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…

CNN and the Ghanaian Government: Interview with President Mahama and Media Ethics

Today I get the prompt to “upload my question to the CNN interview with president Mahama”. I think to myself, CNN…Ghanaian government. Was there not a thing there? Going through my emails, in a discussion thread on the perils of “too positive” media coverage, I find a link to this blog post by a BloggingGhana colleague, Roxanne L Scott from the end of May 2013.

In summary, Roxanne writes that the Ghanaian government payed 1,5 million USD to CNN in 2012 for positive coverage under the “CNN Eye on Ghana Project”. The project was centered around tourism and investment and produced stories such as “Welcome to Ghana: Historic castles, exotic wildlife and a golden coast”. (Scroll down and the slideshow title reads: “Ghana: the jewel of West Africa”) This project is no secret, it is covered in official documents!

In the same documents, we can read about the plans for 2013: “the Ministry [of tourism] will augment its Marketing Ghana Programme through intensive use of the international media. Funding will be mobilized in pursuit of the CNN Eye on Ghana project…”

(Docs below I have borrowed from Roxanne)

Roxanne writes:

“I’d love some clarification for how this $1.5 Million goes in reference to CNN.

If it is in fact payment, its unethical.

I recently learned at an arts and culture journalism workshop in Ghana it’s quite the norm for media houses to charge artists and organizations for coverage according to time. For example one can call a radio station in Ghana and get the price for a featured interview. Event planners also charge journalists to “cover” their event. Political parties engage in this as well. After press conferences, political parties pay journalists for coverage.

I thought it was a journalists job to look for the news. A journalists creates the content. If you’re being paid by an organization to cover the news, or if you’re charging for individuals/organizations to feature their content, thats more public relations (PR) and its unethical. You really shouldn’t call yourself a journalist.”

The media ethics debate in Ghana has a long way to go. However, it is not just in Ghana the lines between journalism and PR is blurred, as Roxanne rightly points out. The president’s CNN interview is scheduled for some time in October. Meanwhile, it looks like the CNN Eye on Ghana program alive and well and possibly “augmented” for this year. Does that CNN Eye on Ghana Project involve a primetime presidential interview? Later today over at CNN the window for uploading your video questions for president Mahama closes. CNN iReport, urges:

“Send us your questions for the president in a video (15 seconds or less, please) and they could be asked on CNN!”

I am guessing the most critical voices  (if they even can be captured in less than 15 sec!) – “What is the relationship between CNN and the Ghanian government?” and “Can we trust this interview to be objective on the basis that the Ghanaian government is paying CNN for coverage?” will likely not be featured…

My colleague Roxanne ended her blogpost in May with a plea to CNN for some clarification. She never heard back. I hope this time CNN will answer.

Please share this blogpost with your networks if you also want to know more from CNN on their relationship with the Ghanaian government.

Bats in Ghana

batSince I was a little girl, I have been interested in bats. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems they are animals that do everything “the other way” – sleep in the day, fly around at night, snuggle comfortably upside-down, eat either BLOOD or was it fruit? – and that is all interesting, don’t you think?

Fast forward to 2004 when I visited Ghana for the first time and saw something strange in the trees around 37 military hospital, smack in the middle of Accra. Was it not …? I was told about the fruit bat colony that lives there, presumably waiting for a king – with the bat as his symbol – who was rushed to the hospital and never came out again…During the day, trees in the area are clad with what looks like brown fruits, but around sunset those “fruits” come alive and the sky turns grey by all the bats that take to the sky! It is an amazing sight!

A few years back, I met someone working on documenting bats and their life for a tourism project and I though, yes, that would be nice! Bat safari! Learning more about these puzzling creatures! Climbing trees! Hanging upside down with tourists! But alas, nothing has happened and bats are not, as far as I know, contributing to Ghana’s GDP in any significant way.

Last week, bats resurfaced in Ghana’s foremost newspaper the Daily Graphic in a lengthy article by James Agyei-Ohemeng and it was even suggested:  Bats are Ghana’s best-kept wildlife secret! Apparently they are also crucial for the health of Ghana’s forests (and timber, so I take back the GDP comment!) and a research project is currently underway in Sunyani!

Pic borrowed from susano.tripod.com.

Malaria in Ghana

Yesterday evening, I started feeling ill. My throat was dry and my body was aching. Just a little while later, my cheeks suddenly felt very hot and I found my thinking slowing down and I just knew it – I have malaria!

The fear of contracting malaria was the biggest obstacle for me moving here. I had heard about dying children, the importance of profylaxis from travel websites like this and could not make it fit with what my Ghanaian friend talked about as “a cold, nothing worse”. The first time I had malaria, was also the first time I was back in Sweden after almost a year in Ghana. We travelled from a 30 degree celsius tropical night to a bright and crisp winterday of about 10 degrees below zero! I thought it was pretty normal to feel cold! That time, because it took me almost a week to understand my symptoms, I was hospitalized from “severe malaria” and learned about how the parasites multiply exponentially leading to that you can get very ill quickly after you fall sick.

