The Ewe Connection

I have been to my father’s home town frequent enough that I know my way around. I can take a VIP from Accra to Kumasi and get off at the Shell roundabout at Ejisu. I know where to get the taxi and it costs 70p between the taxi station and my uncle’s house. I know how to get my dad’s house, but I don’t usually go there unless he is in town. I have also been there frequent enough that my cousins and aunt are comfortable to hit me for some cash.
I have a regular spot that I frequent where I usually bump into an “Ashanti Bogga”, these are guys who have lived in UK, US or Germany and have come back (9 times out of 10 by deportation) and obviously the sign on my head that says “foreigner” attracts them to me where they tell me tales of their life abroad. To be fair I am probably the only female who has ever frequented this particular spot so they know I am a foreigner. I know the best hotels to stay in if you are in town for the weekend, I know where the market is and the only decent pharmacy in the area. I have been there so many times that I can count it as my home town.

On the other hand, I don’t know my mother’s hometown, heck she doesn’t know it. The first time she went there was when my grandmother died and the second time was over the weekend when her auntie was buried.

My mother’s hometown is in the Volta region a town called Adidome. It is about 2 hours out of Accra, across the Tema motorway and you take a left once you cross the bridge to Sogakope. I knew this already because I had been to Sogakope a few times and saw it on the sign board, however it was my first time to the area.

The Voltarians (known as the Ewe’s) are a much more peaceful bunch than the other half of my bloodline. When you get to the Ashanti Region you can just feel the hustle and bustle of the people as they go about their day, the Volta Region felt very calm especially as you entered deep into the villages. The local language spoken there is Ewe, a language that my mother never got to grips with and so she was just as much a stranger than I was.
My mother’s side of the family are very fair, in fact some of them are almost white, their tone is only distinguished by the type of work they do. The ones that do manual jobs are a bit darker but that is due to the fact they are working under the hot sun.

Where my dad is from, it is quite close to the main town of Kumasi, so a lot of the returnees and people who want to settle in Kumasi have built houses over the years, my mum’s hometown, not so much. Her cousin did build a nice sizeable house for which we had the reception after the burial but I think it will take a while before it becomes a “modern” town. There are a lot of old houses which are crumbling where maintenance, well I don’t think it was maintained after it was built. Every road however, has a street name so they have benefited greatly from our current president’s street naming exercise.

What I do love about the place is that there is lots of green. Lots of trees and lots of space, how nice it would be if the government or the rich folk from the area did something like, I don’t know put up a park. I hear that in places where there is lots of green you are likely to live longer, which may be true, there was another lady being buried that weekend and she lived to 127.

Unfortunately like with most village life, there are a lot of people just doing nothing, waiting for a funeral so they can get a free bottle of beer and a bit of food, maybe a bit of cash if they help out with the formalities.
The Volta Region is known for their sea food, prawns, tilapia, oysters, crab and tuna. I was so tired on the way home (it was a round trip) that I didn’t stop to buy anything. However, my aunt made a beautiful Tilapia soup with prawns with very hot pepper which I could have taken the whole pot. She also made okra stew with Tuna, crab and oysters, and well I have to say, she even overtakes my mum on the cooking front. With oysters, there is a very fine line between overcooked and rubbery or undercooked and Delhi belly (a running stomach). These were perfect, so if you need any tips on how to cook them in okra stew, I will send her round for a fee..haha

It was nice catching up with my mum’s side of the family, apart from her two sisters, I don’t really see that side of the family. The last time I saw my cousin before this event, he was a new born, today he is 23 years old. Where did the time go?

I don’t visit the Volta Region, in fact apart from Akosombo I rarely visit that side of Ghana at all. It is quite calming and peaceful and an great place to go to, to escape the city. I think that there is a lot more potential for a few more resorts. So if you are thinking of investing in the Ghanaian tourism, a little food for thought.

If you are a stranger to the land, I would go with an Ewe person, this is Africa after all. Plus things may get lost in translation. Apparently at my Grandmother’s funeral, my mother said that she would give some drinks to the locals. They took offence to being called a local and had it not been for the intervention of my aunt who does speak the language, she may have got herself in a bit of trouble.

So that’s a very brief overview of my hometown seen through the eyes of a first timer. All the old ladies have gone so I am not sure we will be gathering there again, but I don’t think it will be my last visit, I hope to travel there one day soon, if only just keep close to my roots.

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Safety First

In Africa it is common for people to live under tight security. Some houses you visit are more like a fortress than a place of abode. You will have a house surrounded by a large wall and an equally large gate. The gate is locked with a large padlock. When you go inside, even more security, in my two bedroom house, I have a security door at the front entrance and one at the back. My front windows have a sliding security bar which is locked at all times. The back windows have louvers so are accompanied by metal bars which are designed so that it would take a thief a day to break through them.

