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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Something you should never do during lunch

It’s been one of those days when I have little much to do, well when I say that, I do, but with the time it actually takes to do it, I have to space it out so the boss thinks that I find the work as complicated as the rest of the individuals who share the same title. So I thought I would share a moment of my time with you.

While at the canteen I was approached by a gentleman selling a magazine. Firstly, I hate being sold something while I am eating, it’s just not good manners. If you try and sell me something while I am trying to enjoy my meal, you have already got off to a bad start. He came up to me and asked me if I knew Uncle Ebo Whyte, I said I know of him but I don’t know him. So he turned to page 2 of the magazine to show me his picture as if that would make a difference to his sales pitch.

I continued eating when he said that he thinks I should buy the magazine, I don’t know what was in it or what he was getting out of it (apart from my 5 cedis) and I said no thank you. Well you would think that this man would go, but no, he says it is only 5 cedis and goes on and on about the fact that it would be nothing to me. Well that’s when I got angry, these days I have turned into my dad when anyone asks for money, I go from very cordial to a grumpy old man as soon as I hear a sentence which asks for money. I mean it could be 50p and I can go ballistic especially when it is asked by a total stranger.

So I tell this dude that it wasn’t in my budget but I will get back to him, and he tells me that I should put it down in my miscellaneous. I don’t even have a miscellaneous, I have outgoings and trying and mummy, after I have paid the bills and fuelled the car, I look for my mum to help me out with the odd expense here and there, so under miscellaneous on my balance sheet you will see every month it is negative.

So I tell him that he doesn’t know my expenses, I have responsibilities. He asks if I have children, I said no disrespect but it wasn’t any of his business. He then says that in Ghana responsibilities means children, which is quite funny that he should say that because it made me think, apart from children Ghanaians are just not responsible people are they?

But I digress….the gentleman felt that if he went on and on about the same thing, I would relent and buy the magazine to shut him up. Nice tactic, but you are messing with the wrong biyach…So I told him very sternly but still pleasantly that the more he goes on, the less attracted I was in buying what he was selling. That is when he stepped back and tried a different approach. This time he thought he would try having a conversation; unfortunately he thought I was the Managing Directors Personal Assistant. That was a real “ouch” moment because I am like do I look like a secretary, sorry you have got the wrong person. With that he gave up and told me to have a nice day and I did to.

He really needs to change his sales strategy, especially if he is going to bother someone while they are eating.
If he is reading, I suggest that he take the strategy of a Korean DVD seller on East Street in Camerwell. Basically she just pops out of know where and squeals “DVD”. It’s short and it’s quick and you know straight away whether the person is going to buy something or not. A 15 minute sales pitch to a stressed out employee while she is trying to eat lunch is just not going to cut it.

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Aiming to be a great leader

Today I revisit my article on leadership. As you know it is a topic very close to my heart. In the last few months I have met probably the only Ghanaian person who I would say exhibits great leadership skills and in a few short weeks I have learned more about it than I have probably learnt in the 6 years of being in Ghana. He is the kind of person who inspires creativity and freeing your mind. In fact I would go as far to call him a modern day hippy, he is a bit to Zen, but he has the ability to sell you his vision and want to take a ride with him and his business purely because you can see he wants you to be the best of your potential.

This man is a one man business but he has the potential to be a Global corporate God. When I look at his style and his vision, it makes me want to hand in my resignation and go and join him in his business, I would honestly rather take the risk with a great leader. At the moment, I am getting very little pay and zero inspiration.

A couple of months ago I attended a HR initiative. I believe the aim of it was to give the Work Level 1 people some hope that one day they may make it to level 2. In reality it’s corporate BS to keep people in their place for the next 20 years.

I was listening to one gentleman say that he felt that he cannot talk to his boss about his next career step because his boss would have a problem that “maybe he is after my job”. At the time I was wondering, if you can’t talk to your boss about your career steps, then maybe you should just stay where you are. After 3 months however, I am getting this young chaps point.

This company claims to encourage leadership, but the reality is, they just stick a fancy title on your payslip and make you work like a donkey without giving you the tools to grow. When I look at the leadership team, I don’t actually see any leadership.

