>Over the last few days (as well as the last days of the year 2007) I Have made a very pleasant aquaintance – A refined, bilingual friend, knowledgeable about many things, especially recent events in Africa. The radio channel Radio France Internationale now brightens my mornings with its news in French, insights and reportages in English and call-in-shows about topics varying from Kenya’s recent election to birth control pills. I discovered, as so often, my new friend by chance and it is really remarkable how this accident now is enriching my life and language skills on a daily basis. For you who like to listen to some French and English news, download a podcast today!
Et non, j’ai pas recu de l’argent pour ce “blogpost” !
> Here in tropical Ghana, I am trying my best to get the xmas feel with the help of santa-hats, jingle bells, candles, Swedish gingerbread, a few ornaments and with little help from my friends…
May your days be merry and bright!
>So today I enrolled with a driving school here in Ghana. My goal is to sometime next year be able to navigate between goats and Mercedes-Benzes, yellow taxicabs and banana sellers. The registration was surprisingly smooth – I payed the fees ($200) and handed over five (5) pass port sized pictures and got a report card for fifteen driving lessons to start with along with the theory course and a textbook, an exercise book and a notebook.
Then the theory class started, with me as the only student! My inspiring teacher Justice talked me through the roadsigns one by one in preparation for the “interview” later this week where I will be orally questioned by the roads authorities about the roadsigns before I get the go ahead to start practice driving.
If only it was this easy to enroll with the University of Ghana…Right now I am experiencing some time consuming shuffling around – “Oh, then you need to go to the registrar’s office and buy the forms”, “You come back later”, “You need to go back and get a go ahead from that department”, and “I can’t promise anything, just go back to the registrar”. It seems like the first test to pass is one of endurance.
I’ll keep you posted on both my educations in progress.
>The last few weeks I have entertained my first Swedish guests here in Ghana. It has been wonderful to introduce them to my new world of exotic sights and scenery, Ghanaian friends and family, as well as local dishes and drinks. Along with the joy of sharing come my guests’ impressions and thoughts about life here in West Africa. Fresh insights about the heat, the quality of the roads, the nightlife, and the family systems and other things has made me look at my surroundings in a different light.
My guests have pointed out funny things – like that you can pay five and get 2000 back in change – and by just being here themselves they have provoked interesting situations (many Ghanaians referred to my father as my brother for instance and my friend as my twin). We have discussed how to deal with the ever so deep inequalities between people here, if it would be possible to introduce composts and solarcells here, and which is the best way to plant a pineapple. We have told Ghanaians about our cold country in the north and learned about their lush green nation. Also, my guests have been able to provide me with interesting comparisons between both Ghana and India as well as between Ghana and Sweden in the 1950ies (!) and the (selected) outcome is as follows: There are less wild dogs than in India but a few more goats running about than in Sweden in the 1950ies…
On a more serious note, having people who know me come to share my realities here means a lot to me and their visiting perspectives continue to enrich my everyday life in Ghana. I hope it has become evident for my guests why I love Ghana and I do have the feeling they, with their experiences of other continents and times, have fallen too…
In the picture a Swedish flag on a fishing canoe in the Elmina harbor, western Ghana.
>Last week I attended the graduation ceremony for University of Ghana where graduates from the student body of 27 000 was awarded their diplomas. The sun was shining over bright smiles as they one by one were called to the podium to be recognized. But after accepting the diploma, what happens to the graduates?
The research project I am about to start will investigate what people do leave Ghana for supposedly greener pastures abroad and what groups stay. For instance if half of the medical doctors trained in Ghana leaves for Europe and US, why do the rest stay? These days I am collecting and reading articles on the subject and spending time thinking about how to narrow my topic down. Will I focus on groups of university graduates and look at how migration patterns differ between the sexes? Or will I look at other groups too since the educated group is relatively small – although influential on the country’s development? What sectors should I choose? Will I compare the situation in Ghana to another African country? The destination is unknown both for me and for my fellow students in Ghana.
>I blame my poor posting lately on, ehrm, that I am between jobs and have too many fun things to do. Although, over the last two years I have been posting quite a lot, to be precise 100 times!
When I started blogging, the idea was to write about my relocation to France and the inevitable culture shocks. I started off with some inspiration from fellow bloggers and my favorite Piaf song “Non, je ne regrette rien”. The blog has since then been about travels, also since I left Paris, but furthermore about similarities and differences between places on this planet and the people I have met. Writing here has allowed me to process and refine some of my thoughts on experiences I have had. Over my 100 posts I have visited four continents and a peninsula, moved to Ghana, discovered the amazing possibilities a blog can offer, and worried about that you people out there can know a lot about me before I know anything about you… Well, that is just a risk I take, and I have plenty of evidence it has been worth it.
To conclude this jubilee post I want to thank all my readers and especially the new ones that I have met through my blog!