Other households have bars which go across the doors at night, trap doors at the back, extra security doors and a whole bunch of locks and padlocks to ensure that they don’t wake up in the middle of the night to find that their household contents have not “walked away” in the middle of the night. However, sometimes I think we Africans pay too much attention to keeping people in but not enough on how to get out in case of emergencies.
As you know the dumsor has started again. A schedule was finally sent out a couple of weeks ago, however, I don’t know what rhyme or reason went into it. We were told in accordance with your group, it would be 12 hours off and 24 hours on. From what I can see, it just goes off randomly at leisure and the schedule was just put out to keep people from complaining. This on-off will obviously affect electricity and ultimately could cause a fire. So what does one do when you live in a house which requires a thousand set of different keys before you can get out onto the porch.

A colleague of mine experienced this recently, we were told that the fire was caused by a candle, while he told us that it was due to electrics, either way it was caused with intent or inadvertently by the dumsor. Apparently it started out in the kids room and they managed to get out in time to get to their parents room to raise the alarm. They ran to the front door and when they got there, after taking the bars off the door, they had the second door to contend with. Luckily they managed to get out in time but just about their whole lives went up in flames.
The second thing we don’t seem to think about is insurance. Especially those who are renting, I had to take out insurance (very expensive insurance which I have to pay in USD) but I wonder how many people willingly take out this piece of paper. Everyone does it for their car, is it that they think that the house and anything in it, is indestructible, or is it that (for those renting), they think that because it is not their property that they shouldn’t bother.

We can at times be more reactive than proactive, so in case you hadn’t thought of it, here’s some food for thought. When you go home at night, think about how in case of emergency you can let yourself out of the house quickly while ensuring that it is not so insecure that you let unwanted things in.
Secondly, buy fire proof doors, at least if the worst event were to happen and it starts in one room, it will not spread so quickly to the rest of your house.

Thirdly, fire detector alarms. In the western world it is more or less compulsory, here, even if it were, there would probably be nobody to check up on it. I have to admit, I am an offender, but especially in a large house, putting a smoke alarm in key points could save your life.

We are told to a fire extinguisher in the car, I have one in the house too. I don’t know how to use it, but I am sure if anything were to happen I would figure it out. They are not too costly, and I assume it is easy to use, if you do have one, make sure that it hasn’t expired (otherwise it defeats the whole purpose in having one).
Lastly, insurance, get the whole works, theft, fire, damage whatever you can insure against, I suggest you do so, because prevention is better than cure. Even if the house is not yours, the content will be and you really can’t leave your life in the hands of a landlord.

Remember, safety first, and ensure to turn off the switches and unplug the electrical equipment before you leave for work and before you go to bed. For those of us who do not have the luxury of a generator should also ensure that all lights are out and no naked flames are left exposed. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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Return of the dum-sor; this time it’s personal!

In three years, life will begin again for me according to the laws of ageing. It will also be 60 years since Ghana gained independence. I have only been here for 6 of those years but it feels like the days behind me are much better than those ahead of me.

Dum-sor (off-on) has returned with a vengeance. For the past three nights I have resigned myself to the fact that I will go home to no light and no food so I need to eat heavily throughout the day. On Wednesday it went off in my area at 6pm and returned at 11pm. The second night 6pm and returned at 6am (it was fun having my cold shower in the dark). I got home after 6pm yesterday and thought surely it can’t be three days in a row. Well it was, at 6.41 as I got to the house, light off again, returning at midnight. Then just to add insult to injury, it went off at 7.30am, well on the plus side, I should be expecting light this evening.

The reason for this power crisis is because the Nigerians who provide us with our gas supply are on strike due to labour issues. The power plant which is expected to ensure that we have consistent supply is 99.7% ready and only the good Lord knows when that 0.3% will arrive. So the country is plunged into darkness, we don’t know when it will happen as the schedule is not ready so we just wait in hope that at least we have a few hours of electricity and our houses don’t burn down due to an electrical fault. 500 megawatts has had to be shed, they are having to buy very expensive crude oil and well to the rest of us, we are paying electricity for no light.

What I don’t understand is why we rely on a country that doesn’t have a stable generation supply. Why electricity which is an integral basic amenity, yet there is no plan B, we either get it or we don’t and when we don’t it comes with a load of excuses to boot. This issue is the same issue that we have been facing for the past 2 years; the government has been in post for 6 years now, time to stop blaming the failings of the previous government and start finding solutions and fast.

The British colony left the country 57 years ago, they gave us nice roads, a good infrastructure, running water and electricity, Ghana said thank you, we can take it from here, but then from what I can see, she went to sleep. Then she woke up, the place had expanded and she has been running around like a headless chicken trying to catch up ever since.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that the population will increase, that technology is growing, that industries are broadening, so why sit on your arse and wait until the last minute to make sure that you do your part to ensure that the country adapts too.

They say it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better and the government has asked the country to make sacrifices, if I was opposition, now would be the right time to get their shit together and come up with their manifesto. However, this is Africa, they have their own issues.

In one corner there is Nana Addo-Akuffo Ado. The current flagbearer, he has tried twice and failed twice to get the presidency. To be fair, the first time was after an 8 year rule under the NPP. It was so close during the first round that we went to the polls again, and even at that the NDC came in with a very close margin. The second time, again very close, but as I predicted, President Mills died a few months prior to elections after a long illness and they got the sympathy vote, it was a case of give him a chance to do something. More fool the 5 point something million who decide that. Nana held various positions during the NPP tenure including Attorney-General and foreign minister.

