Friday, August 20, 2010

Watch out (Western) World, Ghanaians are Ready for You!

Somehow, somewhere, there is a 16-yr-old budding American journalist who must be looking behind her shoulder wondering what next to write about the country she's currently visiting. Somehow, somewhere, she must be regretting ever claiming that:

  • These people are lucky if they have power until 2 p.m

  • Then, these women! They carry their laundry and groceries on their heads! ON THEIR HEADS! I wish I could see their neck muscles, they must be gigantic

  • Aunt Barb had a three-minute shower to wash her hair, and when I got in after her, the hot water was gone! It's craziness

  • Note to everyone: if you are ever traveling and the menu says beef, ask them to define beef. Chances are beef in Ghana is goat

  • I am not going to try to debunk these myths. A quick click on the "SHARE" button, and the story, by Jessica Wolk, 16, of "Glassboro,...considering going to the University of Maryland, Arcadia University or Rowan University" and who is in Ghana with International Healthcare Volunteers, was all over Facebook.

    The following are some of the responses:

    Tuesday at 12:36pm · · · Share

      • Nana Fredua-Agyeman it is called ignorance and prejudice... looking for things that aren't there...
        Tuesday at 12:39pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr if u consider how much of a "backwater" where she is from is perceived to be, it might make sense why she's making such assumptions. Goes to show, also, that Western 16-yr-olds do not necessarily feel part of the "global village" we all assume we are in!;-)
        Tuesday at 12:48pm · ·

      • Julius Sowu
        As is our duty as generous hosts, we should not chide her, she is young and was brought up with the impression that electricity was created by mystical creatures who lived below ground and produced endless supply, that can be wasted.

        I say w...e are lucky to have an opportunity to show true reality to such as she, seeing as her elders do not have a clue she maybe will grow up to do the right things.See More
        Tuesday at 12:58pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr I guess you made a valid point, Julius! 16 is STILL rather young!
        Tuesday at 1:01pm · ·

      • Leanne Rae Halewyck Why don't you invite her over to your place for a goat "beef" barbeque and amaze her with your trick of turning on the lights - *at night*?
        Tuesday at 1:06pm · · 1 personYou like this. ·

      • Katrina Olson I am so tempted to comment on her post that she finally experienced using a toilet while being in Ghana - times in NJ must be tough!
        Tuesday at 1:16pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Leanne Rae Halewyck LOL - so true Katrina! Man, they have it good in Africa: electricity until 2pm AND toilets!
        Tuesday at 1:17pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Julius Sowu
        ‎@Emman 16 is just the right age for her to awaken from the sleep that is living in the west, most kids do not have such an amazing opportunity to see reality up close and personal.

        Lets just hope she goes beyond pink buildings in Osu, and ...air conditioned imitations of somewhere else, but takes time to opens her eyes.See More
        Tuesday at 1:22pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Chris Howusu Just written like a teenager. Goat as beef? Nonsense. Not in Ghana. Ghanaians prefer goat anyway. Sometimes the difference between the West and developing countries is exagerated. As someone whose MA dissertation was about internet comments of tourists visiting Ghana,this one takes the biscuit.
        Tuesday at 1:50pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
        When I read the article, my initial reaction was shock. But I then noticed that she is only 16 and probably travelling to Ghana for the first time. It is a pity it appears those bringing her down did not orient her.

        She is however, stereoty...pical of most Americans I have met who were arriving in the country for the first time.See More
        Tuesday at 2:18pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr ‎@Leanne & Katrina: I think you make a good comedy-duo;-D really made my afternoon...literally fell off my chair!;-)) @Julius: here's to her opening her eyes! I almost feel sorry for having launched this blitzkrieg on her African adventure!;-) @Chris: would love to see a website where you have some of the BEST internet comments on Ghana!! Can u manage that? keep the fire burning!
        Tuesday at 2:20pm · ·

      • Bob Palitz
        Folks....let's take a moment to put things in perspective. We have a 16 year old, who has probably not traveled outside the US before (note her comment on the size of the plane). She's coming here to do good volunteer work (see her organiza...tion's web site) and she freely admits to not really knowing what she's getting into. She's blogging, which means that initial impressions are thrown out there before they have had time to "mature". By the time she leaves Ghana she will have an appreciation for different cultures and economic circumstances that she has not yet had the chance to experience in her life. So it's cool.

