A Brief Update

You know that my updates are never brief but I will try.

The sun is finally out and really, you don’t appreciate what it is like until the blue skies are taken away from you and you are wrapped up like an Eskimo 24 hours a day. Even at home, you can’t really do much but wrap yourself in a blanket because the heating bills are so expensive that you can only afford to heat the house for an hour a day.

Work is interesting, I am not in a place where they are inviting me to birthday parties, weddings or baby showers, but I am in a place where if there is something going on at lunchtime I will be invited. We have a laugh and a joke and the girls in my team are actually seeing a little benefit from me being their manager. Rather than micro-manage the ladies (as my manager does me, more on her later), we have a daily meeting where we go through our day and a weekly meeting where we go more in depth into specific issues. At first it was a bit like getting blood out of a stone, but today even the most stubborn one is contributing to the meetings.

A couple of weeks ago I had my appraisal, as part of this process, 10 colleagues are supposed to give their feedback on what they think you are like as a leader and a team member. Before we start the feedback meeting Micro manager gives me the spiel about the feedback serving to improve my performance and as she proceeded to give her prose, I was preparing myself for negative feedback.

As she went through the feedback it wasn’t so bad, in terms of doing the job and my capabilities most people felt I was doing well. The only areas of improvement were in terms of relationships, most felt that they didn’t really know me. Well I had been in the role 5 months when this was done and some people who have known me a lifetime don’t actually “know” me, so I wasn’t going to sweat on that. The girls in my team were actually unbelievably positive, given that they barely said a word to me in the first month, at least I was making a positive impact in the team.

I did have to laugh at one comment by a lady, I say it’s a lady but this is all anonymous feedback. I think I know who it was, she said that I should try and get to know people on a personal level. I have a friend who I worked with at the Revenue and she put it perfectly when she says “what do you want me to say, how’s the cat?, how’s the dog?, sorry I don’t really care enough”. If that’s all this lady could say about me, well I will probably expect the same comment next year.

There was one comment, I know exactly who it was from, he is my counterpart in another department (who told me before the appraisal), who basically said that I am more than capable of doing my job but my senior management team are stifling. So micro manager says “who do you think they are talking about, really, who do you think they are talking about?”. I am looking at her thinking, are you serious, who the hell do you think he’s talking about. What I said though in a very sober voice was “you”. I couldn’t have been more diplomatic than that, because it was the truth and unfortunately I don’t know how to lie.

Her response was that if I disagreed with anything, I should say so, and that the other person (I will call her Jane) who she manages disagreed with a person who micro manager wanted to interview for a job in Jane’s team. Jane didn’t feel that this person was suitable. Micro-manager did. Jane had to interview this person. I don’t see how this was an example of disagreeing with management and them actually accepting it. Hey ho.

Since then I have taken the feedback and worked on it, well most of it, I try and feign interested if someone tells me about their kid being potty trained for the first time, but won’t go out of my way to ask.

It’s been a month since the feedback and I am disagreeing with micro-manager and she is still not listening to a word I say, she is still micro-managing but it’s all good. I gave myself my own personal critique a while ago and that’s to pick my battles and look at the positive side. The positive being I have time to catch up with you guys haha.

 

Until the next time

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Having your cake and eating it too

The reputation of the black man is that he is a cheater. Not only does he want to have his cake and eat it, but he also wants to take a bit out of every piece of cake in the bakery shop.

My auntie, just before I came back to London told me that “it wouldn’t be bad if I found a nice white man”. Her friend’s daughter who was similar to my age had found a nice white man and they were blissfully happy. For me personally, it is a matter of preference, I think Ebony and Ivory can live together in perfect harmony, just not on my piano keyboard though. Tried it once when I was 15 for a few weeks and it wasn’t really my thing so haven’t been there since.

I think that in love (which a very minute part of me somehow still believes in), it’s all a matter of luck. I don’t think one race has the monopoly over love and romance, they just have it or they don’t. A cheat, is also a cheat, and if they can have their cake and eat it, they won’t hesitate for a moment.

Take Mr C for example. I met him on Linkedin about 6 months ago. Linkedin is probably the only social networking tool that I use these days because the premise is that you meet professionals (although you do get the one or two that think it is Tinder or Match.com).

