September 30, 2009

Bright guys like this are rare: Computer fixer in Bolga

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Bright guys like this are rare: Computer fixer in Bolga there.

Computers don’t stand much chance in this climate, and I’m not just referring to the heat and humidity. There is also the dust, persistent viruses courtesy of lazy internet café owners, and the power fluctuations—you absolutely must use a stabilizer (as I write, the stabiliser is click clicking insanely and the power cut out twice).

However, finding someone who can competently repair a lap top or PC, recover data, and that you feel you can trust has at times seemed akin to finding a cure for cancer.

So, it was with great pleasure that (like most discoveries here) through a friend of a friend of a friend I came upon Bright Buzong Yintii: Bright in name and bright in deed. Qualifier: he’s in Bolgatanga. But if you’re stranded with a ‘finished’ lap top anywhere in this region, you need to know this guy because the alternative does not bear thinking about.

So, after he fixed several lap top issues, I asked him if I could do a short interview on my blog, as he has an interesting story. He said yes and here it is:

Thank you Bright. Please tell me what sparked your interest in computers?

‘I have been working with computers for nine years since senior high school. My father bought me a computer when I was in SS and I developed an interest. At senior school I decided to enroll in computer training school and I just loved it so much.’

So tell me about what do you do now?

‘My one year computer training was finished but they asked me to stay there. But I applied to the UDS to read agriculture and natural resource management. You know campus is not easy, money-wise, so throughout my studies I fixed people’s computers, printers, and copiers to make money and help my family. And with time I set up a centre on campus. But then I was posted to Bolga Polytechnic to do my national service. During service in agric the department realized I was good with computers and I came to service all the computers and teach computer studies.’

But what about your agric studies?

(He laughs.) Yes, I am slowly moving to agric projects. But I am also working independently with lots of computer clients who I built trust with over time. I am planning to set up a computer shop in town and start ITC training for women in Bolga.

That’s great, Bright. Mpo-heya. Thank you. And I can’t wait to visit your shop.

If you have a computer, printer or copier problem in the Upper East Region, you can call Bright on 0208 544 555, 0243 782 555, 07293564. Or you can email him on

What readers want to know about Ghana: Survey results

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read What readers want to know about Ghana: Survey results there.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey on what you want to know about Ghana.

Here are the results:

About the food glorious food 11 (20%)
How much I need to spend 31 (58%)
Where in the heck I should visit 19 (35%)
If I have to prove my football skills before being granted an entry visa 2 (3%)
The climate, temperature and other weather stuff 8 (15%)
A volunteer programme I can trust 12 (22%)
Is it dangerous? 29 (54%)
About health and diseases 8 (15%)
Something else--what? Email me. 4 (7%)

And my promise to you is that I will address each of these points, starting with most popular—How much I need to spend—one post a week. Next week: ‘Is it dangerous?’ Dangerous, of course, is a relative term, but we’ll get on to that then.

I’m gobsmacked that more people didn’t check 'If I have to prove my football skills before being granted a visa'.

Alright, it was a humourous red-herring. Perhaps you didn't find it funny. So, demonstrating your footballing prowess is not a condition of entry. But football is a national obsession and so I give you a tip. Your ability to converse on something football related—in a positive tone, preferably about the national team, The Blackstars, or the Black Satellites (Ghana’s national under 20 team currently playing in the Under 20 World Cup in Egypt and kicking butt), or being able to express empathy for Stephen Appiah’s contract situation, or expressing adoration for Chelsea’s coach, or Barcelona’s greatness will help smooth many a bureaucratic bump, especially when it comes to arrivals, renewing visas and immigration. When I post on this (the last in this series), I’ll tell you how I made football fever work for me when I was once in a visa pickle—all of my own making, of course.

But, the number one response was ‘How much I need to spend’. I did do a few cost of living posts earlier and I shall expand on those and answer some of the questions about living, in addition to travel, that I regularly receive by email.

September 28, 2009

Want to start an NGO? Read this first.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Want to start an NGO? Read this first there.

'Anyone with a hammer and a shovel can start an internationl NGO, but you'll
need more than good intentions to make it work.'

