Thursday, 26 February 2009

Names and places

How are the naming of streets, bus stops and places done in Ghana. Who decide on these names and first begin using the names, and how is it that these names stick?.

Names /captions of places/towns have always intrigued me. So I present my list of names of places/bus stops/chop bars/captions- (not necessarily in any order!)

I mentioned this was not in any order but this beats them all! Yoomo Specs- This is Ga for old womans spectacles. Yoomo specs is an area as well as a bus stop in Teshie (a suburb of Accra).We’ve had old women in spectacles with us for years. Before the ‘’darks/shades’’ became fashionable items , they were essential for the yoomo. We all do have memories of that old woman at church or school in heavy thick bearing down on nose spectacles reading. (did those things obscure or aid their sight?) .We might not have erected or painted anything in their honour, but for now Yoomo Specs in Teshie bears the honorary torch.

Alonte bar --- (Also in Ga meaning cats bar). Cat bar does not actually mean that it is a place where cats are allowed to groom themselves and be treated to a first class service. Rather humans groom the cats with the aid of their oral cavity. Okay, in case you did not get my poor joke, @ Alonte Bar, cats are the main menu. In fact there is no menu, you sit down and order. No surprises sort , the attendants know why you are there and you know what is coming. The name of the bar has been given to the area as well as the bus stop there. Alonte Bar is in La (a suburb of Accra) and located slightly opposite the La Palm Beach Hotel. So next time you are at the hotel just cross the street and ask for Alonte bar. (don’t be surprised if you recognise your brown and white cat about to be..).

Sowutuom -- (Twi for hold your gun) Located somewhere around Santa Maria also a suburb of Accra. Maybe in sometime gone by, to stay here, you had to be prepared to hold your gun blazing.

Las scala -Now if you are a foreigner in a trotro and hear of Las scala from the trotro mate you might be tempted to get down and see some Italian opera. Wrong.! Las scala gets its name from a ‘video center’ situated nearby. And rather than some nice tenors you will hear shouts from market women nearby. A KVIP is nearby, so your nose (instead of your ears) might get the treat instead. (Location Teshie on the Accra- Tema highway)

Kojo Sardine- Also name of an area in La,- this name came from quite a famous family in La. So won’t say much here except that I liked the name a lot when I was in secondary school and always thought what it would be like to have an endless supply of Titus.

Don’t mind your wife. Somewhere in every town in Ghana, there is a don’t mind your wife chop bar. If collated in all, they could stand as one of the biggest food franchise, rivaling McDonalds and co. The name is a boost for every tired/heavily nagged Ghanaian man that no matter the situation at home, somewhere nearby they can always enjoy a hot bowl of fufu with groundnut soup engaged with dropped in long okro and the hardest thick skinned goat meat for their chewing enjoyment.

37 ! This is the name of a military hospital. There is no 36 and neither a 38 just 37. End of story.(Location-Independence avenue Accra)

Circle- yes also circle, not a rhombus or tetrahedron. Just circle. When you see a trotro approaching just do a circular sign and it will stop for you. Magic heh? Try doing this when going to 37 and see what happens (pls. let me know what happens).

Russia-not the other Russia with Putin, but the one with Alhaji Mutari as Zongo chief.Location -->suburb of Mataheko which in turn is a suburb of Accra the capital of Greater Accra.

Before screen savers and the ‘’what are you doing at the moment on Facebook and Twitter, trotro owners and drivers had theirs (…… or well sort of). My favourite caption on a trotro is –Enemies are not God! This is a huge statement and whenever I encounter small enemies along the way, I remind myself that enemies really are not God.

And what is it with the Ghanaian repetition of names- Kokomlemle, Coco Beach, Agbogbloshie and dabi dabi. Okay not a noun, but you get my drift. Wouldn’t a one ko and single mle do? But no 2X2 kokomlemle.

