Back to Basics: Blogging as a way of Dealing (with Crisis, with Life!)

WFH desk made from a ironing board
DIY WFH desk, made from an ironing board and a computer stand.

My blog has been quiet for a long time, more or less for a year with a few professional updates. I have gotten a few questions on this, and it is not due to lack of content! Actually more has happened in the last year than in previous years: I changed jobs, moved my family to a new (that’s how it felt, but it is my native) country. On top, I revisited everything I knew about relationships. Despite these upheavals (or maybe because of them?) I was no more sure about how to write on the blog or even what the point of it was. Every now and then, I’d read another blog and remember –  with a deep sigh –  my own was dormant, but still, I would not know how to return.

If last year was humbling and full of change and surprise, the Corona virus and ensuing world crisis add a whole new dimension of uncertainty and dread…but also new experiences and hope.

I cannot promise anything, but I will try to return to the blog. I think I can see now how having a presence online is helpful to my professional pursuits, maybe especially when the world – and with it, my career – is changing. It is a place to write about what I see, read, and do. It is a place to practice my writing – as I would say to my students, you can always get better! Writing about something is also a way to learn. And having a blog is a basic and practical way to approach life and its constant challenges. So, let see how it goes. For starters I updated the look and made it easier to read on your handheld device.

Now, what do you want to read about? Drop me a comment!

Blogging Advise to Keep Going

I got an email about blogging and thought all of you might enjoy my input.
Hello Kajsa,
I hope you are doing well this mid-semester break. I am a student of class of xxxx. I came for the branding session and I was quite intrigued and re-inspired to begin blogging again. However, due to a heavy study load and lack of motivation, I have not been able to continue. I also feel my blog is not bringing out the voice I want to be heard by the world as much. I hope you don’t mind if I request you guide me through the blogging process. Thank you very much.
My response:

Hi,

good to have a fellow blogger at Ashesi!

Your blog is all set up, looks cute, and you touch on some interesting topics under teen life, being an African woman etc.

However, to write more regularly, I think you need a little bit of structure. What has worked for me and many other bloggers is to first make a content plan and then follow up – see some tips here:

For instance, I have created Sunday Reads (which I usually write on Fridays and schedule them) as well as one post every semester about classes I teach – the most recent one was about my favorite assignment.

You can do similar – think up a structure for very low key posts…perhaps planning your week (super interesting for people outside Ashesi to see what a regular week can be like for an Ashesi student) or write a monthly update about a topic you care for and people will be coming to you as an authority.

You can also think of topics or categories: for instance: Life observations, beauty, Ghanaian politics, Career Women, Technology news, yes what ever! and I can help set them up for you and those categories can also help to guide and inspire your writing.
I read a lot of blogs and like Ghanaian blogs  Circumspecte and by Naa Oyoo  – maybe their writing can bring you more inspiration?
Thanks for reaching out, let me know how it goes, and enjoy the break!
/Kajsa

Kajsa Featured on 3FM’s segment Women Mean Business

Last week, I was a featured woman on the Women MEan Business segment on newish radio channel 3FM. I spoke to the host Winston about my work at Ashesi and with BloggingGhana, higher education, Ghanaian food and more!

I was surprised to see 2000 people have seen the Facebook Live version of my interview. Now you can too!

Best Nine of 2017 (and worst!)

It is time to summarize the year. These days it is easily done on Instagram and the Best Nine feature. As you can see it is a steady stream of colorful moments, from the top: 1. My sister-in-law Jenny and my niece Sapfo (Ghana style carried thanks to me!) discussing art in the Gallery at the plush Movenpick hotel, 2. My children being educated on how to pluck a chicken, 3. New dress from Kiki Clothing, 4. Chilling with Stonebwoy, 5. A blast from the past – my first visit to Ghana in 2004, 6. Ellen taking a stroll in our backyard, 7. Old dress at work, 8. SOS Tema School children very much related to me, 9. My kids at the Nubuke Foundation wall painted by children under the competent leadership of artist Bernard Akoi-Jackson.

