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!