Petroleum, kau kudi, Palm wine junction, Agboogba, Laterbiokorshie, Auntie otsoo, Israel, Bethlehem, and the list goes on…great places.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Did we go or did we come (or are we going?)

Please find below a list of things we have gone back for or are unwilling to let go of. There may be more because I think this is just the tip of the ice berg. Visit to add your comments.

I recently watched some old archived footage of election campaigning during the 50’s,60’s and 70’s. Really listening to the campaign messages you would think they were speaking at a rally last December! The message was the same,ala providing water, electricity, roads and opening more factories. Some messages can never die out – like wiping out corruption and building more schools. But after 50 years we should have moved on from building new roads and providing electricity and water.

When the Europeans first moved here they were appalled by the tattooing and numerous piercing they found on Africans. They classified as uncivilized. Today, the world over, tatooing is a common feature found on most streets in the ‘’civilised world’’. Have we gone?

In the autobiography of Malcom X he mentioned one significant difference between Ghana and other African states. That the streets of Accra were clean and he saw no single beggar during his stay here. This was in the mid 1960’s. Please Malcolm X, wish you were alive to visit Ghana today- you won’t go far, just 100 meters from the airport. Did we go or …..

Since creation, we (man and woman) have tendered to relax at the end of the day by the fireside to talk of the biggest game killed and how the crops are doing. Under the moonlight there was singing and dancing and merrymaking. Today we still meet at the end of the day in a club somewhere to talk of the boss at office and how big a salary we deserve. Looking at it nothing much has changed. There is still the fire side – the club with its lighting systems. And what do we still do there? Dance and have a nice time. The only change is that average calabash of palmwine is now a bottle of Stone Lager beer!.

Mascara or eyeshadow- Painting of the body was done by Africans both to adorn the body by the females and for the males to scare off opponents on the battlefield. Both sexes adorned their faces with various colours. Again it was deemed by others to be uncivilized. Today there is a massive industry in China and the Far East churning out various types of mascaras/eyeshadows to be sold here to our ladies. On the Osar ceremony on Sunday not one ‘’civilised’’ actress walked the red carpet without ‘’peppering up’’ first. Should we go?

I heard this explanation for why Accra and Ghana goes slow on rainy days (by which it actually meant late or no arrivals to offices or functions, empty streets and hence no traffic).That our forefathers who were farmers did not go out on the rains to farm, because rain filled rivers usually broke their banks and trees uprooted by storms blocked pathways. So I ask –really I need an answer—does it mean that somewhere in our Ghanaian cells this ‘’ don’t go out farming code’’ is still embedded and functioning? Did we ever go?

It was said that the last British Governor General prepared a secret report on the future of an independent Ghana. In it he stated that tribalism (maybe Gadafi isn’t wrong after all) and corruption are major features of politics in Ghana and he did not think Ghana can successfully manage as an independent nation. Have we changed 50 years down the line? I wish we have.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Changes I will like to see (no fancy stuff)!

These are mundane simple things I will like to see and feel in Ghana. You are welcome to include your comments here.

1. I want all gutters in Ghana, to be covered up so that the noses of Ghanaians will no longer be used to the smell of open sewers. Unfortunately by the time we grow up the smell is already part of us and when foreigners ask what is that smell we respond in characteristic fashion, “what smell?”.

2. I want all areas in Ghana to have accessible and free flowing water and electricity, every hour and every day of the week throughout the year –whether the worst drought in a century occurs in this year or the next half of the next decade.

3. I want to see somebody below the age of 50 become a president in the next general elections.

4.I want to be able to go to work and back without worrying about traffic and forming long trotro queues. No fancy stuff as in subways/bus lanes etc. I just want to be able to hop on to the next available trotro without having to make an Olympic style dash, pushing my brother/ sister aside before seating by a sweaty trotro mate in order to make it to work.

5. I want peace in this country. Not the peace we talk of when approaching elections, but the peace knowing that I can sleep and move about in Ghana at whatever time without any torment from robbers or mobile phone snatchers.

