ghanaian.

The name change did us a lot of good actually. Because once we adopted it, suddenly all our posts, whatever we discussed could be measured against the question: is this something your mamma would have told you? Yeah, it’s that hardcore. Hehe. The ketchup story, jama songs, insults, funny names Ghanaians give their kids...and if you could just Google it, then it wasn’t something we would write about. The blog is original in that way. It's about Ghanaian things you won’t find in books, or Wikipedia notes, or news stories. And yet because it essentially Ghanaian, every Ghanaian can identify and contribute to the telling of these stories. So we’ve been doing this for a while and now the blog is a year old, so let me tell you how we’re doing

How we’re doing
Recently Afrigator rankings have been all over the place. But Wo Se Ekyir’s ranking remains fairly stable between number 4 and number 6 out of 178 Ghana blogs. At last check (this morning), it was number 4, behind My heart’s in Accra, Oluniyi David Ajao and Nubian Cheetah.

But rankings don’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t tell you for example, that this is the only one among the top blogs that is completely and utterly devoted to Ghana, Ghanaians and Ghanaian ways of doing things. It doesn’t tell you that with nearly 200 followers, this blog is also, to the best of our knowledge, the Ghana blog with the greatest number of dedicated following. Or that we’re the most unusual source on the Ghanaian life and culture – across media. No one in tv, radio or even print is doing this. So it’s exciting. It’s exciting to be doing something relevant that no one else is doing not only on the web but in any media.

In terms of numbers, we have been growing steadily for the past several months, with gains averaging about 500 new visits every month. For September, we recorded about 3500 visits.
The best part of it all is that this has been fun all the way. We’re having a blast. So in terms of where we are, things couldn’t be better.

If you look on the right hand panel, you'll notice that the posts have been organised for your convenience into sections like: filla from the streets of Accra, Ghanaian-ness 101, Love, lust and sex, Ghana style etc. Things are about to get better. Much better. We welcome your ideas and suggestions. We’re still pumped, because there is so much to talk about, so much untouched material, we’re juuuuust getting started.

So what will the future look like?

Sneakily Peering Into Our Future
The spirit of this blog will remain the same- fun, interesting, and different. It's going to get ridiculously fun. Of course we’ll cover the basics...relevant content, quality writing, always about Ghanaians and for Ghanaians, but we have to do all this in an interesting way. Cos really when you think about it, this is cultural studies, it’s just that it’s not Ms. Ofori, that boring cultural studies teacher who is teaching it. So we’re talking about Ghanaian traditional religion but we’re making it easy and fun. We’ll do some more of the old stuff. But we’re also going to try some new things. We’ll push the envelope. Here I’ll outline a few of the new twists to expect.

We’ll make it easy for you to see how the choices Ghanaian individuals have made and continue to make dramatically alter our cultural landscape that is to say, our way of life. I’m not talking about politicians, just ordinary Ghanaians, like you and me. So stay tuned.

Another of the new twists is cartoons. Andrew Adote has joined the Wo Se Ekyir team. He’ll be doing cartoons for all the posts. He did the cartoon for the last post. Should be fun.

There will be more podcasts and it will all be peppered with some history, and language and new ideas to be generated by some new recruits.

We’re thinking of getting our own website and migrating from blogger but this needs to be thought through properly so the transition is not painful for you, so watch out for that.

And as always I’m open to suggestions and comments on how to improve things or make it more relevant for you.

Friends and Lovers
Something like this blog does not happen except through team effort. I could write blog posts and if you didn’t jump in so enthusiastically, the blog would be boring. So I want to acknowledge the team that makes things happen in here. Top on the list are all 194 followers – they’re on the top right corner, and especially those who comment. We applaud those of you who tell your friends, co-workers, and your families about this blog. One woman said she reads it to her husband. Another girl said she reads it when she’s stressed out by school work. Another said she reads it on lonely nights and it always cheers her up. One guy reads it to his work colleagues. One girl said she rode a motor bike because I talked about the experience on here. We’ve seen Ghanaians stand up for what they believed in. We’ve seen Ghanaians get excited and angry and oh so nostalgic. The post about Obama led to an invitation to Joy fm’s super morning show. We were also present at BarCamp Ghana. A few people have been inspired to start their own blogs. One white lady who is engaged to a Ghanaian emailed me to tell her in twi how to say I will never leave you. These are the stories that make this blog worth it. Without them, rankings and following wouldn’t mean much. So to our friends and thanks.

Thanks also to other Ghana bloggers. I check out your blogs and I learn more from you than you know.

To everyone else, thanks for reading. Visit again and again, join the discussions, become a follower and spread the word.


Friday, October 09, 2009

The Girl Ebody Chao or How I Learned to Appreciate the Intelligent Designer’s Eye for Curves

I beg, this one I no go talk chao. I just have small thing wey I wan talk.

*clears throat*

33to nie?!

Chei! Ghana women have nyash! Man go live Yankee for so long that I had forgotten small. I actually drooled in the car on the drive home from the airport. Come see nyash with its own zipcode. Come see another one which is being used as a dinner table. Another one too dey, which has its own call and response:

Left cheek: Foolish man…

Right cheek: Follow me.

I followed…right into a gutter.

Many people have that “It’s good to be home moment” when they are eating kelewele or laughing at an argument in a troski. Mine came when a woman’s nyash stopped me dead in my tracks at Circle. People were bumping into me and asking if my head “wasn’t there”. I no biz. I just stood there. I took in the detached nyash in its full glory and exhaled slowly. Then I yelled “Ghana dey be!” as I ran to catch my troski.