>In the world I walk around in this week, change is key. In the markets things that did not exist one year ago are being sold (like digital photo frames that show your pics from a USB memory), old buildings can from one day to the next have been cleared down to make space for brand new, exciting arcitechture – often 10 or 20 times taller. Shops that are not profitable close after a week or two, the club that was in last month is most likely not the place to be tomorrow night. The feel is wonderfully capitalistic-optimistic and today as I walked in to the Shanghai Museum of Urban Planning, the lady at the ticket office proudly told me that the current exhibition would tell me more about the city in 20 years time. The future is here!
The downside to the whole thing is of course the lack of environmental and..ehrm..human concerns. Of course there are many women and men as well as geographical areas that suffer when products are being quickly produced and sold for small change (“Everything 2 yuan Shops” =0.20 cent, are everywhere). Although, it might be changing. It is not easy to get information on these things here, but small signs like that organic foods are available – even if in a small scale and often imported and a well-to-do middle class is emerging, at least here in Shanghai.
Seeing this exploding growth makes me think of the information clash that probably exists since in Europe we can read every week about “The China Bubble”. The headlines scream out “Sell your China papers!” and “The end for China is here!” While the concern is almost never about environment or human rights, the economy journalists worry about the “financial fragility” of the Chinese market. Coincidently, a Swedish finance guy I met in a fancy club at The Bund – the Shanghai see shore and business centre since a decade – said that “with the Olympic Games in Beijing next year and the World Expo in Shanghai 2010, people would be crazy to listen to those who predict a soon-to-come downfall of the Chinese market”.
Well, if I would trust the vibe I’ve gotten here in Shanghai over this first week and that handsome financeman, I’d buy into Chinese stocks. Although, my money will more likely be spent on a last minue trip to Beijing tomorrow where I’ll look for further capitalism clues.
Pet rabbits for sale, a stop with a private driver at Starbucks, a sweet smell of jasmine, an old lady stretching her leg on the street (almost straight up!), a loud argument in a local restaurant that seemed to be about a dumpling, people at the view point by the famous Shanghai skyline looking at rubber toys being sold on the pavement instead of the amazing architecture, orchids, a policeman telling an old lady to get of her bike, a Turkish business man struggling with his English, five toddlers playing on a balcony overlooking the pretty French Concession area, flowerpots hanging from the sides of the motorway, and me holding a map – something I rarely do, since I hate being obvious about my un-belonging, but in this case its too clear I am new to it all. I’m guessing I can be seen around town with a map tomorrow too!
>Sitting in a comfy chair looking out over a grayish blue ocean. The horizon is blurred, the sky is cloudy and there is rain in the air.
Today is my last but one day on the island and it has been a truly delightful experience to reconnect with my previous home, paths I used to walk, friends from the school days and marvellous dinners created by my own parents. I have been telling stories from Ghana and in formulating my new life in the south my Ghanaian relationships and realities seem surprisingly close. Close to this – very different – life in Sweden.
In the picture Sakko is sitting where I am sitting now.
>Looking at Sweden with African eyes, it looks empty, clean and wholesome, almost too orderly. I am not saying the Ghanaian open gutters, crowded streets and littered beaches are better, but what Sweden strives for, and indeed has come pretty close to, seems to be perfection. If there is such a thing as a too secure society, I think it looks something like Sweden.
In Ghana I get upset with how few people use seatbelts, even though everybody know someone who was involved in a traffic accident. I get sad when I think of all the unwanted and uncatered for children. But Ghana is also a place where it seems to be part of the calculation of life that bad things can happen. There is so to speak a preparedness. An African friend living in Sweden told me about how a collegue’s parent died and noone at the work place did anything which shocked my friend. She said, it is like people in Sweden think there’s a way to avoid death.
Maybe we Swedes need to invent a better engineered helmet and pass a law that it is to be used at all times, or maybe we should just relax and enjoy the ride though our clean and wholesome kingdom.
> This week, I have moved my physical self to Sweden and am currently experiencing the october drizzle in Uppsala.
But in the pic the sky is blue.
> The last few days I have been going round picking up gifts for friends and family back home in Sweden. Finding things that are genuinely Ghanaian proved to be more difficult than I first thought.
Truly Ghanaian are chocolate and cocoa products, a few other processed food items like spices, pineapple marmelade, roasted nuts and Ghanaian cloth – both wax prints and batik. Then we also have the jewellery like beads in every colour and shape. At least the big, heavy glass beads I have seen are produced here. The smaller ones a market lady says she buys from a man from Niger, but she wasn’t sure of their origin.
Today I also got to know from a reliable source that a lot of the “Made in Ghana” wax print cloth at the market is acctually printed in China. For a country like Ghana with a spiralling turism industry it would of course be good if the country could both gain jobs and profits themselves from selling things “Made in Ghana”.
As for me, I am tomorrow going back deep into the community 1 market in Tema to continue my quest.