January 8, 2012 § 8 Comments
– Christmas was chill as I hoped. There were lots of KLM, BA, Delta, United/Continental and nearly daily Emirates flights over my house as many of you came home. Thanks for those dawn ramblers that woke me out of many sleeps. There was also slaughter of 7 fattened chickens and a sad goat. On Christmas morning the very friendly chap from the day before had turned into this frightened guy who was making desperate attempts to hop over our wall. I’ve gained a pound or two, but that should be shaken off by next weekend. I didn’t get to speak with my children, which was a bit disappointing. But that’s one more lesson to add to my bag of lessons: if you want to get something, you have to do it yourself. Aunt’s house is one place I have to frequent less. She over feeds me, as any doting aunt would; and I oblige only to regret the pounds and missed workouts later. I returned more than a week away only to find my clean toilet bowl filled with no less than 200 mosquito larvae. They sure didn’t love the laundry soap I poured into it, though.
– My year got off to a nice start. I appeared on a TV game show on Jan 1, if it only took 7.5 months to air! Oh, Ghana. I could only manage about 20 secs before turning off the set. I cringe with embarrassment at seeing myself in stills or video. At least, I now know I’m not the type who gets too thickheaded over any attention- especially from that of the villagers I was sure wouldn’t see, let alone, recognize me on television. I’ve already been accosted for money. I can’t say enough how much I can’t stand you broke motherf***@#s!
– I decided last month that it was time for DSTV. NET2 and Metro have done a great job with their daily abrupt segways from Al Jazeera to whatever local junk they normally air. There’s nothing more annoying than having an interesting program cut off for something in which you have no interest. I don’t care how much it’ll cost; it’ll be a worthwhile investment starting next month.
– A few days ago, I spoke to a new friend who had returned to Ghana for the holidays and was getting ready for her return to the Netherlands. I’ve been so conditioned to 1-minute calls that it was refreshing to do nearly 35 minutes without either party telepathically screaming “my credit!” It was also nice not having to consciously retool phrases in my head during conversations so as to avoid slang, ‘American’ English, fast talk, and to enunciate my words more clearly for Ghanaians. I don’t usually buy much credit as I’ve deemed most people I talk to not credit-worthy, but that’s another thing I should change this year.
– I planned never talk about work here, or at least, in specifics, but I imagine I’ll have to break that rule a bit as I’m starting at two businesses this year. It’s a bit nerve-wracking as I’m going at it alone. Oh, if you want to do something in Ghana, don’t tell local Ghanaians. In fact, if you can, don’t involve them. It’s best to stay in stealth mode until there’s no chance for anyone to steal your idea or sabotage your plans, or dismiss it simply because they know they can’t do it themselves. Since the week started, I’ve found myself bussing myself in and out of central Accra sourcing materials and equipment I need and making final plans for samples (yes, I’ll be vague for now) I’ll be distributing to 20-30 potential business partners by the end of this month. Axim and Busia will have to wait for a later time. If you really want to make it in Ghana, go the entrepreneurial way, and think western. Look at the local scene and look for markets that are missing. It’s rare to find a potential business with no entry difficulties and no competition, but when you’re coming from North America and Europe, and you’re bold and creative, there are numerous businesses you can enter here since you’ve seen and experienced a lot of what the local market hasn’t even thought to try. And there’s always a ready market for what you’re offering, even if it’s the niche expat market at the start.
– I’ve found, I come accross Ghanaian women who take on these Cinderella/virginal personas once they realize I’m not exactly of this place. My aunt advised caution as many of these are most likely privately making plans about me (and my taking them away) without my knowledge. They seem to become virgins overnight or one-timers in cases where they have to explain how they had their kids. I really don’t care if you’ve been having sex since you were 12 or how many men have ridden that bike. I just hate being lied to; it gets you nowhere, and a newbie hasn’t yet earned enough to tell me whoppers like that. Yes, it’s very possible I’ll judge you based on what you tell me. I’m not introducing any girl who’s been around the block a few times to my friends and family, but that’s a reality you’ll have to accept when you meet me. It’s also finally dawned on me that I could probably never settle with someone who has never lived abroad (going to school or spending a few years surrounded by just Ghanaians abroad doesn’t constitute “living” abroad).
– One bit of advice and a lesson I had to learn the hard way. If you are new here, do yourself a favor: don’t be overly nice or friendly to locals. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know Ghanaians and I’m all for that anytime. But Ghanaians equate niceness and friendliness with social equality. You’ll find the people you might end up keeping on friendly terms will start to think they’re your best friend, equal to you and talk to you as if you’re one of them- including in ways you might not appreciate. It happened to me, especially when some realized I had no interest in talking to her any longer (a jilted lover complex of sorts). Limit contact to smiles, nods, and occasional “hello” and only when they initiate it. But always maintain enough of a distance that lets them know that they’re not your equal and will never be. It’s harsh, but sadly, it seems this is the only thing Ghanaians respect. I was given this advice by other locals, btw. Don’t lower your standards, or bring yourself down to someone’s lower class just to be nice. I started being the foreigner again in my village, and funnily, people started looking at me the way they did when I first arrived. Elitist + distant + standoffish begets respect; friendliness + mingling with locals gets you no respect. Got it?
– Lastly, wordpress tells me that in the past 9-and-half months, madeinaccra has been visited about 4000 times. There were even stats about where you’ve all viewed from, which has been every continent including Australia! It’s a bit cool and freaky at the same time. I started out thinking only a handful of friends and family on facebook, and maybe a few newbies on expat blog with see this and if I hit 1000 views in a year, I’d be happy. It’s ok if you lurk. I used to do it, too. But if you can, kindly share with us (or in private) where on this planet you’re located. Thanks for keeping up with my not-so-traditional format. I’m hopeful we’ll both have some pretty interesting adventures this year.