We’re Hungry Mr President

For those of you who know me, I hate bathing in cold water, especially at 5am when the water is like an ice block. I don’t need it to be hot, just tepid, so I boil water in a kettle and mix it with the cold water (I am yet to install a water heater). Unfortunately today, after patting themselves on the back for having a stable flow of electricity, I woke up to no light and as I decided to use the extra 10 minutes to sleep as opposed to putting some water on the gas, I had to face the horror of the ice cold water against my skin. You would have thought that it would have been refreshing in this hot weather, but no not really, I was just cold.

To coincide with the return of the dum-sor, the troubles in Ghana have made International news. Yesterday the members of the Trade Union Congress took to the streets in protest over the gross mismanagement of the country. Tro-Tro drivers also went on strike over (amongst other thing) the sharp rise in the petrol and well the whole country is up in arms due to the fact that they can’t do the basic things in life, like eat.
In contrast, the taxi drivers took an opportunity and were charging double the fair for passengers due to the fact that the lack of alternate means of transportation.

The government in return did the usual, came out and said they were working on it, but added that Ghanaians are going to have to make a lot of sacrifices in the meantime. So that means no eating, bathing, getting to work, surely they can see that this will not bring about a boost in productivity or am I thinking differently.
At the beginning of the year the dollar had just hit 2GHS, now it is 3.51, I don’t know somewhere around the 2.8 you would have thought they would have started crisis management, but instead they bring about innovations (like scholarships for sanitary pads) which is important but I think it’s a matter of prioritization. They have had 2 years in power under Mahama and a full 4 years with the now deceased Mills, why now when the country is completely jacked up, do you put the little money you have into a small population. Yes, they are just as important, but they should have been catered to already.

Now I am no economist, but with the way things are going, Ghana is going to take a long time to recover. I remember at Uni we read about a similar situation with the Thai Baht. Some economists say that the problems started because the country was so reliant on the dollar and when the US were going through their recession it hit the Thai people twice as hard. That was in 1997, almost 20 years ago, and they are still recovering, and they have do a large amount of exports. Ghana is a mainly import market and with the dollar doing well, it is obvious that it’s going to hit us hard.

One thing I will repeat though (if anyone in authority is listening), is either we change our currency to dollar (maybe it would be better if we were managed by the federal reserve) or stop people charging in the dollar equivalent. For example, I buy a house at $10,000 last year at 2-1, when I sell I mark it up to 20,000GHS plus my profit margin say 30,000GHS. If I sell that same car today, I haven’t really lost anything but telling me to buy at the prevailing rate, sorry its nonsense, who can afford to buy your goods. So what happens, I don’t buy. You don’t profit. Life goes on. This is what is done basically the world over. When I was in Nigeria, I could not pay my hotel bill in dollars, I had to get the money changed. The dollar is not their currency it is the Naira, now today, Nigeria has its issues but the economy is not really one of them in fact they are standing as the most influential on the west coast.

However, I as I said I am no economist, and I doubt that Minister of Finance is either, maybe we should start by having a cabinet that is actually qualified to do the jobs #justsaying

On a lighter note, I was sent an article yesterday, the headline said
“Chairman of Ghetto Boys Voices Anger over Increase in “wee” and prostitution charges”, it goes on to say:
“For now, cannabis or Marijuana popularly known as ‘wee’ is considered as illegal in the country. However, a ‘wee smoker’ has been bold enough to dare the police. He said they were part of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as such joined the Organised Labour in the ‘we are suffering demonstration on Thursday’. According to him, they also have the right to join in the demonstration because they are Ghanaians and they feel the ‘heat’ in the country.

The ‘wee smoker’ who gave his name as Nana and described himself as the ghetto chairman, said that ‘first, wee was sold at 50ghp, but now it is 1GHS. Now the economic hardship is that, a colleague wee-smoker will not want to give you ‘pass’ (the little piece of weed he is smoking)….Formerly when someone has a ‘short time’ with a prostitute they charge 5GHS and now it is 10GHS, even the condoms they use are now expensive.
When asked if he knew it was illegal to sell or smoke ‘wee’ he said ‘it is not a matter of legality, everybody is doing what they like…..tweaa!!!’”