Fast forward five years, I have had malaria a couple of times (for instance in May 2010) surrounded by much less drama – Now I am too thinking of it not much more than of a cold, well the kind you need to take medicin for. However, although malaria is no more a serious problem to me, malaria is a serious problem to Ghana. In 2007, UNICEF estimated that every year 3,5 million Ghanaians get malaria and 20 000 children die from it, that is 25% of deaths in children under 5 years, although newer numbers suggest 33%. Sadly the cost of treatment or distance to a health facility will be the cause of non-treatment. Another interesting –  and devastating – aspect of malaria is the hidden costs. UNICEF says:

• A malaria-stricken family spends an average
of over one quarter of its income on malaria
treatment, as well as paying prevention costs
and suffering loss of income.
• Malaria-afflicted families on average can only
harvest 40 per cent of the crops harvested by
healthy families.
• In endemic areas, as much as 60 per cent of
children’s schooling may be impaired as a
result of repeated bouts of malaria.
• Malaria-endemic countries are among the
worlds most impoverished. The cost of malaria
control and treatment slows economic growth
by about 1.3 per cent a year in Africa.

Initiatives such as the (American) president’s malaria initiative are trying to roll back malaria and Ghana has recently had successes in distributing mosquito nets and giving pregnant women precautionary malaria treatments (I took them, myself), but are they enough? When you see open gutters being constructed as I write this (a prime breeding ground for mosquitos) and trash everywhere (another favorite place where mosquitos breed) – it feels like we are going backwards rather than forwards.

And I feel I have to go lie down a little bit.

Also read fellow bloggers Gameli, Maya, Antirhythm, Maameous and Mad in Ghana on malaria.

New Edition of Ghana Guide Out – Bradt 2010

The Ghana guide 5th editionBradt Guide for Ghana has come out in a new edition, August 2010. This is the most comprehensible guide to Ghana in English and – they should really pay me to say this – worth every pesewa if you are planning to trek around this green country!

Here is the backside blurb, letting us all know this fifth version was crafted in 2010:

Ghana is an ideal destination for first-time visitors to Africa; rich in little-visited national parks, forest reserves, cultural sites and scenic waterfalls, blessed with bleached white beaches and lush rain forests of the Atlantic coastline. This stand-alone guide, the only one available, caters for both the budget backpacker and the luxurious resort wallower. Including authoritative history and wildlife sections, updated accommodation and restaurant recommendations and a wealth of background and practical information, Bradt’s Ghana covers the country with unrivalled detail and knowledge. Ghana defeated Sudan 2-0 in Accra to become the first African team to reach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. What better time to catch this friendly, English-speaking and hassle-free country as it revels on a soccer high?

Do check out

For opinions on the new guide you can read this Lonely Planet forum thread on if it is worth to buy the newest version (it is) and the Scotts/Four Villages ecstatic post on what their updated review meant for them.

To me, this guide book (I carry around a well used 4th Edition) has been invaluable and most Ghana travelers seem to agree.

What is your opinion on the Bradt Ghana guide?

Ghana as a Tourism Destination for Swedes

Ghana slavfort SvD Eric MillerMy dad just informed me of that Swedish Newspaper SvD recently ran an article on Ghana as a tourism destination: In the shadow of the slave castle.

As the text is in Swedish only, let me tell you what Swedes who read SvD now know about Ghana:

Slave Trade

The article starts with a visit in Cape Coast castle, formerly named Carolousborg. This castle was once controlled by Sweden and its Svenska Afrikakompaniet and traded in slaves and gold, often payed for with iron and glass beads (!).

Culture and Eco tourism

The rest of the article outlines the current day tourism –  historic tourism around the castle, but also cultural tourism including handicrafts and festivals, and beach vacations with the growing concept of eco tourism.

Currency, Air Fare and Food

Finally, some facts on currency, air fare and food. Although the writer is correct to recommend Star and Club beer, Jollof rice is spelled “jallof rice” and a dinner is said to cost between 10-20 GHC! I had a great lunch for under three GHC yesterday, so let me politely disagree…

I also missed a section on modern day Ghana – hip life, fashion and flavor!

The article has beautiful pictures by Eric Miller. See picture for this post from Cape Coast, photo credit Eric Miller.

>13 Things Not to Miss When in Ghana

> An acquaintance who is going to Ghana for the first time in December writes to me:

What should I not miss when in Ghana?

And even though I wrote about Ghana Highlights not long ago, I can’t help but to craft a list as an answer to her very open question. Here are the 13 things you must not miss when in Ghana.

