Thursday, June 28, 2007

Photos from Ghana

hey guys,
ready for some photos from Ghana?
More coming soon :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My first week in Ghana!

My first week in Ghana!

It`s sunday evening, I`m listening to the ghanaian music and summarising my first week in Africa, Ghana, Accra..

Africa is Africa. Like anything you`ve ever experienced before. There are 3 kinds of people. The first once are fascinated by Africa and once they come they may stay for good. The second one are curious but come here with “obroni” mindset and either they live “white life” here or leave soon. The others will never come.
Africa hits you and changed you no matter how long you`re staying here. Experience it once and you`ll never be the same :)

There are many stupid and naive prejudices back in Europe and in many other parts of the world about Africa. People think that Africa is full of animals just like on Discovery channel and half naked Africans living in cottages or on the trees. That people are dying every day from diseases or hunger and that HIV is everywhere. Yes. This is also Africa. But only its small part. Africa is sooo huuuge. You can`t imagine unless you`ve been here. The way I know Africa so far is, that yes, it`s facing many problems like unemployment or energetic crisis. But Africa is somehow magical. People here are happy. Africa is also a booming business, “civilized” streets, shops, fancy cars, expensive clubs, businessmen meeting in the top hotels and many international companies earning millions here.

- very friendly, curious about me, relaxed and talkative
- strong African accent – difficult to understand – it`s like if they were swallowing some letters, they love to talk fast and silent – not a good combination for a foreigner to understand them, takes time to get used to

- Ghanaians are very religious. Majority of the population are passionate Christians, there is also strong muslim community in the country and some more. They don`t ask whether you`re religious, but to which church you`re going. Well, I`m not religious and it`s difficult for them to understand.
- Building of the churches is a big business in Ghana. Thousands and thousands of people gather every Sunday in the huge churches all around the country. Surely I`ll go to take a look once, I heard it`s a strong experience to see all those people.

- Ghanaians have a special way of greeting with friends. They shake their hands first and then they flip touching with middle finger the other person`s middle finger. Once you manage you`ll get used to it easily. It`s fun J
- If you are close friends they hug you with one hand, no kissing though

- mild, humid, not as hot as I thought it will be – Ghanaians have “winter” now – rainy season. My happiness about the mild weather is unfortunately screwed up with the air condition – I`ve already catched cold and ended up laying in my bed with paracetamol for one day
- the temperature is every day at least 30 + degrees and sweating is just inevitable. Though 30 degrees here - almost at the Equator is very pleasant and humid. Average European can comfortably have 2-3 showers a day and still feel wet as soon as he put his clothes back on J
- African day is very different from the European one – sun is rising around 5am and sunset is already at 6pm – darkness comes very early and also Ghanaian`s lifestyle is according to it – they wake up latest 6am and normally around 8-9-10pm they are back home, going to sleep early

- Ghanaian food is really nice, I`m in my tasting period – I`m tasting all the traditional Ghanaian dishes one by one, so far the best was WAKYE – fried rice with beans and spices
- It`s very cheap to eat on the streets in small shops, normally they sell rice, jam (tastes similar to our potatoes) or pasta. You ask for 2.000, 3.000 (cedis, they don`t measure in grams), then you can have stew with it (normally beef or fish), boiled eggs and salad. They pack everything into the small plastic bag, which they put into another plastic bag, bigger and normally black. For a “full bag” you pay approximately 1 - 2 dollars :)
- Ghanaians normally eat at home, because for them eating outside is rather expensive

- the best pineapples and mangoes you`ve ever eaten! Big, juicy and sooo sweet. Delicious!
- I was disappointed from the oranges, because they taste rather sour (but let`s wait for the main season which is about to come). Ghanaians eat oranges in a special way – they peel them, cut the top and then you`re sucking the juice from inside. Hard job for me as a beginner, nice experience though :)
- if you expect to drink liters of cheap juices, forget about it. I found only one local brand - pineapple juice in a small glass bottle, all the other juices are imported from Europe and they are very very expensive
- there are many sorts of fruits which I`ve seen for the first time in my life, they taste very good but I need to remember their names first, then I`ll write you more

– normally you can buy onions, garlic, jam, sometimes cucumbers
– tomatoes – tomatoes are small and based on how do they look like you`ll never buy them back home. Normally we cook with them and don`t eat them fresh - they are not that tasty.
– avocado – very tasty and very oily, I`m never able to eat more than a small slide
– I`ve seen more kinds of vegetables on the heads of women (like carrots etc..), but I guess for those I need to go to the bigger market
– everything gets spoiled very fast, that`s why it`s better to buy only few pieces from each

- before I came I was told I will need to bargain for everything, but the good news is, that cooked food and grocery have fixed prices
- sometimes you may bargain for vegetables and fruits, but normally it`s so cheap anyway, that we don`t
- for everything else you must bargain, but it`s rather a nice funny talk with the seller than loud shouting or something. You can always move to the neighbor selling almost the same stuff

- Ghanaian speciality. Along the streets there are thousands of “entrepreneurs” carrying loads of things on their heads and selling them. You stop by at the red light and in a second they are at your window selling you everything from the socks, watches, Ghanaian flags, posters of football players up to cosmetics or sweepers for cars. This is officially all considered as illegal business, but since the rate of unemployment is very high, it`s tolerated by the government.