So two moments at work, four with my kids, two with other kids, two in wax print fashion – three if you count baby carrying, one ninth hanging out with a celebrity, two in art spaces, one part remembering the past…

On the blog I have celebrated 10 years of living in Ghana, I have represented Sweden, stayed off social media for three weeks, shared the contents of my bag, been featured on one of my fav podcasts, and joined the debate on rape culture.

Of course, we all know these fav Instagram moments or blog posts are in no way representative of the year we have had, they are simply highlights or slivers of truth.

The nine worst moments were not shared on social media at all, but they were also part of my life. I have been misunderstood and mistaken. I have gone through loss, loneliness, stress, sickness, disappointment, while abroad I was locked into a glass cube at 5 am and saw my train to the airport depart without me (this should be its own blog post as I finally managed to break out McGuyver-style after realizing nobody would come to save me).

The worst moments on Instagram?

Well, apparently you do not like when I share photos of random documents or PTA meetings! But, of course as a blogger and lecturer, I do look at text much more than I do many other things…(Statistics from GabStats)

I am looking forward to 2018 and hope to meet you on Instagram, here on the blog, or somewhere else in this wondrous world. Thanks for reading!

 

Rethinking Infidelity and Vulnerability

The psychologist looks out from the brightly lit stage and asks the audience, “How many of you have been affected by infidelity? As a family member? As the one who is cheating? As the betrayed partner?” The truth is almost all of us have been affected and infidelity is, as many other transgressions, painful and disruptive.

However, the psychotherapist Esther Perel has tried to reconsider what infidelity means in her new book “State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” (link to Perel’s webpage with the possibility of reading an excerpt). I haven’t read the book just yet as it only came out last month, but wanted to share the news of it with you, as I think it will be an interesting read for all interested in long-term relationships for a couple of reasons:

  1. If its half as good as her Podcast with the brilliant name “Where should we begin”, or the TED-video (see embedded below) on the same topic (the question she ends the talk with was mind-blowing!) and a worksheet that I think can be helpful to any couple struggling with the aftermath of infidelity. If just half as good, the book will be useful.
  2. I loved her earlier book. The ideas clearly are a continuation of Perel’s earlier book on relationships called “Mating in Captivity” and loved it! I think I loved this book because of its duality: merging practical, practitioner’s advice by generously sharing cases on the one hand, and theoretically thinking through what a monogamous relationship really is on the other. In this first book, Perel elegantly argues that a long-term love relationship really is about. Perel says it is about “reconciling the erotic and the domestic” and walks us through how impossible and paradoxical that is. I remember her asking a question in the book: Would you be more upset if your partner had cheated or if s/he never had? Here she is suggesting that a partner staying mysterious and secret to some degree ignites our interest in them, as one does not fall in love with a partner that is inseparable from oneself. Hence an affair or at least the possibility of it, on some level might be positive. On the other hand, and this is the paradox, a long-term relationship is by definition an institution we are supposed to trust. How can we rely on someone who lies about the most intimate aspect we share?
  3. Finally, the intercultural approach Perel takes to relationships makes sense to me. Not only is the world a global village these days with many couples looking something like the one I am in (Ghanaian -Swedish), on some level all couples are two cultures integrating, right? (not just two nationalities but also Engineer- Social scientist, Gen X – Millenial, working-class – middle-academic-class and so on). This New York Times article explains her intercultural approach (and as a bonus critiques her work effectively).

An excerpt from Perel’s new book asks some questions and suggest we should discuss them in a relationship before we are in “a storm” of infidelity. Among others, the questions are:

“Has monogamy outlived its usefulness? What is fidelity? Can we love more than one person at once?

For me, these conversations are part and parcel of any adult, intimate relationship. For most couples, unfortunately, the crisis of an affair is the first time they talk about any of this. Catastrophe has a way of propelling us into the essence of things. I encourage you not to wait for a storm, but to address these ideas in a quieter climate. Talking about what draws us outside our fences, and about the fear of loss that accompanies it, in an atmosphere of trust can actually promote intimacy and commitment. Our desires, even our most illicit ones, are a feature of our humanity.”