6. I want Ghanaians to win international laurels and I’m not excluding myself here. A Nobel prize, Pullitzer prize, FIFA World Cup,a 100 meter record holder, an Oscar /Grammy winner etc etc.

7. I want good health facilities available to all souls of Ghana within Ghana at affordable prizes. To know that whatever one’s ailment or economic status a world class medical care is within reach and no longer will our relatives go on TV3 to plead for 2000 USD.

8. As part of utilities provision I want broadband or internet services to be included as part of the basics of life in Ghana. This obviously is after number 2 - electricity. It is true majority of people do not have access to water, yet access to information and education is a great ‘equaliser’. No fancy stuff here again, but just for Adjoa Mansa in her village school to improve her brofo by reading interesting stuff/news/magazine/journals .

9. And while we are at it, I would like our president to start blogging or to have his own personal internet site where he will tell us his thoughts and the reasoning behind some of his decisions. Not all but just some of his decisions. It would be a 2 way affair, as we will comment on his actions. Nothing fancy again, we just want to be in touch with someone who we have put in charge of our political and economical destiny. Then Adjoa Mansa can ask the president how they can write the forthcoming SSCE English paper without an English teacher.

10. I don't want to see any difference between the public toilets and our own little private ones at home because Ghana will have numerous public places of convenience built countrywide and they would be well maintained. Ghanaians will stop spitting and pissing everywhere whenever they feel like it. We will hold it in a little till we get to a public place of convenience.

11. I want Ghanaians to always compare ourselves with the best practice wherever.If America does not have it,this does not mean we Ghanaians cannot have it.

Is this too much for a taxpayer to ask for? I hope I have not asked for the undoable here.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Share your stories

Thanks God it’s Friday!! Well this week has not been very eventful for me by this I mean its been very very busy for me at work. I have done a lot of late nights and early mornings too as well and I am just looking forward to the weekend. A little of an extra hour in bed is all I am craving for. Well that and a couple of movies (whilst still cuddled in bed of course ). My busy week has meant little time to update my blog. I have a couple of writings which are still uncompleted so I decided to digress a little bit today. So I am sneaking this in during my lunch hour (with noisy protests from my stomach). Please forgive my errors.

Its not easy keeping a blog, it requires dedication and discipline. I am glad for the opportunity that the internet has given to us this generation to be able to share our thoughts with people all over. This has never been possible before in the history of the world. For the first time people could meet others who in the normal speak of things would never have dreamt of meeting. It has also allowed voices to be heard in far off lands and in the unlikeliest of places. It is difficult to suppress knowledge now and whole new possibilities have been opened to us. It is a great place to meet people and this virtual world is impacting on lives daily. I mean friendships and sharing of ideas across cultures is all very common now. Now we don’t need to get a sympathetic editor to air our views in his newspaper. If you have a good message people will beat the doors to hear it. It’s a great feeling too to be able to share small small toli’s—little drops of toil make a big story.

This week (yesterday actually) was the 200th birth anniversary of Charles Darwin (he said we are all primates) and BBC has been running programs all week in his honour. One of my favourite ads on the tube is also about Darwin.— it goes ‘’if you have an idea which will shock humanity will you keep it to yourself?’’. Darwin held back his idea of evolution from the public for over 20 years. Considering the fact that evolution is still not accepted and creates all sorts of divisions today ( peak of civilisation!) just think of the furore it caused back then. He was actually scared of what it might do to him and his family. He had to discuss this over with his wife and explain to her several times his ideas. There were some letters with his wife which even suggested that he wanted his book on evolution to be released only on his death. Finally after 20 years of sleeping on it, his hand was finally forced to release the book- ‘’On the Origin of Species’’.

