Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's just talk...I think good is cool

Today, I just want to talk. With you, not to you. Pull up a chair. I have something, a lot of things on my mind.

It's been coming at me from all angles. Gnawing at me. Time's up. Ms. Cleland, you've got to act.

The topic is integrity. Sounds abstract, I know. But the essence isn't. We can smell it in others. There are some people, you can trust them with your life, you can trust them with your money, you can trust them with your woman, you can trust them when they tell you something.

They're truthful, and honest, all the time.

But I've been thinking about integrity and how to become the kind of person who has this because I was listening to Patrick Awuah at BarCamp Ghana late last year and he talked about it. He said you become it by practising. Every time you're faced with a decision, or a choice and you choose to do the honorable thing, it makes you stronger, and prepares you to make the same good choices when you're faced later with tougher choices and decisions. It starts with little things. Like if you're sitting in a tro-tro and the mate forgot to take your money, do you just get off at your destination and walk away? If you're in a relationship, and a friend who you find attractive drops you off at home after a night of partying at Rhapsody's at 1am, and asks if he can come in, do you let him come in...and later justify your actions to yourself saying it was just an innocent kiss? If you buy phone units and the seller accidentally gives you 2 cedis Tigo units when you only paid for 1, when you find out upon reaching home, do you later return the 1 cedi?

Then again, I was listening to some Joel Osteen CDs, and he too talked about integrity. people believe you when you speak? Can people trust that you will do what you say you will do? I know a girl who stretches the truth. She doesn't quite lie but when she's saying something that happened, she always always embellishes...I don't know if she does it to make the story more interesting or what but the people around her now know this. I even heard someone say of her...Oh but don't you know that so and so adds her own details? Do you want this to be said of you?

Suddenly, everywhere I turn, i see integrity, integrity, integrity. On walls, in newspapers, in people. In friends. I've had the pleasure of spending the last 3 weeks with the most truthful, honest, trustworthy Ghanaian man I know. I've known this guy for years, but I never get over it. I'm always surprised. Humbled. Inspired.

Maybe I feel this way because I see so little of it in the world. So little of it in myself. There have been times when I've justified my poor choices. Saying we're all products of our pasts and our environments. But the truth is, if you're looking for excuses, you can find some. The question is, are you going to continue living in mediocrity...are you going to continue being the same old you, cutting corners, doing things that would embarass you if the world found out, cheating in school, cheating at work, cheating in relationships, cheating in life. Or are you going to hold yourself to a higher standard.

We're always talking about failure in leadership in Ghana. And corruption at all levels. And sure, there are some of us that are pretty honest in some aspects of our lives, but I think integrity needs to be holistic. If you're strong in one area but weak in another, it's time to make a commitment to, and act to make a change in the areas you are weak. Can you be trusted in all aspects of your life?

Let's talk about our friends. Whether we like it or not, friends influence us. My best friend told me recently that if your best friend is a [insert vice here], you're likely to be [insert same vice here]. So what do you do if you want to act better but your tight paddies are still in the murk? You could cut them out :) Or you could be the light. But you can only be the light after you are strong. You cannot continue to be influenced by them at the stage when you yourself are weak and trying to develop your strengths.

The other day I was talking to a friend(Mr. X) who had a business idea. Immediately another friend (Mr. Y) came to mind. I thought Mr. Y had the skills to complement Mr. X. And yet after I told Mr. X about Mr. Y, I added....but I don't trust Mr. Y. I don't trust Mr. Y because he's said things, or done things, little things that make me doubt his integrity. So even though he's smart, and hardworking, and has gone to the finest schools, and savvy and whatever else...I did not recommend him as a business partner. You know what they say...."if you have integrity, nothing else matters. And if you don't have integrity, nothing else matters"

Even in business, I think who you are is going to affect how you do. It will affect whether you treat your partners and workers fairly. Whether you manage them fairly. Whether you pay your taxes, and your debts. Whether you're truly there to build the business and not be under-dealing, and screwing your friend over somewhere along the line. There's this tailor who always lies about getting clothes sewn. He'll tell you it's done and then you get there and he's not cutting. He'll say he'll meet you at 5, and he'll switch of his phone at that time. Then there's another seamstress who tells you, i'm not going to be able to touch this work till after 3 weeks. But after 3 weeks, she gets it done and stays in touch with you and tells you the truth about why she's late and asks for a bit more time, and delivers when she promises. Which of these people do you think I want to work work?

