August 31, 2009

Storm in Ghana

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Storm in Ghana there.

This awesome storm front hit recently. Everyone ran for cover. You can see many half-finished buildings all over Ghana. I've been told that this is because people build as they can afford the materials, and at least establish ownership over their land. If they don't put something up, even just four walls, someone is likely to come and build and claim it as their own. So, that's why there are unfinished buildings pretty much everywhere throughout the country.

August 28, 2009

Stormy weather

I captured these photos when a huge storm front hit a few weeks ago. Run for cover!

Currency and money in Ghana

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Currency and money in Ghana there.

I found a couple of useful links that might help familiarise you with the Ghana Cedi before arriving.

The first one is from the an official government site regarding the redenomination of the Cedi in 2007. It shows the new notes and how to translate it from the old currency, still quoted on the street. Go HERE for that link.

Here is a currency converter that includes the Cedi!!!

Clap for Oanda!

August 26, 2009

Only in Ghana? Probably not.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Only in Ghana? Probably not there.

This furry fellow is no doubt thumbing his hoofs at his fellow goats tied on top of death-trap trotros. Suckers!

While I'm tempted to write, only in Ghana, I sense that this freeloading goat would not be out of place across much of Africa.

A good friend passed this photo along. I recall seeing it somewhere online a while back.

Edit: It is from The Pale Observer--thank you!

August 24, 2009

"Northern Ghana"

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read "Northern Ghana" there.

I was inspired by an interesting blog, Ghana Rising, and its reference to FT Magazine's story, The Human Tsunami, focusing on climate change triggering human migration--in particular from the northern regions of Ghana.
Here's an excerpt:
The heart of Nandom is a fork in the road. It is here, in one of the northernmost towns in Ghana, that the buses come and go. You would call it a station if it was anything more than a triangle of reddish dust, surrounded by
fast-food stalls, general stores and the rural bank. Once a week, a market sets
up. The rest of the time, it’s the buses themselves, privately owned mini-vans
known as “tro tros”, daubed with prayers for the road – “Lord Have Mercy”, “My
Redeemer Liveth” – that provide the action: the logic-defying piling on of
people and goods, the waiting, in midday temperatures of 40°C, for enough
passengers to fill a van.

When you hear about “the north” of Ghana, while living in the south, it sounds like Timbuktu (it almost could be). In other words: mysterious and far.
In the south of Ghana, the north is spoken in the same tones as “Africa” is spoken of outside of Africa: as if it’s one big homogenous blob with no cultural diversity and no hope.

It’s a happy surprise to discover that the perceptions—of both Africa and “the north”—are gross and unfair generalizations. And was I ever guilty of both, myself.
“Up north”, linguistically, you’re dealing with at least five widely spoken languages (not including Twi). Food-wise, there’s all the food eaten in the south, plus a few more staples. In terms of religion, it’s roughly divided between Christianity and Islam and everyone gets along just fine.

The conflicts are ethnic-based, not religious, and fall more along political lines, than anything.

The landscape is all rolling pastures, red dirt, Baobab trees, termite mounds and small rocky hills more in common with far northern Australia than the south of Ghana.

It is, however, very poor. While Bolgatanga is thriving (relatively—there is a huge influx of “immigrants” from the conflict in Bawku pushing up rental prices), and local shops are doing a good trade, also helped by being on the route to Burkina and Togo, life is still tough and the future holds little prospect—especially if you’re female. At least in Accra or Kumasi women might have some control over their lives.

Even though Ghana is something like (emphasis on 'like', since I'm not the best geographer) one twenty-fifth the size of Australia (with almost the same population), when you’re traveling from north to south it feels as if you’ve traveled half-way down Australia because it takes the same time. The “tyranny of distance”, a phrase often bandied about my home country, seems very apt here, too.
Distance in Ghana is measured more accurately in time than space. There are so many obstacles between A and B that to relate distance to time is a big mistake—unless you have your own vehicle. No, it’s best to think in terms of time alone. It took eighteen hours to get from the capital, Accra, to Bolga on the state coach company: around 700-800 kilometres—this would normally take about 6 hours in Australia.

So, internal migration is a big deal: it’s expensive and it’s time consuming. When you’ve spent a bit of time observing the hand-to-mouth existence of most, at least in Bolga, without any decent prospects for work, and where the health facilities are abysmal and education is only slightly better than nothing at all, it’s no surprise.