In the other corner is Alan Kweremanting, a business man, please don’t ask me what he does throughout the 4 years but from what I see, he pops up every 4 years to contest the elections. I can’t really say much about him except that he has been out a while. However, he has a good following and hopefully on October 18th 2014 we will find out who will be the NPP flag-bearer.

There was a further 5 others who contested for the position (an improvement to 2008 where 17 in total were gunning for the position).

Unfortunately as with anything that involves black folk, there has been a lot of mudslinging. Not from the contestants themselves but from their foot soldiers and followers. I just pray that once they vote for the flag-bearer they will all band behind the aspirant and strategise a strong vision for the future of this country.
In the meantime, those of us who have a choice are thinking of, or have already dropped off this sinking ship. Even my Nigerian friends have gone back home, well I guess you might as well be treated poorly by your own than someone else.

For those who don’t have the choice, they are riding the storm and praying for better days.
The national anthem has probably not meant more than it ever has right now. God bless our homeland Ghana!.

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A letter to Shanikua

I fell on my face last week. I literally fell flat on my face, I don’t know what happened but my head I missed a step and ended up face first on the concrete. It took two days before I was able to open my eye but miraculously after a little over a week, apart from a scar, I am pretty ok.

It is at times like this that you put things into perspective, petty squabbles seem insignificant because you think to yourself, I could have hit my head and not woken up. Then bitch I was arguing with the day before would still be a bitch but the argument would have ceased, the arsehole who dumped me would still be an arsehole but life goes on with or without me in it so I can only make sure that while I am still breathing I am making the most out of my life.hen bitch I was arguing with the day before would still be a bitch but the argument would have ceased, the arsehole who dumped me would still be an arsehole but life goes on with or without me in it so I can only make sure that while I am still breathing I am making the most out of my life.

I got a phone call the next day, well I got a few calls actually, mostly from well wishers. Then I got one of those phone calls where I wished I never even picked up. It was from the ex. Somehow me falling on my face had to have had something to do with him in Nana’s world. “I said move on, then you go and get drunk and fall over, is that the kind of life you want to live”. No Nigga, I missed my step and fell over, could have happened whether I had a few glasses of wine or not. I fell into a gutter once and was stone cold sober. But really don’t know what that had to do with him, I told him that I had heard and goodbye. I didn’t really need to waste any more energy that day on him, I had an bruised eye to take care of.

They say time is a great healer, and it is true for my face, a week later and almost back to my beauty except for a bit of scarring. My heart, well that’s another matter. I am over him, that happened 24 hours after we ended, but I am still kicking myself that I got suckered in the way I did. Then just when I am done and not a thought in my head about him, something triggers that dreadful feeling all over again.

The latest, I found out while seeing a friend in the area. My ex is quite popular in town, mainly through self promotion actually wholly through self promotion. He brags to anyone with an ear about what he is doing and how much money he intends to earn (I say intends because he never seems to have a dime in that moment). It turns out that these friends were talking about his latest nuptials. I stayed pretty quiet throughout the whole conversation but you could have punched me in the stomach when I heard the story.

In December, he is planning to marry an African American lady by the name of Shanika. An African American lady that he met via facebook. Apparently she had been dating his cousin but the relationship ended when he moved to New York and married his sweetheart. Swoop in Nana, they started talking late last year (while we were going through our “issues”). In July of this year, he brought her down to Ghana (he bought a ticket on credit) an went down on bended knee with an engagement (probably my frigging promise ring….haha). They will be married in a court house either here or over there and live happily ever after.

Honestly, if he were genuine I would be happy for them. They could get married and he would move out of Ghana and I could hang out with my friends without ever having to bump into him. However, he got a bit annoyed that the money she had brought over to do her shopping was not spent on him and since she got back he is expecting some dollars. I heard that she should be sending $100 anytime now if he hadn’t already.

He has also told his little girlfriend (who lives in Ghana) that someone has agreed to a fake marriage so that he can go to school in the States. I wonder if he can even spell book, or read a book, but who am I to judge.

As I said, if he is genuine, I wish him the best of luck, but if he isn’t, I honestly hope that Karma bites him very hard on his arse.

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The difference between prejudice and petty politics

Since writing my blog, I have received criticism both negative and positive. I embrace both, it helps me to be a better and richer person and keeps me grounded and safe in the knowledge that I have many layers which some people will get and others will not. However, once again I must remind all the readers that this is about my journey, my opinion and my life. I get that people will not always agree with me, but in that same way I am not going to always agree with you, sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

Nobody likes criticism, hey I am the first one to go on the defensive when I am being giving “gentle advice” on how I should behave, act, talk. The one thing I can say though is that I do go back and reflect as there is always an element of truth and things to improve.

Which is why, I must start that I am writing this article without malice. In fact, I simply want the best for this person. In this side of the world, nobody is going to tell you what they think to your face, but certain attributes you have will really piss people off and although they will be polite to your face, although they may work nights to get the job done, they will also be the first person to laugh if you were to trip and fall. Maybe also you may find another me (although I think that might be near impossible), maybe you will know how to deal with that person.