First of all, for you to be a leader, you must have a following; Coaching and Mentoring Skills, a level of teaching skills, a strong teamwork ethic, direction and you need to lead by example. What I see, is a group of individuals doing their own thing and the “leader” just collating the information to the powers that be. For you to be a leader there must be a certain level of coaching and mentoring and leading by example. Everything I have learned up until now about the job itself has been taught to me by a lady who was just here to do her National Service. The rest, I have been told to go and find out for myself. Even when I did ask when training would be provided I was told “it doesn’t mean that you wait until training is provided”. Like how dumb do you think I must be to do that.

What I find also is that there is this “one size fits all” mentality. I treat everyone like they are dumb. Then when they all get up to scratch I push them up in order of their arrival to the team.
Then there is leading by example, well I say no more. Being the “boss” doesn’t make you perfect, especially when it is your first time managing a team, the wise would normally acquire 360°feedback and build on their strengths while filling in the gaps. However, some people feel that they have made it and so they must have everything they need, any constructive feedback from their “subordinates” are seen as a direct attack. So you as the lower down the chain, have to watch and learn whether good or bad.

So now looking at my observations, I see the bigger picture. To be led by a good leader means that you must have a good leader, and what I see is a head and the people below, but I don’t see any bridging of
My take on this is that a lot of these leaders never thought they would get to where they are. They had been doing the same old thing for many years and either was fortunate enough to bluff their way into a position outside their company or someone (normally an expatriate) took a chance on them. Ensuring that they fill their gaps and essentially yours will never be done because basically they don’t want you to ever achieve their status.
When I look at my “boss” and the way she expresses herself, I know why after many years in the same company she had to look outside. She had developed many technical skills but it was felt that with her standoffish personality, it is likely that “the peasants would revolt” had they given her the responsibility of managing a team.

Luckily, she is in a company where they don’t really care for that, they only want results and don’t actually care to look at the how and the why. I understand that there was some kind of survey done back in the day, the functional leaders did not come out looking so great, but then nothing was done about it, instead they are looking at making sure that there are cups in the canteen.

What I also see is that this is the pinnacle of their careers, why, because once again, they never thought they would get this far and are not so sure of themselves that they will get any further. Especially here in Ghana, to achieve director status, it is likely that you will have to do some time out in another country and well they don’t see life beyond the shores of Labadi.

Then there is what I call the comfortability factor, they have a car and they make good money and they are greeted as “boss” so what else do they need again. What do they care about whether the people below them do as long as they are where they aimed to be.

So what happens, the people below resign themselves to the fact that this is also their lot. The smart ones, well they make use of the resources in the company for their own aim. You will find someone in procurement who has been in the same seat for 20 years yet he drives a good car, he can afford to go on holidays (but never usually does as his on the side business might be found) and he puts all his children through the best education system money can buy. If he looks to his boss to provide him with the skills he needs to move up the ladder, well that manager doesn’t have it themselves so how will they pass it onto the person below.

Once in a while as a token, you might get one or two who managed to rise, but for the majority, it is dead man’s shoes, so if you have ambitions to come into the bottom and thinking with hard work you will rise up the ranks, well you are probably in the wrong country.

Is this situation unique to Ghana, well I have never lived in another African country so only you can tell me, but I do have a feeling that it is a large black man’s problem, we either don’t want to help ourselves, or we don’t have the skills to, and also refuse to go get them.

Why do I say it is in large a black man’s failure. Yes, there is good and bad throughout every culture but in a group of 100 people of different nationalities; you will probably point to the black more than any other.
I remember talking with my former Supply Chain Director, a Dutch man who was very tough but also had a way of bringing out the best in you. I remember we were receiving a visit from a guy high up in the group, and he said, I used to be his boss and now he is mine. I saw the sense of pride in him as he knew that he had done well in his career but he had also given someone the tools to reach even greater heights.

