Making a mockery out of a language

 

I was born in the late 70s and back then it wasn’t cool to be African. Although my parents spoke their language in the home, they didn’t speak it to me or my sisters except when my mum was angry and cussing us out for doing something wrong. In my household we speak Twi (spoken by the Ashanti’s), it is part of the Akan family (there are a lot of versions and still learning the different types still).

I learned the language by hanging around my dad and his friends, and piecing things together until I started to hear full conversations. My motivation, I could always tell when smother was talking about me but never knew exactly what she was saying and I just wanted to know.

Learning to hear the language was quite easy, but speaking it was always the problem. With my cockney accent and no one to speak it with me, it was always going to come out a bit funny. It is coherent but you can tell that obroni ‘ka twi. At the age of 40 (yes, I have finally said goodbye to my 30’s), I am at a stage where I don’t really care what you think of my ability to speak the language, if I feel like speaking it, I will.

It’s quite funny because when anyone asks me now, they say with pride that yes, I can understand and speak it, my sisters on the hand. They look confused and say, “ahh, I don’t know why”. I can’t say anything but in my head I think “crock of sh***”, but I too smile and shrug my shoulders.

As a British born Ghanaian understand why my younger and older counterparts are reluctant to speak it, in my younger days I was that person. In fact there are quite a few reasons. Now it is cool to be Ghanaian, hey there’s a lot more of us in the new millennium then there was 40 years ago, plus a lot more non-Ghanaians are travelling to Ghana so learning the language is not something that we don’t want to do.

The first reason is, just like French, Spanish and all the other languages out there, unless you have someone to speak it with, how are you going to get it. Even now, it is only due to living in Ghana for all those years that my vocabulary has become advanced as it is (in England, the language is a kind of hybrid of twi and English but going to somewhere such as Kumasi you get to hear the language in its purest form). I remember when I was about 10, I had just come back from Ghana for the first time and I was just so excited that I had learnt all these new words. I told my dad that I wasn’t going to speak English at home anymore. My dad laughed, and whenever I attempted to speak twi, he would answer back in English. Smother, well she was told me why I am I bothering myself. So in the end I gave up.

The other reason, and even now I get it, but as I said, care not. I’ve experienced it and seen it done to others, when those that know better end up laughing and saying “oh look at the British trying to speak Twi”. It really used to bother me especially when the provider of the mockery is someone old enough better.

The other day, a 50 year old preacher man laughed at me because I pronounced something wrong (if you don’t get the tone right, you may say something which has a completely different meaning). I had to tell him off, that at least I am trying, I didn’t get angry but did have to put him straight. Now this man, well a typical Ashanti man and you know about them getting their R’s and their L’s the wrong way round. This is a man who spent the whole of sermon pronouncing Goliath as Goreeath. Did I laugh? Do I laugh when someone pronounces a blender as a Brenda? Do I laugh when asked if I would like to watch the Terry? Finally when someone says that something is “grolious”, I know they mean glorious.

So to you who wander why it seems we are too shy or don’t want to understand/speak the language this is most likely why. To those who mock those of us trying, all I can say is people in glass houses.

 

 

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A letter to the President of Ghana

On the 7th January 2017, history was made. After two failed attempts, Nana Addo Dandwa Akufo-Addo was sworn into the highest office in the land of Ghana.

I have to admit, I was on the bandwagon that thought he should give up, I thought you’ve done well, you’ve made your mark, let a new person come and try his luck. I am actually glad that I am wrong though, it just goes to show, it doesn’t matter what your position, perseverance and belief in oneself is all you need to get to where you want to. He’s not only leaving his legacy of being the president, but he’s illustrated what it’s like not to give up on not to give a **** about what people say you should do.

So I was thinking, if I were to meet him, what would we talk about?

First I would have to address corruption. Public sector corruption, well that’s a given, he knows he has a lot to do there, the last government were the only ones growing fat, while the rest of us were “growing” lean. However, I am also talking about in the private sector. In particular, the multinationals. They may not be directly corrupt but they do use agencies to cut corners.

