Ghana

Eclectic Ghana

Tetteh Quashie, Accra, Ghana
Tetteh Quashie, Accra, Ghana by George Appiah.

Accra Conscious is the blog of Mac-Jordan, recently returned to Ghana from “the colds of Europe”. It’s an eclectic mix which includes music recommendations, adinkra fabric symbols and Ghana blog meetups.

This recommendation came from Gayle’s round-up of Ghana bloggers on Ghana Guide and Blog, highly recommended reading for context and other Ghanaian blog suggestions.

Read more:
More Ghana blogs on Blogs of the World
Chitenge, a Zambian fashion essential
Brazilian music series – Chorinho

September 21, 2010 1 comment

The bumblebee and the wind-swept seed

This is a guest post by Gayle Pescud. Gayle lives and works in Bolgatanga, Ghana. She writes G-lish with her partner Godwin.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I have absolutely no sense of direction. I mean, not a single cell in my body has any idea where it is once I turn a few corners, least of all my brain cells. As a collective, my brain cells throw their arms up and go on strike if I travel further than right, left, and right again. Game over.

So, I can only ever write a guide book for a country I have spent nearly four years traversing because it takes me this long to work out where I am and where I’m going—but when I work it out, I really work it out.

(more…)

March 23, 2010 0 comments

Speaking Ghana’s language

G-lish is written by Godwin and Gayle to bring you ‘Everything the guide books leave out about life, travel, work and volunteering in Ghana’.

Godwin grew up in Ghana; Gayle grew up on the other side of the world – a good combination when it comes to explaining Ghana to the rest of the world (you might know them in their previous incarnation at This is Ghana).


Celebrate with the Elmina Dance Ensemble (photo from G-lish.org)

Look at 17 ways to welcome 2010: Ghana style for an introduction; look further for more on life in Ghana, and the Godwin Talks series for a Ghanaian point of view.

There is also a series of in-depth posts about volunteering and volunteer work in Ghana, which are available in a downloadable pdf. The guide will be relevant for anyone considering volunteer work (in any country).

Read more:
Who is Elvis? Gayle and Godwin’s cross-cultural reflections on My partner is a foreigner
More Ghana blogs from Blogs of the World
China to invest in Congo’s infrastructure
A thousand stories: Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie on looking past stereotypes

January 7, 2010 3 comments

Who is this Elvis?

Gayle (Australia) and Godwin (Ghana).

While watching tributes to the one and only Michael Jackson via international media this week, in Ghana, the comparisons with Elvis were frequent.

Godwin: “Who is this Elvis?”
Me: “Elvis Presley.”
Godwin: “Who?”
Me: “You know, Ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog…”
Godwin: “I do not know.”
Me: “Really? You’ve not heard of Elvis?”
Godwin: “No.”
Me (pausing a moment): “What about The Beatles?”
Godwin: “No.”
Me (suspicious): “Are you pulling my leg?”
Godwin (annoyed): “I’m not touching your leg.”
Me: “I know. I mean: ‘Are you kidding?’’”
Godwin: “What about?”
Me: “About not knowing The Beatles.”
Godwin: “Why would I be kidding?”
Me: “It’s just. Wow, imagine there’s no Elvis.” (D’oh! No puns…)
Godwin: “OK. Let’s hit the toad and frog.”
Me: “You’re funny.”

While it’s astonishing (for me, at least) to discover a nation where no one I spoke to, this week, knew of Elvis or The Beatles, Ghana boasting its own rich musical culture, anyway, this exchange gives you a taste of our number one challenge: communication.

The thing that still bewilders me is that ideas, experiences and perceptions that seem to have been hard-wired from birth—from Elvis to expressions like “pulling my leg”—have virtually no frame of reference in my life here.

Indeed, when I once remarked that someone had “a kangaroo loose in the top paddock”, Godwin asked, “What’s a paddock?” There are no “paddocks”; land is hardly fenced.

You see, communication is as much about language as it is culture, and we’ve had some rip-roaring arguments because of it. Misinterpreted semantics, that is.

So I dropped idioms altogether for a while. I believe, however, that building a mutual frame of reference ought to be half the fun. I mean, I take pleasure in foreign cultures because of the differences in how we think (and also because they teach me that universal principles—love, trust, kindness and forgiveness—hold true everywhere, in spite of our differences). So, I do include idioms carefully and occasionally.

And Godwin teaches me local proverbs. “Ntek, Kantek, Aniwanpehd” is “Kusa” (another language) for “If I pull and you pull, the calabash will break.” Essentially, if we keep fighting, then the relationship (symbolized by the calabash) will collapse. So, stop fighting!

For his part, Godwin is hammering away at Aussie slang. “Frog and toad” is rhyming slang for “road”. “Kitchen sink” replaces “drink”. He endeared himself hugely when he declared: “Let’s hit the toad and frog and have a sink in the kitchen.”

Personally, I struggle with Frafra, his main language. Frafra’s philosophy is: “Why make a two syllable word when we could have fun with six?” Gomatiataho (rainbow) sounds Japanese (my second language, so it clicks) but I’m having trouble with its array of breath-suffocating words.

On a serious note, I asked Godwin how he thinks he’s changed since we met: “I am better at listening and less likely to jump to conclusions while you talk. I now cross-check by asking questions instead of assuming based on my own interpretation. And I think you’re more tolerant of my round-about explanations and less impatient now,” he said.

I agree. And I know more than ever that mutual understanding is achieved best when I listen first, with my heart, and then speak—with “calabashes” of mindfulness.
One of our simple pleasures is creating meals exclusively from local ingredients, like we create nonsense language from silly conversations.

Me: “Mpo-oheya.” (Thank you—you must choke on the “o”s)
Godwin: “Mpoka kaboi.” (You’re welcome)
Me: “Was that ‘cowboy’?”
Godwin: “Mpoka KA BOI.”
Me: “Sounds like ‘COW BOY’.”
Godwin: “Mpoka ‘BLOOOONDIE’!”

He means Clint Eastwood (aka. “Blondie”) in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly—also a recent discovery for him.

And that’s how we’re creating “Fra-lish” (and building that mutual frame of reference) even if I can’t quite use it with the feisty old market women (who whisper slyly, I now understand, about my “wonderful hips” when I go haggle: Differences in the feminine ideal—now that’s a whole other topic…)

On the blog This is Ghana you can read more about Gayle and Godwin’s life in Ghana. Especially interesting at the moment are the posts on Ghanaian reactions to Obama’s visit last week.

Enjoyed this?
Read more stories of cross-cultural relationships from My Partner is a Foreigner

July 13, 2009 0 comments

Abocco

Abocco’s blog gives a taste of life in Ghana: music, Ghana’s golden jubilee and football with the African Cup of Nations are some topics to explore.

January 6, 2008 1 comment