So opened the article I recently stumbled across at Verge Magazine about the reality of starting and sustaining an NGO. I haven't read anything better about this topic than this online. And since I've received a few emails asking about it, and they've written it better than I could, and it's full of expert advice, I thought it worth sharing.

I found myself nodding throughout the article. It tallied perfectly with the experiences I had in different projects in a few different countries. There is plenty of wisdom in there that should help you get and stay on the right track. For example: 'If you don't create a real partnership, the people in the community are going to feel like it's improper to say no to you. say yes to you. They're going to say yes no matter what.'

Go check out the entire article here at Verge.

September 24, 2009

Choolips Fair Trade Fashion site

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

Choolips launched its website this week. Now you can read the whole story at Choolips and check out the latest designs and collections available at Top Shop Oxford Circus and Westfield, London. The cloth is hand made by batikers in Cape Coast, Ghana. Congratulations Annegret!

September 17, 2009

Mentoring African bloggers

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

So, I'm mentoring a Zimbabwean blogger as part of MS Action Aid Denmark's program called 'Global Change' that partners bloggers from all over the world with the program's participants from Denmark and Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The mentee bloggers will spend three months building their skills in online and offline activism both in Denmark and in fieldwork in Kenya (so envious!), culminating in Denmark just in time for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in December. The final challenge for the students at the end of the course will be to develop a project related to “climate justice“. As soon as my blogger has his site up and running, I'll be linking posts and tweeting.

Here's an excerpt from the full story over at Global Voices:

The Global Voices mentors are developing the new mentoring program themselves through IRC chat room meetings, a shared wiki for “lesson” ideas, a Google group email list, and a Facebook group.

Mentors intend to create enough documentation that the experience could easily be repeated by Global Voices or by others in the future. In their own blogs and tweets about the project, they will be using the tag: #gvmentors and we will be sharing developments and conclusions on Global Voices too. Later on, there will also be a student website at:

September 9, 2009

Favourite 'Secret' Food Spots in Ghana

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Favourite 'Secret' Food Spots in Ghana there.

My top recommendations for 'off the beaten track' chop bars and restaurants in Ghana. They’re mostly unlisted and they’re worth a visit if you’re in town. Please add your own recommendations or comments good or bad about anything listed.

The one and only Eli above.

Elimax Spot on the way to Elmina.

Eli’s is unsurpassed for taste, value, laughs and hugs anywhere in Ghana. She cooks a dish of the day, much like an Italian trattoria. If you call ahead, she’ll cook especially to order. Eli doesn’t use palm oil and she’ll make veggie-versions if you ask.

Main dishes:
Red Red: Spicy beans and fried plantains. The best I’ve tasted.
Palava sauce with boiled yam and plantain: Absolutely brilliant.
Fufu with ground nut soup: Tasty, especially the veggie version.
Akple and Okro stew: Eli’s akple is better than anywhere else.
Yam Balls and Egg Stew: An obruni favourite. Best yam balls and egg stew anywhere.
Veggie soup with toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches: If you’re craving western food, this is a winner.
Fish or chicken and chips: Yep, fish and chips and it satisfies the cravings.
Gari fotor: An Ewe specialty a bit like spicy couscous with stew. Seriously great. It’s not even worth trying it anywhere else.

Eli has a group of Ghanaian regulars who usually go for the Akple or the fish and chips. I recently returned to Elmina for a visit and dinner turned out to be gari fotor, my favourite. When I walked around the back Eli smiled and said, ‘It was for you’. She’ll make it for you too.

Each meal is served with meat (chicken or fish) and a huge mixed salad. She washes the veggies in pure water. If you’re vegetarian, Eli will give you a boiled egg instead of meat. Tell her before hand. One meal is 4.50 Cedis per person, including the main dish, meat and salad. Amazing value. She also serves the usual range of drinks, but doesn’t always have them all. Just ask.

A group of volunteers enjoying Gari Fotor

If you want something different or special, she can prepare that too. The important thing is she needs notice as she goes to the market daily to buy fresh ingredients.

