Lunch with Bush and Bin Laden

We go to a restaurant close to work to have some lunch. I order a salad. And then look around the big open space. And see following mural.

Saddam, Blair, Bin Laden and W. Bush are enjoying a meal together! Interestingly they are all eating Ghanaian dishes. Saddam eats banku and dried fish, Blair fried rice, Bin Laden dips his hand into fufu with goat soup and Bush plantain with kontomire stew. Maybe a top-level meeting like this could have solved some issues? At least it would've spread the word about the delicious Ghanaian cuisine.

Moringa Miracles

A friend here in Ghana told me about the many healthy effects of the moringa tree ("benzolive" in French, "drumstick tree" in English) some time ago. I had never heard of it, but through a little research online I now know my friend was right to sprinkle dried moringa leaves on her kids' food.

It contains vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3 and C) as well as calcium and potassium. But the miracle is it also contains complete proteins, which few plants do. Another example is the soy bean, but moringa is much richer in protein! According to Trees for Life an organization promoting the use of Moringa to combat hunger, the leaves also prevent various diseases. Download Trees for Life's interesing PDF on possible uses of Moringa here.

You simply eat the fresh or dried leaves with your food or brew tea out of it.

The Moringa tree grows in tropical areas and the fast growing tree requires little water and no particular soil. It's leaves can be fed to animals, a meal made from the seeds can purify water and be used to produce bio fuels!

On my way home from work I always pass a little shed with a "Moringa is sold here" sign (opposite the Shell station at the end of the Tema motorway leading towards Achimota). I always used to wonder, what IS Moringa anyway? Now I know.

Pic of the moringa leaf from Trees for Life

African Wax Print Fiesta!

My love relationship with African wax print, the widely used cloth in bright colors, has just reached another level. I think I have always associated Africa with bright colors of clothing and from my very first moment in Ghana (Dec 2004), I have been on the hunt for colorful material of this kind.

I like that its most often sold in "half piece" or 6 yards at a time, I adore the colors and the wild combinations of patterns. Speaking of patterns, I love certain ones, most notably the "water well" pattern, which looks like big kind of dotted circles. I have it in several (5?) different colors.

So of course the next step was to make clothes out of it. I have two seamstresses I frequent. It is so much fun to be able to decide the style myself and most of the days here in Ghana you will see me in some kind of African garment, be it a top, a skirt or the traditional top and bottom kaba and slit.

Recently the ready wear has enetered the Ghanaian market. So recently, I have also bought a wonderful dress (and probably will add another one to it soon) at the Ghanaian designer house Kiki's Clothing. Their designer introduced me to the wax prints deluxe that on top of an elaborate and colorful print has another pattern in gold over it!

But now Boxing Kitten has arrived. Just like Kiki's clothing she is mixing patterns and colors without fear. Less is not more, more is more. And my love for African wax print has suddenly reached a whole different level.

Pic from Boxing Kittens fall collection, isn't it just beautiful?

Credit Crunch in Africa?

The last weeks as the “global” financial crisis has rolled out, I have been thinking about the impact for Ghana. What will the implication be for African countries such as the one I live in when US and Europe are experiencing a sharp decline that can only be partially slowed down by tens or even hundreds of BILLION dollars.

Will Africa’s already weak economies get hit by the financial splatter of the West?

No, I don’t think so. At least not that much. Less aid? Yeah maybe. But when it comes to dealing with a bubble...Hey, there's no bubble to deal with. Actually, there is barely any credit in the Ghanaian economy - everything is cash.

You buy a house in a cash (or more like it buy some bricks today and some pipes tomorrow), car in cash, you get paid in cash (or a check that you immediately cash after a long wait in a bank queue) and interest rates for loans read about a hefty 27-33 percent, making them a no go option for most people. Also, Ghana and bigger part of Africa south of the Sahara (with the exception for maybe South Africa) is not really a part of the so called global financial markets.

Hence, the advice is to now invest in Africa. Our strong and solvent markets are now, finally, hyped by financial advisers see for instance here and here and here.

Even the World Bank and their economist Shanta Devarajan who runs the Afropositive blog Africa Can, seems to agree with me. In Ghana, the whole crisis is rarely discussed, maybe because of the upcoming elections or maybe because people just have an instinctive feel it wont affect Ghana.

Maybe it is Africa’s turn now!

Pic: The sky is blue but not cloud free in Accra, Ghana.

View out of Ghana: Poverty

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The meaning of that concept is that we all have different glasses though which we see the world. In this post, as in all others I have ever written, I intend to write about the world I see. Here are my thoughts on poverty (spurred on by Blog Action Day).