What he feared came to pass,- it was accepted with a shock! Darwin lost some of his trusted friends. There were caricatures mocking him and his ideas in the newspapers. Various bishops preached against it in the pulpit. (he stopped going to church years earlier in anticipation of this). The thing is Darwin was left with a good endowment and therefore money was not his motivation for releasing his book. He had this idea, this spark and nothing could stop him from sharing it with the world. This idea which was outrageous (human beings descended from apes- back then it was generally accepted that only Africans did) he did not keep to himself .He shared it with the world and we are richer today because of bold men like him. Today scientists are still using some of his ideas in finding cures to diseases like AIDS.

Our ideas and stories might not be as mind stretching or shocking as Darwin’s. However little the toil/story might be let us make our stories heard.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Travelling in Ghana

What sort of holidays do we have in Ghana? Please do not mention the take-a-leave-stay-at home holidays. I mean holidaying Ghanaian style if ever there is one! should be different. Elsewhere people go to some far off village or abroad to Egypt, Morocco or Spain to sightsee and relax after a hectic working year. We can make do here with our plenty sunshine by just going around the country.(the northern regions and Volta region as e.g). For example in Volta,there are some villages which straddle on the borders why not cross over to Togo by just walking about in a village. Or if a bit adventurous trying taking some of the ‘’unapproved’’ routes to enter Togo and do some shopping. (Mind you to have your passport with you at all times (I am yet to do this myself- but 2 friends of mine from Uganda and Kenya have!)). The northern Ghana is also unknown to most of us, (except for some UDS friends of mine in Nadowli). Apart from the cost of travelling there, which is a little expensive, food and rest rooms are affordable. Afram Plains has a great scenery in some areas but I don’t know if there rest stops there. The southern parts are quite nice but because of the tourists, it’s a bit expensive to sightsee on the coast especially with the cost of hotels.

For most people, the only travel done was during primary and secondary school excursions. These excursions ended when working life started. And it was replaced by funeral tourism. This is not a bad idea, but funerals are attended in a day or 2 and then there is the hurry back home to Accra on Sunday night and one usually meets the hideous traffic at Nsawam. By the time you get home you are too exhausted for Monday morning. We cannot limit ourselves to Elmina Castle and the usual funeral picnics to get to know Ghana!Or the visiting our hometown (same town for 20 years?) during Xmas. What of taking a drive, or hopping on to the trotro (STC is much safer) to take you as far is possible. There are usually small hotels/motels available and at a good rate one could have a week to him or herself free from the hustle and bustle of Accra, traffic and car fumes and if lucky/unlucky no unnecessary mobile phone calls. A tip by the way- just call up friends who did national service in the districts and ask them of places of interest as well as rest rooms. They have been there before and know all the tricks. Or ask for people who know the area, friends of friends (believe me this is Ghana and a friends friend will surely know) On the other hand if you enjoy moving in a pack as I sometimes do just hook up with a couple of like minded friends and travel together. It’s much fun and a little cheaper. For the women who are usually worried of security, this is also much better for them.

Believe me it helps to take some time off to think on your own or to be in a different environment altogether. Try it once and you will be wondering why you didn’t start earlier.

Being a Ghanaian I know it is against our very nature to do this. Its uncommon and it has so many uncertainties (something which Ghanaians do not like at all!). If you happen to live with your parents like me, they will ask you who have you seen doing this in Ghana?, why do you want to do this?, ehhh you have soo much money and this is how you want to spend it. And several other questions which have no answers. The thing is 50 GHC (if it’s not too much to ask for) can take you to the eastern region, accommodate you in a rest house for a couple of days and enough to buy you tilapia and apem (plantain) on the way back. I usually tell my parents that this 50 GHC is my money saved from buying funeral cloth and other expenses I deem to be unnecessary. (I say it in a polite manner though) Also don’t forget to promise them some yams or vegetables on your return (believe me it works).

So why not pack your toothbrush/sponge/soap and some few clothing and head off. See more of Ghana, let the child in you explore a little and see how energized and refreshed you will get upon returning back to Accra.

This is my experience please share yours as well as pictures with us and let us know of your secret hideouts as well your experiences in undertaking these trips.