1. Fufu- Ghana’s national dish of a spicy soup with fish and meat and a delicious gooey ball of fufu.
2. A funeral (!)
3. A cold Star at sunset.
4. Omo tuo with Groundnut soup – Northern Ghana’s national dish.
5. Ripe mango and sweet green “Fanti” pineapple.
6. High life music (some of the big hotels in Accra have live bands) and contemporary music ( such as the one performed at Bless the Mic on Thursday’s at Cinderella’s in Accra)
7. Cape Coast or Elmina castles for an insight into West Africa’s history.
8. Kakum rainforest, see WikiTravel page here
9. Grilled tilapia – this ginger and chili infused sweet water fish smells so good my vegetarian friend recently crossed sides…
10. Blue Skies ginger and pinapple smoothie
11. Buying colorful wax print or tie-n-dye cloth and getting clothes sown for you.
12. Chasing crabs on the beach. Mission impossible?
13. Braiding your hair. The best souvenir!

As I live to eat, this list is in hindsight a bit biased towards food and drink (1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and possibly also 12). Which Ghana musts have I forgotten?

Pic: Bon appetit!

>Ghana Highlights

> Had some friends staying over and spending a lovely day with me. They had just arrived from the cold north and were extremely content with the weather, the food, the lodging – well, everything!

Their fresh and foreign outlook made me see that some things that have become ordinary to me, actually are quite extraordinary. Of course, as their one-day host I also tried to show Ghana from her best side. And what a day I had! Here are today’s highlights.

5. Cruising in my car seeing the vivacious street life pass by.
4. Swimming in a nearby hotel pool (I could really do this every day, if I only weren’t so “morning challenged”).
3. Visiting with my Ghanaian family, they are wonderful and fun!
2. Fruit for breakfast: Pineapple, papaya and perfectly ripen mango.
1. Talking about Ghanaian culture – names, funerals, political history, everyday life. All so rich!

As I watched them get into a taxi towards the beach, I somehow knew I had been able to give them a taste of the traditional Ghanaian welcoming – Akwaaba!

>Ghana Guide on the Web

> The Bradt Travel Guide to Ghana (most recent edition is 2007) by Philip Briggs is now available on the web with Google books! See link here.

This guide is positively personable, amazingly accurate and dot on detailed (including great maps of places before Google Maps even existed!). I recommend it to anyone coming this way!

In the pic: Me and my husband being tourists in our country, I think around xmas 2007.

>"The Birthplace of Cool" – Bono on Ghana

> I had totally missed that U2 singer, cum activist Bono wrote a column on Ghana and Africa in the New York Times just before Obama’s visit.

After reading the article I think to myself that something about Bono’s efforts is somehow so…arrogant and at the same time wonderfully naive. It talks about important things like the G8 meeting and how Africa is the birthplace of humanity. I guess it can’t be summarized, but here is a sneak peak to show you what I mean:

On a visit there (Ghana in May 2006), I met the minister for tourism and pitched the idea of marketing the country as the “birthplace of cool.” Just think, the music of Miles, the conversation of Kofi. He demurred … too cool, I guess.

Haha, pitched (haha, that word alone!) a marketing idea to a Minister of Tourism after having spent a few days in a country, how arrogant is not that?…but on the other hand, if now Bono says Ghana is cool, then why not take his word for it?! I guess we thought about marketing our chocolate, our gold, but we never really thought of marketing our ability to be cool.

And now three year after Bono’s visit, does Ghana even have a tourism marketing strategy?

The column can be found here.

Pic: Bono in Ghana 2006 borrowed from U2station.com

>Does Gin Tonic Prevent Malaria?

> Have a couple of times come across the statement that the drink ‘Gin and Tonic’ prevents malaria since it contains quinine which is an antidote to malaria. That sounds so good. How fun is it not to cure yourself with alcohol?

But maybe it sounds too good to be true? Today, I decided to google the whole thing and came up with the following.

1. The quinine is part of the bitter tonic.
2. The drink came about as the early colonialists tried to mask the bitter quinine taste with gin.
3. To prevent malaria one needs to drink the equivalent of 67 liters of GTs per day according to the travel doctor here.

So the answer to my question is unfortunately NO, Gin and Tonics’ do not prevent malaria. Well, that is if you consume less than 67 liters a day.

Pic from cafepress.

>Tourist in Ghana

>

The canoe safari was a success. Flocks of birds flew amongst the lush vegetation lining the shore, and a group of seven hippos floated and bellowed in the river.

We should have stopped there.

The quote above is from this excellent short guide to Ghana by Marlene Smith I found in the latest issue of International Travel News. I enjoyed the truthful description of the friendly and sometimes un-cooperative Ghana.

To me, the most useful part was the description of the wildlife viewing opportunites up north, including Mole national Park (elephants, baboons and birds) and Black Volta (hippos) since I intend to go there myself later this year. However, there were also good reviews of hotels and lodges and advice on interesting cultural sites to visit.


Pic: Elephant in Mole National park borrowed from projects-abroad.dk