        And Americans do not have a monopoly on cultural and geographic ignorance. Care to know how many Ghanaians I have met who think Hawaii is in the Caribbean and were unaware it became one of the United States over 50 years ago? ;-)
        See More
        Tuesday at 2:38pm · · 2 peopleLoading... ·

      • Chris Howusu Well said@ Bob. She would have received more flak but for her age. I wish her the best during hers stay.
        Tuesday at 2:49pm · · 
        think BOB PALITZ's comments pretty much summed it up, when he posted a comment to her post:

        Bob Palitz August 17, 2010 at 7:18AM an NJ native who has lived in Ghana for almost 10 years, I can appreciate the culture shock Ms Wolk is experiencing. It doesn't seem as if she has traveled much so far. If she thinks a 767 is huge, wait until she experiences a 777 or 747. an aspiring journalist, she does need to get on top of the need for research. She apparently is confusing "tarmac" (which is simply pavement) with "jetway" (which is the movable bridge many airports have that allow you to enter and leave a plane door directly into the terminal). Rest assured that when she descended the stairs upon arrival at Kotoka International Airport, she stepped onto tarmac.

        In my ten years here, I have never been served goat masquerading as beef. Why would they? Goat's very popular here and they sell it as goat, on the menu and in the markets. They don't taste at all alike.

        And while the electricity supply in Ghana has its erratic moments, it doesn't "run out" at 2 pm or at any particular time. In fact, it's better than you will find in most African countries.

        Let's hope Ms Wolk can get beyond her shock about differences in creature comforts and describe in a balanced way the experience she's having.

        Frankly, despite all these comments--many of which I sympathise with--I do not think we are going to see an end to platitudinous impressions about Ghana--let alone Africa. The proof of the experience clearly will be in the living. But I daresay, if more if us challenged these assumptions about Africa anytime and everywhere it appeared, we might have a better-balanced view of Africa.

        Here's to technology, Facebook, and the intelligentsia!;-))

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    I've Been Running Around Trying to Find Certainty

    " Johnny's always running around
    Trying to find certainty
    He needs all the world to confirm
    That he ain't lonely " --
    Robert Palmer
    It's one of those day when you don't get much done--despite the fact that you're at the cusp of a maelstrom of impending activity.

    Started the day needing to attend a meeting in town. Came back all jaded and soporific at lunchtime.

    Regrettably it's extended after lunch, with mischief by a mystery illness, initiated by an incipient sore throat, that wants to put me down.

    I won't let it. I guess early home, coupled with doses of nostalgic music (90s, 2000s) will get me perky for Thursday morning.

    Here's up for a looooooooooooooooong walk with my pet dog, Fenix.

    So much to do, yet running around trying to find certainty

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Thank you, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission(PURC)!

    At a time when consumers are shouting blue murder about tariff increases, it might strike one as odd that I'm advocating a praise!

    I certainly have not forgotten the load management programme of 2006 that saw many Ghanaians rationing electricity, because of the over-dependence on Ghana's hydro-power at the Akosombo dam, which was running out. But I do not also forget the very helpful people at the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission(PURC), who have been instrumental in maintaining some level of sanity when the lights went out.

    Four years down the line, they continue to be as helpful as they always have been. There is one particular person by the name "Phillip", whose surname I do not know, who always does his very best to address any concerns about electricity.

    Two days ago, the lights went off in our area--apparently, Electricity Company of Ghana(ECG)-- was doing unannounced maintenance on a tripped wire. I called PURC, on 0302.240.046 to speak with the same Phillip who said he would investigate for me, even if I had reported it to the ECG hotline on 0302.611.611.

    He asked me to remind him of my phone number, which I did.

    Within 10 minutes, he had called to let me know he had contacted the district engineer of my area, and that they were aware of a problem. They were not promising anything, but they would restore the lights shortly.

    Around two hours later, the lights were back. I know as I got a text message from home.

    Interestingly, the following morning, I greeted my desk with a call from PURC, wondering whether my lights came back the evening before!

    If that is not efficiency, I don't know what is!

    Enjoy your weekend and keep safe.

    If you're in Ghana and your lights go off, please don't tell me you don't know what numbers to call on a weekday (from 9am to 16h30), and throughout the week!

    It's PURC, then ECG Hotline on 0302.611.611.