In a series of articles, one of them being “who’s the boss”, I wrote about my experience in my current occupation. To be fair, I was with my team yesterday, and it was actually a fun day, hard work, lots of walking but they are a great bunch. It is unfortunate the petty prejudices of a few are forcing me out the door but I am not going to dwell on anything. I knew it was going to happen so I am prepared for the outcome. However, a certain person took offence and told me that it would be for the best of the company if I were to just f*** off. She had been led to my article, and read out a few extracts. Obviously carefully edited to barter her point, had she taken it in the good faith that it was intended, she would see that the underlying point was that if I felt comfortable in the knowledge I was building a career but because of well discrimination basically, my agenda changed. I am not going to lie, I am overly ambitious. I have fought for everything I have through hard work and determination with little or no help from anyone, so am I wrong for wanting more for myself? Everybody has a journey, you have yours, and I have mine. Everybody has a past and God permitting have a future so why twist my words and make my actions feed into your preconceived notion of me rather than just take it at face value.

First of all, I have to say, this is not in defence but it is the truth. I don’t write what is the view of solely my view . With every article, I have spoken to people and they have felt the same way, so what I wrote here, well other people had been the same experience with this person. However mine was a double whammy due to the negativity that surrounds this person and rather than take time to actually know and understand how I work, she rather found reasons to back up someone else’s opinion.

Why do I say prejudice. On my arrival I learnt that basically I wasn’t wanted. Not because I wasn’t competent, in fact, when I was told boldly by the boss that if a certain person had his way, I would not be here. There was no mention about my job capabilities, just that due to a relationship we had, I wasn’t the right fit. If that was the case, I don’t think anyone would work with anyone, especially here in Ghana, you never know where you are going to end up or with who as your boss. I could have even have said that about my previous occupation, people were moving all the time. I have worked for my mother, my sister and my best friend throughout my career and well it’s been ok, during working hours everyone knows their place, then after we go for a curry, so I don’t actually see what the issue is, but for some reason here it was a problem and the catalyst for where I find myself today.
The definition of prejudice is: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. In law the definition is: harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgement. You see, where there is prejudice in the workplace, it is harmful. Once you have started off on the wrong foot, it is very difficult to gain your balance. Yes when you are new to a company people have varying opinions of you, but where there is pure prejudice it makes for a very uncomfortable environment for the recipient.
From what I see, this person’s prejudice sowed a seed of doubt into the boss’ mind. Every action, word said, and even words not said were scrutinized and seen negatively. First of all, I was paid on a lower scale, not because I wasn’t worthy but because of prejudice. That meant that I was spending a lot of time looking for money to get to work. The other half of the time was spent worrying about finding money, so obviously I get sick, in addition, I come to work and don’t know what lion’s den I am going to enter into. With all that though, I get on with the job, I am not expecting a pat on the back but at least acknowledge that I am getting on with the job without little fuss. Is it professional for you to keep reminding me that there is a “question mark over my head?”.
Had I known that I would be feeling that same dread myself, I probably would have shipped out or not even have come back to Ghana. It’s an awful feeling, sometimes I can feel myself shaking as I drive into the compound and then as I hear the footsteps of “the boss” I feel a terrible pain in the pit of my stomach and it just feels like there is a dark cloud hanging over my head.

After a discussion I had yesterday, I realised that the person just doesn’t get it and I don’t think they ever will. Telling me that there was a concern over me joining doesn’t feel me with joy or make me want to “prove myself”, it just makes me feel uncomfortable and makes me feel visibly sick to my gut. I would not say that this is unique to her, on this side of the world because there hasn’t been cases (apart from one that I know of, which was dismissed) of discrimination. In the mind’s eye, they have a feeling about someone, they convince themselves that it is true and then they look for evidence to prove themselves right. Unfortunately I found myself exactly in that position.

It also happened with a family member of mine. His story is quite laughable though. He gave a ride home to a lady colleague who happened to be banging the boss, so naturally the boss thought he was also banging her. It made for a very uncomfortable 3 months with the boss going so far as to look for signs of corruption (this man is probably the most honest person I know). Luckily he found himself another job before he was kicked out.
In my case, my blog gave me away. My thoughts and feelings from a totally honest piece of prose were turned around to be a sort of sordid exposé. Am I wrong to be ambitious, am I wrong to feel so uncomfortable that I look for a plan B. If I am in an environment where every little detail of mine is being scrutinized and picked on, what can I do?

I know I have an overbearing personality. I tend to lead when I should follow, so I keep quiet, I am told I am not a team player. I speak up once in a meeting and get slammed down for it, so I keep my opinions to myself so as not to offend, I am told that I am being aloof. I am a “learn as you go” type of person, so when I come across something new that’s when I will ask. The reason being, I have tons of pieces of paper where I have written notes and I have forgotten what most of them means. I am told that I am not trying to learn. So you tell me, am I being stupid or are you picking at faults?