Acknowledgement: peace fm online

You just can’t make this stuff up…..

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A Fine African Restaurant

I have been complaining quite a lot, maybe it’s the rain, maybe it is the country, maybe it is the universe. However today I am going to make this light, because I actually had an experience that made me remember the times when I actually used to have fun in this country.

A couple of weeks back a friend of mine picked me up and took me to dinner. The lucky cow who did a degree with an actual car career path (a doctor) has been asked to manage a medical centre in Accra. It comes with a car, a driver and she is getting paid the salary she maintains in the UK. Had I known back then what I know now and all that.

We went to a place called Buka in Osu just behind the Oxford Street close to the Citizen Kofi Club. It is like a two story open air building with the decor made from wood and bamboo, it is like the type of place you would find by the beach.

We went on a Saturday and it was very busy, we did have to hang around for a bit because there were a lot of large parties, thankfully there was only three of us so we managed to jump the queue somewhat.
The dishes are mainly Ghanaian, normally I don’t see the point in going out to eat food that I can make at home. Plus I would rather eat fufu in a chop bar rather than a restaurant because I have turned into my auntie and believe that these places are over-priced and under quality. I am quite a fussy “local food eater” and I have been to many a restaurant that has been recommended as the best in town and it really hasn’t been. So when I looked at the menu and saw that it was 90% local, I was a bit like hmmm.

I played it safe and went for the jollof rice, and the ladies had kontomire stew with yam and fish. They do fufu, banku & tilapia, fried yam and chicken, and all the favourites. For about 15 – 18GhS a plate (bout $5 – $7) you can eat rather heartedly. I didn’t manage to finish the food but I have to say it was very tasty and the chicken was nice and moist (and not cooked to death like some places).

They also do popular Nigerian and foods of Francophone origin, it is much like Tante Marie, but I think they have a slight edge of the chain group of restaurants.

The ambiance is pleasant the food is nice, the service, well you can’t have it all but I will give it to the waiter that it was very busy and he was kind of flustered.

However, as local food restaurants go, it is probably one of the better ones in town.

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Change of Bank Details

You will notice that this blog is very short. It is funny that when I have something to gripe about I can go on for days, but when I have something praise to give it is short and to the point. The other reason I am keeping it short is that there is a young man who is very unaware of the importance of personal space. He is so close I can actually feel his breath on my neck so I want to finish up and move around until he goes to lunch. I have tactifully tried to school him about making use of all the space around him and not just confine it to the bit around my arse but he’s the nice but dim type clearly.

Well anyway, I have finally changed my bank after years of complaining and moaning about Ecobank I jumped ship and so excited. What finally tipped me over the edge was that I had 9.31 in my account, for whatever reason they took the whole lot, it felt like whatever little money I had, they were just hungry to take it.

I understand with a current account they charge for the service and they charge for owning a debit card, but they were just taking. Like it was just so random and so I decided to go to Fidelity.

All they asked for was a picture, the usual ID and start up money (minimum of 100GHS). I took out a savings account with a classic debit card, cheque book and e-banking. They explained that it would be 2GHS a month for the use of the debit card. Well, even in this economy I think I can deal with it.

I had to sign a lot of forms, but the Customer Service guy filled in most of it, the whole process took about 10 minutes and that was that.

This was Saturday, he explained that he will start the process on Monday but they will contact me once everything is sorted. It’s Wednesday and I got a message saying that my account was live and they sent my account number. Like I was expecting a week or two, these people are on point.

If they continue the way they have started, well they have got my vote.

Wow, this is the first time in a while Ghana has done something that has impressed me in a very long time.

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20 Questions

Every spare moment I get to myself is used on finding a job. As jobs go in Ghana, this one is the suckiest. The job itself is a piece of piss really, but too many people trying to be relevant and it gets so annoying. Like I don’t care who you are or what you do, or who your father is, I need to do my job, and you puffing your chest out and telling me who you are is not helping me.