This suggestion of talking about difficult, but real things, reminds me of another favorite self-help writer of mine, sociology professor Brene Brown. Her new book on vulnerability says exactly this – by being vulnerable, imperfect, even failing (perhaps like dealing with infidelity as a couple?), we can connect with others. The book is “Braving the Wilderness” where the first word in the title is also a clever acronym on how to be brave in the wild…

Now, in the world we are not just rethinking infidelity and vulnerability, we are also rethinking what a book is. If you do not have time to read all the details, but still think the above sounds relevant, you have videos and other free online content there for you. I suggest you start with these two videos!

Photo above by CMEarnestOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link 

 

The Week When I Increased My Twitter Following by x10

This week I have the honor of representing my native Sweden as the curator of the Twitter account @Sweden. It is every week run by a new Swede or person living in Sweden (this week a Swede outside Sweden). 

The initiative aims to showcase “the country of Sweden through the mix of skills, experiences and opinions it actually consists of. Through the stories of the various curators, not one Sweden is conveyed, but several.” Housed by the Swedish Institute, the project is a co-initiative with VisitSweden and you can read more about the project Curators of Sweden and see a list of more curators here.

I opened my curatorship with a tweet+video from our garden:

 

On my personal Twitter account @kajsaha, I have 12 000 followers, but this week I have 127 000! I hope to make good use of the exposure! During my week I will discuss

  • Swedishness,
  • my best online tips,
  • weather (that’s what Swedes like to talk about!),
  • identity politics,
  • why I chose to research migration in West Africa,
  • and of course, share some breakfast photos.

I also hope to use my social media skills to have a very interactive week!

See my posts on Twitter.com/Sweden

Welcome!

Three Weeks without Social Media: Was I Happier in the End?

To be able to have a completely restful vacation, I took three weeks off social media this summer. What I intended was to not read or post anything on my three favorite social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As a total social media freak (I am someone who often hails social media as the revolution of our time), I was interested in this hiatus also from an experimental point of view: would it be difficult to keep off? Would I miss my social media timelines? My ubiquitous scrolling? What would be the effects?

The first few days

The first few days I kept a diary, this is what I noted:

Day 1 – I have set up my blog post on my social media break to post automatically in the morning, later in the day I went into Instagram in the evening to post the same info on my break. By mistake, I clicked the Twitter app. Closed it quickly. I have already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, now I put the remaining apps in a “social” folder on my phone and put it on the last screen, not the first.  Regretted when I thought of the art exhibit I’ll attend tomorrow and the conference next week. Else felt happy. Baked, finished a book. Had a glass of wine. Watched a tv-program.

Day 2 –  I have had a packed day and at the art exhibits and food fair I went to I wanted to post, that’s how I usually take in an event. Instead talked to a friend. It was good, but very different from how I usually experience such a happening.

Facebook sent me an email saying I had memories with my family. It felt a little bad to not see the memory, but also what a cheap trick that is to bring you in!

Day 3 – Methodically canceled all remaining social media app notifications. Went to a book club meeting and was present throughout. Watched in amazement when others drift away from the conversation with real people to check their screens all the time. In the evening, I had a question I wanted to post to my social media network. Later googled the question instead and found an answer.

Day 4 – I got messages from Odekro from parliament straight to my locked screen. Scrolled thru. That’s not strictly checking one’s timeline, right? I think this is because I “follow posts” on Twitter and I do not want to turn that off. (But really why not?)

Day 5 –  I am spending more time on WhatsApp actually having conversations with people. At an outing, I took very few pics, because now that I can’t share them…I feel calm and cut off from reality.

Day 6 – I realize I have read no news since I stopped social media. I went to my blog to see if anyone had commented on my blog post about the social media break. But people rarely comment on blogs anymore. I was inspired to read my favorite Instagrammers’ blogs.