I remember I stayed in the office one night trying to put a report together. I had asked if there was a template and I was told to ask someone else. That someone else was not in the office, so I put something together and sent it noting that I couldn’t get hold of anyone so this is what I have put together. How did she take it, as you can imagine, not very well.
The funny thing is, I came in with the notion that I had her back. Obviously if I make her look good, I will get rewarded, however less than a month later, I came across more heinous than a pantomime villain. I reached out to this lady, even apologised if I had offended her, she ignored me. So if I say I don’t think that person is a “people’s person” am I wrong, well you don’t seem to want to understand me but rather feed that discriminatory thought you have into my personality.

Well I am not perfect, I have my issues but I know that I am not being paranoid, I heard it from the horse’s mouth that there was a black mark against my name before the ink was even dry on my acceptance letter. It has been an uncomfortable place to live in ever since so forgive me for not wanting to stick around so that petty prejudice’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Me, I work on the basis of respect regardless of where you come from or where you are going. If I only meet you today or I get to know a person for a lifetime, I treat that person in the way God asked me to. I don’t send out emails which cause damage to a person, just because I feel that the person threatened my position, I don’t ignore people because I don’t feel that the person is aligned with my way of thinking. Everybody is different. I certainly wouldn’t employ or not employ a person on the basis of anything else other than whether they can do the job. However, you live and learn, some people have issues that they can’t deal with, and they blur the line between personal and professional to make it all personal. At least I know I have been totally professional, I came in with the intention to do the job and I will continue to do the job well until the day I go. Keep on feeding my actions to make your point. As long as I can go home to my bed knowing I did the best I could, I have no problem.

But it’s all good, every experience is a good experience, it enriches one life. So no regrets, I have met some great people, I have met some not so great people and I have found good material for my blog. What can I say, every cloud has a silver lining.

Since writing my blog, I have received criticism both negative and positive. I embrace both, it helps me to be a better and richer person and keeps me grounded and safe in the knowledge that I have many layers which some people will get and others will not. However, once again I must remind all the readers that this is about my journey, my opinion and my life. I get that people will not always agree with me, but in that same way I am not going to always agree with you, sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

Nobody likes criticism, hey I am the first one to go on the defensive when I am being giving “gentle advice” on how I should behave, act, talk. The one thing I can say though is that I do go back and reflect as there is always an element of truth and things to improve.

Which is why, I must start that I am writing this article without malice. In fact, I simply want the best for this person. In this side of the world, nobody is going to tell you what they think to your face, but certain attributes you have will really piss people off and although they will be polite to your face, although they may work nights to get the job done, they will also be the first person to laugh if you were to trip and fall. Maybe also you may find another me (although I think that might be near impossible), maybe you will know how to deal with that person.

In a series of articles, one of them being “who’s the boss”, I wrote about my experience in my current occupation. To be fair, I was with my team yesterday, and it was actually a fun day, hard work, lots of walking but they are a great bunch. It is unfortunate the petty prejudices of a few are forcing me out the door but I am not going to dwell on anything. I knew it was going to happen so I am prepared for the outcome. However, a certain person took offence and told me that it would be for the best of the company if I were to just f*** off. She had been led to my article, and read out a few extracts. Obviously carefully edited to barter her point, had she taken it in the good faith that it was intended, she would see that the underlying point was that if I felt comfortable in the knowledge I was building a career but because of well discrimination basically, my agenda changed. I am not going to lie, I am overly ambitious. I have fought for everything I have through hard work and determination with little or no help from anyone, so am I wrong for wanting more for myself? Everybody has a journey, you have yours, and I have mine. Everybody has a past and God permitting have a future so why twist my words and make my actions feed into your preconceived notion of me rather than just take it at face value.

First of all, I have to say, this is not in defence but it is the truth. I don’t write what is the view of solely my view . With every article, I have spoken to people and they have felt the same way, so what I wrote here, well other people had been the same experience with this person. However mine was a double whammy due to the negativity that surrounds this person and rather than take time to actually know and understand how I work, she rather found reasons to back up someone else’s opinion.

Why do I say prejudice. On my arrival I learnt that basically I wasn’t wanted. Not because I wasn’t competent, in fact, when I was told boldly by the boss that if a certain person had his way, I would not be here. There was no mention about my job capabilities, just that due to a relationship we had, I wasn’t the right fit. If that was the case, I don’t think anyone would work with anyone, especially here in Ghana, you never know where you are going to end up or with who as your boss. I could have even have said that about my previous occupation, people were moving all the time. I have worked for my mother, my sister and my best friend throughout my career and well it’s been ok, during working hours everyone knows their place, then after we go for a curry, so I don’t actually see what the issue is, but for some reason here it was a problem and the catalyst for where I find myself today.
The definition of prejudice is: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. In law the definition is: harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgement. You see, where there is prejudice in the workplace, it is harmful. Once you have started off on the wrong foot, it is very difficult to gain your balance. Yes when you are new to a company people have varying opinions of you, but where there is pure prejudice it makes for a very uncomfortable environment for the recipient.