Contacts and directions:
Don’t be put off by coming from Cape—it’s only about 20 minutes and quite easy. From Cape Coast catch a taxi to Elmina (a share taxi is about 70 pesewas). Ask the driver to stop at ‘Hotel Junction’. They all know it. It’s the junction before Elmina Junction. (If you go past the Shell filling station on your left, you’ve gone too far. It’s just before Shell.) At Hotel Junction there are signs for Elmina Beach Resort on the road to the left. Walk along that road. Eli’s place is just ahead on the right as the road curves around. You can’t miss the apricot/white wall which, incidentally was painted by some great WIP volunteers last summer. The Elimax sign is opposite. CALL HER ON 0203939247.

If you’re coming from Elmina, go along the beach road and past Elmina Beach Resort and keep curving to the left. Eli’s is just around the curve on the left. If you’re coming from Elmina or T’di on the highway, ask the driver to stop at Shell or Hotel Junction and walk from there. If in doubt, ask anyone for EliMax and they’ll show you.

Wander in the picket fence gate. Say hi. Give her a hug. She’ll look after you. Call in advance and find out the day’s dish or order your own. I promise to add the number shortly. My phone was stolen so waiting for it to come from a mate.

African Pot Spot—Fufu!
The best fufu and soup I’ve ever had. Even fussy Godwin says it's the best he's tasted. It’s just off the highway heading to Eli’s on the right before Hotel Junction. If you’re coming from Takoradi or Elmina, it’s on the left after Hotel Junction. You’ll see the colourful sign. It’s about 3-4 Cedis for fufu with a huge piece of chicken or meat. Um, to the best of my knowledge, it doesn't sell pot.

Cape Coast
Janet’s Egg Sandwiches
Outside Oceanview Internet Café. The sign doesn’t lie: egg sandwiches are around 60 p. Toasted cheese, tomato and omelet sandwiches are about 1.4 C and will keep you going all day. Tea is about 60 p.

Jollof Rice Lady
If your back is to Melcom in Cape, look over the road. There is a large woman with a stand of pots in front of a cloth shop. Her name is Adwoa. Her jollof is excellent. A big bag of rice, boiled beans, and a boiled egg and stew is 1 C. If avocado is in season, cutting one into your jollof is delicious.


I tried, but I never found any great hidden eats here. If anyone knows, please say! I’m simply endorsing a favourite, Vic Babboo’s, in Adum near the banks. My favourites were pizza, Indian dishes (the owners are Indian), the Lassis, and the salads.


International Travelers Inn: egg sandwiches and tea
A non-descript boxy grey covered spot on the main street is a little gem. From the south end of the main street (the opposite end from the SSNIT building), it’s just on your right. They serve excellent egg sandwiches and tea for 1.5 C. The huge range of baskets in the warehouse square behind are worth a look.

Exactly opposite International Travelers Inn is the best wakye I’ve ever had. It has a spicy, gingery base and doesn’t send you running to the toilet. A bag with egg costs 1 C.

Rakia’s Inn
TZ with guinea fowl
If you’re after TZ, don’t go anywhere else. On the main street, go to the post office and turn into the dirt driveway beside the post office car park. About twernty metres ahead on the left is Rakia’s in a free standing building with two double-doorways. It’s next to a Mosque. Try their ‘TZ with betel’ (spinach-like) soup in a ground nut base with guinea fowl for about 3.5-4 Cedis.

Up from the STC towards town. Try fufu for about 4 Cedis with chicken or other meat. The other great dish is mixed salad. Strips of chicken are mixed through a huge plate of truly mixed salad and baked beans with boiled eggs sliced on top. 4 Cedis.

Good Taste
At the other end of the main street is the cheapest, good chop in town. It’s the yellow spot on your right, just past the two shops on the corner coming from the SSNIT building on the main road. A plate of fried rice or jollof and salad (cabbage) and a small piece of chicken is 1.5 Cedis.

This is the Vic Babboo’s of Bolga, run by an affable Ghanaian man who knows how to cook. Their pizza, their signature dish, is not cheap at 7-10 Cedis. Although not the best on earth, it does the trick. At least it tastes fresh and hand made. The Ghanaian and Indian dishes are great. His okro stew rivaled Eli’s for taste.

Several volunteers raved about the ‘Jerk’ (and all I could think of was Steve Martin) and made special trips for it. Then I tried it. It’s similar to Portuguese chicke: grilled on a BBQ—and addictive. A generous plateful with spicy sauce is 5 Cedis which is miraculous in Accra. Or, you can get take-out in a box. Unfortunately, I didn’t take down directions. It’s about three streets behind Frankie’s in Osu. Turn left out the door of Frankie’s down the side street (next to the Chinese restaurant) and then right at the first street on the right and then left and start asking around. It’s in a little free-standing building on its own in a quiet street not far back.