    Friday, August 06, 2010

    Lessons in Blogging: Blogging Integrity; and Why Niche-Blogging Must be Encouraged

    A few months ago, I sent a blog entry to a friend whom I had quoted in the entry. In that quoted piece, I had used a picture of her, which was a few years old, and some of what I had written probably no longer applied in 2010.

    I had written the post in 2006, and was referring to it in 2010. On the picture, she wondered whether I could not change it.

    I said no.

    This is what I wrote:

    I don't know how exactly to call it, but blogging has an implicit "integrity:" abt it--which is to say that it is rare to go back and change a post (dating, in this case to 2006!) and picture...significantly minimises the "blogging integrity" of it. Even if there are typos, keeping it as is makes it "authentic".

    I have checked online to see whether I could find any similar definitions, but none was forthcoming. So please take it as my coining of a new term!;-)

    Practising "blogging integrity" is, in essence, retaining a blog-post(with mistakes and all) [even] for posterity.

    If you're familiar with history, it's like keeping a primary source, thus increasing its authenticity. Any tinkering makes it a secondary source. In other words, it no longer retains the authenticity it held when you wrote it. There was a mood that set the tone for your writing of that post, including what informed you to use a particular post.

    Any change of that post you wrote a few years ago(no matter how politically-incorrect, replete with typos, or narrow-minded it was) years down the line is in essence a breach of blogging integrity.

    Keep on with your niche-blogging!

    Niche-blogging is pretty self-explanatory: it is blogging about a particular industry -- a kind of esoteric blogging if you will.

    The only bug-bear I have with this kind of blogging is that it is mostly profit-oriented. I personally think it does not have to be!

    I am your quintessential niche-blogger blogging for free!

    I maintain a photo-blog (Accra Pictures by Day and Night) on, and also own Critiquing Regional Integration, which can be accessed on

    Comparing this blog with those other two is like comparing chalk, cheese, and polar bears: they're all mostly white, but very different in style!;-))

    The reason why I am even writing about it at all is because the other day, I wrote a post entitled "
    Understanding the Relationship between the AU, Africa's RECs and the African Economic Community(AEC)".

    By the time I had come to work the next day, I had had visitors from Belgium; the UK; other parts of Europe having accessed that blog. Here's just a snapshot of some of the countries that have been visiting my regional integration blog:

    Within hours, I found my blog entry here: This is no other than a very reputable and respected website on ACP-EU affairs!

    Just when I thought no-one was noticing, someone, somewhere picked up my "niche-blogging" post and spread it far and wide!

    Goes to show that in blogging, don't ever think no-one is watching, or reading. If you are sufficiently passionate about a topic, just go ahead and write, write, and write some more.

    Get some good trackers, like FEEDIT live, whilst you are at it!

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Has it Really Been Six Years?

    The epiphany of working for five years seemed to have passed me last year, so I am a bit surprised that it has not in 2010. Perhaps it is the fact that today is exactly six years to the day that I arrived at this office in a tie to a very clean desk ready for me to do my work.

    Whenever I think back to 2 August, 2004, I feel profoundly wistful, because I wish I could go back and undo some of the foolish and immature things I did when I started working here. I wish I could have managed things a whole lot better.

    Then again, it's never too late. I am grateful for having fantastic experiences of travelling to Tunis for a UN-sponsored conference; Guinea; and recently Mali; and Nigeria.

    To tell you the truth, I have not quite gotten over my Nigeria trip; I was beside myself visiting Abuja--it really is a (safe and) noteworthy city to visit!

    Every August I start thinking of my last days in Belgium; that frenetic period when we were clearing our rented place in the suburbs of 15 years worth of stuff; the greenery and serenity of the suburbs; the exposure to the "European way" as opposed to the much-flaunted "American way" in Ghana.

    I thought that in 2010, I would have landed a UN job(not there yet), or an African Union one(working on it), or one where I could fully exploit my potential of a political scientist, with expertise(10 years writing about, and researching) in comparative regional integration.

    My dream to work in an international public organisation where wearing a tie won't give me funny looks is no longer a dream; I think I'm a bit closer to realising it than I ever was.

    We'll see.

    I still have many deeper dramas to work on.

    Still...thank God for 6 years on this job!

    And what about you, dear reader? Would 6 years on the job kill you--or make you better?


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