> Ghana is the golden country of football. On every small patch of land there is a game coming on in the early mornings and weekends. The European leagues and African derby’s are followed closely on TV. African Cup of Nations hosted by Ghana earlier this year let to even more fotball fever. Fotball is fun. Fotball is entertainment. Fotball is also a possible way out of poverty.
He is a compact, well-built 22 year old I met in front of the Danish embassy earlier this year. Since a young age, growing up in poor circumstances, this young man just knew he was going to be a professional footballer. He was good, he trained a lot and really enjoyed his play. However, his father would not hear of it, but instead wanted his son to work long hours to make money for the family. He moved away from home in his early teens, forced to support himself to be able to continue developing as a footballer.
His talent shone through and soon a prominent Ghanaian football club signed him on for their junior team. They made sure he was put though football academy to further develop his skills with the leather ball. Then last summer, a Swedish coach came to Ghana to look for young talents. His eye fell on my friend and in September he was flown to Sweden to do try outs. Back in Ghana, he was approached by an agent and currently also teams in other parts of the world is showing an interest for the young footballer, a striker who can shoot with either foot. Now he is up in the air, will any of these teams sign him on?
Smiling, he tells me this story over a chilled bottle of Soda water in a nice bar in central Accra. I laugh admiringly and can’t help but ask, but how could you possibly know you would make it?
His eyes grow dark, his jaw tightens.
-I just knew it, I know I am good.
The Ghanaian Dream has been lived by my friend Daniel. His amazing story has all the ingredients of a good tale, except for that the happy ending is – how can I put it – pending.
In the pic, Daniel is showing me pictures and newspaper clippings from his fotball career so far.
> In three short weeks I had time to meet up with a bunch of friends and family members, eat “sill” and “kräftor”, take walks on the beach and talk, talk, talk in Swedish. It is extremely important to reconnect with your base as an expatriate. This I’ve learned from among other aliens Agneta Nilsson, founder of the SWEA. She is able to live in two worlds (LA and Sweden) by sustaining her contacts in Sweden even though she lives in the US since many years.
I feel better grounded now somehow, I know my friends still care for me even though I moved away and a further reassurance was the gut feeling that came to me already when I walked to the gate for the Accra flight last Sunday – it is clear that Ghana is my home now.
My lovely vacation is hereby over and there are a lot of things to sink my teeth into back in Ghana. Among others a slow launch of the website aponkye.com, a new go at my migration research proposal and a Ghana bloggers meet up on Thursday.
For the Swedish speaking crowd, I proudly recommend the radio program with my friend Emilie Persson. She is a truly inspiring person and uses her “hour of fame” on Swedish local radio to discuss political engagement and explore how she went from being a tired student who saw herself as a make-up artist, to someone who is an expert on fair trade, CSR and organic agricultural production and uses her knowledge to lead and engage people. She also talks about her trip to Ghana and says her three months here were exclusively positive. “If you don’t think you don’t dare to go to Africa, take a chance! Ghana is a fantastic, wonderful country!”
For the English speakers, Emilie plays some good music like Ghanaian hip-life (Ofori Amponsah), South African reggae (Lucky Dube) and American hip-hop (Erykah Badu).
In the picture, Emilie is smelling the flowers in Aburi Gardens in Ghana on a visit last year.
> An inspiring person, just one, can change your whole outlook on life. When you see someone talk with that sparkle in their eye, work hard and deliver the most amazing outcomes and move around life as if the situation was custom made for him or her – then I want to do the same. My interest in my surroundings, work morale and heck – even joy of being alive – gets a boost.
Some inspiring people that has crossed my lucky path recently here in Ghana are June Arunga, a young Kenyan woman who works in the IT industry here in Ghana, gives globalization speeches and have traveled the continent in the TV program The Devil’s Footpath. She is fast and fun and a person I am just getting to know (including her inspiring book shelf, thanks June!).
Michael Boampong is youth activist and founder of the NGO Young People We Care and one of the 40 most active in Taking IT Global, an online community which seeks to inspire, involve and inform young people. I have not had the opportunity to meet with him yet, but through Internet I know of him and maybe he soon knows of me as well! (all this also inspiring, isn’t it?)
