Looking for a house

The last week, I have been happliy exploring a new world - the real estate business. My bf and I would like to rent a house in our town, preferrably on the northern side close both to his job and to the motorway to Accra and my job. We would like to have at least three bedrooms (this is how you measure house size in Ghana, number of bedrooms)to accomodate 1. ourselves, 2. a couple of visitors, and 3.a relative that is to live with us and help out in the house alongside his studies which we would be paying for (Ghanaian CSN...). I would like a garden in which I'd grow papaya, banana(!) and maybe mint for Mojitos and he would like a safe spot to park. He would like a kitchen that is clean and a walk-in storeroom, I would like to be close to a main road so that I can catch a taxi and go to town myself.

When shopping for a house one is sadly apt to follow one's feelings instead of one's reason. I have seen all kinds of houses: small, huge, dirty, pink, non-completed, attatched, cute, dull, and even one with a tiny indoor pool! We have talked about preferences and budget. Still, what one remembers when trying to make an informed descision is how the light fell into that one livingroom, how that next-neighbor seemed so friendly, the idea of that I could do morning yoga on that rooftop (ok, lets for now disregard from that I am a late sleeper), the nice floor tiles in the master bedroom, and how a table on that verandah could be the perfect place to eat dinner.

Today, we have an appointment to see a house in community 11 (perfect location) with four bedrooms. I'll keep you posted.

When? Why? Where?

One of the most difficult things to get used to here in far away Ghana is the apparently different approach to time.

It is not as simple as many Europeans think, “that Africans are always late”, instead it is something closer to “Africans are always flexible”. They deal with non-complete or vague information, waiting, delays, contingency and the likes a hell of a lot better than the average Swede…
I have three examples from work.
1. The most common thing people tell you is “I am coming, eh!” meaning that they came to your office to tell you that sooner or later they will be returning (When? Why? Where?).
2. Like when I ask my co-worker about when people will be getting days off for going on a weekend retreat next Saturday and he cheerfully(!) replies: “we’ll come back Sunday evening and then we go to work on Monday again, no days off!” (What? I work on a weekend and there’s no compensation?)
3. When I got to work today around 8.30 am three people are sitting in the lunch room enjoying a meal that to me looks like lunch (damn, what time is it? You break after 30 minutes of work? And it’s not even time for coffee break!)

And, sadly, when I get to the lunch room around 10 (coffee) and later at 12.30 (lunch), I now expect to sit there alone.

Update: Just came back from a two hour lunch with a hilarious and nice collegue...so, here's a work example of that flexible is also nice, it does allow for two hour breaks when the moment is right.

Photo: Isaac Kweku Adu

Confident Conference Crashing

Why do people want to crash parties, when it is CONFERENCES that have it all? Useful information, coffe and cake, beautiful people, drinks and give-aways, fun power-point presentations given by Americans, as well as those contacts you need to move forward in life?
Next time a cool conference is in town, here's what you do:
• Go to the venue on day 2 of the conference, or after lunch on day 1, then security and staff is more relaxed.
• Be dressed up, but conservatively, don’t wear anything that attracts special attention.
• Wear a big scarf around your neck. It could be hiding the conference badge you..ehrm.. do not have. If someone still should ask for your non-existing badge, maybe in order to let you in to the lunch buffet, you have accidentally left your badge in your office. So typical. Sigh.
• If possible, follow the crowd. If crowd is unavailable, walk confidently to the information desk; ask of the room for the 'morning/afternoon plenary session'.
• Network as much as you can, but don’t give business cards - take cards and promise to email or call (then you can do the screening).
• Ask a question when the floor is being opened for Q&A, no one will think an intruder does that.
• Always use your real name and organization, otherwise future contacts will be difficult.
• If an important person, like say the Vice President of Ghana, comes by, be sure to shake hands. Maybe even smile.
For more daring people:

• Thank the organizers for a wonderful event using their first name (look at their badge). “Dear Margret, I’m Kajsa Hallberg, thank you for a great couple of days!”

For less daring people or people who plan ahead:

• Call or email the organizers in advance explaining that you are interested in the conference, but you/your organization cannot afford it. Do they let NGO’s in for free? Do they need help preparing the venue/the conference folders/the coffe breaks?

And remember, it is easier to be forgiven than allowed.

When will power crisis be solved?

In Ghana, as I have reported earlier, there is a power crisis. It is very appearant in the everyday lives of Ghanaians because of the power sharing exercise in place - every third day the power is turned off for 12 hours. Yesterday however, a governmnet representative had some reassuring news to the Ghanaian public:
The deadline for complete stoppage of the load shedding is September 31. Now what we are hoping, and there are no guarantees yet, is that as indicators put in place come up, we will be able to review the load shedding and change the schedule before the complete end of the load shedding.