From what I see, this person’s prejudice sowed a seed of doubt into the boss’ mind. Every action, word said, and even words not said were scrutinized and seen negatively. First of all, I was paid on a lower scale, not because I wasn’t worthy but because of prejudice. That meant that I was spending a lot of time looking for money to get to work. The other half of the time was spent worrying about finding money, so obviously I get sick, in addition, I come to work and don’t know what lion’s den I am going to enter into. With all that though, I get on with the job, I am not expecting a pat on the back but at least acknowledge that I am getting on with the job without little fuss. Is it professional for you to keep reminding me that there is a “question mark over my head?”.
Had I known that I would be feeling that same dread myself, I probably would have shipped out or not even have come back to Ghana. It’s an awful feeling, sometimes I can feel myself shaking as I drive into the compound and then as I hear the footsteps of “the boss” I feel a terrible pain in the pit of my stomach and it just feels like there is a dark cloud hanging over my head.

After a discussion I had yesterday, I realised that the person just doesn’t get it and I don’t think they ever will. Telling me that there was a concern over me joining doesn’t feel me with joy or make me want to “prove myself”, it just makes me feel uncomfortable and makes me feel visibly sick to my gut. I would not say that this is unique to her, on this side of the world because there hasn’t been cases (apart from one that I know of, which was dismissed) of discrimination. In the mind’s eye, they have a feeling about someone, they convince themselves that it is true and then they look for evidence to prove themselves right. Unfortunately I found myself exactly in that position.

It also happened with a family member of mine. His story is quite laughable though. He gave a ride home to a lady colleague who happened to be banging the boss, so naturally the boss thought he was also banging her. It made for a very uncomfortable 3 months with the boss going so far as to look for signs of corruption (this man is probably the most honest person I know). Luckily he found himself another job before he was kicked out.
In my case, my blog gave me away. My thoughts and feelings from a totally honest piece of prose were turned around to be a sort of sordid exposé. Am I wrong to be ambitious, am I wrong to feel so uncomfortable that I look for a plan B. If I am in an environment where every little detail of mine is being scrutinized and picked on, what can I do?

I know I have an overbearing personality. I tend to lead when I should follow, so I keep quiet, I am told I am not a team player. I speak up once in a meeting and get slammed down for it, so I keep my opinions to myself so as not to offend, I am told that I am being aloof. I am a “learn as you go” type of person, so when I come across something new that’s when I will ask. The reason being, I have tons of pieces of paper where I have written notes and I have forgotten what most of them means. I am told that I am not trying to learn. So you tell me, am I being stupid or are you picking at faults?

I remember I stayed in the office one night trying to put a report together. I had asked if there was a template and I was told to ask someone else. That someone else was not in the office, so I put something together and sent it noting that I couldn’t get hold of anyone so this is what I have put together. How did she take it, as you can imagine, not very well.

The funny thing is, I came in with the notion that I had her back. Obviously if I make her look good, I will get rewarded, however less than a month later, I came across more heinous than a pantomime villain. I reached out to this lady, even apologised if I had offended her, she ignored me. So if I say I don’t think that person is a “people’s person” am I wrong, well you don’t seem to want to understand me but rather feed that discriminatory thought you have into my personality.

Well I am not perfect, I have my issues but I know that I am not being paranoid, I heard it from the horse’s mouth that there was a black mark against my name before the ink was even dry on my acceptance letter. It has been an uncomfortable place to live in ever since so forgive me for not wanting to stick around so that petty prejudice’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Me, I work on the basis of respect regardless of where you come from or where you are going. If I only meet you today or I get to know a person for a lifetime, I treat that person in the way God asked me to. I don’t send out emails which cause damage to a person, just because I feel that the person threatened my position, I don’t ignore people because I don’t feel that the person is aligned with my way of thinking. Everybody is different. I certainly wouldn’t employ or not employ a person on the basis of anything else other than whether they can do the job. However, you live and learn, some people have issues that they can’t deal with, and they blur the line between personal and professional to make it all personal. At least I know I have been totally professional, I came in with the intention to do the job and I will continue to do the job well until the day I go. Keep on feeding my actions to make your point. As long as I can go home to my bed knowing I did the best I could, I have no problem.

But it’s all good, every experience is a good experience, it enriches one life. So no regrets, I have met some great people, I have met some not so great people and I have found good material for my blog. What can I say, every cloud has a silver lining.

What I will say is that there is a difference between petty politics and prejudice. Petty politics is everywhere and can be managed. But prejudice/discrimination for whatever reason, is not fair and it is not right and it is against the law. So I hope you think about the effects of your action the next time you base your decision on anything other than the person’s ability to do the job.

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What is the opposite of Pass?

On the way home last night I was listening to the radio and I learnt that 28% of children passed the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), well enough to go onto a higher educational institution anyway. The WASSCE is the UK equivalent of an A-Level and candidates who pass go onto university, however I believe that the UK system see’s it more as a GCSE and if candidates went on to study abroad it is likely that they would have to do their A-Levels or some other type of foundation course.

I understand from the follow on topic this morning that grading is tough, probably tougher than in the UK. I feel that every year marking gets a little bit more lenient in the UK with all these A* business, this is going to sound ancient but I am going to say it anyway, it never used to be like that in my day.

