How Are You Managing Your Screen Time?

Because I love technology and social media, I feel like I have been quite conscious of my screen time. Since more than a year, all notifications are off my phone. I use the app “Focus” to turn off the internet on my phone (it also helps with working with the pomodoro technique). After reading Adriana Huffington’s book on sleep, I also parked my phone – turned off! –  in a different room during the night and am awoken by an old-fashioned alarm clock. All in the name of limiting my screen time and not being dragged down the rabbit-hole of smartphones.

Sadly, I also agree with Jim Kwik who suggest that smartphones make us less smart!

However, all of this seems to not be enough to manage my time in front of a screen. Indeed, Catherine Price who wrote a book about breaking up with your phone, and a New York Times article that sums it up, suggests it took her two years!  When I heard on the news Apple is including such a control mechanism for parents and individuals in their next OS, I thought to myself I NEED THIS NOW and started researching programs for both me and my 7-year-old. This is what I found.

 

FOR ME: Space. Free app, upgrade available USD 1.99 (but actually I am not sure what the upgrade does).

I liked the design and step-by-step idea that “diagnoses” your particular problem (I am a “boredom battler”) as well as the pop-ups and idea of dimming of the screen. It is also free! That is a pretty great feature when comparable apps charge a monthly cost.

 

FOR THE KID: Habyts. Free for 14 days and after that USD 3.29 or 7.99/month depending on services needed. The more expensive upgrade include chores that your kid can do for extra points or minutes.

Further, Habyts was the only app I could find that both allowed me to set daily time allowances, remote turn off her device, as well as included the option of adding tasks or chores for her to earn more time.

 

5 days in

We have tried a for a few days and I appreciate the professional help! In addition, what has helped is the idea to limit and track not just duration of each session, but also the number of times one reaches for one’s phone and unlocks it. However, despite warnings, limits and general awareness-raising, it has not been very impactful so far for me. I have not yet met my goals of 1,5 hours max on the smartphone/day (my average is more like the double!) or less than 30 unlocks during a day. Two nights since I started this phone detox, I have also unfortunately late-night-binged on my iPad (where I did not install the program).

My child shows withdrawal symptoms as well and has been angry and demanding. I had to change the lock codes on all my devices as she “jumped” to mine when her time was up! However, the remote shut-down function makes the process of limiting the time (right now the same 90 minutes a day) easier than earlier and I recognize that it helps for thinking of other things to do that I am also off my phone!

I will follow up again when some more time has passed to tell you how we are doing.

How do you limit screen time in your family?

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 

 

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.

We Will Always Have Paris

After a work meeting in the beginning of January, I got to spend a few days in Paris. I shared my experience on Instagram, but typing on my phone in the chilly winds of Paris, I might have left out some details.

Here are my Paris takeaways:

Paris, the city of AMOUR

Even when it rains sideways, this is such a romantic city. The warm lights from the vintage streetlights, the cafes with lovers everywhere, and the sound of the inexplicably romantic French Oui, Oui, mon cheri! Over 10 years ago, when I first started blogging (my first blog post was the complete lyrics of an Edith Piaf chanson) I lived in Paris for 5 months. I did not have any exciting French affairs, but as the city slowly melted (I was there Feb-May) and trees started to blossom, strolling passed La Tour Eiffel, Odeon, Pont Neuf, I was convinced – Paris is the city of romance and amour.

Paris, the city of ART

I saw an art exhibit at the Grand Palais where I do not think I ever went before. The magnificent neoclassical styled building hosted the Expo Mexique (hashtag #ExpoMexique) which covered the dialectic art between France and Mexico in the time period 1900-1950, of course including the world famous artist couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. But much more, it contextualized their work in very interesting ways. I came out with ideas on the political aspect of art and the fact that Kahlo was very much in the centre of a movement, not a unique painter. I crossed the street to Petit Palais and saw Kehinde Wiley’s (follow on Instagram @kehindewiley) political, contemporary art where black bodies have been painted exquisitely and in very large scale into poses usually reserved for the (white) upperclass and (white) saints. Set in detailed ornamented rich, rich, rich backgrounds. Bliss.

Paris, the city of CHEESE

I learned that people in Paris really eat cheese everyday. It is done in a low key way, just munching on a few cheeses after dinner or lunch, of course after that comes the dessert! After my small introduction into the world of cheese by Monseigneur Raphael, I was immediately inspired and bought a 24 month old Compte hard cheese and two goat cheeses, a Mothais a la Feulle and a Crottin de Chavignol. (Links to an interesting online cheese resource I just found!)