I sat down with Nii Mantse just last week who is the editor of Jive, a magazine covering entertainment in Ghana. He has also worked in TV production, for instance with Studio 53 which covers Africas 53 nations, but also with Ghanaian television. We spoke about what matters at work, what young people like to do in Accra and an hour flew by.
All these three people have that energy/drive/sparkle in their eye that inspires me.
Migration Research Update: June has also done a documentary on why the educated youth leaves the continent called “Africa’s Ultimate Resource” and Michel wants to be a “migration expert” in the future. I think I need to talk to both of them in preparation for my upcoming migration studies.
In the pic the Ghanaian fertility symbol Akuaba to illustrate the mind fertilization and inspiration in this post.
> Away from home, I have found that having Swedish friends is crucial for my well-being. To be able to fully express myself, to have fika with everybody involved understanding the concept, for a while coming down on Ghana instead of always siding with things that go on here. Those moments feel like breathing in the chilly air of Swedish autumn, Ahhhh.
Then imagine my sadness when my two Swedish companions A and J left for Sweden last week. A whole year, these two have been my confidents, my close friends and obvious plannning mates for midsummer and xmas (ok, thats not quite true, for xmas they eloped to Mali and I had herring and potato all by myself, but you get what I’m saying?)
And now it is just me and the scolding sun, thousand pairs of curious eyes and noone to share a good cup of coffee with. Until…
…I got a comment on my blog from Maya. A Swede living less than 10 minutes from me here in Tema. Hurray! We are to meet up for the first time this weekend.
And then S called. S is a Swede living in London with her Ghanaian husband and we have been in touch since a couple of months. S found my blog when researching their idea to relocate to Ghana. I invited the Ghanaian-Swedish couple over for dinner on Thursday!
So thanks to this very blog I am getting to know my (Swedish) readers, and I don’t have to feel so terribly lonely.
In the pic: Like Gulder and Star, J and I. Will miss you!
> Intense weeks behind me with some of my best friends, including my three siblings, came to experience my Ghana. We went on a three day trip to see the beautiful east, the vivid capital Accra and the quiet beaches of the west. We prepared for the wedding and smiled through the colorful event it turned into.
The weeks following the wedding and the 20-hour-honeymoon (!) people dropped off, a bit more relaxed and tanned than before, and in the end only my sister and brother remained in Ghana.
When I close my eyes (or enter iPhoto on my computer) images from the past month flicker by of us jumping waves, eating charcoal grilled whole fish, getting into taxis with no seatbelts, buying ripe mangoes at the local market, laughing over a cold Star, singing on my porch, buying West African instruments, sharing moskito repellent and discussing all sorts of life issues.
No, it wasn’t perfect (and yeah, a few caught malaria), but it was a-h-amazing.
In the picture my siblings, friend and I pose by Lake Bosomtwi (Lake Holy-Antilope).
>If that is true, I am a loud voice in the blogosphere, a many times published journalist and writer, a reseacher, a traveller and a radio host. Let’s start with Nadja, she is a lawyer and a writer, mostly commenting on foreign issues from a Swedish perspective or issues a pluralistic Sweden has to deal with immediately like religious schools.
My fair trade heroine Emilie is constructing Bombay as we write during an summer course at the univerity there. Peter I believe is writing a book on pension reforms in Sweden. Mattias is writing about the process of learning ICT at university level when he is not busy writing articles and media strategies as the head of PhD students in Sweden. Laila is in Paris writing her dissertation on the organizational culture of the OECD concerning development and gender.
My sister Freja is a radio host with the national radio channel P3. My friend Matthew is writing excellent stuff all the time, sometimes it gets published in the Dothan Cronicle.Katrine works with newspaper expressen , but also publish her sharp comments in other publications and on the web, Marta works, except for the Almighty also with magazine Efter Arbetet, Joel with Folkbladet in Norrkoping and Ida, last time I checked worked for Jamtlandstidningen.
Today, Anna a freelance writer together with Petra a poet and academic writer, are launching the first ever queer club in our hometown, Visby as “entertainment, business idea and political statement”.
I am so proud of you all and this is not even an exhaustive list!
In the picture me with some of the above mentioned friends.