I did not get a deeper understanding as to what was the true cause and what was being done to solve the problem. Yes it is an improvement on last year (where only 19% got through to university), however it is still an issue that needs to be properly addressed. Although not all candidates will go on to university (due to lack of funds, a desire to travel, not ready, or just don’t want to go), it is crucial in this modern society to have some sort of certificate if you want to move up in life.

Unfortunately, what would have been a healthy debate became quite comical. The presenter of Citi FM Richard Dela Skyy (I hope I spelt his name right) asked hard hitting questions. I would compare Richard to someone like Jeremy Paxman, he goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t really back down until he gets his answer. You know you are going to get some tough questions, but still the interviewee, rather than pre-empt the questions they might be asked and answer accordingly, goes on the defensive.

The interviewee in this case was the acting Deputy General of the Ghana Education Service (GES). I can’t remember his name but he was quite a character. The first question was quite obvious, why is it that 70% of the candidates taking exams failed. The response was that the presenter had called it a National Disaster, it is not a disaster and speaking in that manner will immediately make him go on the defensive.

When the presenter informed the interviewee that Nigeria also had a 30:70 ration and were calling it a national disaster, the interviewee said “well that is Nigeria, this is Ghana”. I laughed because in his small way, he had a point as Nigeria is 4 times the size of Ghana.

He then spent the next 30 minutes that I spent listening asking the presenter to refrain from asking such questions because it sounded negative. So he was asked, “what is the opposite of pass?”, I think if the interviewee could have jumped through the phone and rung the presenter’s neck, he would have.

So I have been listening to bits from discussions and formed a little analysis

Too much focus on the theory

Students have a “chew and pour” approach to exams. They regurgitate what they have read and pour it out in the exam without actually seeing the practicality in it, so when it comes to exams they don’t go into too much detail because they don’t actually understand what they are applying the answer to.

“Whatsapp Speak”

It’s not uncommon in the western world but I find that this side of the world, they pick up some very bad habits but don’t understand that it is wrong. A friend of mine’s mother is a lecturer at GIMPA and she has showed me papers that her students have handed in for grading. I know that the exams are structured in a way that you have a limited amount of time to answer as much as you know but take your time to structure a sentence. Sometimes I get a message from my younger friends and I need Google to translate for me with the IKR and the BRB, the examiner is looking for a properly constructed sentence and not text speak.

Politics in teaching

I never went to school here so I cannot talk about the actual quality of teaching but politics has inadvertently lowered the quality of education. First of all there is the Junior High School (JHS/JSS), Secondary High/Secondary School (SHS/SSS) structure. It looks like every time there is a new government, it brings about a new structure in the educational system. The years of study in high school was at one time similar to the UK system, then they changed the names, changed the years of study mode, at one time SHS or SSS was three years, then it was four years and then came back to three years, if it is confusing for you and me, think about the kids.

Then there are the teachers, if you are fortunate enough to send your child to private school then your quality of education is expected to be good. Government schools are always hit by strikes due to non-payment and where morale is low you are not expecting positivity in the child’s education.

Career Guidance

There is too much focus on the big three subjects: Maths, English and Science but not every child is destined to travel down that path. Not everyone is born to be a scholar, some may be talented in the arts, others in humanities and others just might be a future Michael Essien. I remember when I was young I was drawn towards drama and media and at one time I was considering a career in journalism or acting. My parents, well they are traditional people and saw these courses as “Mickey Mouse” courses. A Ghanaian parent will see this as “playing” so a child will force themselves to excel in the more traditional course but they just don’t get it.

Blame the parents

I can’t blame them totally, but you have to put some blame on the parents. You have two camps, the illiterate, who can’t help their kids because they don’t know. Then there are the well to do, who leave their kids in the care of the nanny and the driver. They leave for the office before the kids leave for school and return well after they go to bed. Weekends are for social activities and church so they don’t get time to actually check over their kids’ progress. It is a shame, because it is likely that these children will be handed over a company to manage in 20 years and they will be dumb as f***. Why because they were playing instead of sitting down to do their homework.

Well this is just a few of my thoughts, they may be the same or different to you but at least it has got everyone talking and through that we should have some improvements. I do believe that the Education system is good in Ghana and some of the private schools can match any one in the west, however there is a deeper problem that needs to be addressed, I pray those with control properly analyse this problem so they can work on resolving it soon.

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Nothing to lose…

The world over, I have found HR to be an oxymoron. They are not resourceful, and I sometimes wonder if they are even human at times. Now I will not say it is all of them, just a large percentage of the ones I have come into contact with. It appears more that they are the mouth piece for management than for the people but I could be wrong. Furthermore it would be a welcome challenge to prove me wrong.

So what is my gripe today I hear you say to yourselves as you read through my prose. Well, I have had a couple of opportunities come up and well I am contemplating which one is the best.

When I came here, I was just running, I had a clear understanding of where I was going to, but I just didn’t know what direction to take. So it was the case that I knew where I didn’t want to be, but wasn’t quite so sure where I did want to be once I got out. So I kept on running until the tank was empty and I came to a standstill. The last year gave me a chance to figure out a clear path of where I am going to and what route to take and I take my current pit stop as my refill stop rather than the final destination.

