My Last Graduation at Ashesi University

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 will be my last graduation as a lecturer at Ashesi University in Berekuso. After the summer, I will explore a new path in my career journey.

I have been an employee at Ashesi University since August 2009, I even experienced the ground-breaking ceremony for the Berekuso campus! I can look back on 10 years of joy, incremental learning and meaningful meetings on two different campuses. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been provided and I have been proud working for the important mission of Ashesi University – to educate a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa – if even in a small way in the classroom and in off-campus interactions. See some photos in the gallery below.

Over this past decade, I have written many blog posts about my time with Ashesi University, here are some of them: Teaching a summer course humbly called Thinking Like a Genius! Fall semester 2012 teaching Written and Oral Communication and Text & Meaning, Teaching Social Theory 2012. Career Fair 2013  (with photos). Reading Mahama’s biography for Social Theory class 2013. Doing a “Grown Woman Internship” with Citi FM. About Ashesi students being cool! Passing on the baton of teaching from my mother to my daughter(?). Getting extremely excited about Virtual Reality in the Classroom in 2016 (now Ashesi alumni led company Nubian VR are doing research on how science instruction in Ghanaian high schools can use VR technology). Having a writing team kickoff and welcoming new talents. On my fav assignment personal artefact speeches in 2018. On my sabbatical – time to think, read and write in 2019.

I also wrote an article for Swiss newspaper NZZ about Ashesi’s approach to ethics which was published in English for University World News as well.

For some moving images of me on campus, see this interview from 2016. (Pulse Ghana)

Recently to my joy, two of my students started blogs of their own. Do also read: Theresa on getting a Visa for her study-abroad when the time was running out, and Masateru on helping his family’s cake business in Malawi with the skills he picked up at Ashesi University. Alumni Karyn went to Sweden for a Master’s and won the Global Swede award!

So on Saturday, it will not just be Class of 2019 leaving the Ashesi community – I will be clasping my handkerchief and remembering the good times as well! Thank you to all fantastic individuals: students, colleagues, alumni, parents, support staff, foundation folks, board members, friends, all who have crossed my path at Ashesi since 2009!

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!

 

 

The PhD journey: the Viva

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PhD Viva. Photo: Jeffrey Paller

On Thursday 28th April in the morning, I did a 40 minute presentation of my dissertation “On a course to migrate? Migration aspirations among University Students in Ghana” and took questions for another 40 minutes or so. After a brief adjournment by the examiners, the verdict was in: I had passed.

Now there are some formal steps left, like making corrections in the final documents, and trying out a silly hat, but if they run smoothly, I am looking forward to graduation on July 23rd. This year!

The feeling at this point is one of great happiness and relief, pride and exhaustion. Happy to have completed well. On the day, I got into the presentation and just flowed, despite being nervous – almost cripplingly so –  the weeks and days leading up to the presentation. ( I did a mock viva two weeks earlier that I think I did not do well in, so I’d say I know the difference between flow and just making it thru). On the day, the questioning part also went well, save a few stumbling answers to unexpected questions.

I am grateful for all the people that have been supporting me in this transformative journey over the last 5 years. I am proud of myself for making it over all the hurdles and trying tasks. I am exhausted and try to be kind to myself.

I did it.

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With colleagues and supporters in the graduate seminar room just after my presentation.

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Relieved and happy after the viva with my student Dorcas who came to support me!

Shirley Temple: Actress and Ambassador in Ghana

Shirley Temple Black Americans have for long understood the potential of a face known from film. Not just President Ronald Regan or Governor Arnold Schwartsenegger  made the transition from white screen to colorful politics, actress Shirley Temple did too.

In 1974 she landed in Ghana as the American ambassador. The country was 18 years out of colonialism, but head-deep into dependency, especially due to the American oil crisis at the time. Temple stayed in Ghana for two years.

When I first heard about this interesting career change and Temple’s time in Ghana, I marveled. I became almost obsessed with finding photos of Temple in Ghana and my eyes widened as I saw her coiffed hair bobbing around in the Ghanaian sun surrounded by traditional leaders and welcoming parades.

 It would be interesting to know more about what her everyday life in Ghana was like, maybe now that she is gone, some writings might appear? Some interviews will be done? but never the less, her life reminds us that no matter where you start in life, you might end up in Ghana, smiling in the sun.