- in the place where we live sometimes the water doesn`t work, so the buckets with water are always ready
- tap water – many touristic guides recommend even to brush your teeth with the water from the bottle, but there`s no reason why to do it. Tap water is totally OK for shower, brushing teeth, boiling water for a cup of tea or to cook rice in
- water for drinking – I`m buying only the bottled one. It`s much more expensive but also safer to drink. Ghanaians (and many obronis, too) drink water from the small plastic bags – it`s funny how they keep it in their teeth even while riding the bike or just walking the street

KAKRA KAKRA (small small..)
- everything here is slow and relaxed. People walk the street slow, they serve you slow in the shop, many people sleep on the streets under the trees or in the shops
- European person needs loads of patience at work, too. My first day at work I`ve waited from 8am to 5pm until I managed to meet with the responsible people. They don`t mean it bad, it`s just the way it is :)

- Ghana is facing energetic crisis at the moment, electricity is distributed according to 4 days schedule:
1st day - 24 hours with electricity
2nd day – from 6am to 6pm no electricity
3rd day - 24 hours with electricity
4th day – from 6pm to 6 am no electricity
- different parts of the city run on different schedules so there is always a district you can go to which has electricity
- many houses, companies and clubs have their own generators. They are extremely noisy, because they run on diesel motors, though, it`s much better to have your own generator, because you don`t need to rely on the scheduled distribution
- they are always on time with switching off the electricity, but very flexible with turning it on again – last time we waited 2 more hours
- the situation with electricity is like this for couple of months already, people predict it will be only worse and worse. The problem is that the only one Power station in the country on the river Volta doesn`t have enough water (not enough rains this year), they might be even forced to close it down totally. In the past Ghana even used to supply neighboring countries with the electricity, but situation looks very bad now. Officially government is solving the issue, but it may take few years to build another power station

- the capital of Ghana, the city where I`m staying
- extremely huge, people are saying different figures – anything between 2 and 6 millions inhabitants
- looked very beautiful when our plane was arriving. Inside the city looks rather like a big village, each district lives its own life
- AIESEC MC house is in the district called North Kaneshie, my work in the district called Lartebiokorshi. Streets don`t have numbers, you know the name of your district, your street (main one) and something important in the neighborhood (for example we have Bishop Bower School next to our company so that`s the way how we explain where are we located)

- my first 4 days Internet hardly worked, was very slow. Since Thursday it`s ok already, almost feels like back home :)
PCs and Internet are at our disposal anytime we want at the office, which is really cool. Once I`ve been to Internet café, looks very old and dirty, one hour costs less than 1 dollar

- mostly I take taxis, you need to bargain with the driver for the price, my impression is, that at the end of the day it just depends on how symphatic you seem to be to the driver
- we stop the taxi on the street, there are hundreds of them everywhere, but depends what time are you taking a taxi – sometimes there are any
- TRO TRO – a must do in Ghana. Traditional way of transportation – minibuses which are carrying people as a public transport. I tried it once, was really cool and much cheaper than taxi, still I need to learn the system, so far I only know it`s much much cheaper than taxi and sooner or later I must learn how to use them. People are nice there, driver is speeding down the streets with a loud Ghanaian music yelling from the radio. We stayed on the street and with drawing the circle with a finger in the air TRO TRO stopped by and took us to the “Circle” – huge crossroad full of TROTROs, something like a central station with many shops, too
- Distances in Accra are big, you can`t really walk through the city, especially not if you`re white at night – some people say it`s totally safe to walk even at night, some people have bad experience with being robbed
- Traffic jams in Accra are awful – you can get stacked for hours and hours
- Basic rule of the jungle – the bigger has all the rights applies fully to the system of driving in Accra, it`s much more comfortable just to sit on the backseat and observe Accra from the car
- While sitting in the car never have your bag in the way it`s easy to take it from the opened window. Anytime the car sloes down on the street immediately there are some people around the car, some are just selling their products, some may took your phone or anything else through the open window – streets are always overcrowded and chaotic

