April 2, 2010

200th Post at This is Ghana: Thank you!

I want to say a big THANK YOU to all the readers who’ve commented online and offline since I began the blog in October 2008.

Thanks to all the anonymous commenters. And thanks to those who signed their names:

Educational Consultancy
Kassem Jouni
Joshua Rowley
Martin Peeves
Robin Smith
Georgia Popplewell
Elizabeth LK
Wang Tai Tai
Velvet Tamarind
John Vantine

Esi W. Cleland
Sadiq Alam
D. Meade
Jen Backus
Wes Barnard
Suzanne Yakubu

I want to say thank you to all those who emailed too. I’ve had some really rewarding discussions by email with readers from This is Ghana.

Thank you to all the purchasers of the guide to Ghana and all those who downloaded the volunteering guide too. So far, we know the quite a few volunteers have selected programmes we recommended in the volunteer guide and some are even in Ghana right now!

I had no particular ambition for the blog when I began other than to tell the reality of life in Ghana. Frankly, I thought blogging was for nerds or people with too much time on their hands.

Here is my first post—malaria. It doesn’t get much more real than that. I’ve had my share of it but what a gloomy beginning!

I had no idea that people actually became pro-bloggers. If you’re interested in being a professional blogger, then you must visit the following sites:

Pro-blogger: It took me a while to discover he is a fellow Aussie! And I was totally fooled by the April Fool’s post. Been away from home for way too long. You can learn so much about blogging here and discover interesting online opportunities at the "Jobs" board.

Chrisg: This guy is a Brit doing excellent things in the professional blogging world with easy to follow advice.

Chris Guillebeau: A young American man who is not only traveling to every country in the world but maintaining a punishing blogging schedule and producing high quality professional blogging and business development tools online—one of which I’m up for very soon. He also volunteered in West Africa for 4 years, some of which was spent in Accra.

Location Independent: For those who wish to travel, work and live anywhere in the world, not bound by location, then this is the site from which to start your planning. You can read an interview I did with Lea, one of the founders there, earlier this week about the reality of "location independence" in Ghana.

On that note, a few days ago I had a chat with two very dear people from home on the phone. Oh, I just realised I still call Australia “home”—and that’s not a hidden song title! Anyway, one said, “Life is passing you by in Ghana…” It was as if to say, if I didn’t go the conventional route of career/money/kids/retire I wasn’t living a “real” life.

For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t have kids. I’m 36 (I can’t believe it!) and I don’t have children. I’ve never been maternal and I still don’t have maternal urges, but I wouldn’t mind having children if it happens. I wasn't getting pressure about having children, but I was surprised as the comment was coming from someone who ardently shuns convention themselves. My Dad. He’s amazing. I’m very proud of him.

I said something like, “I am living my life. This is what I want to do!” 

I couldn’t explain over a fragmented phone connection that life here is more “real” than anything I’ve ever lived before. Fortunately, he understood what I was saying. 

What I want to say is never let anyone tell you what to do with your life. It’s your life. Chris Guillebeau’s free downloadable A Brief Guide to World Domination is an enticing beginning if you are yet to take the unconventional leap.

I discovered this guide through the mentoring program at Global Voices Online last year. 30 GV writers were selected to mentor a novice blogger and one put a non-descript link to the guide into one of the posts about the program. The novices were working with Action Aid Denmark in the lead up to COP15 to campaign about Climate Change. 1. I couldn’t believe I was mentoring someone on how to blog. Of the 30, I’m pretty sure I was the least technically proficient. But like my inability with directions which you can read about at Pocket Cultures, this is an advantage for beginners.

On the stats side of things we’re getting quite a lot of hits. Around 800 in 7 days for each post and about 4000-6000 a month. I will post more about this and how we track it. I want to upload a screen shot now but the connection is too slow. I can't put any photos into this post. I know that these figures are small for big-time bloggers, but it surprises me. I never expected this. This is a blog about Ghana; who wants to read about Ghana? I often imagine whether I'd want to read about a small country that hardly made world news. Would I read a blog called "This is Estonia"? If I was heading to Estonia, probably. Would I stick around? If the writing pulled me in, yes.

Part of this is thanks to being one of Lonely Planet's featured bloggers. I had no idea the impact this would have when they approached me sometime last year and asked me to be part of their Blogsherpa program. That was when they were starting out. I didn't realise that my posts would be featured on their Ghana page. I don't know how they found me, but you can see what I mean here at Lonely Planet Ghana.  

One of the most interesting developments as a writer is that I didn't approach any of the sites for which I was asked to write, except for Global Voices. Lonely Planet found me and approached me. Expat Blog asked to interview me for Blog of the Month. Pocket Cultures found me for the first relationship story with Godwin. Anja from Ever The Nomad (great to read if you're interested in travel writing) approached me to write and I decided to write a simple narrative about Christmas in Bolgatanga. Several others have approached me to write for them but I have to balance guest writing between a lot of commitments and challenges.

There is no final destination for writers except, maybe, for the likes of Tim Winton and Steinbeck and those truly accomplished artists. For the rest of us, (ok, me) it's a matter of hard work.

But from a writing point-of-view, this was the validation I needed. I must be doing something right. People liked my writing. I now know that writing is an art that requires constant practice, much like a ballerina must dedicate herself to daily stretches and rehearsals and a linguist must keep studying grammatical structures and idiosyncrasies. It's a skill that takes time to develop. 

Hey, on that note, I've been perusing freelancing writing sites (just google "freelance jobs") and article writing rates seem to be somewhere between $1.00-$3.00 per 400-500 words. What is it with that? I made more money than that working for Mr Whippy when I was 16! I had to wear an unflattering pink uniform, but still, the pay was better than what I would earn now writing 8 articles a day. I know "talk is cheap," but writing is a craft, an art, a skill that takes years to develop, yet it's treated as less valuable than something that requires no skill. It's bizarre. I don't get it.

Back to blogging. I learned that if you write good content, people will find you. If you are relatable, people will relate to you. I keep reading other bloggers' mantras: be authentic! Authenticity shines through.

This truth became no more apparent than in the most commented on post in the blog: managing IBS while traveling. I was very scared of writing about having IBS; I had hardly told anyone. I was still ashamed of it. But I realised that I could help others. I had no idea how much impact it would have. I received many more emails about it than comments. And the lesson that authenticity attracts readers and responses became real for me, and continues to do so. 

There is a downside to all this and some really big challenges, and I'll be writing about that in the next post. Warning: It's going to be a very negative post, not like me. But, for reality and sanity's sake, I shall be writing it.

For those who are waiting on the final oil post, it is coming. We've had serious challenges getting online lately. I have many people to try and get emails out to and I can't even get into emails at the moment.

Anyway, when it comes to blogging and writing, I live by the maxim that I see quoted often around the web world and coined by one Oscar Wilde: 

"Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken."

Be you. Use your voice. Write like you speak. 

And a writing tip: Read your work out loud. This helps you pick up awkward phrases and obvious mistakes. It works! 

Having written that, I'm writing this on the fly. Be kind, please.
And thank you again for reading, commenting and sticking around for the journey.


  1. Congratulations Gayle!
    Love your blog. I think you are doing great with this blog.
    I have enjoyed every single one of the posts on this wall. One sure thing is that I'll be cheering you on behind the scene as the days, weeks, months ... go by.
    Have a wonderful week.

  2. Thanks, Gayle for your appreciation and everything you've been doing with this blog. You're a big part of the Ghana blogosphere as well. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hey posekyere and gamelmag (I love both your names by the way): Thanks for your lovely words. Loads happening now. Look forward to reading you both now and in future too. G.


There was an error in this gadget
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...