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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Don’t take it personal

Since I have got back, I have had new traffic to my blogsite, well I say new but people I know (and have possibly wrote about), who have been introduced to the world through Efia’s eyes. I have had comments like “is that what you think of some of us?”

For me, it is nothing personal, I had a greatly idealised version of what my experience would be like in Ghana. I have a great family who always treated me wonderfully when I came on holiday and even when I came to stay, the rest of Ghana, well I would say half and half. I didn’t go to school there, my friends that I had made where friends of my family so at the start I basically came with no other ties apart from the ones I used to spend a couple of weeks out of the year with.

The thing is, as a white person being expatriated to work in the country, I found that although you probably wouldn’t find them at the pub with the local staff every night, they are treated differently. It is like they get this automatic respect. When they come over, the assumption is that they have come over with a wealth of benefit to the country/company so are put on a pedestal.

As a British born Ghanaian, it almost felt like people thought that you somehow failed in “abroad” and had come to Ghana as some kind of booby prize. Some kind of self-deportation. Then added to that, even though your name sounded similar and your face fit, the way you talk, walk, act, all set you miles apart from your home grown colleagues. It was difficult for me to gain trust, if I spoke out against what I saw was injustice I was labelled a “trouble maker”. I wasn’t a regular church goer so deemed a devil child. I spoke my mind so obviously I must smoke weed so they say. The truth is culturally, I was an outsider, and it was difficult for me to show that there was more to me than a cockney accent who preferred a Vodka and Tonic over a bottle of Malt.

That being said, I made some wonderful friends during my time, mainly people who had spent time abroad who understood that when I opened my mouth it was not to cause offence, or be malicious, I am just a little less reserved than the average Ghanaian female. Not only that, I made friends with people with some wonderful non Abrokiyre types through work and family and friends and of course this blog. Even to those who I didn’t always get on with, and probably may have offended through my blog or one of my flyaway comments, life is about improving yourself and you have always made me think twice as to what I can do to become the best I can be.

The funny thing is, that now I have returned, I have become a bit more reserved and a lot more Ghanaian. In turn my British colleagues think that I am too timid, it’s getting better but I can’t say I have any love or trust for most of these people, but I save that story for another day.

In the meantime having this time in Britain has given me time to reflect, evaluate and evolve. What have I learned, well firstly I don’t think I will survive another British winter so I am hoping that it will be my last. Secondly, I had a dream and I had a vision, it wasn’t about a man, or about being rich (although it does help), but it was about making a difference in Ghana. I didn’t know why or if I was ever going to do it, but I had 6 years to assess how, I made my mistakes and I learned from them (I hope). You may think I am crazy, I should take my pounds every month and live in civilised bliss, but I would rather at the very least die trying than to go to my grave wondering what if. So my time back here is to do just that, save and plan and hopefully who knows.

Until the next time

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More tales of Efia in Essex

They say that all black people look the same, I just proved today that that’s how we feel about white people too. I just went to give information to the wrong person, I am sure there will be a little bit of a bitch fest about me not being able to distinguish people (or remember the names of) in the office. Welcome to my world that’s all I can say.

There are a handful of black folk in my office but from the little I know of them, well put it this way, whereas I ticked “Black African” on the equality section of my application, they probably ticked “Black British”. I am very proud of my heritage and I am proud that for 6 years I called Ghana my home (even when folks gave me reason not to). I certainly don’t see myself settling back here for too long (simple reason, it’s too cold), I am not your quintessential black British rose and I stick out like a sore thumb.

I remember after being caught doing an illegal U-turn on the Tema motorway, I was berated by a police man “ignorance is no excuse to break the law, if you saw that other cars were driving off a bridge would you follow them”. He was right and I didn’t argue (for once) because ignorance is just no excuse, especially from people who I would expect should know better. My colleagues, as nice as she puts things, has managed to insult me and my people in every way shape and form, They probably haven’t met anyone like me, and I don’t mind educating you, but please don’t make assumptions and look at me to verify them, it’s really not a good look. Here are some examples:

  • On the subject of respect, I explained that Ghanaians are naturally respectful people, so my manager says, “so you were given respect without having to earn it” – no, I was given respect and gave respect because it is give and take not one person’s God given right.
  • I was asked if we played Rugby in Ghana, I said we are a footballing Nation, the response, I guess you can even play football anywhere, Rugby means playing in a field – no we don’t play Rugby because getting your head bashed in while chasing a ball just doesn’t do it for us
  • Further on the subject of Football, the comment was passed that “even a third division Premiership player would be a millionaire in Ghana” – Now where do I start. Firstly, we have millionaires from all walks of life, secondly, when was the last time England moved passed the first round in a World Cup??? As much as I support the England team in the world cup, 1966 was in the last century. I am just saying.
  • After asking me where I am from originally, people keep telling me that they know someone in Kenya, South Africa and have friends from the West Indies – Thanks for the information, I don’t know what to say about that. However if you want to know about Ghana, it’s in West Africa, not East Africa or the West Indies.
  • I have been asked if I speak French – It’s a former British Colony, I think that answers that question
  • I had mentioned that I had a house out there, is it big I asked, does it have a yard? – No, it is on a tree, like seriously, I think my little 2 bedroom is probably larger in space than your three up two down.
  • Do I eat Jamaican curry I have been asked, I guess every black person must eat Jamaican curry? – Well I have though
  • Do you eat spicy food – now I do, but I cannot speak for the population of my people, I think the Irish man across the road from me likes spicy food as well, does too, does that make him an African?

They are nice enough people, but it’s hard work and better to stay quiet, because it appears little old me is representing a whole nation.

3y3 As3m oo….

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If you’re nappy and you know it clap your hands..

Even though black people have been in the West for decades and are probably spend the largest amounts on hair products, history has shown that you could only purchase these products in “urban” areas. Back in the day that was Hackney, Dalston, Tottenham, Stratford, Camberwell, Peckham and Brixton but to name a few. Then it stretched out to Barking, Dagenham and Romford as we started moving further out. Today in 2015, there is at least one store in every area where you can buy black hair products.

I love to look good, but I really haven’t got time for fussing around with relaxers and spending time coming, brushing and making sure that the nappy bits look half decent. Additionally, on the day I arrived in this cold country, my hair started breaking so for this reason I weave it, braid it or simply throw on a wig. It saves time, I still feel good and it keeps my head warm.

A couple of weeks ago, I braided my hair and this is where my story starts. Firstly, my work colleagues think that I am too quiet. I don’t talk a lot firstly because I don’t feel like telling total strangers my life story, secondly, we have nothing in common, thirdly, I have trust issues and go buy the rule of trust no one until they prove they can be trusted. Lastly, I reiterate the second point.

The whole we have nothing in common was substantiated when I came in with my new hairdo. Now I am not saying that these ladies do not interact with black people, but I am guessing they don’t have any black friends. I must have spent the equivalent of a day explaining how my hair was done. The conversation went a little something like this.

Them: “oh, your hair is nice, did you do it yourself?”

Me: “thanks, no I went to a hair salon”.

Them: “so how is it done, is it your own hair?”

Me: “no, they are extensions it is braided with my own hair” (like seriously???)

Them: “so did it take long to do?”

Me: “a couple of hours”.

Them: “oh, wow, it’s lovely though, suits you”

Me: “thanks”.

Now the last time I had this type of conversation, I think I was in secondary school, and that’s understandable, as a school kid of a different culture, you are still learning, but 2015, like for real??? I have seen black people in this area but as I said, I think I am the only one that they have really interacted with, because they are forced to, because I work with them.

I wonder what they would do if I brought some Kenkey and shitto to work, it would blow their minds, and if I ate with my hands to boot (the only way really to eat Kenkey in my opinion), like I would be the topic of conversation for years to come.

In the meantime, I keep quiet and let them think what they want and answer their questions when they ask, you are never too old to learn something new I guess.

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A Newbies Guide to Essex

The closer you live to the Queen’s house at Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster, the more eloquent one’s comprehension of the English is. I live about an hour out, so although I do stumble with grammatical syntax, at least you can understand what I am saying (I hope).

Working in Essex, is like working in a different country, at times I need a translator to understand what my colleagues are saying and I know that they struggle to hear me. I spent my formative years learning English from pre-colonial Ghanaian parents and although the pronunciation of some things were a bit dodgy (e.g. Cucumber being pronounced Cocoomber). For the most part it was the Queen’s English and not the American/Jamaican/Eastenders type “slanging” I hear from the “yoof” of today.

So to aide me in my understanding of the indigenous Southenders, I have put together my own newbees guide to leaving amongst the Essex people.