Ko-Sa Beach Resort in Ampenyi, about twenty minutes past Elmina, along the same road that takes you to Brenu, serves brilliant food. It’s run by a German couple and they’ve put a lot of effort into a good, inexpensive and delicious menu and good customer service. I’m writing a separate review on them shortly.

Green Turtle, past Takoradi from the same junction (Agona) that takes you to Busua or Butre, is the other great hide out for good food and an even better cocktail list and atmosphere.

A bare-faced promo: Fair Trade Event in London this Sat

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read A bare-faced promo: Fair Trade Event in London this Sat there.

If you're in Leytonstone, London, pop along to a fun day of African-inspired activities this Saturday. This is a fund raiser organised by my very good friend Liz to raise money to build a school in Butre, Ghana. They've been working on the project for the past couple of years, with plenty of past fundraisers, and you can help give them a boost. There's even Bollywood dancing, and why not? I don't know what the chocolate fountain is, but if I were you, I'd go check it out. And, of course, the drumming!

Butre is the destination of a popular backpacker lodge, Ellis Hideout, but also happens to have a serious elephantiasis problem which affects long-term residents. When I visited I met a man whose entire leg was swollen from the disease. Their school will include a clinic to address that problem in particular, as well as provide a much-needed boost to the existing educational facilities. And if you see my friend Liz (she has the wild curly hair), say hi!

September 7, 2009

Misty morning in Bolga

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

I couldn't believe my eyes when I woke to find the neighbourhood shrouded in mist. I can't remember the last time I saw mist! Although mist usually comes with cold, this didn't. But it did create a lovely, calming atmosphere.

Food in Ghana at Global Voices

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

I had a lot of fun reading dozens of blogs about Ghanaian food. You can read the whole post over at GV here. There are some great blogs referenced in the post, especially Can you believe two bloggers went on quests in Seoul and Guangzhou to find Ghanaian food.

Here is a short excerpt.

"Mushy, gooey, fragrant, grainy, tasty, starchy, spicy, creamy, rotund, freaking amazing—these are just some of the adjectives bloggers use to describe Ghanaian cuisine. From Seoul to London, Guangzhou to Tamale, people are blogging about Ghanaian food."

September 4, 2009

See the light

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

I took this the other day on the way home from the field as dusk was falling.

Football, the national religion of Ghana

It was watching the MTN football academy challenge that I learnt this is called 'Joggling'.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Football, the national religion of Ghana there.

This was an afternoon of practice at the local field. Whoever turns up is invited to join in. These kids and the young boy who was off injured taught me my first passes that afternoon. They were patient. No matter where you go, every afternoon all over the country games like this are being played on spare land.

Godwin Talks: If Ghanaians’ enthusiasm for football touched other aspects of life we might be truly great.

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Godwin Talks: If Ghanaians’ enthusiasm for football touched other aspects of life we might be truly great there.

"There is nothing that unifies Ghanaians like soccer. I don’t know if I told you this before, but a Ghanaian woman would leave her stew to burn on the stove just to watch a football match. A young guy who has just found a new lover wouldn’t mind not picking her call and upsetting her just to watch Michael Essien take a free kick or The Blackstars celebrate a goal in the famous Kangaroo dance style.

The politicians would put aside their busy schedules to watch The Blackstars train for a World Cup qualifying match. This gives you an idea of how crazy Ghanaians are about football.

What makes me sad is the lack of same enthusiasm and commitment to other important aspects of our national life. For example, politicians being faithful to the electorate by not promising heaven and actually doing what they can do instead of talking so much on radio and TV. I wish the District Chief Executives would be faithful to the ordinary people on the streets and not award contracts based on party lines. I wish the ordinary person would be as committed to doing their work well as they are to following the Blackstars.

And getting personal, I wish the government and other stakeholders would show the same commitment and enthusiasm towards finding a lasting solution to the Chieftancy conflict in Bawku, my home town, as they do to rubbing shoulders with our football teams."
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