>Desperate Housewives in Accra

> Just to make it very clear from the outset, this post does not allude to the fact that I have recently purchased season 3 of the California TV series “Desperate Housewives” from a guy outside Koala Supermarket, but rather it is pointing to difficulties of relationships.

As a newlywed twentysomething expat, I have started to see disturbing trends among my friends in similar life situations here in Accra. Wasn’t this time – after long years in the University library, impossible loves and zero money, but before kids and a daily routines so boring and wellknown we could also do them backwards – wasn’t it supposed to be the time of our lives?

Obviously not. When two minds come to live under the same roof there seems to be more than a little adjustment to be done.

Some replay the same fights over and over again with their spouses (money, you-said-I-said, cleaning and laundry etc.). Some like to spend at least one night a week by themselves while I at times recent my husband for often coming home late from work. Others again can’t seem to unite about how to furnish their home or if to watch Champions’ League or Strictly Come Dancing (or instead make an early night).

Then we have all the cultural shocks: husbands who want their clothes ironed, you to attend funerals of people you have never met, or eat a bowl of fufu for dinner – every day! They are matched with wives who want to pay half the bill, feel odd about having to instruct a housegirl instead of starting a laundry cycle in the machine or spend a average Ghanaian monthly wage on foreign groceries each week!

Additionally, it can be noted that Ghanaian men seem to have little interest in taking out any parental leave (ok, there is no parental leave for men in Ghana, but at least my Swedish side feels that this somehow should be at the very least a priority for timing of the yearly leave). They also seem to be weary about parttaking in the birthing of a child with half their genes.

Some of us young spouses talk vividly about how important it is to work, not predominantly to make money, but to aviod becoming just a housewife – implying that our identities could be gone in no time. However, I don’t think that is the problem. Our personalities, I think, are going nowhere. The problem is rather to be able to hold your tounge the hundredeth time you make a small sacrifice for the person you love knowing he is doing the same.

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>Swedish Summer in Ghana

> But you always have summer in Ghana? Temperature wise, maybe. But real summer in Ghana is totally correlated with summer in Sweden. I have some examples:

Today, I am listening to the Swedish Radio program series “Sommar” as pod radio. Every summer famous people, it can be astronauts, politicians, entertainers or an interesting entrepreneur get the chance to talk about anything they want (often themselves) and play their favorite music for 1,5 hours on national radio. Here in Ghana, I have downloaded my favorites – mostly authors – and plan to listen to them just as I did when living in Sweden.

Also, Swedish Midsummer celebrations have passed in company with Swedish friends here in Ghana. It was a wonderful event, pickled herring (sill) has never tasted so good.

This week is the annual “Politicians’ Week” in my hometown Visby, an event I love because of its wonderful meet-and-greet opportunities. Everybody in Swedish politics, media and lobbying are there. Probably right now drinking rosé wine in the sunset. All of it I can follow though news and blogs. With a glass of wine, its almost as if I am there (although over here the wine isn’t free).

Personally, I have probably never been happier. Ghana is such an interesting society. Everyday I learn new things. I have an exciting job, good prospects of starting my PhD in the fall, a happy marriage, beautiful home (and plans of moving to a better one). I have cool friends and I speak to a family member almost every day on phone.

Still, I just long for the day when I can book my ticket to go to Sweden for vacation. It will definitely be during summer.

Longing for home is a demon.

Picture from the Swedish Midsummer in Ghana. Absolut Vodka and hibiscus.

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>Just Married

> The last weeks’ silence on the blog has a good explanation – I went and got married!
Our wedding was held here in Ghana complete with the early morning Ghanaian traditional engagement. We did the official ceremony at the Tema Municpal Assembly and had the reception in a seaside restaurant close by.

The stylish photographic evidence was taken by Mamarazzi.

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>Bitter Chocolate

>Being an outsider in a place often leads to interesting meetings. In buses, marketstalls, outside my house and most lately at fotball games, I have come to engage in discussion with very different people. As of late, I have discovered what I would call a “new category” of people I talk to: Heartbroken African Men.

The men in this group are, often but not always, in their thirties, middle class (not enough money for a car, but often holding a licence) and they all tell me a surprisingly similar story. The man was in love. He was happy. He gave his whole heart and thought his girlfriend loved him back. But one day, she without prior warning left for a richer/more educated/more affluent/older man. The man begged, grieved, and called. But the girlfriend acted like she had never loved the man. Ever since (and this is normally years ago), he does not believe in women and has not loved again.

At first I thought this bitter story was maybe how moneyless Ghanaian boys chatted up a white lady in the bus line in hope of getting sympathy in the form of a bus ticket, but after having heard the same story from so many different guys, including a Ugandan professional, and a man who already had paid for his food in a popular restaurant downtown Accra, I have made a different analysis. This might be a grand narrative of the African man, not all that different from coming of age by killing a lion or something else oldfashioned and villagelike. The modern way of facing the world, stepping up to it, realizing its not all roses (if ever believing so) is getting your heart crushed by a decieving, mean and ever so beautiful woman.

The only consolation really is that it seems to happen to most every African man before he hits 30.

In the picture the bitter cocoa seed and fruits.

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>Sambo Sunshine

>So there are also so upsides to the life of being sambo (for you non-Swedes that is the excellent Swedish term for a status more formal than xfriend, more sexy than cohabitant and as almost as common – and legally binding – as married, at least in Sweden. The term can also be used to describe the actual person-you-live-together-with, as in “my sambo made dinner”). Anyway, the sunshine I am talking about is that it turns out my sambo is an excellent driver’s instructor! I never made it to a driver’s license back in Sweden, always had too many other things to do. Since I came to Ghana my sambo has encouraged me to learn how to drive, “look if I can do it you can too!” and gradually I have started to look at Ghanaian traffic not as a honking mess, but as a flow I could take part of.

