My Answers To Some Of Your Questions

February 22, 2012 § 12 Comments

What are a few of the things you like most about being in Ghana? What are a few of the things that you dislike the most?

I like the nearness to nature. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but I like seeing how changes in the weather bring different plant and animal species. I like growing or watching a plant or tree grow and bear ready-to-eat foods, and not wonder where that ShopRite or Whole Foods products came from. I like knowing I can go to a near empty beach anytime. I also like how Ghana is almost like a blank canvass business-wise, and you can do with it what you want- even with some caveats you have to bear.

I dislike the willful ignorance and selfishness that permeates this country, and the indifference locals have about the simple things almost everyone does when they’re consciously aware it’s the wrong thing to do. A person throws any kind of thrash anywhere and everyone is ok with it. A taskforce confiscates expired or tampered products from a store and on-lookers defend the store owner! The latest has been people feeling sorry for squatters who built shacks on public lands when their homes were razed at Madina for the 6-lane road- especially when they’d been given year-long notices and even compensations in some cases. I lived in a country where Africa and Africans were and still are thought of in the lowest and demeaning manner, and then to return to Ghana and to see my own countrymen perpetuate and somewhat reinforce these stereotypes and ignorant views (and even borderline racists views about Africans) really tests my patience most times.

What should I bring to Ghana? We’re moving to Ghana and would like to know what we should bring in our shipment.

There isn’t an easy answer to this question. A lot depends on your needs, your length of stay, and many other factors I can’t list here.

–          First thing I would suggest is go through your personal list of necessities and try to get at least a 6-month supply of them; lotions, soaps, toothpastes, brushes, sun block, etc. Then, if you’re in the winter season, bulk up on lots of discounted summer clothing, sundresses…basically anything you can comfortably wear in 90-degree weather, which is what you’ll face ALL THE TIME!

–          Next, and this depends on how your stuff is coming down, and how much money you have at your disposal. Some of you are limited to 2 bags and a carry-on. Others should consider the barrel shipment thing most Ghanaians do (you find someone from Ghana in your city/town and as how they ship stuff home and do the same). Then there are those of you who can afford containers. I’ll write for container folks, then you see how you can fit some of these in your suit cases or barrels.

–          Get: a 5-stage water filtration system; a diesel generator; humidifier; a portable washer like “wonder wash” on, which is a must have even if you have access to a washing machine. Get fly strips, bug zappers, chalks, or all you can find that keeps the bugs away. And this last is for those who can afford it and have space for it… go to ikea, lie down in one of their beds. Then close your eyes and imagine yourself in a very hot country where you won’t get any of that comfort even if you tried. Now open your eyes and buy everything you see and know will help you cope with the stress in this country. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself paying 3-4X the price for less quality furniture and appliances with no warranty and ones you can’t return if they breakdown. Lastly, if you can, buy a used car with a small engine. Life can be very trying when you don’t have the mobility a car offers.

–          It should be said again: buy lots of clothes!

Why do you people come here and complain about how we do things? It’s not like you can improve the country if you were in charge.

I ignored this guy, but I thought I’ll say something for him and idiots like him. My blog is my personal diary, my sounding board, my punching bag…it’s even my way of escaping from this country every now and then. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I write when something moves me. Unfortunately for most locals, it’s usually about the stuff they do that pisses me off. Now why you a local feels the need to troll blogs of EXPATS and then complain about what they say about their experiences beats me. What you should be asking yourself is “what do these people see that I’ve failed to see about my country?”

Buddy, if I was in charge; if I really had power, trust me on this- Ghana will be a very different place that will only get better. Now, that’s nice and calm Mike. The next time I see one of these questions, I’ll out you and methodically eviscerate you and idiots like you with tiny surgical-like cuts with my words. Imagine a 5000-word essay with nearly every sentence crafted specifically for you. Don’t test me.

Are there any safe places to visit during my stay in Ghana?

I was pepper-sprayed by three teenagers in Spanish Harlem during an attempted robbery for my iPhone. There are unsafe places everywhere in this world. Trust your instincts…ughh… scratch that. Do just one thing: think black. I don’t know how true those stereotypes in movies about white people going where everyone knows they shouldn’t. But if they are, try to channel a black woman and try to imagine what she would/wouldn’t do and do the same. If that doesn’t help, just pretend you’re a ditsy blonde and try to imagine where she should definitely not go. We don’t need any Natalie Holloways here. Be smart, and I’m sure with that mindset you’ll find lots of safe places to visit without my help.

Can you recommend a book or a guide who can help me learn the basics of Twi?

No. I could use one word in Twi and with 2 or 3 different stresses on different vowels, I’d have 2 or 3 different meanings to that same spelling, and even come up with a word in Ga! You can’t learn Twi from a book. I’ve written about this in an earlier blog. I would even suggest you learn Ga or another local language. There are at least 67 languages alone in this country. I also don’t want you learning Asante Twi. When that dialect is spoken by an Asante over the age of 55, you’ll hear a beautiful language. When it’s spoken by someone younger, you’ll often hear what I call gutter Twi. Sorry, but too many Asante/Kwahus are spoiling our language and too many non-Akans are learning that dirty form of Twi. If you don’t understand me, find a true Fante, a true Akuapem, and then a young Asante, then compare how each speaks Twi and you might see what I mean. Y3 fl3 me. Bla.. too many L-R problems are butchering the Twi language. Learn Ga or Ewe, instead.