I'm not even sure where this conversation is going, but feel free to talk to me about any of what I've said. My new year's resolution is only one. To be in reality all that I say I am. To do what I say I will do. To not do that which I cannot be open about. I know it won't be easy. Perhaps I will fail sometimes, though I definitely don't plan on it, but I will get up and try again. And maybe I'm writing this because I need to not just have this in my head. I need a reminder of my plans. I need you to support me.

2009, I was Ms. different. In 2010, I'd like you to think about this Arthur Freed quote..."Don't try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough". Cos good is the new cool. I'm telling you.

God knows, Ghana needs more people like this. And as we say, change begins with you.
Charlie, some of us are just lying to ourselves. The self we give the world, is different from the self we know, and what's the bloody point? At some point, it's all gonna come tumbling down. Think Tiger woods, Think Wall Street, Think Marion Jones. You don't want to work your ass off and then lose it all one day because you did not cultivate self-discipline and integrity. It's hard, but I hear it gets easier with practice. Goodluck, and let's help each other.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best of Ghanaian Funeral/Obituary Headlines

There's nothing so funny about death. Except the way Ghanaians announce english. Yesterday I was walking around town and I saw one, that made me burst out laughing. See
Ghanaians have somehow managed to come up with these very flowery and euphemistic language to announce the passing of our loved ones. And like invitation cards for weddings, we all do it the same way. It's become the proper way to do it. The traditional way...I would bet my last pesewa that if you were to die today, your poster which will go on trees, and concrete walls would have one of the following headings:

1. Home calling
2. Call to glory
3. Celebration of life
4. Gone, but not forgotten
5. A mighty tree has fallen
6. Ascension to glory
7. What a shock!
8. In loving memory
9. Promotion to glory
10. Departed

Of course it would also announce among other things that Ebusuapanyin so and so regrets to tell the world that the Asona family has lost Mr /Miss/Dr so and so alias money yɛ swine who had 13 grandchildren, all in the US or UK, and who has so and so degrees. But the headline is what kills me. And you won't get to choose. But let me just say to my family. If you're listening, I beg. Don't use "What a shock!" or "A mighty tree has fallen" for me when I die. Please :)

Can you think of any other popular headlines announcing funerals?

Also, I just discovered, in doing the research for this post, that there's a Ghana funerals website. It's called funeralsinghana


What a shock!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Not quite famous...yet! But I will be. And That's a Promise.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I did, and I'm on vacation from work, so I'm still chilling, hence, the silence till now.

But I've got fila.

Did you know that some people we know were reading blogs at Christmas? I shock sef! No joke. And if they were lazily browsing and just happened to peek at the blog, I wouldn't be on their case but charlie, they were agrE! Constantly checking, sending me messages, sending me topic suggestions. People! I know. I know that you in particular are too cool for that. I know that you were not one of them. hehe. I mean, you need no reminding that Christmas is for spending with family and friends, and remembering the birth of Jesus and its significance (for those of us who believe) not staring at a computer screens. I know you didn't do that. So I'm not talking about you.. haha. I'm talking about those other people :)

It's good to be back!!!! Happy New Year!