So, this Sunday after breakfast in bed (love Sundays!) I tell him, let’s go practice driving. We go to this big field, red dirt and some car tires to practice steering through. A few other cars driven by people with highly concentrated faces slowly circle around. I think me and mom once went to a similar place in my hometown, but I can’t remember if I even managed to start the car. I feel nervous as we change seats. Then it happens, a calm voice clearly explains what to do and before I know it I am confidently moving forward. He looks amazingly calm where he sits next to a complete fresh driver, says “concentrate on the gears, I have the mirrors” and “you’re doing fine, you can speed up”. And I am giving gas, steering, changing gears, braking and, yes, I am driving.

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>Decorating Duo

>Since I just recently rented a big house with my darling we have now reached the next exciting step in our relationship – buy furniture TOGETHER. Some people would say we are lucky we have no furniture from before to take into consideration. Even if that is true, we still have our preferences from before and I think that is sometimes worse. I mean we can never use the argument “but Darling, if we use my sofa we don’t have to buy a new one…” We have to buy everything, and when you have to pay for something you really want that thing to be a fine thing. So far we have a bed and a fridge. And yeah, this week we finally agreed on a carpet and a sofa.

My style is Scandinavian Simple or now when I live in West Africa – West African Simple. Since most furniture has to be ordered from a carpenter I think we should give it an African touch.

My bf’s style is close to Grandmother’s Sitting Room Style (it’s my blog, therefore I tell it like I see it) with flowery/checkered prints and absolutely NOT any African references.

The African cloth I like to include in my décor, he says is funeral wear and inappropriate for using as curtains or for chairs. A beautiful antique carved drum I found, he calls trash. A glass table at a friend’s house adorned with gold and silver he thought was nice, but I could barely wait until we left our friend before telling him I thought it was absolutely hideous (my grandmom would have liked it, though).

And about the carpet and the sofa, I’m not too sure our compromise (his patterns, my colors) will work, especially not with my wooden masks and the antique drum. But I am tired of sitting on the floor watching films or eating dinner.

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>No place like home

> Last week we signed the contract. So now I have my wonderful, quirky, spacious and private HOME! Over the upcoming three-day weekend, (Monday is a holiday since the Republic day falls on Sunday..and Ghanaians want their day off!) we will be moving in and I am starting to make plans that include paint, furniture, a fridge and a stove. In Ghana, you rent a house for an in advance decided period, often two or three years. And you pay all before you move in. Lighting is included, but no kitchen appliances or anything else therefore I see some hefty spending ahead.

Since I was brought up in a family with a constant “project” going on around the house involving a quality stapler, wallpaper and building blocks, I think I could do wonders with this place we have rented. It is a big house with a small garden, painted all white on the inside. With some cloth there and paint here, some tile covers in the kitchen and some pots for herbs at the verandah… Then again, while surfing the web and seeing way too many theme-styled living rooms, smart storage solutions, bright kitchens with fresh flowers I wonder if this decorating-frenzy really is what I want to get myself into.

Finding the right balance when nesting isn’t easy. I’ll keep you posted. And I’ll get one of those staplers.

In the photo a view of my new home, the verandah and an African pinetree.

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>Looking for a house

The last week, I have been happliy exploring a new world – the real estate business. My bf and I would like to rent a house in our town, preferrably on the northern side close both to his job and to the motorway to Accra and my job. We would like to have at least three bedrooms (this is how you measure house size in Ghana, number of bedrooms)to accomodate 1. ourselves, 2. a couple of visitors, and 3.a relative that is to live with us and help out in the house alongside his studies which we would be paying for (Ghanaian CSN…). I would like a garden in which I’d grow papaya, banana(!) and maybe mint for Mojitos and he would like a safe spot to park. He would like a kitchen that is clean and a walk-in storeroom, I would like to be close to a main road so that I can catch a taxi and go to town myself.

When shopping for a house one is sadly apt to follow one’s feelings instead of one’s reason. I have seen all kinds of houses: small, huge, dirty, pink, non-completed, attatched, cute, dull, and even one with a tiny indoor pool! We have talked about preferences and budget. Still, what one remembers when trying to make an informed descision is how the light fell into that one livingroom, how that next-neighbor seemed so friendly, the idea of that I could do morning yoga on that rooftop (ok, lets for now disregard from that I am a late sleeper), the nice floor tiles in the master bedroom, and how a table on that verandah could be the perfect place to eat dinner.

Today, we have an appointment to see a house in community 11 (perfect location) with four bedrooms. I’ll keep you posted.

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>On being a good elder

Since my big move to Ghana, I have not only moved from being a single gal in a student room in Uppsala, Sweden to being a “sambo” with my boyfriend as of 4,5 years – no, I am now also an elder in an African household. This leaves me with a number of advantages…and of course responding responsibilities.

One of them is that I never have to do my own dishes, that is being done by a child in my household -“Abena, bra!” (- “Abena, come here!”) But in order for this system to work smoothly, I must remember to leave some of my food on the plate as a small reward for the dishwashing person. This must be the exact opposite of what parents said to kids in the Swedn of the past “think of the kids in AFRICA and finish your food”. Now I have to leave some for a kid in Tema.

Yesterday, I was watching soccer and drinking a soda, thirsty from a hot day I gulped it all up and was consequently accused of being a “bad elder” because there was nothing left for the child who came to collect the bottle…

Life is indeed a learning process.

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