Where can I shop for clothes and food?

Food is easy unless you must have that expensive fruit or cheese product. Then I’d suggest Koala and the like. In all other cases, follow the masses and go where they go. Just don’t buy fresh meats from any local markets. When you get to any of these markets, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Which mobile company would you recommend I use?

None; they all suck! I use Airtel for international calls. I sometimes use vodafone for local calls, and I also use vodafone (reluctantly) for internet. I don’t know enough about Tigo, or Espresso to judge whether they’re good or bad. What I would suggest you do is get a smart phone and a Nokia bar phone as a backup.

Is there a simple technique for me to wash clothes by hand?

Easy, get someone in your neighborhood to do it and pay her 3-4ghc. If you can’t do that, then… hold/grip your clothing item with each set of 4 fingers leaving about 4” between each hold and rub (using one “stronger” hand) to wash by going back and forth gently separating the thread fibers of the clothing to release the dirt. If you’re washing a towel or long sheets, use the same grip, but double the gap between each hold. HTH.


§ 12 Responses to My Answers To Some Of Your Questions

  • Jennifer says:

    Awesome information! Im moving there with my husband in July, soo your information was really helpful to me 🙂 Im from the dc area soo I know im in for a huge culture shock. lol

  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks so much! I told my husband we WILL be going to costco to stock up on my favorite things lol. It looks like the area in Ghana we are moving to is a little further out of Accra, right off of Oyarifa rd, do you know anything about that area?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Mike says:

      This is too funny.. I live off Oyarifa! It’s a short drive into the “mountains,” which is a nice escape from Accra. There’s also running water coming into the area, so that’ll be a plus for you.

      • Jennifer says:

        wow!! Its a small world lol So we will be neighbors 🙂 And yay for running water lol. I think all we have to buy is a generator and a water tank. The house is almost done being built, I have to ask my husband the name of the neighborhood in particular. Its really his mothers house that she will be retiring in when she moves back from london in a few years, but she is happy to have us keep it occupied. Its nice to know I wont be the only African american/expat there 🙂

  • D says:

    I agree with bringing soap, toothpaste, sunblock, lotion and all that personal stuff. I bulked up in costco & brought all that with me via barrels in someones container and they’ve lasted over a year. Planning to stock up again soon.
    Also like the fact that Ghana is almost a blank canvas business wise.
    Why do you think it is though that new businesses rarely last /stay open? Or when they do last, seem to start slipping on their quality or standards?

    @Jennifer bring a mild exfoliating scrub (for face) as your skin will initially go through all sorts of changes here.

  • Mike says:

    @ D. I don’t know enough about the percentage that fold or in which business segments, but a lot of their problems stem from poor planning. If your business is geared towards a specific market (i.e. expats) and you provide quality service, you can build a sustainable biz with customer loyalty. Locals are finicky. They jump on the newest craze, but are less likely to “patronize” your products. Visit the mall and look at how many locals actually buy things in those stores. The slip on quality or standards falls squarely on businesses not training their staff to cater to customers as they should and Ghanaians will only do when you force them.

  • Linda says:

    I love how you keep us abreast on the true ways out there. Most of us lived it many moons ago but seem to forget it. As much as I don’t want to return (cost, bad prior experience, people’s ignorance etc), I have to brave it soon and the tips sure do help. I lacked the knowledge on how to function in Ghana and that made my last experience miserable. Can’t wait to see the place and love that I will have my very own tour guide in you, lol.

  • sam says:

    As for the furniture – I agree on maybe bringing a bed/matress, office table/chair, but you can also buy a lot of wooden stuff along the roadside… like cheap but nice braided sofas, then chairs, tables – and even beds.

  • Ann Meredith says:

    I enjoy your blog and read it regularly.
    We moved to Ghana about 18 months ago and fortunately my husband had done his homework so we live quite comfortably. We have two big storage tanks for our town water and we bought a water filter so we never have to buy bottled water which keeps down a lot of expense.
    We have a solar/battery system for power which means we don’t have blackouts but don’t have a noisy generator.
    We invested in an iburst system when we arrived and get really good internet connection – fast and reliable. A friend from the States said it was as fast as his connection there

  • Mike says:

    Hi Ann! Thanks for keeping up with my blog. I’m glad your husband did his homework. I’m looking into solar panels after a week of power outages. I’ll take noisy and light over darkness anyday!
    I’ve heard a bit about iburst, but I never tried it. I’m switching entirely to an iPad and its 10-hour battery life. Hopefully, Glo will be available for me to test it on soon.

  • Ann Meredith says:

    A solar system is expensive to set up. We have a panel on the roof and a bank of 4 large batteries which can keep the house – minus air con – powered for about 2 days.
    Good luck with the ipad!

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