Firstly, in the same way the Ashanti’s mix up their L’s and their R’s (e.g. Herro for Hello and play for pray), in Essex the speak with a silent t. So water becomes wa’er, and better becomes be’er.

Awigh’ is a greeting meaning hello, how are you.

Then “ou” and “ow” turns into an “a” so where I say “see you tomorrow” they will respond “ok see ya tomorra”.

If you hear the word “pukka”, it means good. Cheers as you probably know means thank you and aint it means isn’t it (same as the East London “innit”).

The word “sick” is used a lot, contrary to the Oxford English Dictionary this means that something is amazing.

Instead of saying “as well” or “in addition to”, the Essex people abbreviate this to “un’all”.

H’s are also silent e.g. E, for he and ate for hate, so you need to be aware of the entirety of the sentence so as not to get lost in translation.

Eeyar is used to get someone’s attention, especially when in a large group so as to get everyone’s attention in one shot.

“E go’ the righ’ ump” – refers to a person who is rather annoyed.

“Minging” is used to point out one’s distaste for something or someone (I believe this is used in the North of England a lot as well).

You must think I’m a righ’ mug means “you must think that I am stupid”.

“She was well jel” – means she was really jealous.

Be’ave – means “be serious”.

If someone is “well minted”, it means that they are very wealthy.

A “gobby cow” refers to someone with a big mouth.

A “leg”, is an abbreviation of legend, refers when someone thinks highly of you particularly when you have done something to help out.

The Culture:

Everyone seems to have a dog

Everyone appears to have a tattoo or a lot of tattoos.

Everyone seems to own a pair of converse trainers.

A lot of people started reproducing once they hit puberty (99% of the one’s I met anyway).

It is not unusual for my Essex brethren to drop the “F” bomb once in a while, I am not so offended by this, but I hear a lot of parents use this word around their young children. I am not judging but if that child grows up to be a hooligan, I won’t be surprised.

So if you come to UK fresh and find yourself out of London and into the heart of Essex, I hope this helps communicate with your Southern neighbours.

Until the next time

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Ghanaian funerals UK

As my Ghanaian friends know, when someone dies, after a week, they sit down with the relatives of the deceased, where they find out what happened, when they will be buried etc…, on this day, people usually bring over drinks, a crate of beer, a crate of soft drinks as a token and then usually 40 days after this there is the burial (depending on the status of the deceased, if it is Ghana it will also depend on the schedule of those abroad).

On the day of the funeral itself, the well-wishers would donate money, a nice way of ensuring that the relatives aren’t overburdened by the costs.
Back in the day, when a relative died abroad, on their return, there would be a little celebration for those here that couldn’t make it, they would hire a community hall and it would be like a mini reception. Again, those here would make a monetary donation, the relatives have had to catch a plane, probably paid most of the funeral costs, and all the other costs.
Nowadays it is the norm to have a “funeral before the actual funeral”. Before the body is taken out of the fridge, before the scenes of over the top crying by the graveside and before tickets are even booked to get to Ghana, a hall is hired and people are gathered in their black attire for a funeral. Now, the underlying factor for these “UK” funerals is to recoup some of the money spent back home, let’s call a spade a spade. However, if it is after the fact, I can understand that it is done under the guise of celebrating the life of the person with those who couldn’t make it. However, before the burial, to me, (and it is purely my opinion), the one week is enough. Go bury your loved one and account for it later. It just seems all a bit too blatant in my opinion.

A family friend died back in December, he was a chief in his home town and so for whatever reason, he is going to be buried next month. So there he is, in the fridge, his wife lives here in the UK, a couple of weeks ago, we attended “his funeral”, two days later she was on a plane off to GH. Was the funeral a means for us to say goodbye or to build up capital for the plane fare + other costs, who knows, you decide. The other week, a friend of my dad’s mother’s funeral, he goes out to GH next week, maybe I am looking at things back to front, or maybe I just need to accept this change.

So that’s how things are done nowadays, either way, death in the Ghanaian community is a very expensive business, especially if you live abroad. So I guess I can’t blame one for cashing in where they can. After this, its three days of mourning and people drinking on your account and crying a lot then drinking some more, plus you have to feed some of them too. So what can I say, apart from thinking maybe I should move to Kumasi and become a funeral director, now that’s where I could really cash in!
Well back in the diaspora and learning something new each day, so if I find out anything new, I will share it with you. I have been invited to go speed dating so if I try that out, I will let you know…

Until the next time…

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