I would also question whether what they are bringing into the country is commensurate with what they are taking out. I know the cost of living is cheaper in Ghana (or supposed to be) but I still don’t understand how a company paying $4,000 for a role in their own country pays $500 in Ghana. Then to add insult to injury, sell their same products at the cost equivalent to what they would get it in their home country. I think there should be a minimum wage specific to multinationals.

Then there is the “galamsey”. I remember listening to the radio, an Indian man went to the police to report that he’s driver had made off with his gold. No honey, it is not your gold, it belongs to the people of Ghana. I don’t understand how people who are not citizens of the country can send out a local man for pittance to risk his life for gold that will be pocketed by the non-citizen. That needs to stop right away.

Another issue, electricity and the electricity corporation of Ghana. A washing machine, is considered a luxury, a Bentley is an extravagant luxury. Electricity however, is a necessity. Businesses have folded due to the irritant that is “dumsor”. The last government left a huge debt, I think it’s close to $1m, instead of paying their bill, they left a lot of excuses. I can’t see the ECG turning off the power to the Flagstaff House, so hoping the bill gets paid.

Education, this was a big issue for our newly elected president. I think it needs to go one step further to look to the quality of education and not just the quantity. I have met some of the most intelligent, smart and savvy people who barely went to high school, I also university graduates who didn’t have an original thought in their head. Education is more than passing exams, it’s about thinking and being curious, asking questions and seeing different points of view. I hope that it is not just about getting these kids educated but getting them educated right.

These are just a few of my thoughts. In reality, we will see how it goes. I do have high hopes. Unlike many before him, Akufo-Addo comes from political royalty so for me, I see someone who is actually looking to improve the situation of Ghana and not just line his pockets. As long as he pays attention to the people around him and help the people he is being paid to serve, we could see Ghana growing back to her former glory. Time will tell. In the meantime, I wish him all the best.

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Merry 2017

It’s rather late, but happy new year one and all (better late than never).

This year I am saying goodbye to my 30’s so I have started to write my bucket list which doubles up as my new year’s resolutions (whichever comes first). As this is a two for one, I am not going with the little resolutions, lose weight, and give up on the wine (haha). No this is about thinking big.

First on my list is to meet the President of Ghana. Yes I said it and I have put it out there in the universe, and probably the easiest on my list.

I am going to get married, I have sat at too many weddings, smiled, cried (tears of joy, well half anyway) and spent money I don’t have on clothes, bags, shoes, gifts, it’s about time people do this for me. Only one problem, the guy is not available yet, but last I checked, God is still in the miracle business so I am keeping the faith.

Which leads me to the next on list. The baby making opportunity has moved on from slim but not exactly none, and no, I am not going to go out and have a baby just for the sakes of having one, I could have done that at 16. If I don’t get married, then I don’t have babies, I am fine with that, smother on the other hand, I can’t speak for her, but I set my bar and I am not lowering it.

Last on my list (for now), is that I cannot spend another winter in this cold. It is minus degrees at the moment and predicted snow. It’s been in the works ever since I got back, but at the same time, I have been building my experience in supply chain (which is going quite well if I ignore my boss). Time to start putting plans into action.

I also plan to write my memoirs, not because I am looking for a New York Times bestseller, but because my memory is shocking. I don’t know if I think about too much at the same time, or it is old age, but I need some type of reference

These are my starting points, I am sure I will add or subtract as the year goes on, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s not impossible.

I hope everyone has a fantastic new year filled with many, many blessings.

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Church Matters Part 1

As you know, I live a boring life these days which means I don’t get out, don’t get to people watch and no stories to tell. Then I sat in a church meeting on Sunday and thought to myself, I have enough material to write a whole sitcom. So here it is, part 1 of my series of Church Matters.

I’ve been made a leader, when I tell people, they roll on the floor laughing, but hey, every sinner has a future and every saint has a past.

In today’s episode, I want to talk about our first church board meeting (being a leader gives automatic membership to the board). We are in a bit of a pickle at the moment, as the objective was to add 100 new members and to have our own place of worship. We are currently subletting a building which allows us just the 2 hours every Sunday, Sunday school consists of a few tables in the corner and well we could do with moving to somewhere that they don’t kick you out before you have even said the final grace.