Mr C was working in Ghana and was from Newcastle, so I thought, good contact to have just in case I need someone who knows someone who can get me a job when I come back, or show me the expat trail.

Mr C however had other ideas and after a couple of chats I just decided to leave it alone.

Last night, I was doing a bit of random research on why people move to Ghana. Not for any specific purpose, let’s just say the spirit moved me. As I was reading through I saw a picture of a white man holding onto a very cute black woman. I looked at the name, it looked like Mr C. He was also from Newcastle, and was working in Ghana. Apparently he had gone bankrupt and used the little money he had to go to Ghana, met his “princess” and she was having his baby. This was in 2013.

So I checked my email, although what this Mr C told me sounded like him, he omitted the whole wife, baby and the rest. I couldn’t find the email at first because he had locked his account to private, but the name was still there glaring at me. That’s when I had to laugh at the whole thing and realised that there are some bum white guys out there too.

So as I said in the beginning it’s all luck, so on our journey to find that elusive one, whether he be white, black, yellow or blue, you just have to put it in prayer that your guy is satisfied with the cake he has.

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Losing our way

Before I start this piece, another thing that grates me is when I hear, we are “black people are accepted”, sorry I am a person, you don’t need to be tolerant or accepted, it is a given, I am part of the human race, accept me as a person, if you don’t like me for me (or my views), I don’t really care, it’s like Marmite, you either like a person or hate a person. You don’t need to accept me for the colour of my skin. But so as not to digress.

An actress and her children were murdered by her partner late last year (allegedly). The suspect ran off to Ghana. It pained me to learn that he was of Ghanaian blood, maybe it’s the proud Ghanaian in me, but I don’t want to hear that my fellow country man may have committed a crime.

However, that is the way of life here, it is not uncommon to hear that someone has been arrested for Robbery, GBH or even murder and you hear so and so Mensah, so and so Bonsu or so and so Asante.

As you know I am first generation born in UK, I have friends and family who have children now (and even grandchildren), they are well adjusted well rounded people. They integrate into the British society but also keep their cultural values because that had been instilled in their parents. So when I hear of those few bad apples, it is very disappointing.

The reason it makes me sad is because of the reason most Ghanaians come to settle in UK, US, Germany and alike. Some of these people barely finished high school and are not coming here as lawyers, doctors, etc.. While some do take advantage of higher education, some went into nursing, some do white collar jobs, the other proportion are working around the clock, going from one cleaning job to another or one security job to another all to make lives comfortable for their children’s future. Whatever walk of life are on though, one thing they have in common is the investment into their children.

Education is instilled from a very young age, the intention is to climb higher. Your route is school, university, job, start your own family but don’t just like their investment into you they are expecting their return in the end. The last part is not spoken, but you know watching your parent’s and family members send money back home, that one day the onus will be to do same in their old age.

I grew up in a loving dysfunctional family and we’ve turned out fine, if not a bit too ambitious to the detriment of starting our own families yet, but hey as long as I am on this side of a prison gate, there is still hope.

I get that university is not for everyone, and it’s not easy getting a job, heck even with a university degree it can be difficult. My sister graduated in 2010 and has been working in retail for the past 4 years because after 2 years of getting a temp job here and there, it was a case of get anything permanent rather than staying at home months on end.

I don’t claim to understand why then our kids are turning their backs on the sacrifices their parents made to turn to a life of crime. I was too scared of my parents to even talk back at school, the people I associated with had similar upbringings to myself, and I had friends of all races.

Are we losing our cultural identity? Who knows

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One man’s privilege is another man’s poison

I don’t usually like to broach the subject of race but a couple of things I have read in the media have really got me annoyed. It is on the subject of race, but it’s the ignorance behind people’s comments that have made me how progressive we are and how certain people still don’t understand their privilege.

It started with the Beyonce at the Superbowl with the ladies dressed at black panthers. I am in no way a Bey fan, neither am I a hater, she does what she does and makes a lot of money from it so no judgement. There was an article in the newspaper the next day that there people (I am guessing white people) were up in uproar as she was inciting race relations and hatred for the police. That the Black Panther’s signified violence and all that jazz that goes with anything that relates to a black person voicing their opinion.