Photo borrowed from The Guardian from a worthwhile biography.

Autumnal Equinox, Plenty Wahala and Orange Moon

When life spins to fast, piles are gathering and there is plenty wahala it helps to remember how small we are. Not in a bad way, not small-insignificant, just small-relatively…I think you know what I mean…

I like to look at the sky – moon and stars – to calm me down. The whole thing started with a visit to the Ghana Planetarium. (Or maybe it has always been with me? )

Today, I was informed by a friend from the planetarium that we are approaching the autumnal equinox that comes with a special moon, sometimes called the harvest moon. However, I din’t really see it. I stayed until late in town, lights everywhere (I believe they call it “light pollution”) and I could not quite figure out if we in the southern hemisphere really see the same thing, plus it was cloudy. So I went for Erykah Badu‘s Orange moon instead.

How good it is…

>Meet the Snow Leopard Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong

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I remember the first time I heard of Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong…A Ghanaian man, raised in tropical Africa, who six years ago for the first time stood on a pair of skis…and now is going to compete in the Olympic games in Slalom (or downhill skiing for you who are still not familiar with snow).

Could this be for real? Can a Ghanaian ski professionally? Is it Fool’s day?

My my sarcasms quickly went away as I (again) had to realize that life is so much better than fiction. Here are some other facts:

* He shares names with Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah.
* Some marketing team has come up with the brilliant idea of calling him “the snow leopard”.
* The problem for Nkrumah Acheampong has been financial rather than physical, see my fellow blogger David Ajao‘s post here.
*A Ghanaian government official flew to Vancouver to wish him “good luck”, source Reuters.
*His goal for the olympics was “not to come last”
*He actually skied better than 7 others…
*…Or at least skied better than one other skier as the other six were disqualified or did not finish the competition. See results here
*He now wants to teach kids how to ski – in Ghana! Reuters got this wonderful quote:

“We’ve got the site and everything. It’s just to get all the equipment, the bulldozers to level out all the rough patches, grow the grass and — Bingo!, we’re there.”

What can I say, life is better than fiction, especially the life of Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong!

Pic: From the official Vancouver athlete page here.

>Inventory of Normality Feat. Paulo Coelho

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Ok, so normally, I hold a fair share of skepticism against everything signed Paulo Coelho.

You know – the bestseller writer who’s recipe for happiness is to “seek the truth in the desert” (The Alchemist) – however, when I stumbled across this list “Inventory of Normality” on his blog (Thanks, Cris) several of its items spoke to me.

Really, how did these things ever become normal?

3] Spending years at university and then not being able to find a job.

7] Trying to be financially successful instead of seeking happiness.

9] Comparing objects like cars, houses and clothes, and defining life according to these comparisons instead of really trying to find out the true reason for being alive.

24] Using all possible means to show that even though you are a normal person, you are infinitely superior to other human beings.

40] Avoiding depression with massive daily doses of television programs.

However, it is also interesting to see that certain things are just soo tied to geographic places/cultures – eg. would this happen in Ghana?:

5] Retiring only to discover that we have no more energy to enjoy life, and then dying of boredom after a few years.

H3! In Ghana, live after 70 is sweet-o.

25] In any kind of public transport, never looking straight into the eyes of the other passengers, as this may be taken for attempting to seduce them.

Haha, seduction is a constant part of public life including transport in Ghana! Why avoid starting it?

26] When in an elevator, looking straight at the door and pretending you are the only person inside, however crowded it may be.

In Ghana, in the few elevators I’ve been, you’ll politely say “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and then maybe chat the person up, see above!

27] Never laughing out loud in a restaurant, no matter how funny the story is.

Oh, every story is funny in a restaurant in Ghana! “Chale, serious? hahaHAHAHA!”

Anyways, this time I can still recommend Paulo Coelho.

Pic: A serious trotro where people do look each other in the eye.

>Ghana Graduation

> Yesterday I met with my sister-in-law. She is a wonderful, easygoing person and very easy to talk to. We sat down and discussed all different kinds of things; Ghanaian versus Swedish food, what to do in the weekend, how our careers are moving along etc. We laughed together and she vowed to soon come visit me. As I was leaving I wanted to give her some of the fresh corn (in Ghana maize) I was carrying in a big, black shopping bag.