We have increased probably by 6 people, taking the total to approximately 45 people (that’s total members, not the board), I think our first priority is to find innovative ways of bringing new people into the church, however one of the Elder’s felt otherwise.

The Elder

I am going to refer to him as The Elder, I don’t know which church he belonged to in Ghana but he started coming to this one probably around the same time I joined. He doesn’t preach much but when he is given the mantle, his sermons always seem to be about “giving” to the point where I am wondering what his motives are. I don’t want to speak negative of him, but he is giving off a vibe that tells me he’s looking for a pay day. I hope I am wrong but he’s not yet proved me otherwise.

If I first go back couple of weeks ago. Pastor asked us to say what we thought the weaknesses of the church were and what was preventing us from growing. The Elder brought up the fact that we did not have our own premises (fair enough), then he went on to talk randomly about “giving”. Now even though we are few, we give, the church needs a new TV, we contribute. We want to advertise, we contribute. Furthermore, these are not people doing cushy 9 to 5s making £30K, 40, 50+ a year. Some people come straight from their morning cleaning, come to church and then off to their afternoon jobs.

The meeting went on for a bit but then we got thrown out for the next church service so we had to continue the next week. The meeting started around 8am, I got there at 8.15, turns out it was a board meeting not a leaders meeting (all so confusing). After a lot of talking, The Elder gets up to talk about his 2020 vision, or vision 2020, I can’t remember. However, he says that we should pick a tier, platinum, gold, silver or bronze. Platinum members should contribute £1,500 a year (or just over 100 p3 in his words) or you could buy into the bronze package for I believe it was £600 a year. Then he went on again to talk about giving and now added that some of us are more blessed than others so those people should “give more”.

Now contributions towards the cost of the church is not the issue here, my issue is one this elitist structure, then can people really afford it and most importantly we are not there yet. Once again, we need more solid members, we are trying to run before we can even crawl.

Then he said something about he has never been to a church where you don’t leave a cash offering at the altar. I’m thinking, “Does this guy want to charge me for my blessings now as well”.

The lady behind me thought the same thing, she jumped up and basically asked him why was he trying to bully us (by the way, there was no vote, we were told to buy into this so that everyone else will). As she brought up other ideas such as gift aid and good old fashioned fundraising, I could see The Elder’s eye’s glaze over like he wasn’t getting what he came for out of this meeting. In the end he just said good point, hammered home his point some more and went to sit down to the sound of crickets.

I’m not trying to be a hater, I just think we need to get our priorities in order because it’s a bit like going from a mail-room boy to a CEO without doing the graft in between.

 

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10 funny comments from Ghanaian “family”

Hi folks, long time, I am going to say it now, life is boring, it’s work, home and church for me. My new year’s resolution is to get a life. The weather has turned cold and all I do is go home on a Friday and resurface on a Monday to start my week except for the few hours on a Sunday when I am in church.

It’s been a year since I joined my church and I have even surprised myself that I am still as active as I am. I love my people, but going to a mainly Ghanaian church means more “aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters” to give unsolicited advice/comment about my life. I have taken to applying my work laugh A LOT around my new found family, (you know the fake one that you give you give to your boss while having visions of ripping of their face). I have put together the top 10 commentary just for laughs, some of you may have heard them too, and what I would like to say in response (it’s all just for laughs oo). It’s mainly about my marital status, my weight and my authenticity as a Ghanaian.

  1. The most popular one of the bunch “so why are you not married yet, what are you waiting for”, because obviously I walk past that long queue of gentlemen callers and simply decided to knock them all back;
  1. About a month later – “so you are still single, we will pray over it”, God is either thinking her again, or they are lying;
  1. “You look much younger than your age, it’s a shame, I would have given you my son, but you are a bit old” I’ve seen your son, even if he was my age, I would say no; 
  1. “I have a friend I will introduce you to”, I say no more, read my piece titled I want a God-fearing man;
  1. “If it weren’t for my wife, I would have married you”, please thank the good Lord that you are already married because no you wouldn’t have been with me my friend ;
  1. “You look like you are living good, and not in a good way” I know I have put on weight, but glass houses and all that ;
  1. “Oh you have lost weight, you look much better now, you were getting too fat”, yes it’s been a year, get over it, and while I think about it and you are still fat, so now what; 
  1. (Speaking to the person next to me) – “Does she understand twi?”, now this gets my blood boiling on so many levels. First of all, if you are going to ask me that question, ask me, and only ask me that question when we have established some kind of friendship. If the language I speak or don’t speak is a requirement of having any type of conversation with you, I really don’t want to talk to you. In fact don’t talk to me unless it’s absolutely necessary as you’ve pissed me off; 
  1. “Do you understand twi?”, do you understand English? It doesn’t annoy me as much as See above. Don’t ask me that question when you don’t even say Good morning to me when you see me; 
  1. “Have you been to Ghana before”, I have not asked your immigration status so why do you ask me if I have been to Ghana.
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I want a God-Fearing Man