Secondly, in this economy, there is no time for me to get paid monies lower than my level of competence and then telling me to prove myself. Had it had been 6 years ago, I wouldn’t have minded, but today, no, and don’t ask me why I am holding back, because I did this for 6 years, and where did it get me, being dictated to by well, I don’t really want to say what I am thinking because I vowed not insult anybody today.

Thirdly, if things are going the way it is, I might as well work from home because the dollar is almost at 4 cedis and the cedi is well on its way to crashing. All economies have gone through a downturn, but then their leaders had a halfway decent Brain, even George W., but this government, it is like they have gone to sleep. Every day you hear another politician giving an excuse and telling us they are working on it, but without actually telling you what they are working on and when they foresee any kind of turnaround.

When I come to think about it, Ghanaians like to say “we are working on it”, in fact ask a Ghanaian a question and you never actually get the answer you were looking for. Then when you probe further they end up getting offended that you are asking too many questions.

I have had three such conversations today, it has got to the point where I really don’t want to talk to anyone because my temper is as tall has my heart (at 5ft 3) so you can imagine that I am about to blow.
We had a meeting this morning, certain stock hasn’t arrived and the gentleman in charge was supposed to give feedback. So what’s happening he was asked. He said that there was only 2 and a half weeks of stock. Then silence, now we are in the business of making sure stock is available, you would have thought that this gentleman would give something away unaided but no. So I asked, when is it coming then, he says the procurement team are speaking to the supplier. Have you followed up with the procurement team, I get air. I gave up, it wasn’t even my business and I was asking the questions like it would impact my life.

The next conversation was with someone who I spoke to last week. I was supposed to get feedback but it actually slipped my mind and came back to me today. So I ask him where are we on the issue, I was expecting it last week but nothing. He comes back with, did you really, no I am sure it was probably my boss. So I said, it was him, but can I have the feedback. Then he tells me that it is good news, but he can’t tell me unless his boss instructs him to do so. Really, it wasn’t a top secret confidential meeting, I just need to know when I can frigging sell my shit, but just like the second coming of our dear Lord, I am still waiting.

Third one, well if I meet this gentleman fact to face, well I think it is better I meet him the day I resign, because I may well slap him. There is a report that the young man sends to everyone on a weekly basis. All I needed was for him to add me to the list. Simple question, it doesn’t take much effort, or maybe it does. So I ask him on the office communicator, and he responds that it is in the system. Now I have tried the system, I don’t have access, I hate asking Ghanaians for anything because of this kind of behaviour. So I tell him trust me, I went there first but I don’t have access. I also remind him of the email I sent him earlier which explained I was a demand planning and needed this report to plan. He asked me if I was permanent or NSP (national service personnel). Like I don’t know why I would bother themselves asking things that are not required of them, but by this time I was about to find him and wring his neck. So I counted to 3 and reiterated my job, why I needed it and then I ended with something like if I didn’t need it I would not bother myself asking him for it. Yeah I know, he isn’t going to do me any favours, but I don’t care, and it’s only the one report.

So he responds that he will do this for me this one time but I need to get this access so I should send him a mail. Like really, don’t make yourself so important, you put an excel sheet together and send it out, you don’t have to have a degree in rocket science to do this job.

But oh well, it is the norm and every time I ask a question, I have to just be prepared for the fact that I will have to ask a million probing questions before I finally get my answer.

In this case, after 20 questions I finally got the answer I wanted, so all is right with the world.

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The problem with Tema

Tema was an initiative of Dr Kwame Nkrumah shortly after Independence. You can liken the city to the old industrial towns up the North of England where the miners (or engineers as told by an old British lady trying to come across as a socialite on American TV). Most of the countries factories are based in Tema, Ghana Cement Company (GHACEM), Unilever Ghana, Nestlé Ghana, Irani brothers (flour) etc… Tema is made up of little villages or communities and back in the day, most people worked and lived around here so you would hardly find much traffic in town and going to and from Accra wasn’t such as daunting a task as living and travelling around there.
But with the computer era and with Accra being so choked, the Southerners have moved back into the rural areas and joining the communities. Plus, those of us in Accra are being employed by the Industrialites making Tema just as part of Accra as Labadi. Unfortunately though, the infrastructure has not changed so much causing at times a huge traffic jam.