It is a bit of a struggle though, it would be so easy for me to quit and take the first opportunity that came my way, but I really don’t want to find myself in the same situation I found myself last year so I am quietly biting my tongue while my compatriots patronize me and look down on me like some well don’t like to use the word retard but they do. It feels like they are looking at me like, with all she claims she did in England, what the hell she is doing here, so there is obviously something wrong. The incident of the past year confirming it in their minds, but I know I have been and always will be a rockstar and I am sure even Richard Branson had a few bumps in the road on the way to the top.

So how does HR fit into all of this. Well, this position was offered a year ago. I knew that I didn’t want it, and I knew the reason why (as you have gathered), but a year after sitting in the house I thought I better get used to the early morning call before I end up a 400 pounds nappy haired hermit. Now the way my HR friend talked, you would think that he was the HR director but I find out he is a business partner, sounds irrelevant, well this is the first of a relationship with a man who talks the talk but when it comes to executing the walk, I end up floored.

So anyway, I got the job, however I made a wrong move, I decided to be completely honest about my problems with last year and the functional director decided that he was not sure of me. I don’t know if his problem is the ability to do my job or if he thinks that I would leave due to poor health or what, but anyway I was now supposed to be indebted to “the boss” and the HRBP for fighting to get me the job.
Now I may sound very arrogant for saying this, but I don’t really care, but from what I can see is a man who is quick to discriminate. The fact of the matter is that these two being HR and the boss, knew I was the best candidate for the job. In fact I am over qualified for the job, so they really didn’t do me any favours. In fact I wish they hadn’t because I don’t actually see any money at the end of the month.

Nevertheless I started, whatever way you look at it, I am cheap labour and the only reason I am is because they had me over a barrel. In the meantime, the boss is showing her bogga powers and borderline insulting. A couple of weeks back there was a lady on leave so I was covering for her as well as doing my own job. She had forgotten to give me some information and to be fair, I don’t really know what she does (the induction was a 5 minute rundown of what she does and then we went to being individuals under the guise of being in a team). So trying to figure out what she does, while trying to solve the problem was not an easy task. Did I get any assistance from the boss? Of course not, in fact her words to me were “this is the time you are supposed to be proving yourself, but I can’t see it”.

Proving Myself

This was HR’s motivation for me taking the job at entry level pay. He told me that it is easier to get promoted from the inside and that I should look at it as starting my career again. If I can prove myself, in a couple of years, I could make it to manager.
Now if I was a naive 20 something or even if this was 6 years ago when I got off the boat, I would say that was true. But it’s not, at most, they will tell me to do this job for 2 years, then I would have to do a couple of sideways movements before even being looked at for promotion. I am looking at 5 years in the very least before I am considered for promotion. In the meantime, there would be some dick picking holes in everything I do, telling me I am not good enough. Yeah right.
So I sent an email to HR, outlining me and the boss’ history and the issues we are facing today, if she was to turn around and tell me that she would not confirm me, at least I would have a legal case out of it. What did HR do, probably filed it under “another moan from Efia”. I am not so bothered though, I just know from a legal standpoint, I need to ensure that if I go out not of my own free will, I get adequately compensated for it.

Underpaid and Overworked

Although we both knew I was being shafted, with the depreciating Cedi, working here is becoming increasingly less worthwhile. So much so I decided to start looking back home, my thought was, if this is the pinnacle of my career, then let it be in a country where I can live a bit comfortably then once I have paid off my house I can come back and at least I have advanced in my career. I have to say, it is still in my plans if my Plan A and Plan B fail through. In the meantime I needed cash so I went to HR. What was their response, well times are tough on everyone, and with the history between you and your boss there is a question mark over your head. However, after the probationary period, it may be a basis of discussion again so have patience.
In other words no, you took our offer so deal with it. You had two choices, take it or leave it, you chose to take it so suck it up.

In negotiations they talk about a win-win, in that it never truly is a win for both parties, one party always have an upper hand. In this case it is the company. However, they have got me for now while I haven’t got much choice (or am weighing my options), but one thing I do know about myself is that my talents, well put it this way, it’s being put on hold. There is something bigger for me but it is not going to be after 5 years lounging around here for a minimal salary.
I honestly think that HR thinks that a few sweet words will inspire some kind of loyalty. Unfortunately my mind is not wired like the average Ghanaian and is giving me more motivation to climb up the ladder all the more quickly.

Word to the wise, if you want someone to stick around long enough, at the very least give them what they are owed, if you tell an experienced professional that you are going to give them less than their neighbour, that neighbour being fresh out of college. It is not inspiring or motivating and you are not going to expect any kind of loyalty except for what they are contractedly obliged to do between working hours.
I am not taking this too much to heart though, it gives me time to pick the offer that is going to enrich me emotionally, intellectually and of course financially. Right now, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain so I am taking it easy and biding my time.

I will keep you posted on my new ventures. I have a good feeling that something is coming up, but don’t want to jinx it until I get the green light. All I do know is, now that I know the direction I am heading in, the good lord is clearing the path.

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