Translation for non-pidgin speakers: My mama didn’t tell me that Ghanaian women are so ass-thetically pleasing.

Written by Sir Kiwi
Cartoon by Andrew Adote

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Wackiest Facebook Status Updates Coming Out of Ghana

This blog was inspired by Baaba Andam, Frederick Sowah and Yaw Mante. They shared articles or comments that made me eventually get around to writing this post. So if you read it, and enjoy it, you owe them thanks. If it makes you angry, go find and pummel them to a pulp. hehe.

Anyway, so it's about funny, wacky, silly, interesting stuff that Ghanaians write on facebook as their status messages. I've tried to categorize them because like most of my posts, it's an exercise to tease generalities out of murky, badly organised data. All of the examples are real comments written by Ghanaians on facebook. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty. hehe. Enjoy!

1. In the first category,we have people spreading information or rather, ehm shoving information down our throats. Sometimes it's news like this one: The sad story of Eric Frimpong: FROM GHANA TO A SANTA BARBARA JAIL
And other times it's the bloggers. God, Ghanaian bloggers have become so predictable on facebook, it's sickening. First there's Esi whose status message leads up to her blog at least 80% of the time. Then there's Boakyewa Glover, Emmanuel Bensah, David Ajao, and others. Seriously, these people need to relax and enjoy facebook. Note to self. Nope, I do not want to check out the most memorable Ghana ads of all time, thank you very much. haha.

2.Second on the list is the Ogyacious people. Tryna show how in the spirit they all are, their status messages are like so:

a) I'm too blessed to be stressed

For real? Too blessed to be stressed? What does that even mean? So the rest of us who are stressed are not blessed?
Or what? Eish.

b) Do it Lord, we are praying, that Your glory may be seen

c)FOR GOD soo LOVED de world(of human beings) dat HE gave HIS only SON (JESUS),
dat WHOSOEVER(anybody, anywher) BELIEVES in HIM shd NOT PERISH bt hav ETERNAL life"- JOHN 3:16
d) For u O Lord have always been ma help and i've come to believe and know that they that call upon u will never be forsaken for thou art a Mighty God and there is none like.
Jehovah u are the Most high.

3. Next,we have the creative and pseudo-creative people.You know, many work work in ad agencies. Origin 8-Saatchi and Saatchi,McCann, MMRS-Ogilvy, Publicis...whatever. They're always trying to show how creative they are.Me my deal is, if u have to try so hard to show you're creative, you're probably not. Here are 2 examples that I got from that camp on facebook Friday and today.I'm probably going to get into trouble for citing these examples, but what the hell, sue me (Yes, Golda)!

a)The moral of goldilocks & the 3 bears: its okay to break into someones house, vandalise it & eat their food as long as youre fast enough to evade capture. hansel & gretel, its okay to eat someones house. trick old ladies & if they try... to punish you its okay to kill them. cinderella..its okay to disobey your guardian & sneak out to consort with boys.& you wonder why my generation is so disrespectful & violent.

Another one

b) eons ago, man was askd the 1st geography question 'adam where are you?' he failed, saying 'i am naked'.
eons later men are drivin blind clueless to where we're goin with no intention 2 ask 4 directions & our female passen...gers have the nerve 2 ask why we suck so bad @ navigation its all your freakin fault.nickin apples when God already gave us pcs.we couldv googled good & evil but just had to see for urself.smh

Seriously? Goldilocks what? lol. Charlie, abaa gbe wo eh!

4. And how can we forget the Ghanaians abroad! Status updates from Ghanaians tend to show that they miss Ghana or are looking to come back home...Oddly, these status messages only appear for people who are only coming home to visit.Those who are coming for good rarely announce their departureon facebook. No fond thoughts of banku, of Ghana heat, or tro-tros. Nope. These are reserved for those coming to visit.

a) Accra, here I come.
b) ahwww i am missing Ghana ooooooo!!!!!!!
c) The countdown is on

5. Yeah, then there are the football fans. Always raving about the english premiere league. Never about Eleven Wise or Kpando Heart of Lions. Always you'll get messages

a) Chelsea! We're about to do it again. 10-7 in the last five years.

Really? You and who about to do what again? People, get a grip. haha!

6. Last but not least we have those who have recently been admitted to top level schools in the UK or US.Or who have graduated from these same schools and somehow can't get over the fact that they went to these schools. Their messages go like I miss Yale-Harvard games. Yeah right. Get over it, son. And do something that might actually make us pay you some heed. Oh here's another good one:Where can I find UWC gear to buy? The online store on the school's site has disappeared...ahem! Nuff said. lol. It's okay. We know. We know you went to UWC. So let it go, son. let it go. That one was actually written by one of my bestest friends.

NB: If any of these sounds eerily like something you would say, you're in the right place. This is about all of us. I see myself in #1. Maybe you see yourself in #3 or #5 and that's okay. Afterall, i'm making fun of what Ghanaians write on facebook. Have a laugh at yourself.

And if I forgot anything, please please feel free to add it in the comments section. Can you think of any more themes that Ghanaians like to write about on facebook. God is certainly one of the big ones. Feel free to share if you stumble upon any good ones. Do they make you laugh? Do they make you angry, or just feel like an insider because you'd be able to tell that a Ghanaian wrote it even if you didn't know the writers?

If you disagree with me, don't just sit there, don't just go home with your tail between your legs, don't just something! Come up with your own list, and share it with us right here on Wo Se Ekyir.

Share it with your friends, have a laugh, and share whatever you find with us. All you have to do is check on facebook to either prove me right or shut me up!