Now that’s what I call a good leader, and that’s someone I will take example from and I hope that one day, even though a small group (at the moment in Ghana I would say I have come across 2 excluding the Dutch man) one day I can also take pleasure in the fact that I led someone to be the best that they could be rather than the boss in the corner who gets results but will be forgotten about the day that either you or they were to leave the company, and even if you are remembered it will not be for anything positive.

Aim to make a difference, the best measure of that, is the achievements of the people you have led.

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Friday Night 2 for 1

I decided to take myself out for a treat this Friday, all work and no play makes Efia a really dull girl and well listening to the tune of being broke is starting to get dull.

The first stop was City Express, a new hotel around Airport Residential Area in Accra. Well I say new but it has been open since May but I thought I would check it out finally after months of saying I would. The previous week I heard that some friends of mine had gone there. The sad thing about sharing your friends with an ex is that although they say that they are not going to take sides, they all seem to lean towards one or the other. But hey ho, such is life I guess.

Well anyway went to check it out, there was a live band and I do love sitting by the poolside listening to good music. I would love to tell you the name of the band, unfortunately even though they had plastered it on their drums, I cannot for the life of me remember, old age or were they just forgettable, I can’t say.
You see, I don’t know if it was because there were only a handful of people there but they were just okay. Did they make me want to get up of my seat and have a dance-along, not really. I think they were just as bored as the few guests around because at every break they made sure to announce that they were there every Friday between 6 pm and midnight and to ensure next time to “come in your numbers”.
The band did have quite an array of songs from hi life to reggae to 80s classics. The night did pick up a bit when I got chatting to a group of people who were also returnees but after that it became more about the conversation than the music.

Drinks are the usual price, cocktails start from 20GHS and they have a wide range of “snack food” such as burgers, pizzas and chicken wings. The starters start from around 15GHS ($5) and the mains you are looking at 30GHS ($10). If you want to stay the night you are looking at 500GHS for a standard room ($150) to around 900GHS ($300) so not to different to your Tulip or your Holiday Inn.
I did get a sneak peak at the rooms before the hotel opened and to be fair I would rather stay there than Golden Tulip or Holiday Inn. Each room is like a mini apartment with a little kitchen with a microwave oven and fridge so if you end up out in the town and come home with a Chinese, you don’t need to worry about getting home after hours and finding yourself starving until breakfast.

The setting is quite beautiful and it does feel when you are inside like you are somewhere outside of Accra, while you are within the confines of the hotel you could imagine you are in Cape Coast or Akosombo.
They also have sizeable conference rooms, a public gym and although I am not 100% certain, I believe the pool is open to the public. If you want to relax on a weekend, even if it is just for an afternoon, it is a nice place to find peace in the middle of a very busy city.

From there we spent a few hours in Champs sports bar next to the Paloma hotel. Back in the day, every Friday was spent in that place watching the guys play pool, listening to some very bad karaoke and pushing back a couple of tequila’s. Then they changed it to Lexington Bar, it looked like a high end West End bar, took out the pool tables, made the place look very clinical and took away the karaoke essentially shooting themselves in the foot. So they went back and although they did lose some regulars, the place is back to the regular packed Friday night with a lot of expats and holiday makers getting drunk and singing along to Britney Spears’ “Hit me baby one more time”. The door fee is 20GHS but you get as much back in free vouchers to buy drinks at the bar.
There was a group of us, the guys went straight to the pool table while me and my friend D went to check out the Karaoke. It was a very packed Friday night with barely anywhere to stand, as I was being pushed and prodded I suddenly started to feel my age and my mother’s age too for that matter. Fortunately we did find a spot to stand but unfortunately it was behind a very neat looking man with very strong body odour. I literally had to hold my nose but once in a while when I inhaled, the smell would go straight up my nose and to my head.
Eventually the guys left and we got a seat, which gave me a chance to people watch. I have been a bit out of the fashion loop but from looking around I guess the 80s is back. Now although I am not one for fashion, I do know that when a decade comes back, it usually has a present spin on it, but Ghana, well looking at some of the ladies, they literally raided their parent’s wardrobe and came to the bar.