Then someone else writes in that slavery was abolished 200 years ago, so basically what is our problem, we cannot keep harping on about things when those people were dead and buried long ago.

To top it off, there was an article about the growth opportunities in Africa (like where have you been). Someone pointed out that Seychelles wasn’t shown on the map of Africa. All I have to say on this last point is somebody ask the man to give Christopher Columbus a call to steer him in the right direction.

Now back to the former points, and before I write the next sentence. I have no disregard for what gay people have to go through I am just using this point as analogy to get to my grievance. If at the Superbowl, we had Elton John or Sam Smith singing to people marching in carrying the rainbow flag, would this have been an issue. Would they have been told, to get over their struggles and that it is now legal to be gay in US and the rest of the Western World so get over it. Probably not. Would they have been told that they were inciting violence, I don’t think so.

Yes, slavery was abolished 200 years, and regardless of the fact that, for 400 hundred years (not just a generation but a number of lifetimes), black people were seen as mere cattle. Let’s be real, it is not that long ago that we did not have the same legal rights to be seen as equals to our white counterparts. I can also speak of Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, that was mere 30 to 40 years ago.

Today, some of us are still feeling the effects of the past that we should so readily forget. If you are still unconvinced, you may want to talk to Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and the other unarmed persons killed because they “looked” like they would be a threat to an armed police officer’s life.

In Ghana, they have an armed force, you may say there are no bullets in their guns, I don’t really want to test that theory, but jokes aside, they could go around trigger happy “in fear for their lives” so what is it about being black in the western world that makes people fearful? 200 hundred years after slavery was abolished, why are there the same stereotypes and connotations, why is it, that if a black man walks down the street wearing a casual hoodie and jeans he is seen as a thug, sorry we can’t all go around wearing a suit and tie to the local supermarket.

Now I am not saying that all black men in incarceration are victims of being the wrong colour, I am just saying that there is good and bad in everyone and when you do not live in a certain body you may not appreciate what they are going through. There are lazy black folk who don’t want to work, there are also lazy white folk who feel they don’t need to work, it is not a colour thing, it is a people thing.

However, we cannot ignore the fact is that being white and middle class gets are seen more positively than a young black man, and until you walk a day in someone else’s shoes, you will not fully understand their pain or what they go through.

You will not understand that feeling, knowing you look and sound the part, you don’t get that job. You will not understand when someone feels that because you were born in Africa/Caribbean your first experience of civilisation is when you stepped foot on British shores.

I remember telling a former colleague that I would WhatsApp them when I was in Ghana, and they were so shocked that we used that platform, hey we have smartphones too.

So to get back to the Bey and her performance, people have used music to speak on their views, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, the list goes on, as long as there are problems in the world, it is a good outlet to speak out and that performance certainly achieved what it set out to do, which was to get people talking. Rather than negate what makes you feel uncomfortable about, try to understand it. It is no more comfort to any of those knowing their ancestors were traded as slaves but we’ve dealt with it.

So that’s my view and just like when I learnt of World War I and II, although I wasn’t there, it is history and one thing about that is that it can never be erased. Yes it has happened but whether we have come out good or bad in this world, it our history that has moulded us into the people we are, so it is a bit callous to say get over it. I for one have found great strength knowing I am a descendant of Yaa Asantwaa (go read about her if you don’t know).

So yes I am over the whole slave trading thing thank you, but really the whole Seychelles being in Africa one.

I think I will have to take a bit of time to get over that one.

P.s. I love you all, whatever colour, creed, religion or whatever (if you think this was bashing anyone, sorry not on my watch).

 

 

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Finding my way…

In a year and a month I will be turning 40, so I have been using this time to figure out “what is my purpose”, although I have done quite a bit, I would like to meet my maker being remembered here on earth for something more than purchasing make-up and taking crap when said make-up doesn’t turn up on time so end up chasing my tale so that the company doesn’t lose money. But hey ho, that is the life of a supply chain planner. I am still on that mission, but in the meantime I can’t stay silent forever while I find it.

Its been just over half a year and I am starting to get to know the personalities in my office. The more I get to know them, the more I realise that we come from two different worlds. Today I am going to give you an insight into the people I deal with.