The opposition was not late to note that there is only 30 days in the month of September…

Poetry and rain

I am reading the wonderful vivid stories compiled in the book by the Danish baroness Karen Blixen who came to live in Kenya in 1913 and stayed for almost 20 years. In the book, beautiful insights of life at a coffee plantation, masai people and the politics of first world war are interspersed with shockingly racist accounts by a baroness who was not only a writer, artist and safari hunter, but also a slave owner.
In this section she tell her kikuyu slaves about rhymes and poetry and they ask her to continue. The chapter is very typically named "Negros and verse".

One night out on the corn fields, when we had harvested the corn...I started for my own amusement to speak to my workers, most of them very young, in verse in Swahili. There was no meaning to the verses, they were made up for the sake of the rhyme:
Na penda chumbe (The bulls like salt)

It soon attracted the interest of my workers, they gathered around me...

-Speak again, speak about rain.
Why they thought that poetry sounded like rain, I do not know. It must have been an expression for approval, because rain is in Africa always longed for and welcomed.

-Karen Blixen in Out of Africa

Steven Kofi Ferguson


I thought I’d introduce you to some of my new friends. First out is Steven Kofi Ferguson – a handsome guy of 27 years who drive me to and from work every day in his taxi. He is related to my boyfriend in a complicated way that makes my boyfriend Steven’s “son” (don’t ask). He has a good sense of humor, order and time. He is a religious man with patience that is as vast as the desert. Every morning he picks me up at my house around 8. We greet in Fante
- “EwuraAma – wo ho te sen den?”
- “ Boko, wo ntso Steven, wo e?”
And he asks me (still in Fante) what I have eaten the day before and chuckles at my attempts to reply. Then off we go. The ride to my workplace takes about 25 minutes, a little more on the way back due to traffic, and most of the time is spent on the motorway that connects the harbor town of Tema in which I and Steven live and Accra, Ghana’s capital where I work.

The ride on the motorway is smooth, I have gotten used to both that running people cross almost everywhere on the two-laned motorway and that some cars leave behind smoke that could kill you if you inhaled at that moment. So, it’s a smooth ride, perfect for conversations. We talk about music, Steven likes country, international gospel, reggae and hip-life, which is a development of Ghanaian high-life music that bloomed in the 60ies mixed with hip-hop and electronical instruments. We talk about religion, Steven goes to church twice a week and like many other Ghanaians express his religion through banners, idioms and invitations to his church. Today, he asked me “So EwuraAma, what do you do on Sundays?”

In Ghana, taxis are highly personalized by the driver since he (never a woman) often owns the car. Many of the cars have a message, more often religious than not, written across the back window. We discuss what would be a good choice for Steven to write across his window. He is torn between “By His grace” and “Time is money”. Steven drives his car 6 days a week, from around 7 am until the sun sets at 6pm.

We also talk about family, we both have three siblings and we live with large families. And we talk a lot about relationships and try to find answers to the eternal questions. Are men or women more jealous, why do many white women like rastafari men, how to best ask someone out, why girls in all countries sometimes give out fake numbers, why men in all countries should respect women. Yesterday we together explored the fine art of writing love letters (you there, write one today!)

I feel very fortunate to have a private driver - I feel like a princess! Or ambassador! But it is an even greater joy to have made a new friend.
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Tranzizzel this!

What a white girl can do by using gizoogle. Kudos to Petite Anglaise who discovered it first.

A child returns

So yesterday I went to the beautiful village of Ekumpoano together with 25 trafficked children for a reunification ceremony with their parents. It wasn't only kids, parents and me there but IOM staff, journalists from TV3 and Joy FM, policemen, the Minister of Women and Childrens affairs,local MPs and municipal politicians, the Chief of Ekumpoano ( a surprisingly young,goodlooking guy)and probably over 1000 villagers.

The returning children, many smallish due to malnutrition and hard work, had been sold by their poor parents to work in the fishing industry in Ghana and were three months ago rescued by IOM and sent to rehabilitation. Now they were to be returned to their communities.

It was a hot day and we were late. The white bus with the kids stopped in an alley and kids, blue bags and bottles of water filled the village square. The ceremony started with an opening prayer 3 hours later than it said on paper (and probably only I believed). I thought it was a very good idea to have an acctual ceremony to mark this 'second chance' event in these 25 childrens lives. Through the rescue program, the kids will recieve free schooling and supplies which will make them more likely to finish primary school than their peers in the village.

Still, the ceremony made me think about central problems with aid. Where do we start? By giving some children a second start? What about the 500 children watching the event living with equally poor parents (read:mothers - since the fathers often are absent)? What did the villagers think of the ceremony (half in English, half in local language Fante) - educational on human trafficking and childrens rights or that it was a fun day when some big cars came to the village? Is it fair to raise these issues and not come with an alternative?

After the ceremony the invited guests and IOM staff were given something to eat and drink. When I walked back to the car, kids and old women asked me for money saying they were hungry.