The first lady I saw, I think she got her inspiration from 80s Madonna. She was wearing a white lace crop top and stained skinny cropped jeans. It wasn’t too bad, however because she was quite dark, and the setting was dark she just looked like a fluorescent gloworm. All I could see was the clothes. Now I love my black tone and this has no bearing on her beauty, I just believe that whatever your size and whatever your tone you don’t need to be a slave to fashion and wear what compliments you the best.

Then there were the two ladies in front of me. These two were really a throwback to the 80s. The first lady was quite slim and was wearing a short boiler suit. From the neck down, she looked ok. However, from the neck up, I think she got her inspiration from Hilda Ogden. Hilda Ogden for those of you who don’t know is a character that graced our TV in the 80s on a soap opera called Coronation Street. Her trademark was a scarf which she tied around her head and always had rollers sticking out the front. The lady in front of me was Hilda without the rollers. Hilda had a husband called Stan, he always used to wear a woolly hat. Now this is why I think they took inspiration from these characters, because the lady she was with was wearing a woolly hat just like Stan. Now the first one I could forgive but her friend, it was like a SMH moment. The friend was rather meaty and was wearing a tiger print jumpsuit with shoulder pads if that wasn’t bad enough, she topped it off with this woolly hat. Like I know that it is a little bit cold in Ghana this year but our definition of cold is summer in England. Plus she was in a club, wearing a weave, the place was crowded hence hot, to top it off a woolly hat, only God knows the amount of sweat that must have gone into that poor ladies hair at the end of the night.
However, I can’t blame her, she probably saw it on one of these American talk shows and wanted to be part of the latest fashion trend but these shows are probably 6 months out of date (hence winter) and we don’t get a winter in Ghana.

We left shortly after the Karaoke ended and went straight to bed. I think that was enough entertainment to last me a couple of weeks at least. It was an interesting night out in any event and had fun by all.

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Shafted

Mechanics, plumbers and electricians all over the world charge an arm and a leg. When you need wiring done or your car breaks down it is like saying goodbye to any amount of money that you managed to save in your account. If you are a woman too, well, you have lost the battle before the war has even began.

What I will give to the western world though is that if your car breaks down the chances are you will not have to go back a few weeks later. These kind of personnel have had adequate training and a certificate proving that they are qualified to do the job. On this side of the world, it is trial and error. If you’re lucky you will not have to go back to fix the same fault, if you are not lucky not only will you have to fix that fault but something else will miraculously mess up on your car.

A year ago my A-C packed up. I was told that the motor and the valve needed replacing. I paid almost 1,000 GHS to get it fixed and do some patch work on the car. A few weeks later I turned on the A-C only to have hot air blowing in my face. It was the motor, the same motor I had paid a lot of money to buy a new one, not only that but my battery died too. Which is surprising as it was not that old. I am pretty certain my battery was replaced with an old one, and the mechanic probably swapped it although I don’t have the proof because it looked like mine. He probably drained it of all the fluid.

It’s been a year now and I still roll my windows down, by the time I got it through to my cousin that his mechanic had shafted me time had gone, my cousin is laid back and I know he didn’t argue at all. I however gave the car to my cousin and didn’t know where this mechanic was so there you go.

However, when the shocks went kaput on me last week, I decided to find my own mechanic. It was close to my house and any issues I could walk over and blast him. A few people had used him and he seemed more reliable than some (they are never totally reliable). However, I think he saw my money tree planted at the back of my house and wanted to shake me of all my money.

I asked him to find out the price of the shocks on Wednesday, on Thursday he told me that it was 300GHS. I had some rainy day money set aside, unfortunately it pissed down as I had to pay for this car to be fixed. On the Friday the car was rattling as I drove down the rather rough road from my house to the main road, so I had to get it fixed. I went there first thing in the morning and gave him the money plus an extra 50GHS for the fan that had gone and 20GHS for some other fault that he managed to find.

Around lunchtime he called and told me that he was at the shop and the price had gone up to 500GHS. The dollar had gone up in 24 hours apparently and I had to pay the difference. Let alone the fact that this item was probably purchased months ago at a cheaper rate, plus if the dollar goes up my salary stays the same, how did the price go up so drastically in the last 24 hours.

