Thursday, April 29, 2010
A Ghanaian colleague of mine found this article on a popular news and editorial website here called Modern Ghana, written by a British man who lives in Ghana (who I have somehow managed not to meet)...
Please read the whole thing, before making sweeping judgments... by the end, the guy has come full circle on his appreciation of Ghana.
Happy reading! For those of you who really know Ghana - what do you make of this?
“What do you want in Ghana? Go back to your country!”
Are you the kwasia (idiot) who shouted this at me yesterday from your taxi while I was minding my own business and waiting for my tro-tro at Presby junction? What made you come out with such an exclamation? Was it just too much apio (akpeteshi - local moonshine), or do you have a matter you want to discuss with me? Have you been to aborokyire (abroad) yourself and learnt only the bad things from there, like racism and anti-social behaviour? Did you witness my brothers sticking pickaxes in your brothers' heads, simply for having the audacity to possess beautiful black skin, and has this made you want to treat all non-Ghanaians with a similar contempt? Why didn't you come back when I asked you “woye hwan?” and signalled you to “bra!” (come), so that we could continue the conversation? I wanted to know what warranted such an uncalled-for verbal attack, and to ask you why you are so keen for me to go back to my country. As you were too much of a coward to stop the car and allow me to answer, I am forced to write my reply down and publish it on the web for you. Your provocation will not make my readers happy- this article isn't going to be quite as positive as the rest.
I might have retorted by telling you that I can't go back to my country because the UK has been taken over by millions of African immigrants, asylum seekers and illegal workers, leaving no jobs, houses or white girls left for the obroni. I'll go back to my country if you can remove all the Ghanaians from there first. Or, perhaps I should have laid the blame for my continued presence here on the procrastination and incompetence of your empty-promise government, who invited me over here in 2007 for discussions that are still to be had (“The minister has travelled to South America to collect some more cocaine, the secretary will be with you as soon as she finishes playing Solitaire”). Perhaps you were just jealous of the injustice of our respective visa regulations and angry that it takes you ten times more money and a hundred times more documents to get a visa to my country than it does for me to get one to yours. Maybe out of the vexation your aboa (silly) question laid on me, I should have lied and answered that, like most foreigners, I'm here because it's so damn easy to deceive the black man and even easier to sleep with the black woman. Whichever reply I chose to use would have been an angry one: your unprovoked, out-of-the-blue comment from the safety of a speeding taxi really pissed me off. I wasn't in the mood to “fa wo adamfo” (make friends with you), buy you a Star and tell you the real reason why I'm here, which is because there's no waakye and nkati cake in aborokyire (abroad), and because the GHanja is a hundred times cheaper than the ganja. And don't you know that a true prophet is never recognised in his own country? Imagine if Jesus Christ had been told to shut up and go back to Bethlehem every time he went out to preach his Father's word.
Anyway, why do you have a problem with foreigners in your country? Don't you want us to bring in our dollars, pounds and Euros to help prop up your feeble economy? Does “Travel and See” only apply to Ghanaians struggling to get “inside”? Tourism is Ghana's third highest earner of the money you expect to magically appear in your pocket every day. The money's definitely not going to end up in your pocket if you permit the perpetuation of the paradox that the most loved tourist hang-outs, like the bambootastic Tawala Beach Resort in La and Kumasi's Four Villages Inn, are built and owned by foreigners. Your other big earners are begging the IMF/World Bank/International Donors for loans, and all your yahoo contacts and “bogga” friends and family for remittances. Doing something yourself to create wealth doesn't seem to strike you as being possible (and dozing in your kiosks and containers every day selling foreign crap to each other does NOT create wealth). If you do really want all the foreigners out of Ghana, do you want them to take all their foreign inventions and imports with them when they go? Should the Americans and Germans leave with all their cars which you sit in, should the Chinese tear up all their roads you drive on, and should the Japanese take back all their mobile phones you talk on? Do you want the Indians to leave too? How on Earth will you survive without all their razor blades, matches and biscuits? Your people will probably die of thirst if the Thais cancel all their deliveries of Vitamilk. You probably want the South Africans to head back south too, but you love their Accra Mall with its fancy apparel, expensive food and Hollywood movies, don't you? Let's also tell the Norwegians and Canadians to go back to their fjords and Rocky Mountains and take all their mining equipment with them, leaving you to dig up your own oil and gold with a stick. And just make sure that you can produce your own corned beef and rice before you kick out the Argentineans and Vietnamese, OK? Are you sure you are able to function as a 21st century citizen alone? You haven't even caught up with the 18th (toilet in every home), the 19th (electricity in every home), or the 20th (shoes on every child) yet. Should the British take back all their educational legacy, Eurocentric textbooks and Cambridge curriculum, leaving the black man to devise and implement his own more acceptable, appropriate and Afrocentric schooling system? (Well, actually, yes they should.)