Paris, the city of FRIENDSHIP

When I lived in Paris in 2006, it was the beginning of my blogging days, it was also days of important friendships. This time I made new friends and importantly also was able to meet some old ones. In much it was like no time had passed. Although our lives had moved on, our conversation just started from where we were back then. How lovely is not that?

Paris, the city of RACISM and SEXISM?

Not all is dandy and well in Paris, the entire central city seems to be marred with the male white gaze and voice. I saw sexist adverts that would not fly in other places, rode very internationally looking metros to come up to a very white world above ground, and was struck by how on TV there were so many ugly, white men…

Paris, the city of DID I ALREADY SAY FOOD?

In France, the petit dej’ or breakfast is a croissant, a full fat delicious yoghurt, a cafe creme, that is; to die for.  In France, you order a Menu including a glass of red wine and a starter FOR LUNCH.  In France they have a dessert that is called Cafe Gourmand which is – hold on tight – three! OR MORE! different! desserts! in one order! The capital of France is Paris, hence the center of some of the best inventions in food are concentrated here.

Next Time in Paris?

Next Time I go to Paris, I think I might stay a little longer, bring my family (to make the place a bit more female and a bit more brown-skinned), eat more croissants…

Why I loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

file-2016-10-31-23-38-32I should have posted this as a SundayRead, because it was my weekend read and I really, really enjoyed it. I have been reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

I have heard it being referred to as  “an ambitious debut” probably because it tries to chronicle the slave trade and its aftermath through one family in one book. That has many dangers to it:  can become heavy with historical references, empty on a personal level when bigger narratives are the aim, or just a novel that should have been a textbook. This is none of that.

I cried, I laughed, I lived through the many many personalities you meet in this book (the book opens with a family tree, love books that start with visual schema!) My favourite characters were beautiful Effia and her queer son Quey, Ness Stockham and her tragic fate (climbing down that tree!), and Willie Black and her father H. But I feel like I got close to all of the characters – I wonder, how did Gyasi accomplish that?

While the book balances on an educational tight rope, it skillfully blends themes such as identity, evil, the origin of the word “obruni” for white person, American slavery history such as Jim Crow, the historical advent of mass religion, happiness, the list can go on. Maybe in a few places it feels like contemporary debates are “placed” in the story, or discussed with a contemporary lense: homosexuality, interracial relationships, how to apportion blame in Ghana for the slave trade, however it is those same “educational” debates that makes the novel so relevant and make me consider this book as a text for a class I teach at Ashesi.

We can tell it was a labor of love because the language is sweet, decorated with gems such as “She dipped her to a into water so cool she could taste it “ (p.196), “hell was a place of remembering , each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect” (p.28) or “He had never seen a woman move that slowly. It was like she had to wade though deep and mucky waters to get to him” (p.250). And the sex scenes!

The book accomplishes what many political debates, pertinent protests, and academic works have not: to show that we are all one family, one that is hurting, and desperately needs to step into the cold water, share the
burden, and just come back home. 

Kwame Anthony Appiah gives the 2016 BBC #ReithLecture

This year´s BBC Reith Lecture is given by philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah. As you can possibly tell from his name, he hails from Ghana and is his lecture series he heavily draws from this – something for all of us who love Ghana to feel proud of and learn from.

Two lectures have already been aired (I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the podcasts). The first two of the total of four lectures cover Creed and Country. The last is to talk about Culture. The third lecture was recorded in Accra some two weeks ago and I was there! It was a Saturday and I happily tweeted:

The lecture with the tittle Mistaken Identities: Colour used the amazing true story of William Anthony Amo, a Ghanaian boy who became professor of philosophy in Germany in 1738, as its red thread (I also mention him in my dissertation!) and discussed race with nuance and insight. He spoke about the “racial fixation” and reminded us there is no such thing as race, really.

Afterward, there was an opportunity to ask questions and I was thinking of something my daughter had told me…when the host of the evening asked women present to add their voices to all the men asking questions, my hand went up.

Afterward when the Ashesi staffulty present took a photo with Prof. Appiah we were reminded that he also sits on the board of the university!

2016-10-15-20-30-10-2

If you want to find out if my question made it to the final cut of the 2016 Reith Lectures with Kwame Anthony Appiah, tune into BBC Worldservice, Channel 4 or the podcast today!

My Children on the Blog

So in-between blogging, researching, and teaching, I do have a private life. The main part of that life is my two children. I have mentioned them every now and then here on the blog, like when they were born: Selma in 2011  & Ellen in 2014, and in a post on our racialized lives “You are yellow and I am brown” and in a post on how to carry a baby Ghana style (one of my few videos). 