I took to the phone incandescent with rage, the mechanic did not speak English so I forced out this twi with anger on top of that, smother just looked at me once in a while chipping in to correct my use of the Akan language. If the dollar goes up, my salary doesn’t and I asked you yesterday what the price is, I was shouting which made him shout, but all I could hear were some tired excuses. So I tell him rather to calm down, he can tell that I am angry so the worst thing he can do is raise his voice. He then goes on once again about the dollar, so I tell him that I will not accept it, he must sell it at the price he told me, if he knew the dollar was going to go up he should have said. Then the mechanic said I should talk to the shop owner and I repeated what I said and told him that he is a business man, he thinks he is cheating me but what will happen, I go to him once but never again, neither will I go to the mechanic, so you both lose business. If he is honest and gives me the best price, I tell other people and his business goes on.

I didn’t stay on the line to listen to the rest, I was so upset as this was 300GHS I didn’t need especially after having to fork out for new spark plugs the week before.
I got to the mechanic that evening and I was told by the mechanic that he got it for 400GHS, I said I will have to owe him then, I don’t know if he and the guy were in cahoots to pull a fast one on me or that was really the price, but I seriously have zero money now and so he’s going to have to wait a long time for the balance.
I am praying that nothing else goes wrong with my car because if I end up having to park and take tro-tro to work. Well then I am definitely going to go back to London, sitting on a sweaty bus with the unwashed is not my idea of fun. I would rather stay at home in darkness to be fair.

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La Piazza

Saturday I was taken out on a treat by my close childhood friend and her husband. Well she was taking her nieces out for a pizza and I tagged along.

La Piazza is situated in Osu behind the Total filling station, opposite Firefly bar. It has a friendly setting, there are comfortable seats outside but if you don’t like the natural A-C then there is indoor seating.
Pizza’s range between approximately 45 – 50GHS but I didn’t really study the menu, just looked at the one with ham and mushrooms and picked it, normally I would have bought a large pizza and shared it with a few people, but this is Ghana and everyone seems to take one each. Although there was a bit of a mix up when the pizza’s and so me and my friend shared one.

My friend’s husband had a fruity salad, served in a pineapple it was pineapple, mango, avocado, some lettuce and a sauce similar to thousand island, I am not one for fruit and savoury but it was interesting to taste. The salads come in at around 20 – 30 GHS. They do a make to order as well, we ordered a plain green salad with egg and no dressing and got just that. We did take bets to see if we would get exactly what we asked for and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t come out an egg salad with lashings of cream and baked beans but as requested lettuce and boiled eggs.

They do a few other dishes if you prefer not to have a Pizza but if you are looking for authentic Italian dishes, I suggest you try Mama Mia, I saw a prawn dish and a Beef dish both in the vicinity of 50GHS.
The plus point was the cocktails, I ordered the La Piazza Mojito, it was a mojito but with Hennessy instead of rum, it was refreshing and just enough alcohol for you to enjoy without getting excessively tipsy.
The Pizza, well I think 50GHS is rather steep, I think you pay more for the ambiance than the food. The mushrooms tasted a bit rubbery and I am sure they were out of a tin. The Pizza was large in size and not too doughy but the taste didn’t blow me away, in fact it was the bottle of Tabasco sauce that I would say gave it any real flavour.

Saying that, the service is fast and the waiter we had was attentive (although he did miss one order). There is an ice cream parlour next door which you can enter through the restaurant. Unfortunately they had an issue with the fridge so we had to go down the road, but I did see a bread pudding and apple crumble on the desert menu.
Personally I think the plates are too much and would rather spend less for a lot less, but this is Ghana, they eat like they are New Yorkers. We also live in a country where everything is pegged to the dollar and prices are set at the tourist price. If you convert the cost of a Pizza it comes up to less than £10/$25, and it comes across as a place for the wealthy and the visitors.

Slightly over priced for me, but I would go there again if only for a cocktail. Food aside, it was a thoroughly pleasant night. The company was great, we had lots to talk about and nothing to complain about (apart from the cost) so I think that is a result.

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