Driver's Licence News

On Thursday I wrote the theory exam for the third time.

For some reason, the test was scheduled to take place in the new buildings for the licencing authorities instead of in a school as the other times. When we get there and some 35 of us are ushered into a unfinished concrete block, no windows or doors put in, no tables and chairs, animals grazing outside, it is like they know I am hoping to get a blogpost out of this experience.

And it only gets better: the crafty driving instructors help the licencing folks to carry benches into the "room" and soon they have also found a few tables. Women clean them with their hankies and quietly take their seat. We sit three and three on a bench and after 20 minutes everybody also have a table or a hardback book for writing support.

The licencing officer gives instructions on a woodboard someone found outside and a nice breeze comes through the, erhm window-openings.

After 30 minutes I am done. Hoping I have done the writing for the very last time I pass a rooster on my way out.

So Yesterday, I call my driving school and finally get some good news - I have passed. Now, my instructor says in a happy voice, all you have to do is to wait for your practical exam date. And so this morning I get a call from the licencing office:
- Madam, April 16th at 8 am you have your practical test.
I don't know if to laugh (because I have gotten this far) or cry ( wait seven weeks more...).

What do you think? Will I ever obtain my Ghanaian driver's licence? Comments go below.

Fashion Blog?

Faithful readers must not set their morning coffee in their throat, this is just a once - in - a - long - while post on fashion. Because I can't help it. When browsing through a big online clothing store, I found this image of what we should look like this spring. The company continues with clarifying where they got the ideas for the matching make up line.
Inspiration: Ethnic culture in North Africa, India and South America
Oh, THAT "ethnic culture"...
...and since we're going "ethnic" don't forget the bronzing powder, good folks!
Bronzing: Powder and bronzing crème giving a sensual sun kissed holiday look, highlighted with golden shimmer powder.

Anyway, I will stop my multinational company-bashing here and instead offer an insight. In Ghana when you want something new and fashionable to wear, you go to your tailor, flip through one of her catalogues and "order" an item out of it! She will take your measurements and let you know how much material is needed. This means I can wear something inspired from the red carpet at the Oscar's awards by next weekend if I wish... So, my point is, what will happen when the catalogue with this pic in it reaches the local seemstresses? Will the cool chicks here in Ghana order colorful turbans and tops in "African prints"? And then who's inspired by who?

Above picture borrowed from

Where has all the money gone?

Today all over the news we can read about the Canadian computer professor who got sacked from a Ghanaian university - or not had his contract prolonged as the university claims - because of critisizing the university administration on his and his partner's blog. In the blog, the partner of the professor if I get it right, wrote about the upsetting fact that on campus libraries are poorly updated and water is scarce, but the most expensive SUV's are used by the university staff.

She finishes her post by writing
Forgive me for feeling offended by the luxury cars bought with public dollars. The Ghanaians I’ve spoken to aren’t nearly as offended — most don’t like it but say “that’s the way it is”. Any attempt to speak out against wanton spending will earn one the wrath of the rich and powerful.

...and the next day the professor's contract was not prolonged. However, Ghanaians hearing the news do not hold their peace in the comments field of Joy FM. Many salut the Canadians for speaking out and many agree with the critique
...these are the main reasons why we are not progressing. Authorities in every Institution in Ghana uses all the monies to purchase expensive cars...

This debate is crucial for Ghana and I hope it will live on in public fora. We must not let those with 4-wheel-drive interests succeed with putting the lid on.

In the pic some totally unrelated SUVs in a parking lot in Accra.

Equal Partner Visit

Tonight, America's 43rd president will be stepping on the red soil of Ghana. The "Trip to Africa" is according to the White House webpage a six day event where five African countries - one being Ghana - will be visited. An investment package will be launched, African policy will be discussed, and earlier presidential initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS and Malaria will be followed up on. In Ghanaian newspaper Accra Mail, the American Embassy spokesperson clarifies the US-Ghana relationship:
It is a partnership, it is not a top-down relationship, it is not imposition, it is a partnership among equals on issues of great concern.

What people on the street wonder is if while discussing "African policy", the equal partner US is going to mention the far along plans of setting up a military base on Ghanaian territory, supposedly to protect nearby oil interests. Will then the equal partner Ghana feel free to decline a foreign militia without fearing any slowdown in the 55 million USD anually in aid? or in the mile long daily queu for American VISAs outside the newly built enormous American Embassy in Accra?

Or are we just worrying too much?

According to Ghana's foreign minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei, there will be no talk of any American military base on Ghanaian soil, discussion will only relate to
some international issues of interest to both countries, particularly Ghana's role in addressing security concerns in the troubled sub-region.
BBC also reports that "US drops African Military HQ Plans", stating that the interest was low in African countries to host the US Africa Force, the Africa Command (AFRICOM), and that the headquarters will be based in Germany until further notice. My guess is that this disclaimer was launched to not start the "Trip to Africa" off on the wrong foot. Hey, if you don't want to help us, thats ok. Really, we're not upset...We're just coming over to discuss some international issues of interest to us both...

It is difficult to remain balanced when a superpower is knocking on your door. To say it's a partnership of equals is at best expressing a wish, not the reality.

The pic by Eric Draper was borrowed from, and showing Bush in Tanzania yesterday.

Give Way

-So Kajsa, how is your driving going?

Well, that is a long story, unfortunately including:

... eight dangerous and crowded practicals where tree fellow driving students sit in the back seat, mind you WITHOUT seatbelts, whilst I drive. Now I am not allowed to continue practicals until I pass the theory test, which I thought would not be all that difficult, however...