This past Christmas, I felt rather famous. I met about 7 new people who came up to me, introduced themselves and then gushed, "I read your blog". Every time I heard that, I was like wow, you're able to make me out from that little picture? And I met them all at very different places too. The first lady was in line with me when me, and my friend Raphael were attending the "Joy-fm -Vodafone night with the stars" event. Another guy, I think his name was Richard, was at Rhapsody's. Then I met a lady (Michelle?) at a wedding, and another one, a guy, at the busy internet at the mall. And yet another at a AfroChic party. And a few at BarCamp Ghana. Of course, I'm like everybody else who can never find the perfect words when you need them, but then think of 10 smarter things I could've said only after the people are gone. hehe. But If you're one of those I met, be assured, that even if I don't say much, I'm always very excited to meet facebook friends and blog friends in real life. It's also a little scary though 'cos now if I'm dii-ing bad (tr: being bad) somewhere, I can't be completely sure that no one knows who I am.

Anyway, so I was feeling like a mini star (not the beer) :)

Then two days ago, the man I'm going to marry got sick at my house. So sick I had to rush him to the hospital. I live within walking distance of a one so I took him there. It was 8 pm. The nurse we saw said there was no doctor. So I put the sick man back in a car and off to a bigger hospital. Between his aahing and oohing I was wondering, what if he died on my hands? What would I tell his parents. He'd just thrown up the food I'd given him. The next hospital had an emergency ward. So I took him there. That's when I stopped feeling famous.

The nurses. They didn't even bizz us. Well, one told me to go make a card, whilst the man was still hurting. The sick guy protested, saying he already had a card for that hospital and that he even knew the number. But nooo, the nurse said "Gentleman, make the card". Okay, fine! I put him on a nearby bed and left to make a card for him. Thank goodness I knew all of the details. Like his birthday, age, phone number, and address. I paid 7 cedis. I got back to the nurses with the card, and was expecting them to attend to him pronto. I've never been to an emergency ward before so maybe that's why I was expecting swift action and as I wear my emotions on my face, the nurse took one look at me and asked me "why do you look surprised? Don't look surprised" The doctor is with someone so when he's done, he'll attend to him. I nodded. My husband to be (ouch) was still groaning and I could do nothing but wait. How I wished I was famous right then!

After what seemed like forever, they finally beckoned for us to come. They took my husband's ( temperature and blood pressure. Then he called all three nurses by name! They were shocked. Heck, I was shocked. Apparently he knew the nurses when he was little. He introduced himself to them...and one of them was like oooo, you're Dr. So and so's son. Ei, ena w'enyini sei. (You look so much older). So like magic, these nurses suddenly started being so nice. Calling him my son, my this, my that. They quickly gave him some injection and medicines, and a doctor was promptly summoned, who checked him and wrote down some prescription drugs for us to get. We were out of there in no time. My husband introduced me to the nurses as his wife, and the same nurse who has rudely asked me why I looked surprised said I should come and greet her, and when I greeted her, made a joke about how warm my body was and asked if she should be expecting her grandchild! Ei, how people can change so quickly once they know you're "important"

I was thankful that my husband felt better and I was able to take him home alive and well. But I couldn't help thinking about the nurses and how differently they treated us once they found out who he was. I kept that's how people are going to treat you when you're a nobody and that's how they'll treat you when they know you and that just makes Me Want to be Famous, Or Rich Or Both, Goddamn!

So that was a nice reality check. Now I'm not feeling quite so famous:)
But i'm still psyched for the new year and hope you are too!
I'm off to Fanta's Folly next week and will be blogging from there.

2010's gonna be a good year. Believe it!
Oh, and you know how the way the nurses treated me made me wish I was famous?
I was like fine, i'm not famous...yet. But I will be! And when that day comes, you'll remember the t-shirt in the picture below.Another thing that makes me want to be
rich or famous or both is err, long lines at airports and passing through the business class section
of airplanes to go and sit in the cramped economy section. haha.

What makes you want to get even? Or just be better than you are?
What makes you wish you weren't just little old you?

On a different note, yours truly is profiled in the February 2010 edition of Marie Claire. It's on new stands in the U.S. Get Yours!