I thought I’d introduce you to some of my new friends. First out is Steven Kofi Ferguson – a handsome guy of 27 years who drive me to and from work every day in his taxi. He is related to my boyfriend in a complicated way that makes my boyfriend Steven’s “son” (don’t ask). He has a good sense of humor, order and time. He is a religious man with patience that is as vast as the desert. Every morning he picks me up at my house around 8. We greet in Fante
– “EwuraAma – wo ho te sen den?”
– “ Boko, wo ntso Steven, wo e?”
And he asks me (still in Fante) what I have eaten the day before and chuckles at my attempts to reply. Then off we go. The ride to my workplace takes about 25 minutes, a little more on the way back due to traffic, and most of the time is spent on the motorway that connects the harbor town of Tema in which I and Steven live and Accra, Ghana’s capital where I work.
The ride on the motorway is smooth, I have gotten used to both that running people cross almost everywhere on the two-laned motorway and that some cars leave behind smoke that could kill you if you inhaled at that moment. So, it’s a smooth ride, perfect for conversations. We talk about music, Steven likes country, international gospel, reggae and hip-life, which is a development of Ghanaian high-life music that bloomed in the 60ies mixed with hip-hop and electronical instruments. We talk about religion, Steven goes to church twice a week and like many other Ghanaians express his religion through banners, idioms and invitations to his church. Today, he asked me “So EwuraAma, what do you do on Sundays?”
In Ghana, taxis are highly personalized by the driver since he (never a woman) often owns the car. Many of the cars have a message, more often religious than not, written across the back window. We discuss what would be a good choice for Steven to write across his window. He is torn between “By His grace” and “Time is money”. Steven drives his car 6 days a week, from around 7 am until the sun sets at 6pm.
We also talk about family, we both have three siblings and we live with large families. And we talk a lot about relationships and try to find answers to the eternal questions. Are men or women more jealous, why do many white women like rastafari men, how to best ask someone out, why girls in all countries sometimes give out fake numbers, why men in all countries should respect women. Yesterday we together explored the fine art of writing love letters (you there, write one today!)
I feel very fortunate to have a private driver – I feel like a princess! Or ambassador! But it is an even greater joy to have made a new friend.
>Today I recieved some mail from Sweden. Not that I do not love the Internet and all it’s possibilities, I do.
But still. Real mail. It feels really sweet. Let me share with you what the package from my friend E contained. There was some folders on fair trade(my friend E never misses an opportunity to share her views on this topic), then there was two wrapped gifts. On one it said – “to open when you feel sad” and on the other one “to open when the patriarchy gets to you”. So super nice.
Today, I will find something to send straight back to you, E.
What is it I really miss from home? The climate, some of the foods, my friends and family and being able to walk down the street and not wanting to capture at least 3 things on camera. Yesterday, I went to the capital with my boyfriend. Apart from one evening in an Accra restaurant this was my first visit in the capital since I came. We shared a taxi there, which took no more than 30 minutes still we ended up in a different world. We found ourselves in the hip Osu district of Accra. A place where big cars and obrunis (white people) are as common as yellow-and-blue taxis and bibinis (black people) in all other corners of Ghana. At the popular spot “Osu Food Court” I had an opportunity to choose not only between goat soup and different types of yam, but also hamburgers, pizza, coffee and cake (!) and other western/American dishes.
So what did I choose to eat? After some two weeks of local specialities I have come to really appriciate like spicy soups and stews, fish and chicken, carbohydrats in sticky balls and fruits new to me I went with…Pepperoni Pizza. Why? I don’t even eat pizza all that often in Sweden. Later that day, I had the opportunity to discuss this phenomenon with a Swedish newfound friend. We agreed that even though we came to experience new things it is just too much novelties at the same time. The heat, the smells, the early mornings, the animals running about, the new sounds, the different ways of buying a fruit/taking a taxi/shaking hands and the fact that it is impossible to blend in…all this make us inclined to once in a while look for the well-known. Even if it is a sad Pepperoni Pizza.
In the picture new friends Annie and Johnny visiting in my mother-in-law’s house.
So, weekend is coming to Ghana as well. It will probably be a calm time with a trip to the nearby capital, hopefully for some salsa dancing. Or maybe a stop at the beach. I feel good today after getting my hair re-braided and yesterday speaking Swedish with some newfound Swedish friends. It’s something special with Swedes abroad…they so often impress me. So courageous, cool and cosmopolitan.
Next week, I will upload some of my own photos here. Stay tuned!