2016-08-23-07-31-39

However, I would like to write a little more here on the blog about my children, things we do together, and challenges we face as a family. I will do so under the category: Parenting.

While some might feel one should not “expose” children online, I see my online life as a part of my life and it feels strange to “hide” them away from my blog. Also as my children grow and frankly become more fun to hang out with, I think I have more to say about them, their activities, and about life with children more generally. I am mindful of that they are their own people who should get to tell their own story, but until they start their own blogs (oh, what a dizzying thought!), I think I can say quite a bit more without compromising their integrity.

If you have ideas on topics you’d like to read relating to life with children, do leave a comment!

Terrorism in West Africa: What the Attack in Ivory Coast means to Ghana (and to me)

beach paradiseAs so often these days, I got the bad news via social media. A friend has sent a FB message, I went on Twitter to see what it was all about and was shocked and saddened by the headlines: 16 dead in Grand Bassam Resort East of Abidjan.

When it was confirmed that Al-Qaeda has accepted responsibility for the act, I tweeted my thoughts and fears.

Sadly, it is not the first Al-Qaeda attack in the region. Hotels where multiple nationalities and the whole tourism sector can be attacked at once have been the prime target.

But this new attack was on the coast, it was in the bustling and growing direct neighbor Ivory Coast, it was so close to home, and that’s why this attack has already affected Ghana. We cannot feel safe here and that will imediately rub off on especially tourism, in the same was the ebola effect did. I am not saying the next attack will come to Ghana, but it is enough that it might. Travellers will prefer to not take the risk and the local economy will suffer for it.

My blog colleague Jemila also discussed the attacks and asked “how many more attacks before regional strategy and action?” and expanded with insight on many of these points and captured them all in this blog post. She wrote:

“Each attack that happens elsewhere shouldn’t just be an occasion to “thank God, it’s not us”. It should also be a “what would we do if”. Simulation and strategizing around different scenarios is key.

We’re in an election year – the lens of the international press will turn to us, we already have a large expat community.

How prepared is Ghana? What will we do – not just for expats – but also for those of us we won’t be evacuated at all cost?”

The question on how ready we are is interesting as we do not speak much about terrorism in Ghana, but we definitely also are not blue-eyed. The major hotels in Accra have for some time now increased their security check you and your car thoroughly before you can enter. Ghana has a system of police presence with barriers in all major communities and as tourism is a major sector, we have everything to win from keeping our guests safe. On the other hand, terrorism is now a global phenomenon and it has showed that it cannot be stopped just by increased security.

Just last weekend, my family went west on a beach trip and lodging on the very same beach strip, just a few hundred kilometres away from Grand Bassam. The same palm trees, the same tropical heat, the same crickets at night. It makes me sad that I now look at that time on the beach as a time of innocence and pure enjoyment that really cannot be recovered.

Despite what has happened, this attack means I will continue enjoying life, keep going to the beach, and walking about town. I will also continue discussing events like these with my students and with my friends across the globe. I will keep inviting them to West Africa! I will continue to work for a world where life is worth living for all.

Because what can we do? If we stop living, to use a cliche, the terrorists have already won.

 

What do you have in common with your spouse?

Holding Hands

You know these couples who you can see about town together – busily chatting while driving to work, shopping for the weekend, elegantly dressed and smiling at an evening event? Clearing the farm silently side by side, donning matching funeral blacks, walking the beach hand in hand? Mr and Mrs, enjoying each other’s company? Well, I don’t have that and I am not sure its what makes unions last.

I do envy the “Mr and Mrs”-couples (or the “Mrs-and-Mrs” or “Mr-and-Mr” as the case may be), especially when I am at an event on my own and drive home alone. Or do I? Because at the event, I will stay as long as I find it fun, socialize with new people,  and in the car home, I will play the music I love, on high volume and sing along. Is that really bad?

I am in a relationship since 13 years and married for about half that time. When we first met, I bragged to anyone who wanted to listen (and probably a few more) that I had found someone who was just like me, a twin-soul. I believed that the “Mr and Mrs”-coupledom was equal to happiness and planned my week around time with my man.

However, soon I could not hold back a yawn when watching football with my spouse and he could not keep his eyes open for yet another art-exhibit. We discovered one of us was more of an extrovert and the other more introvert in personality. Where I have made a name out of my blog and social media presence, my husband belongs to the few who never even got on Facebook! (He does like LinkedIn, the one social media site that does not interest me much). My husband is big on Ghanaian traditions; funerals, family sit-downs, and chieftaincy politics – I enjoy keeping my weekends open to cooking/baking, house parties and time with close friends and family.