 

What I Learned

  1. Notifications are Mean

It is no surprise that notifications of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are engineered to draw us in, have us watch just a few more photos on our timeline and just see one more video, but how difficult it was to get signed off from everywhere surprised me.  If you want to dig deeper, I enjoyed this medium article: This is How or Fear and Outrage is Being Sold for Profit.

  1. I read most my news from links on Social Media

We sometimes talk about echo-chambers; this seems to certainly be true for me. Totally unconsciously, I have read or watched no news at all in the last weeks, but solely relied on my husband to tell me crucial headline stories. For a political scientist, this is major.

  1. I get most event information on Social Media

Few people called, I heard of few events, I saw few people these weeks. I realize I get most of my information about events and parties, art openings, and meetings thru social media. Perhaps not surprising, but also completely excluding, as one then have to be on social media to meet people offline.

  1. I take photos to share them.

When I was doing research on photo storage last year, I came across an article that said storage will be superfluous in the near future as what people want to do with pictures in to share them. This was true for me these weeks. When I saw something nice, I’d remember I would not get to share it for the next weeks, then I thought to myself, what is the point?

  1. I should have considered going off the Internet completely for a fuller rest.

I thought I still need to be on WhatsApp (but really why? I could have set an away message) and have access to the Internet (you know, to…Google stuff). But those opportunities were exploited by my synapses (a.k.a. me) and I read many, many blogs, even had one or two late night surf-binges, and that was not what I had intended for my social media break. I think that is how I filled the “scroll-void” or the habitual social media checks.

 

New Habits

I will now more consciously decide when and how much I will be using social media. To be honest, as I am easing my way back into social media, I am feeling a little bit disgusted by the whole speed of all timelines, beautiful photos, and heated opinions. It seems they all flash by only to be replaced by another. When I started work this week, I have the following habits in mind:

  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will turn my phone off in the evening, after 9 pm and turn it on in the morning. I will continue to keep the gadgets outside the bedroom – they should be charged elsewhere! Listen to Arianna Huffington on this!
  • I need to do something about my news intake as well, but do not have a solution yet.
  • I will continue to have all push notifications turned off.
  • I will spend less time on Instagram and more on reading my fav blogs/listening to fav podcasts. This as I feel Instagram particularly makes me feel someway bi, and the blogs have many times the same photos, but with more context.
  • I did miss Twitter and the flashing by of all kinds of information. I will engage less in political debate…hm, no, that is not realistic, but I will compliment major conversation with some further action: petitions, small donations, offline engagement, and so on.
  • I will continuously take a yearly break from social media and the Internet.

 

Did Being Off Social Media Make Me Happier?

I did spend more time reading, sleeping, playing with my children, talking to my husband, but being off Social Media did maybe make me relax more, but not make me feel happier. I would have to say no, I actually felt sad!

Sad as I “couldn’t” share interesting things I experienced with the world, but at the same time the time off gave me some perspective on the way social media builds on human psychology and how, once the notifications come off, we can start using it for what we want again.

Have you ever taken a social media break? Do you limit your social media intake in some way? Let’s learn from each-other!

I’m taking a social media pause

Don’t go looking for my latest snappy Tweet, funny Instagram photo, or Facebook banter in the next two weeks. I’ll be offline.

I might read a book. Bake a bread. Swim. Sleep early. Eat ugly food. Rest my right-hand thumb.

Inspired by Jemila of Circumspecte, and instructed by WikiHow, I will sign off from blog, social media apps, and all for two weeks or so. I am doing it as I want to experience my vacation with my children fully. I am doing it because I feel the chill of addiction.  I am doing it because I am tired to the core. I have read that Social Media breaks make you happier, well, we shall see about that. I have a feeling I will rather than meeting a sweet sunset happiness, have serious withdrawal syndromes, like missing taking square photos of everything I eat and phantom grab for my phone for late night scrolling…

I will report back here mid-August. What happened? Did I really stay off? Did I miss it? What did I learn? Now, are you willing to join me?

Pic: Created with Paper by FiftyThree.

 

My talk at #iHav2017: Social Media and its Employment Opportunities

On Wed 26 July 2017, I was invited by the iHav Foundation to be a resource person at their training for youth leaders from the entire African continent.