The latter matter goes to show that, even though I thought you put your point across in a rather rude and very un-Ghanaian manner (you didn't even greet me first!), you are arguably correct. The white man has done nothing but rape, pillage and underdevelop bibiman (the black man) since he “discovered” it hundreds of years ago.
He tries to hide the fact that by that time it had already for thousands of years been the home of mighty empires, luxurious palaces, golden warrior kings, rich internal trade routes, and the world's first great universities, religions, civilisations and bushdoctors- a time when Europe was wallowing in Dark Age squalor and dying from bubonic plague. It's all gone downhill for Africa and uphill for Europe from then on: the white man should have been told to go home as soon as he arrived, just as strongly as you told me yesterday. Perhaps your forefathers should have had your same strong convictions back in 1471 and told the Portuguese to “Vai tomar no cu!” when all this kwasiasem began. Instead, they deferentially allowed them to build their dirty slave castle on Elmina's sacred ground in exchange for a few bags of shells and bottles of cheap whisky. Ayikoo (good going!). Why didn't your great-grandfather tell my great-grandfather to stick the Bond of 1844 up his sorry white ass, instead of sycophantically signing it, thereby forcing his own free black people to become subservient to some faraway white queen? In 1957 the “colonial master”, after making himself fat and rich through 300 years of slave dealing and 113 years of natural resource stealing, “granted” you independence of your own land. How noble and gracious of him. At the time, did your fathers follow your proud and outspoken example and cry foul over this “Mickey Mouse Independence”? Obviously they didn't, because Lucky Dube was still singing about such empty emancipations more than fifty years later.
That's one of the messages Kwame Nkrumah was trying to tell your predecessors before the CIA had him killed off. As well as Osagyefo, you have many more historical figures you can be proud of, who did stand up to the Imperialist immigrants, but can you tell me about some of them? Probably not- you didn't look very educated. Most schoolchildren should know the name of the Ejisu Queenmother who bravely defended the Golden Stool in 1901, but how many can name the Akwamu chief who whipped some Danish ass in 1693 to become the Governor of Christianborg Castle- the only African to ever gain such a status on the Gold Coast? Name the Asantehene (1720-50) who demanded that the Europeans set up factories and distilleries in Africa, instead of forcing his people to buy imported goods. When your son gets back from school tonight, ask him why MacCarthy Hill is called MacCarthy Hill, and what happened to MacCarthy before he became a hill. I'll pay his school fees for a year if he knows. The Ashantis should be proud of chopping off that white invader's head in 1824. But are your children learning about and celebrating these great people and moments in black history, so they will be inspired to become great themselves? Or are they just traipsing 5 miles to their dull little concrete schools every day so they can memorise some Babylonian nonsense in order to regurgitate for the BECE then forget it? More worrying still, where are today's freedom fighters and role models who will be the future inspiration for your children's children? Osofo Kantanka can't do it all by himself. Who is going to stand out from the crowd and make sure that Ghana 2050 is not just a photocopy of Ghana 2010 (only with more layers of plastic waste)? Your leaders will never achieve anything for you and your people by dressing in suits, flying in planes and attending conferences, Bretton Woods negotiations and HIPC summits. Don't tell me to go home to aborokyire, tell them to come back from there.
Perhaps you shouted at me to go back to my country because you also realise that no state which uses a foreign tongue as its official language has ever progressed, and no economy that relies on foreign aid, Structural Adjustment Programmes and 98% foreign trade has ever grown. Do you also agree that Africa can never develop until it breaks its dependence on the white man? Are you also aware that the West is deliberately keeping Africa poor so that they can remain rich? I can empathise with your point of view; you want the obroni to stop meddling in Mother Africa and allow her to go through her own agricultural and industrial revolutions, without which no developed country has ever been created. Next time you drive past your Vice-President, will you have the balls to shout at him that begging for Brazilian tractors is not the answer?