After 13 years together, my spouse and I have accepted we are different people. We do converge around late night talks on politics or “Sunday”-special type meals in our garden. We have our children, bank accounts (sort of, but that’s another post), and some future plans in common. But when it comes to interests, we are like night and day. My spouse simply says “opposites attract”, but I think we actually have some key values in common, like freedom, joie-de-vivre, and not-wanting-to-pretend, that we honour by following our own path. That means more often than not, you will see one of us in town alone or with friends, later going home with much to tell.

Photo: Soulascriptura.com

This post is the first in my new series of more personal posts to be posted on Fridays, Personal Friday.

One of These Days…

IMG_6039On the radio in the morning we could hear about corruption and neglect (“Where the paperwork for the sale of the USD 19,2 million vessel is, nobody seems to know”). When my ears started to get red from anger, the traffic suddenly came to a halt and the stretch of the road that normally isa 5-minute-flow became a 30-minute-obstruction. My 1,5 hour commute had now ballooned to 2hours.

 

When I came to work, Internet was down. I had planned to do some other things, but not being able to check my email to check on a morning meeting stressed me to the point, I had to walk around to other offices to see if the problem was a general one. By noon, Internet was back, but now printing was an issue.

 

The last three weeks, I have only been able to print twice. In a job,where reading, analysis and planning involving many people is daily tasks, this is starting to get very annoying.

 

By 4 PM, I had still not been able to print. I decided to head home early – only to get stuck in traffic.

 

It was just one of those days.

 

This post is part of Blu’s LiveBlu Forum, a social commentary on work-life balance in Ghana. Join the discussion at: http://blughana.wordpress.com/ #LiveBlu #BeLieveUme or sign up here to try turbo-charged internet powered by Blu.

 

Nana Oye Lithur Vetted as Minister

In the news, ministerial vettings are ongoing with interesting turns around the new Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, a lawyer (im)famous for her activism around homosexuality and human rights generally.

During her parliamentary hearing, she had to use some “double speak” to be able to go through and still not alienate her fanbase. My favorite careful wording from the vetting was when she said she has “not said any word that I will promote homosexuality”. Luckily, noone asked her if she will “promote heterosexuality”! See clips from the vetting below, my favorite quote starts at 1.27.

I have met her once, at the Humanist conference late last year, and took this photo of when Nana Oye Lithur told us about a front page of (Ghana’s largest newspaper) the Daily Graphic that was a “worst case scenario” for an activist as it zeroed in on her as a supporter of something that is more than controversial in Ghana. However, as an encouragement for others with views against the norm she concluded “it wasn’t all that bad, no real bad things happened after this” and indeed she was right, it even didn’t stop her from a ministerial position just a few years later!

Lithur

Although there were people against the nomination and much conspicuous debate, others also supported her and in the end she sailed through the vetting process and has now worked her first day. I am happy for Ghana. Oye Lithur is a clever woman and this is – even if no homosexual promotion will be carried out – a clear break with the homophobic past of Ghanaian political leadership.

 

 

What Do Women Want ?

Inspired by Ghanaian radio channel Joy FM’s discussion this morning, I feel like I have to make a comment on this topic, “What Do Women Want?”.

The discussion had a strong start. The host linked the discussion to yesterday’s International Women’s Day and aimed for understanding. A man called in and suggested that “a man who knows what his woman wants is a happy man”, explaining that then you know what is expected of you and can have harmony in your home.

However, soon the discussion was flooded with men calling in with grave generalizations. Several of them were suggesting that

“women do not know what they want themselves, so how can we know?”

or that women are “unpredictable” and “moody”.

How very convenient to say that! A way out for those too lazy to actually care about what women want?

Fellow blogger Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (see her co-blogger Malaika’s International Women’s Day post) was a guest of the show and shared some levelheaded and feminist comments, for instance suggesting that men calling women “moody” and “hormonal” is a grave exaggeration many times used as an excuse to meet expectations.

On Joy FM’s Facebook page the discussion was at this time going wild! Some comments were debating materialistic wants and intangible ones

“women want time and attention when they are with a rich man and wants financial security when they find themselves with a “poor man””

Others again were holding forward how very complicated women are.

Then Akorfa A. Pomeyie stated:
“Women are not complicated, we are very simple”
and I want to agree with her.

We women are just like anybody else. We like to be given respect, we like being listened to, we like it when you prioritize us and our wants and needs.

At this time, my phone rang. It was my husband calling to say good morning and ask how I was doing as this morning he left before I woke up. I smiled and said I was doing just fine.

That attentive phonecall, my friends, is how simple it is to give a woman what she wants.

The discussion is still going on at Joy FM’s Facebook page.