With my sheltered and sometimes outright naive Swedish background, coming to live in Ghana has in many ways been being confronted with stories about poverty. I have come to understand the depressing effects of poverty: that there are people who are so poor they buy food and spices for today's meal only, hoping that tomorrow they will afford rice and pepper again. There are men so poor they can't afford the transport fare to go look for a job, women so poor they cannot afford to go to church (offerings and sunday clothing requires money) and families so poor they cannot afford contraceptives or an abortion even when their resources are not enough to feed the kids already at their feet.

Then again, Ghana is a relatively well off country in the region, see for instance gapminder for figures. And the person buying pepper for today, at least is buying something. The man not able to find a new job will be fed by his wife who is a successful trader in the local market. And interestingly, the poorest families rarely see children as anything else than a resource and a joy.

Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. I argue, so is glamour.

Pic taken in the Makola Market area, downtown Accra, Ghana.

Desperate Housewives in Accra

Just to make it very clear from the outset, this post does not allude to the fact that I have recently purchased season 3 of the California TV series "Desperate Housewives" from a guy outside Koala Supermarket, but rather it is pointing to difficulties of relationships.

As a newlywed twentysomething expat, I have started to see disturbing trends among my friends in similar life situations here in Accra. Wasn't this time - after long years in the University library, impossible loves and zero money, but before kids and a daily routines so boring and wellknown we could also do them backwards - wasn't it supposed to be the time of our lives?

Obviously not. When two minds come to live under the same roof there seems to be more than a little adjustment to be done.

Some replay the same fights over and over again with their spouses (money, you-said-I-said, cleaning and laundry etc.). Some like to spend at least one night a week by themselves while I at times recent my husband for often coming home late from work. Others again can't seem to unite about how to furnish their home or if to watch Champions' League or Strictly Come Dancing (or instead make an early night).

Then we have all the cultural shocks: husbands who want their clothes ironed, you to attend funerals of people you have never met, or eat a bowl of fufu for dinner - every day! They are matched with wives who want to pay half the bill, feel odd about having to instruct a housegirl instead of starting a laundry cycle in the machine or spend a average Ghanaian monthly wage on foreign groceries each week!

Additionally, it can be noted that Ghanaian men seem to have little interest in taking out any parental leave (ok, there is no parental leave for men in Ghana, but at least my Swedish side feels that this somehow should be at the very least a priority for timing of the yearly leave). They also seem to be weary about parttaking in the birthing of a child with half their genes.

Some of us young spouses talk vividly about how important it is to work, not predominantly to make money, but to aviod becoming just a housewife - implying that our identities could be gone in no time. However, I don't think that is the problem. Our personalities, I think, are going nowhere. The problem is rather to be able to hold your tounge the hundredeth time you make a small sacrifice for the person you love knowing he is doing the same.

Obama Mania in Ghana

"Have you seen the debate?"

In Ghana, the campaign is on. I heard from a friend you can't buy billboard space in this country until after elections. But what election are we talking about again?

The debate in question was not between Akufo-Addo and Mills but instead between McCain and Obama. Discussions on the upcoming American presidential election is as vibrant here as the domestic. Of course the American election affects the entire world and I am positive that Obama with his Kenyan heritage is creating a buzz in all of Africa, therefore also in Ghana. Another explanation is that Ghana has it's eye to the world to a much larger extent than other nation states, say France or the US. We learn about all news from the outside world. And debate it too.

But back to the elections. I have seen street vendors selling a (pirated?) copy of Obama's biography, at a function last week a young man was sporting a T-shirt with this text "Obama is my homeboy" and yesterday when going to work, this driver showed her support for Obama (see pic).

What election are we talking about again?

Pop'Africana is Pan'Africana?

Stumbled upon (whilst out walking on facebook) the new initiative Pop'Africana, an art/style mag created by some creative minds, amongst others the Editor Oroma who's blog you can read here.

It seems like this is the time for patriotic initiatives and pan-africaism. Here in Ghana we see a lot of similar initiatives that I have written about before with magazine Canoe, T-shirt companies quoting Africans, websites with African names and content as well as flags everywhere, Ghanaian, Nigerian...Is this a trend or am I imagining it?

The interesting pic stolen from above mentioned mag.

Kajsa at Work

So these days, I do go to work. My friends have asked me what it is I really do. Well, mostly I sit in front of a computer screen, but when I don't it looks like this.  

Pictures from this past weekend's WAPI festival in Accra.

Photo: Razak Mardorgyz Abubakar
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