I was invited to talk on the topic of:

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

and ended up interacting with a smaller group of social media enthusiasts at the conference from five different countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana.

We discussed how to control your social media presence and how to start a blog. This is the talk I had prepared:

————————————————————————————-

Have you ever asked your parents how they kept in touch with family and friends outside Ghana when they were your age? Let me tell you that you needed to take transport to the post office at Makola market around high street and order a call – for the next day!

10 years later, cell phone tech came to Ghana and a SIM card cost, guess how much? A monthly salary!

A monthly salary!

10 years later, Ghana had dial up Internet. Do you remember the sound of it? I think you are too young! Because today, 3/4 Ghanaians have mobile data subscription on their phone (NCA, 2017).

=revolution. Everything the World has access to online, we have access to as well. All opportunities. No excuses!

Three opportunities:

  1. Controlling your (and your country’s) social media presence

Google yourself. What happens?

For me, it’s

Wikipedia, YouTube, work website, my blog, Wikipedia, twitter, linked in – you can’t write about yourself in wiki (but everything else! join the Wikipedia community!) By the way, the coordinator for wiki libraries in the world(!) lives in Ghana and started up as a contributing writer for Wikipedia.

Most of these entries I have written/created myself! Then I have control over my online and social media presence.

Next level of controlling online presence is contributing to how your country and Africa is covered online. This is why I started BloggingGhana,   to share the stories from Ghana and encourage Ghanaians to share our world. Another example is the Ghanaian hair app, Tress.It creates a community around something very important in our context, great hair!

2. Learning something online (Or teaching others):

how dance salsa, how do braid hair, How to Cook nigerian jollof to impress a Nigerian, how to . How to set up a blog. Just google it, watch some videos and you are ready to go. Skills can lead to new opportunities to make a living.

3. Doing work online

Is the last level. Although much work these days is actually done online: PR, communications, marketing, writing, journalism, music, art, e-commerce, we also have people who work remotely.

Many of us also use social media to build ourselves up, collect the work we do in one place (like a blog) but also use social media to discuss societal issues in Tweet-ups and Facebook-live sessions, help others, perhaps more as a calling as a business opportunity (one does not exclude the other though!)

Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

  • Set up profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google, linked in, upload pictures, say something. Make sure pictures of you online represent the best you, if they do not, change them and the old one(s) will eventually be pushed down in search.
  • Follow me on social media channels @kajsaha (I was even wearing my @ellishaboie KAJSAHA top, see above!) as I tweet and instagram African content relevant for you. See for instance my blog post: “Why blogging is good for your career”.
  • Follow @bloggingghana, and/or social media organizations in your country (see my Twitter list!)

I said it again: Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

We did not have so much time for Q&A, but one I remember was:

Q: How do I get more followers?

A (From both me and others in the group): Be useful, kind, promote others, share information, summarize events, ask questions, post photos.

 

Thanks again to Christabel Ofori and the team at iHAV Foundation for inviting me and creating such a useful platform for our future leaders.

Green Ghanaian Akua Akyaa Nkrumah is Gone

Environmental Technologist Akua Akyaa Nkrumah passed away on Thursday. She was, write her colleagues in the death announcement, a “mighty tree”. I think it is not often such words are used about a thirty-something, but those were the same words that came to mind as I heard of her passing on Friday morning. I am devastated. 

In lieu of the one-week meeting for family and friends that is customary in Ghana, I want to sit an imaginary living room and share here on my blog some of my thoughts. I imagine an overcrowded room, some of us are standing. I see Akyaa’s family and colleagues in the room, friends from BloggingGhana, Chale Wote, Ahaspora, Golda, Maame Aba, Jemila, Edward, Ato, Naa Oyoo, Efo. Now that we are all here, let’s remember.