– I got too much, all of this I bought for 1 GHC, so please help me out!

And then it happens. As my sister-in-law picks out a couple of corn cobs she, having lived in this town all her life, asks me, the obroni-new-kid-on-the-block, where I’ve gone to buy so much for so little. Bursting with pride I tell her what corner of the market I went to, feeling like I just graduated with a degree in Ghana Street Smartness.

>Morning Walk

> I leave the house around seven thirty after having waved goodbye to my husband ( he leaves for work around 6.45 ).

I lock my gate with a heart on it and criss-cross through my neighborhood, saying my “goodmornings” to the people I meet. I turn onto Hospital Road and follow it for about 15 minutes. There is a lot of traffic, lotto kiosks, chicks, kids going to school, food being sold, craftsmen lining up their produce like sofas or baskets, and taxis that don’t mind me walking briskly in jogging shoes and stop to ask where I am going. Sometimes, a friend will drive by, like this morning the neighbor in the black pick-up. His window is already down so he just slows down, stopping traffic, and shouts to me across the road

So, you have started your exercise again?

I have. Interestingly, it seems like it is as much an exercise for the mind as for the legs. Walking is really the best way to think. I think about the car I am going to buy, what I will do this weekend and why dragonflies are not considered scary, but beautiful.

My legs move almost automatically.

I stop and become standing for a while trying to cross the busy Hospital Road to get to my destination, a pool. There I will emerge in the water to chill myself, because even though it is just eight in the morning I am sweating. Before I enter the pool premises I pass by the Christian Vertical(!) School. Kids are sweeping the schoolyard, attending to a fire of scraps and rubbish when they suddenly get interrupted by the bell. They line up as I watch them from the dirt road and start to sing.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

In the pic the jogging shoe that does not impress taxi drivers.

>Everchanging

> Having a philosphical day. Everything is moving, floating and life will never again be the same.

Oh, no! Noone died – except for Pavarotti, may he RIP – it is just that this week is my last as an intern with the organization I have been working on now for a few months. I will not come here daily anymore or spend time with the same people. I will not work on the same projects or post my blogposts from this computer.

I acknowledge that there is a sadness to leaving something behind and to remedy it, I have already started to plan my life outside the office gates and I am looking forward to it. It will be a lot of reading, now mainly academic stuff and hopefully some long distance travelling and more time for being creative, business-minded and maybe even sporty (on Monday…).

Of course everyday is a possibility for a fresh start, but it would be exhausting to think about that daily. But today, I am embracing the idea that after tomorrow life will be different.

>Everyday life

>The wonderful, however non-exciting, everyday pace has reached me here in Ghana. Everyday, I kiss my bf goodbye in the morning, go to work, eat lunch with the same crowd, work a few more hours and then take a taxi home. At night we might do some visits, maybe go out to eat and then – it has of course already been dark for a while – it is time to go to sleep. I dream my vivid dreams (as always) and am awoken by the sun shining into our bedroom around 6 am.

But I mean, there are also stark differences in this “everyday life” compared to the “everyday lives” I have led before. For instance, before I never before saw the green tail of a gecko disappear into my wardrobe when opening my underwear drawer. I did not use to go for lunch to a “chop bar” where most of the customers order goat or snail soup. Nor for that matter meet a (living) goat family everyday on my way to lunch. I never used to celebrate when a supermarket opened in my town, now I do. (That was yesterday, and it just made my week to be able to have salad, hard bread and goat cheese for dinner). I never before used to come home to my own house. Complete with a man. Also, even if I feel I have gotten used to the way things look around here, I do sometimes remember to marvel that the soil is copper red, the nature deep green and whole trees can be covered in flowers, that people do actually carry suitcases (even backpacks) on their heads with ease, that men dress in big colorful prints and it looks good. And that every plant looks different from the Gotlandic nature I knew in my earlier life…

In the picture my favorite Ghanaian grass. Its every strand looks like a bouquet of Swedish “timotej” grass. And yes, I am aware that in my previous life I probably would not have mentioned “goat” three times in a short text like this one.