There is a motorway that takes you from Accra to Tema, at 100kpm it takes 20 minutes, at 120 – 150kpm, you are looking at between 7 – 12 minutes. There is a toll booth which takes 50Ghp for Saloon cars, 1GHS for 4×4’s and it goes up for Trucks and Long Vehicles. The government makes thousands of cedis a day in revenue, but I am not sure what they do with the money.

This motorway is nowhere near the length of the M25 or even the A406, but just imagine this, you are going down the A406, there are no junctions to turn off from, your only option is to start at Woodford and end at Hanger Lane, the only way you can turn back on yourself is to get to hanger lane and turn back around. That is the route from Accra to Tema. Ok, so now there are some turn offs, a dirt road which was forced into becoming a real road takes you off the motorway to the Spintex Road and there are a few dirt roads on the other side of the road which will take you to the back of East Legon. However, say from my house to Tema, if you go the “legal route”, you can cut through to the motorway, then you have to go all the way into Accra, round the Tetteh Quarshie Roundabout and come back around. If you don’t leave in time you could end up an hour at the roundabout stuck with those going to Accra. There are some illegal U-turns for one to turn around, but it is kind of dangerous when there are cars speeding at down. I have found one just before the toll booth which cuts about 5 minutes off of my time but sometimes you find a broken down vehicle parked there meaning I have to go around.

On a bad day when a broken down vehicle or an accident has occurred on the motorway, it is a nightmare. One morning I left at 6, was about ¾ of the way down when we discovered a long vehicle had not only broken down but had managed to block the breadth of the lane. It took 1 hour to move from my spot to the end of the road, a colleague of mine who left a mere hour later got to the office 4 hours later (I can’t even tell you why it took so long to get the truck out of the way as it arrived at somewhere around 6.30 but that is another story).
When you get to Tema itself, there are two ways out, the main roundabout and the roundabout on the way to Ashaiman. At the main roundabout there are several exits but once you exit, that is basically it, your only way is down to the end. There are about 3 roundabouts that I pass on the way to work and going it is not so bad, but coming back, that’s when it gets tricky.

On the way back, if you take a chance and go to the main roundabout, you are competing with the commercial vehicles heading to Accra plus the transporters and the private cars. The police control that roundabout during the rush hour and I have been known to switch off my car and literally sleep for 30 minutes because we are not moving. There is a kind of cut through that people use to jump the queue but the road is rough, I have done it a few times because I am like, well if you can’t beat them, join them, but sometimes there is a long queue to get there so you have to go with your gut. But once you make that decision, you just have to stick with it. You cannot take a u-turn and use the other way, you can’t turn off on a side road to the other side, you just have to sit and wait.

Turning off to motorway number two is no walk in the park either. It really shouldn’t be a route for commercial vehicles but for some reason one or two trailers feel that they should avoid the traffic and so travel at a very slow pace down a very narrow road causing all amounts of traffic, really they should be banned from driving down that road because already the roads are bad and they create not even potholes but craters.
The traffic is not great but it moves, so 9 times out of 10, I usually take that route home.
I am sure back in the day Tema would have been a nice place to live in, and I guess when you live there, you know the best routes to move around, but I pick Accra any time.

With the current state of the economy and all the other issues we are facing I think Tema’s infrastructure is the last on the list of priorities, therefore, so until I am fortunate enough to find my way back to Accra (or afford a driver so I can sleep while he does all the work), it is just something I have to live with.