However, please don't make the assumption that all foreigners are wicked (only most of us). There are a handful of abrofo afrophiles with no hidden agenda who are here for positive reasons, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm one of them. I challenge you to charge me with any offence against Ghana (apart from the herbs, which I only use in my own home with a police officer present). I have never taken money, natural resources, state secrets, smuggled cocoa or trafficked children out of your country (but I do always return home with a suitcase full of Golden Tree chocolate and Mapouka Cream Liqueur: why are these delicious Ghanaian products never available overseas, but I can always buy overpriced European Mars Bars and Baileys here?) I am not one of these “foreign investors” who your government seems to love so much, despite the fact that even if these vampires invest a million dollars, they're going to suck out more than a billion in the future. I have no interest in profiteering from your people by owning a telecommunications company, Lebanese supermarket or Irish bar. I am not here to impose my English expertise on the primitive African. In fact, the opposite is true: I have learned more here about respect, personal relationships, spiritualism and good living than I gained from decades in Europe. I am not a paedophile or a batty boy. If you don't believe me, ask my wife. If you don't believe her, ask my girlfriend. I'm different to most Englishman in that I learn other people's languages, instead of expecting the whole world to speak mine. I've already written at length about the myriad reasons why I've chosen to leave my unfriendly country of birth and live in asomdweman, none of which I believe are detrimental to Africa. Quite to the contrary, I only want to lead a conscious life here and do as much as I can to help my beloved adopted country. That's why I'm writing this column- nobody's paying me for it, but I hear on the grapevine that a lot of people are “feeling” it. That's the only form of payment I desire. I'm also doing my utmost to bring more tourists to Ghana- if you and your friends would stop shitting on the beach, then I'm sure it would help to attract a lot more.
Of course, I agree with you that there are plenty of wicked, Godless, money-grabbing foreigners in Ghana who do deserve to be on the receiving end of your scathing attack, and I forgive you for getting me mixed up with one of them. They're the ones who are doing their best to keep Africa down, whether it be by stealing your oil, imposing the price of your cocoa, braindraining your best graduates, transplanting their “foreign expertise”, or forcing you to be generation after generation of hewers of wood and drawers of water. We refer to these neo-colonialists who are feeding off the dying remains of your continent as “white men vultures”. I'm sure you have heard the local appellation of “Obroni p3t3!” (white vulture) - I half expected you to add that one when you were shouting at me. Even though these people share my colour, they certainly don't share my principles, and I want to get them out of Ghana as much as you do. These people definitely do not deserve your country's Akwaaba (welcome). I can't wait for the day when Kofi Wayo becomes president- he promises to arrest all the Chinese vultures who are buying up your factories and farmlands and galamseying in your rivers, and send them all to the firing squad. With Blakk Rasta as his vice-president, there would be a similar fate in store for all the depraved sexual deviants who are coming here to rape your sons and daughters, and for all the crazy junkies who are flooding the country with their evil Colombia powder.
I might even go so far as to say that any foreigner in Ghana who is not a tourist, volunteer, charity worker, philanthropist, prophet, or anyone like Joseph Hill with a desire to help “bring back the money with the sign of the Lion on it and take back the money with the sign of the dragon on it” can be referred to as obroni p3t3. The businessmen, miners, foreign lenders, hoteliers, vehicle dealers and makers of porn movies are all here to enrich themselves at your expense, so I don't blame you for being angry when you see a white man in your country. Nor was I surprised when a Rasta man who didn't know I was one of his brethren shouted “Slave master!” at me as we passed recently. Rather, I'm surprised that I'm not at the receiving end of these anti-white sentiments more often, considering the brutal and exploitative way in which my forefathers have treated yours over the past 500 years.
I'm sick of hearing, when I reveal that I'm British; “Oh! Our colonial masters! We love you! You taught us everything we know!” If Ghana had colonised Britain and sold my ancestors into slavery, I don't think I would be so friendly to Ghanaians. So your outburst was actually a breath of fresh air. Maybe more Ghanaians should be like you and strive to kick the bad foreigners out- they're only going to continue downpressing you if you don't. But get out the car and talk to them first: there's a small chance that you might actually like them. Strangers are only friends who have never met.
Ian Utley is the author of
“Culture Smart! Ghana, the Essential Guide to Customs and Culture”
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
After having our passports scrutinized for the dreaded Israeli stamp (which warrants immediate deportation), we wandered through to collect our bags and were greeted by a nightclub’s worth of exhaled smoke. Passengers and pilots all getting their fix after the long journey. But right there in the public areas of the airport? It just seemed so lawless, such an olden-days-before-the-international-ban type atmosphere…
In a way, it seemed like rebellious teenager, and my later impressions of Beirut as a city stayed true to that initial perception.
As we weaved our way through the streets that night I tried to soak it all in. Every sight, every building, person, smell, colour, curb… to compare what I saw to all of the stereotypes that had been built up in the collective mind of the westerner.
When I mentioned heading to Lebanon to many North American friends, the reactions were all negative or at least bemused.
“Will you be safe?”
“Interesting choice of holiday destination…”
What images came to their minds?
- Hezbollah – dangerous terrorists
- War – building rubble and wailing women
- Black veils oppressing women
- Anti Christian, anti Jewish, anti democracy-progress-development.
And the truth is that if I’d never met the amazing Lebanese people that I have in Ghana, I never would have gone.
But how wrong everyone was!
I must say though, that the streets of Beirut are not for the faint hearted when it comes to driving – and by extension, walking! There are no rules or at least no adherence to lanes, lights, right of way.. it is survival of the fittest and fastest. If you can hit the accelerator and the horn at the same time, you are on the right path.