Yet, outside the insanely hot “hot” season (it’s too hot to think of a more imaginative title), when rain begins falling and the fields burst with maize and millet and the landscape turns what appears to be fake fluorescent green, and wild mint scents the air, life seems ok and you can almost imagine the possibilities…

Open land spreads as far as the eye can see—even in this tiny country. So much so that if you want a few acres to grow your own food, all you have to do is go ask the local chief, give some small offering such as a bag of Kola Nuts, and it’s yours to farm. And that’s how most people survive. And selling the odd basket if you’re in Bolga. Or shea nut butter if you’re in Tamale. And buying and selling animals too.

If the government or private industry would invest and provide opportunities in these wide open spaces where potential seems great, but the present reality is grim, Dagombas, Frafras, Gurusis, Sesales, Walas, Dagabas, Bisas, Moshis, Bahausas, Kusasis, Mamprusis, Gonjas, Bimobas, Nanumbas, Bassiras, and Konkombas, might stay among these rainy-season green pastures and help “the north” realize its potential. Then, perhaps, Accra, Tema and Kumasi may be spared the pressure of internal migration overtaking its cities.

Haloes and Moths

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Haloes and Moths there.

A few more photos. A recent sunset that looked as if a huge angel's halo was peeping over the horizon. And an amazing moth that settled outside the front door.

August 3, 2009

Food, glorious miss!

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Food, glorious miss! there.

When a package arrives from home I become all irrational (some might say “controlling”) about how to divvy up the spoils and make them last as long as possible.

Me: “Look. I’ll be honest. You don’t appreciate olives as much as me; you didn’t even like them until yesterday. I’ve loved them since around 1987—so don’t eat them!”

Godwin: “I will pretend I do not know they are there.”

Me: “OK. And don’t eat all the marshmallows either. Yeah, don’t give me that look. Imagine if you hadn’t had bananas since 2007 and there were no prospects of getting another bunch until 2011. But right now you have a whole bunch. Imagine I ate half of them even though I don’t really like them.”

Godwin: “They are not my favourite.”

Me: “Hmmm. I’ve seen you chase banana ladies along the road for a good bunch of bananas. That’s how it is for me and marshmallows—we have a history! Like coffee and olives. I’m going to make something special with them anyway…not altogether. Quick, watch this.”

I light the gas-burner and stick a marsh-mallow on a fork. I toast it over the flame. I pull off the hot sticky bit and eat it. I offer Godwin some.

He squidges a bit between his fingers and brings it gingerly to his lips. “Mmmm…..”

Me: “Wait ‘til we have hot cocoa, but don’t eat them all, or else we won’t get any.”

(Don’t you talk. Yes you, reading. If you hadn’t had olives and marshmallows since sometime in 2007, you’d turn into a control freak too!)

But this is what I really enjoy about the surprise packages from home: sharing—yes, I do share. I have the privilege of sharing these treats that are fine to gorge on if you only have them every two years. I gave away several Caramello Koalas and Freddo Frogs around home this week. I believe a liking for chocolate is universal and the smiles make the sacrifice worthwhile.

And then there are Tim-Tams, Australia’s unofficial favourite biscuit. I got to show Godwin how, if you bite off each end, you can suck (real!) coffee through the chocolatey middle between the two biscuits.

Aside from introducing the art of sucking hot beverages through cream-filled biscuits, I have the privilege of introducing friends to all sorts of sugary malarkey. Since it’s as close to winter as we’re going to get (around 25 C), I’m off to make hot cocoa with marshmallows…

I’d love to know what foods you miss.

If you’re a Ghanaian living abroad, what foods from Ghana do you miss most?

If you’re an Obruni living in Ghana, what food do you miss most?

If you’re a Ghanaian who lived abroad, what food do you miss from the country where you lived?

I was speaking to a twelve-year old Ghanaian boy who spent his early years in London. I asked him if he missed any of the food and he said, “I miss fish and chips!”

You can add your “miss-list” by clicking on the comment button below.

Cheers. And if you eat any of my marshmallows, you’re dead meat man!

Not quite Ghana, but quite good, really.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Not quite Ghana, but quite good, really there.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centred; forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true friends; succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people might cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.

Give the world your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.


You know what came into my mind when I thought, I’d really like to share this on my blog? I thought, But people might think I’m cheesy and religious…Of course, about twenty second later I thought: D’oh! and share anyway…

Give thanks to Mother Teresa for those words of wisdom. Sometimes I wondered whether I should keep trying on some of the work I was doing, but that kept me going. I hope it helps anyone who wishes to keep it close to them, too.

30 minutes in the life: Bolgatanga

These kids were so excited to see their image on the digital camera afterwards.

The plant above growing on the ground is "ground nuts" (peanuts), a major crop up here.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read30 minutes in the life: Bolgatanga there.

This is 30 minutes in the life of a walk around home in Bolga yesterday. I included this last pic because, even up here, satellite dishes are not unusual...
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