... two failed theory tests later in which I scored respectively 18 and 20 out of 30 - Pass is 21, I realize it IS difficult. Noone knows which questions were answered right or wrong (or if the official wants to make another buck at our make-up test-s), since that information is not provided...

... not to mention, the time waste of two cancelled theory tests. You go to the driving school in the morning to "register" your intent to take the test, you go to the Licencing Office to pay your fee (USD 3), you then go to a secondary school here in town and wait until they close so you can use their big hall for the test and then you find out it is cancelled. No explanation. The only talk is the...

...rumors about the practical exam being scheduled months from the date you pass the theory test and so far noone I know from the driving school acctually ending up with a driver's licence. Which ratifies above described rumor.
-Oh, just fine, I'm sure I'll have my licence any day now.

In the picture: Me in, thats right, the backseat.

Africa-Europe 1-0

And yesterday one of these inevitable horrors hit again. A friend's mother here in Ghana passed away. Early in the morning our friend calls my fiance and with a broken voice tells him the news.

What do one say? What do one do? How can you console someone who just lost a mother?

Here the "African approach" is quite different from the "European approach"...From my experience we in Europe tend to say a lot of things, like "how do you feel?", or "maybe it was for the best, now she's not suffering anymore" etc, but then we don't know what to do. I have heard that you are supposed to bring food to the mourning, but I have never done so myself. And when I don't know what to do, I have preferred to just stay away.

The way however my African fiance delt with it was to drive over and pick our friend up. WE PICKED OUR FRIEND UP. We talked, headed to a restaurant and basically just hung out. WE WERE THERE. We talked a bit about the last visit to the mother, her sickness and how the other siblings had reacted, but we also discussed fotball and mean ex-es (see last blog post). WE DISCUSSED FOTBALL!

I still don't know what to say to a person who just lost someone, but I know for sure that to come close and then just be there, was the best thing we could have done while figuring out "what to do".

In the picture two Chinese dragonflies are there in our garden.

Bitter Chocolate

Being an outsider in a place often leads to interesting meetings. In buses, marketstalls, outside my house and most lately at fotball games, I have come to engage in discussion with very different people. As of late, I have discovered what I would call a “new category” of people I talk to: Heartbroken African Men.

The men in this group are, often but not always, in their thirties, middle class (not enough money for a car, but often holding a licence) and they all tell me a surprisingly similar story. The man was in love. He was happy. He gave his whole heart and thought his girlfriend loved him back. But one day, she without prior warning left for a richer/more educated/more affluent/older man. The man begged, grieved, and called. But the girlfriend acted like she had never loved the man. Ever since (and this is normally years ago), he does not believe in women and has not loved again.

At first I thought this bitter story was maybe how moneyless Ghanaian boys chatted up a white lady in the bus line in hope of getting sympathy in the form of a bus ticket, but after having heard the same story from so many different guys, including a Ugandan professional, and a man who already had paid for his food in a popular restaurant downtown Accra, I have made a different analysis. This might be a grand narrative of the African man, not all that different from coming of age by killing a lion or something else oldfashioned and villagelike. The modern way of facing the world, stepping up to it, realizing its not all roses (if ever believing so) is getting your heart crushed by a decieving, mean and ever so beautiful woman.

The only consolation really is that it seems to happen to most every African man before he hits 30.

In the picture the bitter cocoa seed and fruits.

Blogosphere Air

My friend Nadja has challenged me to list the blogs I read.
Give the award to up to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel so happy about blogland! Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so that they can pass it on.
I guess I read blogs in mainly three categories:

1. Friends' Blogs - to see what they are up to/thinking about, because they write well and because I miss them. Nadja, Anna, Marta, Katrine (who's blog now consists mainly of links to things published elsewhere), Emilie. Petra, Matthew and Joel are on a break, but I would read them if they posted.

2. Interesting Life-bloggers, I like these blogs because they write well about their lives in a way that lets me follow them. Petite Anglaise and Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt fall into this category.

3.Diary Blogs - I like to read blogs by people who write like they are writing only for themselves. The best thing is if you know who they are, just a little bit. This category of blogs can be found at aquaintances' facebook pages or by googeling. I can't tell you who they are, since that would be admitting to have opened someone's diary...

So there are 10 (namegiven) blogs I read and get inspired by.

Broad Smile

Yesterday, Ghana Telecom came to install broadband here in my house. The whole thing was quite simple since a phoneline had been installed last week. The process was tidious though since it started in the beginning of december, but I shouldn't complain...because now I felt so utterly good!

I couldn't really put words to why I felt so glad, until my friend A said that with the broadband, it was like I now have a real home here in Ghana. Obviously for us twenty-somethings Internet=home. And that is exactly it! It's homey to be able to read Dagens Nyheter or The Economist for breakfast, to check in with my bank from home and update my facebook status with stuff like "having tea and checking emails at home". Not to mention writing this from my dinner table listening to some muzac instead from a sweaty Internet cafe.

The cost for installing Internet here is about USD 100 and then there's a monthly fee of USD 60 for a 256 kbps speed broadband. This is equal to what many people here take home as their monthly wage. I know a guy who makes USD 80 a month for working six days a week in a supermarket, for instance. Internet access more than anything highlights the gaps between people. And countries.

Four years ago Sweden had 756 Internet users per 1000 inhabitants (isn't that something!) compared to Ghana's 17 per 1000, calculated with the help of gapminder. According to the OECD which continously compare global communication prices Sweden had the cheapest broadband in 2006. Later this year the same organization is hosting a meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy. When talking about development, many hope that Africa will skip the step of laying cables and go straight for the wireless, and hence maybe become a player in the future OECD has in mind. However as of now, the guy in the supermarket can barely afford going to a cafe for Internet and even rich expats like myself can't afford wireless Internet.
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