Work has taken over my life these days, my boss feels that if she isn’t working me every minute of my 35 hours a week, then I am not working hard enough. She however spends most of her days on the internet giving us Facebook updates and giving us the latest news from the BBC.

My only day of socialisation is actually Sunday at church, I do enjoy it, it’s not one of those that you go in with £100 and end up owing an additional £500 because you are obliged to give a donation for the harvest, fundraising day, pledge etc. Two hours, and one collection, take in the word and go on your merry way. There is a mix of people, mainly married couples with young families, there’s not that many people but it has a family vibe.

At first, nobody used to really talk to me apart from Hello and Goodbye, I think it is because the people there are almost all Ghanaians and with English not being their first (or even second or third), speaking brofu can being tiresome (I say this in jest). However as time has gone on and I am actually going there regularly, I am starting to make friends. I know have extended brothers, sisters, mum’s and dad’s and you know with Ghanaians, once you are part of them, they are all up in your business, in a nice way but they feel that they have to somehow fix your situation. First item on the agenda, find me a husband.

One “brother” took it upon himself to find me a guy. I feel like such a bitch for what I am about to say, but I cannot tell a lie, I can only be totally honest, I think that everyone has their path and some are using the same road as you, others are using a totally different route, but just because you have one thing in common, it doesn’t mean that you are compatible.

This brother set me up with a guy who I am going to call Adam. Adam lives in Tema and is a tailor, not your Ozwald Boateng type of tailor, the guy who you would call when you need an outfit on the cheap tailor. Now don’t get me wrong, a man’s profession isn’t a deal breaker, but as much as I like roadside waakye, I also like to eat out once in a while, and although I am not a frivolous spender, I have hustled in Ghana and I don’t want to go through that again. Furthermore, I am in no way boasting, but I am doing ok for myself, not rich, but not wanting for anything and I am at a point in my life that even though I would love the white wedding with a reception at a swanky hotel and the mini me’s, if it doesn’t happen, I have survived this far on my own, so I need someone to add value to what I have. I don’t think he can do that (before you jump in, read on to make judgement).

When I saw his picture on WhatsApp, well put it this way, I thought to myself he needs to have a fantastically brilliant personality for this to go anywhere. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for someone stunningly attractive, but there needs to be something that one can say “ok, I can work with this”. There was nothing except crickets and tumbleweed. However, my brother had stuck his neck out so I had a conversation with him. His English, well, not the best, probably as good as my twi, plus he kept saying “please” at the beginning of a sentence, “please, how are you”, “please I am fine”, “please how is your day going”. I don’t boast to have the best grammar, and I know that the akan language is very polite and so they do say please a lot, but in the English language, it just sounds like you are begging. I know a lot of Ghanaians, born and bred in Ghana, and I know that they know not to use the word please at the beginning of EVERY sentence so no, even if he managed to change my mind about the points above, conversation was just awkward and annoying. He also kept referring to me as babe. We don’t know each other like that, even when my sister’s call me babes, I am like “who is your babe”.

The third problem was him calling me on a Monday morning. One thing you don’t do is call on a Monday, send a WhatsApp, send a text, but don’t call. My day is filled with meetings, more meetings, and catching up on emails. I don’t have time to talk, I did however answer the call to say I was in a meeting. A few seconds later, he sends me a message saying “why you hide yourself from me”. I am working. You need to understand that or you need to find someone who has a less taxing job which means that they are ever ready to pick up your call.

