The surmountable trials of Lady Ghana


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Driving me crazy

Today, I’m getting a Ghanaian driver’s licence. Being in possession of a local licence is compulsory for all residents, so after driving illegally in the country for over a year, I figured it was about time to get my house in order. Luckily for me, I just need to convert my foreign licence into a local one.

Everyone who has been through the process of buying a car, taking a test, converting or renewing their licence has had to face Ghana’s most dreaded government administration: the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA). It is infamous for its painfully slow procedures, its ability to lose files and mysteriously recover them in return for small benefits. Many have tried and failed, sometimes losing patience after 5 hours of waiting, or coming back many times because they were told they had filled in the “wrong form”.

Here is how my day unfolded:

09:10:    arrive at the DVLA office. The waiting game begins.

09:40:    the regional manager wants to see me before approving my application. While I sit in his office, he takes on four phone calls and places one: “Good morning, Sir. How is your health? And the family? Thank God. I just wanted to hear how you are. OK, we’ll talk later”. Then he stands up, points a stick at a poster on the wall and sternly, like an old school teacher, gives me a test on regulatory signs. Satisfied that I know the difference between “no parking” and “no overtaking”, he signs my form.

09:55:    back in the waiting room. There is constant movement and creaking of chairs, as candidates for the driving test “move up” the waiting list by swapping seats with the person in front of them.

A police officer in uniform tries to sneak in the front row, as he’s spotted an opening with a lady who’s a bit slow on the move. He is immediately admonished by 20 people behind him who are waiting to enter the holy sanctuary and he swiftly leaves the room.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s X-Factor is playing on TV. A woman has impressed the judges by making a can of beer stand upright on her buttocks. The audience is in hysterics and she goes on to the next level.

Back in the room, a few women have sensed a business opportunity and are selling bagels and cold drinks. They seem to be making good money.

DVLA

10:50:    the wait goes on. An officer tells me that one of the forms in my application has been misplaced and they are searching the archive bags for it. I go back to reading my book, while the Mexican soap “Dueña” is playing on TV.

11:45:    my “driving competence form” is officially declared lost by an incompetent officer, and I’m forced to fill in a new one. I must produce 2 passport photos, which I don’t have on me, so I go back to the main gate where about half a dozen men rush towards me, asking “hey lady, you need pictcha?”. I sit in a plastic chair, while one of them presses his digital camera in my face. Ten minutes later, I hand over my form and my photos.

12:03:    the competence manager has locked himself in his office and won’t sign my competence form until his lunch break is over. I seriously contemplate conceding defeat, but settle for the bagel lady instead.

12:40:    the competence manager’s door opens and I spring into action. Then I bring my form to the fingerprints and photo lady in the next room. She is in a good mood and is delighted to speak French to me as she reads out my name. In just a few clicks she enters my data, takes my picture and lo and behold, the digital printer issues a copy of my brand new Ghanaian licence!

12:50:    mission accomplished. I’m out. Wait a minute: I look at the small print at the bottom of my licence and it says “temporary – valid for 3 months only”.

I guess I’ll be back by Christmas.

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Pick-me-up advice to Ghanaian men

Dear Ghanaian men,

You love foreign women, and you certainly cannot be accused of shyness. Here are a few tips that will guarantee your success when chatting up foreign women.

First it is important that you take special care in your personal grooming. Adopt a cool dreadlocks style and wear extra large sunglasses. When you see women walking down the street, hail at them something like “Hallo sista. Lookin’ good t’day, ooo?”. Repeat it each time you see them so that they will know that you really care about them.

Mention their body parts. If possible, back up with ample gestures. Use expressions like “big bottom” while ogling them – it will boost their self-esteem and they will enjoy being reminded that years of heat combined with a lack of exercise have acquired them traditional African curves.

If they innocently greet you while passing you by, do not under any circumstance beat around the bush. Instead politely strike a conversation by saying “Ah. Nice breasts. You have nice breasts”. Avoid eye contact at all costs and stare at the said breasts while shaking your head to show your appreciation. God forbid that you would say or tolerate someone else say such rude things to your female Ghanaian friend, but foreign women love to be harangued that way.

Come up with a sexy profession, such as artist or photographer. Tell them how you have been suffering for your art to be internationally recognized but that unfortunately you lack the financial means to make it happen. Insist that women are your true inspiration and that is why all your paintings depict (again) voluminous curves, female genital parts and couples having intercourse. They will want to help by buying one of your paintings and will display it proudly in their living room to show it to their female guests.

And be spiritual. Foreign women want to hear that God has revealed you that you were destined to marry a foreigner. He will eventually speak to them in a dream as well. At the very least, he will convince them of your crucial need of a flat screen TV or of sponsorship for a visa to their country.

Do not be deterred by the presence of other men when trying to pick up foreign women. If you think they might be having a drink with their boyfriend, or listening to some live concert with their husband, it is an appropriate time to make a move. Walk straight to them and assuming that they will happily oblige, pull them to the dance floor and woo them with your dancing savoir-faire while their man will be left staring incredulously. Better still, if you are a customs official and you see a couple, married from the look of their passports, trying to enter your country, ask the foreign woman to show you her boarding pass and while her husband is watching, write your mobile phone number at the back and invite her to “call you” with a broad smile.

Above all, never lose hope. Should you regularly get shut down, assume that foreign women regularly enjoy being annoyed. Who knows, one day these efforts of yours may finally pay off.

Yours sincerely,

Lady Ghana

cool ghana dude  cool ghana dude2


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God’s marketing

The only positive thing about traffic in and out of Accra is that it gives you plenty of time to admire billboards and shop signs along the road. And some of them are indeed spectacular.

Now Ghana is a very religious place, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most signs have a spiritual (if not biblical) content. At the very least, your business should be blessed and anointed in the oil of holy deliverance. And, sister, you don’t just own a small home appliances shop – you run God’s power house.

Here is a selection of my favourites, captured just outside Accra, in a place called Budumburam (reminds me of something…).

This looks very promising. But I wonder about the pastor’s name?

You can’t go wrong with an anointed square pipe, right?

Open the door to your heart

Do not check while driving

A very special school

That’s faith for you. But should you need more of it:

By the way, I would like to thank you all very much for your kind comments, concerns and encouragement  following my previous post. It means a lot. Thank you x