But the more surprising feature of the roads is the actual cars. Bling bling bling… we learned quickly that it’s all about keeping up with the Khourys when it comes to your car in Beirut. The streets were full of the latest Porsche Cayenne, Ferraris, high end Audis and GMCs… Everywhere there is valet parking (including at McDonalds – no joke), and at the end of an evening at a club it’s a Hollywood scene as all the fancy cars pull up and the groups get in one by one, silently screaming “Look at us!”.
I later learned that many of these cars are on credit, but it’s all about living large in the here and now, and that general lust for life attitude carries over into all aspects of life. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in the same period of time. We were in the hospitable hands of the greatest friends and every extended family member or friend we visited had a feast awaiting us.
Food itself is a phenomenon in Lebanon. The flavours are fresh and vibrant and indulgent. Food is not about hunger and digestion but socialization, fun, people. A good dose of Arak (Lebanon’s version of Pastis or Ouzo) also goes a long way to make a mezze meal stretch smoothly on for hours. It’s amazing to witness and take part in, even if your Arabic is limited to Inshallah, and Shukran…
As a matter of fact, most Lebanese are fluent in at least three languages. Everyone speaks French, English and Arabic, and many speak others like Italian, Spanish or even Chinese!
There is a true affection between the Lebanese and the French and it is evident everywhere. One night, as we walked along the busy, bar lined streets of Gemmayze, we came to one of our friend’s favourite places. The windows were perspiring and we could see a lively crowd within – separate tables of families and friends all joining in together to sing along with the performer, her backup piano squished in the semi circle of tables, backed onto the washrooms. We opened the door and the flood of voices hit us. They were singing French ‘classics’ and everyone knew the words. It was a vision of what Paris would be like if it’s population was Lebanese! We joined the crowd and ate, drank and tried to sing along. It was a spectacular evening, of the type it seems only the Lebanese know how to carry off so naturally.
The more time we spent in Beirut, the more I realized that due to CNN and it’s sisters, the West has a warped and uninformed idea of what Lebanon is about.
- Women in Beirut are all about glamour – eyebrows are tattooed perfectly, (if severely) nails are done, hair shines with not a lock out of place and the high heeled shoes made me unsteady on my feet just looking at them. I barely saw abayas and hijabs, let alone the niqabs that cover the whole face. I also have never seen more facial plastic surgery in my life – and I have been to Los Angeles! Dr. 90210 has nothing on this place ☺
I don't know how they feast so much and stay so fit... the gyms must be busy!
- The biggest KFC I’ve ever seen, like a a KFC Mega Mall, spanning a full city block – I saw in Beirut.
- Dunkin’ Donuts is everywhere, and police (like their American counterparts) can be found hovering with a coffee in hand.
- The sound of Christian Church bells rivals the Muslim call to prayer all around Lebanon
- Skiing is a popular winter sport in the mountains of Lebanon
- Most signboards around the city of Beirut are in English or French
- Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits is a popular fast food joint (and I thought it was too regional to come to Canada!)
Beirut is a modern city, but it has character. It has many battle scars. It cannot completely hide the years of bombings, of invasions and civil wars, and there are many buildings, their facades pock marked with bullet wounds. It’s so difficult for an outsider to imagine what the place and the people have gone through, and so recently, when you meet the open, friendly kind-hearted masses.
I think that being through trauma makes us appreciate each day, each flower, each fruit.
We saw vibrant red poppies, sprouting up through concrete landscapes, and tasted exotic fruits like escadinia (a small oblong yellow fruit, like a plum, with shiny rich brown seeds inside), and bomali, a huge citrus fruit, somewhat like a grapefruit but larger and sweeter, and the sharp tang of fresh almonds, green and slightly fuzzy, eaten with salt.
When friends took us to the hills outside the concrete jungle of Beirut (where there is no free standing homes, just miles and miles of highrises), we came to a different world. We drove through tiny Druze villages perched atop cliffs and wound our way to a magical home, built into the side of a mountain. It took my breath away.
Artichokes and orange trees and huge fresh green beans grew all around and the house itself, like a secret cabin, peeked out, fully open to the trees and blooming flowers that sheltered it.
There was a feast there too – a luncheon where the guests poured in from the city, and the drinks and food poured out of the open kitchen just as fast.
There was an Easter egg hunt for the kids as it was Easter Sunday, and trays of baklawa for us adults. Yum.
This is the Lebanon we were embraced by – the fast and the slow, the sad and the joyous, the vibrancy that flows in the people, the places, the soul of the country.
Some great links about Lebanon:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Here I am bathing in the healing mud of the dead sea!
Actually I've been to Beirut and Jordan too. Wow. No time to post today, but I promise profound observations of the beauty of the Middle East!!!