First of all there is Elsie, she is my manager and she suffers from short person syndrome. I got a feeling of her personality at her interview, I would ask her a question and she would answer what she thinks she has heard but not what I actually asked. When this happens I have to admit, I get confused and then wonder if I didn’t articulate the question well. By the time I realise I did, the moment has passed and so I let it go. Unfortunately, it has been 7 months of this and I am having to use trial and error to make the job work for me as I don’t get a straight answer from her. Not that she is not knowledgeable, on the contrary, but it’s all in her head and I guess she thinks we should all read her mind.

She doesn’t really do people, on a number of occasions she has told me that she doesn’t really relate to people and would rather be at home with a glass of wine, although she does do a lot of church activities, but who am I to judge.

She is one of those people who can be really nice to your face, but over the phone or email can be quite scathing, all I can think about is that I have had worse, at least she can insult you with a smile.

Then there is Florence. You know that person who when you start a conversation, either she, her husband, her sister or her mother has gone through the same thing and then proceed to take over the conversation. She is one of those. The other day we were having a conversation about Japanese and Chinese food (a rather random conversation), she says “speaking of Chinese”, then she pulls out a dress she bought on line and complained about the fit. Florence is 50 this year and is going to marry her 3rd husband who is 10 years her junior so she is “down with the kids”. I say that because she always wants to show how with it she is with contemporary music, Rhianna, NWA, Beyonce. I am thinking, girl, you know you listen to cheesy 80s pop, stop trying to deceive yourself.

Serena, what can I say about her, I have the misfortune to manage her. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to the job, she is on it. She has been here too long so she does her work without even thinking about it. But ask the girl to help you with something and it’s a bit like pulling teeth. I find her very passive aggressive and while we are getting on a bit better, I still get the feeling that she is on a quest to prove that she should have been hired in my position. I am trying to get her to see the bigger picture, it’s not about the amount of work you do but what you bring to the table, but she doesn’t want to hear me though. Unlike Africans, the people here feel that you should earn their respect, in fact they give you none and when they start to give you a little, it is like they are doing you a favour. At the moment we are at the doing me a favour stage.

Lastly there is Francine, she is a bubbly young lady, and love her to bits. However, like a little sister she does give me cause for concern. She is that loose cannon that if you lose guard has gone on a frolic on her own and can disgrace you simply because she feels she knows better. We can have a meeting, make decisions, and then I expect that we are all agreed so she would just execute, but I don’t know if she has an epiphany in the night but I can come back and does her own thing. I am all for risk taking but if it results in one of Elsie’s attack, my friend, please don’t test me.

Francine, unlike the rest of the group, does have black friends. I know this because when we have a conversation, she doesn’t look at me like what I have said is totally alien. But sometimes, she can say something that makes me say “oh my lord”. For example, she does love her mixed race men, and on Martin Luther King Day she said “if it wasn’t for MLK, I wouldn’t be allowed to date my boyfriend”. Sometimes in times like this it is better to stay silent, so I did. Francine uses the word “literally” a lot. Like she literally went out on the weekend and she literally gets to the office by 9. I let a lot of it slide because I actually like her.

There is a lot of use of the word 100% in the office. There is a lot of “like totally, 100%”. I don’t know where this turn of phrase came from but it literally sends me up the wall. Totally, like 100%.

But as I say, it could be worse, and it’s all an experience.

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Afehyia Paa Oooo

Afehyia Pa ooo…loosely translated means, we have met the year well. Time to reflect once again and plan for the year in front.

When I look back at the year, I can’t complain. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, there were the lows (coming back to the cold weather without a job for some months), the highs (getting a job), the lows (dealing with people I don’t really care for) and the highs (accepting those people I don’t really care for). Throughout it all, God has been good and even on those dark gloomy days, at least I have managed to pay the bills.

When I first got back from Ghana, even my parent’s God bless them, didn’t have much faith in me. I don’t know how many times I told them “I didn’t get sacked, I walked away”, it felt a bit like they looked at me like I messed up. It got to one point where my dad although not in so many words, told me to get a cleaning job “get anything just to tide you over”. However, as I always tell myself, God doesn’t come down from the sky and point at you saying “it’s you!”, but he puts people in your path to give you a helping hand when you are down. Thankfully, after dropping countless CV’s at Agencies (I didn’t bother going direct to companies, an agent is more hungry to get their commission), one sent me for a Supply Manager position which I got.