The last straw was a conversation that occurred just before I had to block him. I had to, it was all becoming too freaky for me.  So this guy, has only seen my picture, we haven’t really had much of a conversation, he doesn’t know what I do for a living (apart from that I have meetings on Monday morning). He doesn’t know my likes, dislikes, that I do like a glass of wine, or two sometimes three. He says that this brother has told him that I am a God fearing and respectful person and that he sees good things for the both of us. He then asked how we are going to meet, nothing about buying me a ticket though, (yes I could buy my own ticket, but I am not the one asking for a date). I told him not to count his chickens before they are hatched. I think that phrase went over his head.

He then says “I love you ok”, I said you have to get to know each other before you can say you love someone. Like will you take a bullet for me, would you donate a kidney if I need one? Like seriously, I know I am one of the world’s worst romantics but even I wouldn’t be using those words without even knowing a person’s last name. So yes, I had to block him, it was all becoming a bit unbecoming and in his mind, we had our common friend God so surely it was meant to be. Yes it is one of the best qualities in finding a mate, but there are so many other variables to finding a compatible mate.

So as much as my brother tried, this is not the one.

So now that’s me, back on the single’s train.

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My brush with the law

As you all know, my house in Ghana was burgled some years back (twice), the first time I went to the police, the second time I didn’t  bother. My expectations of Ghana police are low and so all I can advise to anyone who is a victim of such crime, get adequate theft insurance cover (can’t tell you how well that works though). I have also been on the wrong side of the Ghanaian law, not a serious offence but know full well that 9 times out of 10, the only reasons why the jails are full is because they had no means to pay their way out of it (in my opinion).

In the UK, my expectations were quite high, I say were because they have managed to change my mind in one simple incident.

Amongst all the other issues I encountered on my return, I managed to become a victim of crime. This time, identity theft, some clever person decided to use my details to obtain a credit card and a mobile phone. For the mobile phone, I know exactly who it is, but I don’t know at what point the details were transferred into my name. I am guessing when this person decided to upgrade the phone and then leave me with a £142 bill and a bailiff’s summons for non-payment. My gut feeling is that this same person took out a credit card and decided to go on a jolly on my expense leaving me with a £1,500 fee. Looking at the modus-operandi I am fairly certain that this person knowing that I was out of the country used his criminal means to enjoy life at my expense and it is because of this person’s criminal activities that I cut all ties with him years ago.

However, this is not a blog about my criminal ex, but my dealings with the law. On Sunday after church, I went to the local police station before heading home to report the crime. A very nice young lady behind the counter wasn’t really listening to me but told me that it would be wise to go to my local police station in case I had to go back for any reason.

So yesterday I left work and thought I would pass by the police station and report it, foolishly I thought that I would be seen to as quick as I had been on the Sunday, but I am guessing that there is less crime where I went to report the incident the first time. I got there and there were two reception points. I was probably about forth in the queue and 20 minutes later I found myself at the front. Then as luck would have it, after the person in front of me left to go the black lady behind got up. Not only did she get up, she put her hand up like “oh no you don’t I am out of here”.

So there I was, two counters but only one person filling out the reports. The man who was being seen to must have gone through a whole lot because not only was he narrating what was a very long story but he was also physically demonstrating what was happening. It was all through a sound through screen so all I could see was this guy walking up and down and throwing his around while a very bored officer was typing very slowly. I could tell the officer was bored because his chin was resting on one hand and he was using the other hand to type with one finger taking 5 minutes to type one letter.

Every 5 minutes an officer would come out asking for random people, then she would ask if anyone had come to sign on for their bail, then she would go back to whatever she was doing. There was one officer who would come out and look at the queue then go back to doing nothing, a few officers in the back chatting, meanwhile there was a queue going out the door,

After an hour, I just had to go, the guy being seen to, did not look like he was going to leave until he went over every detail of his incident which was probably the same length of time as the actual incident itself. It was getting late and I had to eat something before I passed out, so I may try again on a day when I have nothing to do the whole day.

Alas, I would have probably been seen to quicker if I had gone across the road, shoplifted a couple of products and got myself arrested.

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