Akyaa was a blogger and member of the organization I co-founded in 2008, BloggingGhana. Do read her last blog post on the 15 things NPP can do for the environment. She was a very present member, featured in our “By the Fireside”-events last year, and a feisty and fun discussant on issues we would deliberate on when the official meeting was over. She was a passionate professional working with Jekora Ventures, doing the hard work that is cleaning up Accra, one of the places in the world most in need of sanitation. She was proud of her work and often talked about her projects. Additionally, she was an inspiration and a fellow creative in a space where creativity is rare. She was also an ray of light in the field of environmentalism, desperately needed for a Ghana that is quickly becoming a dump site. Last year, she was featured on Jill of All Trades with this beautiful interview.

In the beginning of the year, Akyaa and I had quite a lot of interactions. We met up and talked about life, she helped my student with information, I got to learn about her initiative to take Eco thinking and social media to university students in the Green Ghanaian Eco Tour. The program was masterfully crafted, intended to reach all regions of Ghana, prefunded by an international donor who Akua had approached and written a proposal to. I took notes and confided in her that under so many years of discussing such an outreach for causes I feel strongly about, I never managed to. She generously shared the details that made her project a success.

In February, Akyaa brought her initiative to Ashesi University. I played only a small role and finally could not attend the program on the Saturday she came up with her team, but was following the tweets online from engaged students.


 

In her last year of living, Akyaa spread her worldview to hundreds (thousands?) of young people, opened a waste management plant, and taught me personally about activism and outreach. Now that she is no more with us, my only consolation is in these endeavors Akua Akyaa Nkrumah will live on. Green Ghanaian…dubbed Great Ghanaian by a mutual friend. Green Great Ghanaian. Our mighty tree. Thank you. Da yiy3.

BloggingGhana will remember her in an event soon. 

Ahaspora will be dedicating their June Happy Hour to celebrate her life.

Family GoFundMe collection for her burial.

Celebrating 10 Years of Living in Ghana

This week, I have a major life anniversary: 10 years of living in Ghana! On April 17th, 2007, I stepped on the Kotoka tarmac in Accra with two big suitcases, and was hit by a hot wind of promise. 

And Chale, Ghana has delivered…

(Our wedding slideshow has more than 21 000 views!)

But despite worldly successes, the transition from a cold, Scandinavian country to a hot Tropical one has not always been easy. In my home of 10 years, I continue to be an outsider who hear “Welcome!” every single week. While I smile and say “Thank you!”, it hurts to know I can never fully be accepted here. I often say “I am a 7-8-9, now, 10-year-old in this context…” and I like that image as it often accurately reflects how much – or how little –  I understand of my surroundings. Many things (traditions, greetings, events, ideas, relationships, ends of relationships) here still surprise me, actually surprise me more than during the early days in Ghana.

In addition, 10 years away has made me start to feel like a stranger in Sweden. Swedish politics, fashion, topics for discussion throw me off, makes me raise my eyebrows. While I can walk the streets in Sweden totally blending in…ok, maybe not when I sport my colourful wax print in the sea of black, gray, and beige…but, at least, without hearing anyone welcoming me, I increasingly feel like a stranger who look around with a surprised face. I am reminded of what a family friend who grew up somewhere else said about living a life abroad: “soon, you don’t belong anywhere”.

Missing being close to my Swedish family is unfortunately a feeling that grows with time.

I am not saying the above because I want to complain, no! Life in Ghana for 10 years has undoubtedly been good to me,  or else I would not have stayed. My dreams have come true! But life in Ghana is not just good, rather it is continuously the adventure of my life.

I am still thinking of how to mark this milestone, if you have ideas, write a comment below. Thanks!

 

 

Enter the Media Kit for Bloggers

So I have quietly been working on some interesting blog related projects, I will tell you more soon. I’ll start by outdooring my media kit.

I got the idea from Swedish blogs which often have them and when the Influencers of Sweden wrote about how to make your own, see for instance this post with three examples of media kits in English,  I came up with this doc that you can download from my Contact-page. See a first version below:

The idea is that potential collaborators and media people will be able to get a summary of what the blog is about and how influential it is (measured in followers, visits, etc).

Does my media kit summarise my blog? If you are a blogger, will you make one?