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PyD – Pull You Down

I decided that even if my manager cannot put her personal differences about me aside, at least we should have a cordial professional relationship. So even though every day she walks past me without even a mumble of a good morning, I went to her desk and said good morning, how are you. She replied but if looks could kill I would be dead on the ground. In fact in one look she just drained all the life out of me, so I won’t be making that mistake again, I will just take my bashings when she feels fit to dish them out. I don’t think I have ever read an email of “well done” to like anyone, but I have seen many a long email stating what (I especially) was done wrong. Well nothing lasts forever, one of us will have to go at some point, I just hope I have somewhere to jump to if ever she decides to push me. In our last collision she said something along the lines of people smiling at you but putting a dagger in your back and she knows what to do, so I have been warned to wear my armour.
Any time I speak to her, or have my energy sucked out by her it makes me miss my best friends. Over the years they have been my friends, my mentors, my cheerleaders and my sisters. They have helped me complete application forms, prepare for interviews and I know that if they were in this line management position, they would be encouraging and nurturing as opposed to whatever display of ungodliness this one is displaying. They don’t go to church every Sunday or boast how Christian like they are, they accept that we are all human and well they display more humanity and Christianity than any of the Sunday goers here.

However, I cannot say her manner is untypical of the society as a whole. Few have a PhD, but most have a PyD, pull you down. They hate to see others rise, improve or do well and find some way of bursting your bubble. Many a day I have sat with a friend of mine, yeah ok, I complain a lot, but I also bring ideas to make my life better but every time all I get is “this is Ghana”, “it won’t happen”, well of course it won’t work with that attitude.
I have been here long enough to know that I can’t change the world, I can’t even change my corner of the world, but I can make the circumstances for myself better. However, the world around me is proving to me time and time again that I am just wasting my time. It is not just me, it is everybody’s mentality, good things are only good for them and theirs but how dare you think you can come from nowhere and sit where I sit.

I am not even going to use myself as an example, I am going to take a cousin of mine. He was a Supply Chain Manager in a company in the Ashanti region, but his family were living in Accra so he had to quit and come and look for a job here. He got a job which was way beneath his capabilities, and was given the old speech about working his way up. As if some young man straight out of school and someone is doing him a favour. Well my cousin, it is something in the blood I guess, he didn’t even wait for probation when he found a Supply Chain Manager Job somewhere else.

There was a procurement team leader, he had been in the job for a number of years, and was very competent, yet he had to sit in the same seat while other people (mainly expats) came in did the job, and moved on, and then one day he moved on himself.

Lastly, an Assistant Brand Manager, she practically took a struggling category and made it into the most successful one in the company, yet they would not even promote her to the job she was doing i.e. a Brand manager. It would have only been a few pence more to bump her up, yet she sat there until one day she had enough and moved on, to be the head of marketing.

You see, nobody looks at your capabilities, they think that if they put you where you are supposed to be, it will show their incompetency’s, so they keep you down until you can’t take it anymore. Either you end up resigned to the fact that you can’t go anywhere, or those that can’t be brainwashed move on outside your environment.
It is not just in the working environment, the amount of times people can’t remember where they bought some piece of furniture or new shoes as if you are not worthy to even shop where they do. Even when the whole thing with my ex went down they said, they wouldn’t even mind if he was a labourer as long as he loved me. I am thinking yeah right, coming from two women whose daughters are married to doctors. What would you say if they were labourers and didn’t have the status they had.

When a friend of mine started his own business, a simple business, bread and pizza, he was told that it wouldn’t work, that he should find himself a proper job that he should even go back to “abroad”. The last time he had checked he was doing ok, and most importantly he was happy that he wasn’t stuck in an 8 – 5 for a miniature wage.
Even our president, some are saying that he is purposely not investing in education so that the ignorant can be bought off come election times because they are only thinking of today.
However, throughout all this, there is a lesson to be learnt. That is, if you want something, go get it yourself, and don’t discuss it with anyone in Ghana, because nobody is going to encourage you especially those with a PyD.

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Beware of false prophets

If you are thinking of coming over to start a fresh life in Ghana, now is probably not the time. Unless you are on pension, or you are starting a business where your income does not rely on a fully local currency income, you should just come here for your usual annual leave and get the heck on out. I am even wondering myself if my time is up, and maybe I have done what I came to do. A family friend of mine said to me on my last visit to London, “you’ve done well, now come home”. I am on a 50/50 at the moment.

