The surmountable trials of Lady Ghana


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“You will love it there”

When we told them that we would be moving to Ghana, most people were happy for us. We weren’t and I feel bad about it.

We had been looking for jobs anywhere but in Africa, but the doors seemed to remain closed. We dreamt of skiing in Switzerland, of cycling along the Potomac in Washington D.C. or learning how to cook in Vietnam. After five years of dealing with post-conflict countries, I felt we deserved it.

Settling for Ghana seemed like a compromise. Like I was being robbed of my chance of a more normal life.

But Ghana is different, or so everybody claimed. It is more developed, more stable. “You will love it there”, was the most common thing we heard when we told people of our decision.

I was very nervous when I stepped off the plane. As we were introduced to our new colleagues, everyone was friendly, positive and welcoming. I smiled a lot but felt like a fraud, quietly praying that no-one would sense my disappointment.

For all the good things you hear about Ghana, it is not that developed. Sure you can find a number of well-stocked grocery stores, South African wines, even a massive shopping mall, but it is far behind South Africa or Kenya in terms of infrastructure or service delivery. Accra is chaotic, ugly, and dusty, and it does not draw on its beaches, giving it zero tourist appeal.

What Ghana does have for itself is safety. It feels stable and Ghanaians make a point of saying that their country is not a mess like Nigeria. Here’s hoping that the upcoming presidential elections in December will prove them right. I have been walking on my own at day and evening time and some people look at me but nobody stares. Nobody shouts “Obruni!” (the Ghanaian equivalent of Mzungu-the foreigner). I almost feel normal here and it is SO nice.

And Ghanaians are really friendly. In fact, it is possibly the friendliest place in Africa I have so far been to. People are gentle, they greet you with a smile, they are spontaneous and offer you help when you look like you need it and they seem to generally trust each other.

Maybe the settling in will be easier than expected…

Accra’s main shopping street, Oxford street in Osu

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The day I moved to Accra

I didn’t want to come here.

After five years of flip-flops and frizzy hair, this African chick was ready to leave the continent and move to greener and, let’s be honest, more ordered pastures. Not that I don’t like it here. I was just tired of constantly being the different, privileged one. Tired of living in a place where people see you as their source of income, where relationships are often dictated by the need to survive rather than genuine friendship.

I love Africa, but I just needed a break. So when Mr Club said: “how about Ghana?”, I said: “how about not?”. And a few months later here we are, in Accra, on the Gold Coast.

I moved here with a heavy heart, far from the people we’ve loved and left behind in our little banana republic. I think of them everyday. I miss them.

I dread the typical backpackers who will inevitably come to Ghana, spend two months here, think their lives changed forever and declare it to be the coolest place on earth. They will go back to their ipads and organic food, while I will stick it here because I have to.

I needed a break, but if I have to do it all over again, let me at least do it differently, and hopefully better. Let me believe that I can be surprised by Africa again.

Here I come, Ghana. Surprise me.