- twi is local Ghanaian language spoken by over 50% of all Ghanaians. Official language is English, thought each ethnic group has its own African language, in total around 80 languages only in Ghana. I`ve decide I will learn twi, it`s really different from anything I`ve ever heard in my life before and that it what makes it so exotic and exciting to learn J
- AKWAABA! Means welcome, you see it when your plane lands in Kotoka airport in Accra and people keep on repeating it to you anywhere you go. With a big smile on their face. I really feel welcomed. Ghana is very open to tourists and expats. They simply love foreigners.
- on my 3rd day of stay finally a small girl called me “obroni” which means foreigner, not African person. People usually call on foreigners like that, though it doesn`t mean anything negative. It`s just an observation that you come from abroad. Even Ghanaians living out of the country are called “obroni” back home. Many people will also greet you on the street or ask you where are you going – for them you`re very attractive person to talk to because you`re so different from them

- AIESEC Ghana is the oldest AIESEC country in whole Africa – 46 years old. Even older that my home LC Bratislava back home. Wow.
- the next day after my arrival we had AIESEC MC Transition for the next two day. We met both old and new team to discuss how was the last term for AIESEC Ghana and how to learn from it for the upcoming one
- in last years team there were 4 people: MCP Vincent, MC VP ER Charles and two obronis – Dalia VP X from Lithuania and Maryna VP PD from Ukraine
- our new MC team for term 2007/2008 consists of 4 people – MCP is Vincent (also Africa GN chair for the next year, congrats Vi J ), VP FIN is Enoch, VP ER is Mary Anna and I`m the only one obroni in the team on the position of VP PD
- being right after my arrival with AIESECers and discussing the things I knew from back home made me feel like home, very relaxed. AIESEC is making my integration into Ghana much easier
- both Maryna and Dalia left home already this week, they were the first people I got to know in AIESEC Ghana, so after few days of being together for real, we switch to online communication again. It feels strange to be here without them.
- officially my PD term started yesterday, we made takeover with Maryna online on MSN. Normally MC terms starts on 1st july 2007 but since Maryna had to go back home already, I`ve started sooner
- AIESEC Ghana has 4 LCs, 2 of them located in Accra, one in Cape coast and the last one in Kumasi. KOFI ANNAN – who is a person number one in Ghana, a national hero was AIESEC related, too!

- it`s all about the contacts, network of people you have. If you know important people, nothing is impossible for you
- local run of business is very specific and without employing or knowing the local people I can`t imagine a successful business here

- African women love different hair styles. They consider their own hair for not very beautiful and normally their own hair are extremely short – few centimeters maximum, only long enough to stick to them the artificial once. Their hair styles look great, very colorful, with loads of rolls
- Rolls are typical also for boys, they take care of their hairstyle, too
- Many people ask me if I`ll try it. Well, most probably no. The way you need to care of your hair style is much less attractive than it seems to be. You can`t wash your hair at all, normally you have your hair style for 2-3 weeks. All you do with it is to apply spray against stink and itching. Girls, do you still want to go for it?
- African girls look great with all these rasta rolls, European girls simply don`t have their hair strong enough to have it
- According to the hairstyle you can also see the social status of the woman. Hair creations are expensive and poor girls simply can`t afford it
- The tricky thing is, how to remember African girls. Once you meet a girl with a long narrow red hair and the same girl will have two weeks later short rasta black rolls on her head. Impossible to remember! Generally it`s difficult to distinguish Africans and they feel the same way about us, white people. In the shops they always think I`ve been there this morning or at least they`re sure we must be sisters anytime I`m with any other white girl.

- Ghanaian currency. Mostly paper money are used, 1.000, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000 and 20.000. There are some coins, too. Exchange rate is 1 USD = 9.000 cedis, what makes me millionaire here :)
- Well, not for long , because there will be currency depreciation in july – 4 zeros will be cut off
- With my salary of 350 dollars a month I`m very very rich in comparison to any other black Ghanaian. Salaries for white obronis start where the salaries for black Ghanaian managers end and continue to very very high figures
- Personally I`m rather confused with the way local people treat the white ones. From back to the times of colonialism somehow white people are treated here in extraordinary way. You have your servants – cleaning ladies and drivers, today a boy in the shops carried my basket while I was shopping all the time and didn`t let me to carry it by myself. Many obroni people here really behave like they are something more than other people, but my opinion about equal rights of all the people remains the same. Many local people just underestimate themselves without any reason. This seems to be a very sensitive topic and will require much longer time spent here in order to fully understand it

Well, that`s it for my first week here, I`ll try to upload photos, too. I hope you enjoyed my reading and see you soon with more news from far away Africa next time :)