Think of the credit crunch, magnified by 10. There are signs in front of many petrol stations this morning which say NO SUPER. I predicted this a couple of weeks ago, the minute I heard that they were not going to increase fuel for another fortnight, I got myself a reserve large gallon, so I would not fall short. I suspect that those that have fuel are hoarding so that when the price goes up, they get a larger profit.

The people took to the streets in protest over this issue, it has got so bad that the middle classes just said, something has to be done. I think it is a good thing that the good people are finally speaking out, but unfortunately it is like having a conversation with a lunatic, they are going to just sell you something rather incoherent. This is a government who have taken out a loan of something like $10m to buy sanitary pads. Well not just sanitary pads, but they claim that it will be used as a scholarship for underprivileged kids for school fees and provisions (including sanitary pads for the girls).

Now I am not so learned, but here’s an idea. Some teachers have not been paid for months, children in urban as well as rural schools are being taught under trees. Why not use the money to renovate the existing schools, pay the teachers, and if you have to, send them abroad on training to build up their knowledge and confidence. Install the latest technologies so that the youth of today can compete on the world stage. If you really are that concerned about sanitary pads, why not go to the companies directly and ask for them to sponsor this cause, I am sure Always being the world’s top producers could help you out.

It has been a long time since I have talked politics, but when in a year 400 dollars has shot up from 800 to almost 1600GHS, it is something to worry about especially when sanitary pads seems to be the most important factor on the agenda at the moment. Even those whose votes were bought for 50GHS at the last election are feeling the pinch because even the price of corn has shot up from 40p to 70p in just a matter of weeks.

The only people that probably seem to be doing alright in this economy are the pastors. There is a very large church on the Spintex Road, Accra called Action Chapel. The congregation hoard in their numbers to listen to the word, it doesn’t matter that for the rest of the week, they will be bad minded and think negatively of others, because they gave generously to the collection and return they will receive many blessings. Even my catholic church is doing very well during collection. We have the normal collection, then there is a collection for some project or another, also at the beginning of the month, they call the congregation up by the day they were born (e.g. Kwame and Ama for Saturday, etc…).

Which leads me to an incident the other day, I was walking to my car when an “Apostle” walked up to me, and told me that God asked him to speak to me. He asked me if I was married, I said no, and then he said “hmmm” that’s why. I asked him how do I know he is legitimate and he told me of all the churches he had and asked me if I knew some woman. He then gave me his number, and asked me to call him. When I got home, I actually forgot all about him, but then he crossed my mind so thought why not, let’s see what he has to say.

So he started off by reading me a bible passage, and then he got down to business. He seemed rather more interested in my love life than any other part of my life. Right now, I have 99 problems but a man aint one, but he said God wanted him to speak so I let him speak.
He then asked me if I had been married before, I said no. Then he paused. Then he asked if I had a boyfriend, I said no. Then he asked if I had a boyfriend, well of course I have, he then says “yes”, and he dumped you. Yes, that is it, then he proceeded to tell me about a river which a family member has put a pot full of blood somewhere in that river, so I will never get married, so he will pray over it. Then he prayed.

Then the conversation just started getting eerie, he asked if I was working, I said no, and in fact I said, I am having trouble getting the right job for my capabilities. He didn’t want to know, he then asked me if I had, had sex with the guy. I paused, then he told me that the boy only had sex with me because he wanted a child, which would I could have believed had the boy not got 2 (possibly 3) kids already.

Then the conversation got really uncomfortable, he started asking me if I had ever committed an abortion or masturbated, that’s when I am like, should you be asking these questions, then he said “you don’t know me too well to open up”, and invited me to his prayer meeting.
I said goodbye, and blocked his number from my phone, this pastor was looking for 2 things, my money and what he could find in between my legs.

These are the kind of men that will tell you that the lord has asked him to pray for you, you will pray, you will give him money for his troubles, and when there is nothing left in your pocket, the lord will ask him to sleep with you. With the economy the way it is, you will find that these false prophets will come out of the woodwork even more than usual.

Lesson of the day: Beware of false prophets, and ministers begging loans for sanitary pads

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