Here's an article from an earlier reunification ceremony.
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Finally rain

Naming this blog Rain in Africa was of course a bit silly, even though it in my ears sounded good,but silly since it adds to the common misunderstanding of that "there-s-nothing-in-Africa-not-even-rain". But then again, when the anticipated rain (Ghana normally goes in to the rain period in the beginning of April) finally fell this weekend I just felt it nevertheless was a good decision to mention the rain in the title. Because of the scent of rain. Because of its promises. And because there is acctually A LOT of rain in Africa.

Also, some other "rain" or good news: UN reports that Ghana is one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to reach the first Millenium Development Goal, halving hunger, well in time ahead of deadline which is set to 2015.


Those of you who know me well have maybe come to know I love taking pictures. I also love showing them to people...unfortunately everyone seems to be really tired after like 10 pictures. Why is that? Anyways, there are a few exceptions to the rule. The most prominent exeption being that when you are travelling people have more patience for watching my pics. That is also why I now have decided to again share with you (ungrateful) people.
The collage was made with picasa and the pictures are also presented - side by side - on my homepage. Click on "photos" and "Tema".

Mama Obruni

The African saying "It takes a village to raise a child" is well-known even in Sweden, but the effects of it were not known to me. Every adult about the same age as the parent is regarded as a parent, hence to the children in my house and in the neighboring houses I am "Mama Obruni" or mother-white person.

It is heart-warming to be called Mama by a child you have just come to know. But I have decided to enjoy the moment and be the generous kind of parent so "Children, who wants candy?"

In the picture I am standing in an alley next to our house and neighbor girl Nana is hiding behind me.

Flash me!

A big difference in the Ghanaian everyday life since I last was here 2,5 years ago is that now a lot more people are in possession of a mobile phone. The development is much like what I remember from Sweden in the mid 1990ies, in a very short period of time a cell phone went to being extremely costly and a unique accessory to an ordinary must-have. The Ghanaian phone company Areeba let’s you buy credits from as little as 3000 cedis (25 cents, or 3 SEK) and that amount is valid for 3 minutes in Ghana and 2 minutes outside Ghana. Affordable. International rates that are a lot better than in any other country I have visited.

However the phones themselves are as costly as in Sweden. Still people in urban Ghana carry cellphones very similar to those in urban Sweden or many times even nicer ones than in Sweden.

Since still half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, the use of very nice phones leads to stealing and articles like these can be read daily in the Ghanaian news.

The phone revolution in Africa also translates into possibilities, specifically in banking. Most people in Africa does not have a bank account, therefore remittances sent from relatives abroad must go through expensive services that often cost more than 10% of the amount being sent. If money can be sent straight to a phone that means less transaction costs and (hopefully) more money for development. More on this here.
Already, there are some banking that can be done, for instance can you get a "sikatext", or money text message on your current balance in your account (if you have one). Banking over cell phone is already big in South Africa and japan and can maybe become so in Ghana too.

Oh, and in case you wonder… “flash me” means “call me so that I get your number”.

In the picture Josephine is using her new phone while doing laundry.

You've got mail!

Today I recieved some mail from Sweden. Not that I do not love the Internet and all it's possibilities, I do.

But still. Real mail. It feels really sweet. Let me share with you what the package from my friend E contained. There was some folders on fair trade(my friend E never misses an opportunity to share her views on this topic), then there was two wrapped gifts. On one it said - "to open when you feel sad" and on the other one "to open when the patriarchy gets to you". So super nice.

Today, I will find something to send straight back to you, E.


The avian flu has arrived in Ghana. The first cases, none affecting humans, were discovered in a chicken farm in my hometown of Tema. According to BBC what one has to do now is avoid contact with domesticated chicken."Humans catch the disease through close contact with live infected birds. Birds excrete the virus in their faeces, which dry and become pulverised, and are then inhaled." However, I was surprised to read I can continue to eat chicken. "Experts say avian flu is not a food-borne virus, so eating chicken is safe."

Some days ago we were discussing this topic in my house.
Me: So last time I was here a rooster woke me up every day. Now, I see no chicken in your henhouse. Do you have any chicken nowadays?
Mother-in-law: No, my daughter says because of the flu we shouldn't have chickens. So I only have one.

Maybe I have to talk my mother-in-law into letting that hen go.

Indoors news

Today I started my interning position with IOM which meant 8 hours in an air-conditioned environment, aaaaah how lovely it was. I realized I really like Ghana, but the tropical climate can really be too much. It was just wonderful to be a bit cold, my mind works better. I was given a huge pile of materials to go through and tomorrow my first assignment will be further described and started! Judging from what I have experienced so far, my work will be very interesting. And performed in 21 degrees celcius.

When researching the web on the projects of IOM Accra, I discovered Oprah beat me to it, see her work on child trafficking in Ghana here.

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