The first few months were tough though. First of all, apart from one lady in the warehouse and the warehouse manager, I was/am the only black face in the main office. I decided to stay back and observe my surroundings rather than go in like a bull in a China shop, and managed to become very alien to my Caucasian counterparts. On top of that, one of the ladies I was tasked to manage and mentor, she had gone for the position and it felt a bit like she was on a quest to make me look bad and prove that she should have been the better choice. Unfortunately for me, she has also been in the company for 10 years (straight from school) so whatever opinion she had about me was shared by the rest of the office.

I know one or two of my managers are reading this saying “Karma”, and it probably is, but one thing I will say is this country, being a manager just means you have a fancy title. You don’t get respect automatically, and you have to earn it in sweat. Whereas in Ghana, there are probably no laws to protect you from any kind of employment issues (well none that probably work). With the laws here, if you look at someone sideways you may find yourself at a tribunal. Also, being a minority, you need to work twice as hard to prove that you are not a “stereotype”, and that you actually have a brain.

The job itself, not really a problem, it’s what I have been doing for the past 6 years, but the people (I always seem to have issue with the people), it took a while to get used to. But, I don’t know if it is the new Church I have been going to (yes, Efia has been consulting with a higher power), or the Christmas spirit, but things seem to be turning around.

Can I say I have made lifelong friends here, probably not. Do I trust anyone, not as far as I can throw them, but I can work with them and I can joke with them and it looks like I might even pass the probationary period so I can’t complain.

So looking to the year ahead, I am not getting any younger but still on that quest for a life partner, a child (before my eggs shrivel up) and I still want to return to Ghana at some point (it’s too cold here). For Ghana, I look at the last 6 years as an internship, I am older and wiser and know that when I return I am going to have to go back as an expat or starting my own business, but that’s as far as I have got on that, I am not going to stress on it too much right now.

In the meantime, I want to wish you one and all Afeyhai Pa, all the best for 2016 and thank you for all your support.

Until the next time x

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Ghana does Xfactor

A couple of months ago, just before the TV talent show started, my aunt and I joked that we needed to see some hip life artistes auditioning. Well I don’t know if it was God or we have the gift of prophecy, but enter Reggie and Bollie, the group that have divided the whole Ghanaian society in the UK. One half are full on rooting for them to win, the other half are rolling their eyes but we are all united in our support for these boys and hoping them real success.

In their introduction, they claimed that they had relative success in Ghana but wanted to take their career to the next level. At first I was thinking “relative success, never heard of you”, that was until I read a blog from my sistren from theonlywayisghana. I believe it is Reggie who sung “Virgin” while Bollie did “you may kiss the bride” or the other way around, I know the songs but never knew it was them. Then to be fair, Shata Wale could be standing in front of me and I wouldn’t know it.

Their vocals: Well you wouldn’t catch them singing a rendition of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma, but that’s not what they are about but they do bring the entertainment factor. What they do every week is bring out songs that just make you want to dance and hey isn’t that what our music is all about. People are predicting they could make it all the way to the finals. A few weeks ago, I would have laughed but now it doesn’t seem like such a foreign idea to me.

However, and you know that with me there is always a but, as I said before some of us are just rolling our eyes. It is not that we are being unsupportive, I would say more protective.

Every year on this talent show, there is always an act that you wonder how they got through, they have no talent and they seem to just be the joke of the show. The viewing public is entertained by how nonsensical they are, if they are lucky they are a one hit wonder afterwards, or they go on another show such as Celebrity Big Brother, then that’s it. Never to be seen or heard of again until they are doing one of those “where are they now” shows.

From listening to their music in the genre of hip life or Afrobeats, these guys actually do have some talent, and they come across as two of the nicest guys. So they say “innit” and “bruv” a lot, my hackney family have a cockney/Ghanaian accent, (too weird to even try and describe), but I love them anyway.

Well I wish them the best of luck, not just in the competition but also for the rest of their careers. When you love what you are doing it doesn’t seem like work and I am all for one following their passion. I just pray that they are not added to the novelty act pile because they are my people so it will hurt me like it was one of my own. What can I say…..all the best boys

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