MoMic, a Student Charity that Gives Back
By Henry Eshun
By Henry Eshun
By David Tamsey
By Priscilla Addison
About the author: Priscilla is a Co-founder of ’57 Chocolate. A lover of dogs and an international snack enthusiast. Her favorite snack is green-tea kit-kats. She is fond of eating a delicious meal in great company and conversation. You can follow her adventures on Instagram here.
By '57 Chocolate
Growing up as little girls, we always associated Valentine’s Day with velvet red and Pepto-Bismol pink. Valentine’s Day was a day made for large heart-shaped chocolate boxes and lollipops, greeting cards, long stemmed roses, poems, candy hearts with flirty but cheeky messages, as well as tons and tons of chocolate. Having moved to Ghana in 2014, one thing that came to our attention is that there is an entire day dedicated to chocolate. I’m sure you guessed by now, but Valentine’s Day is National Chocolate Day in Ghana.
A few years ago, Ghana’s Tourism Authority in partnership with the Cocoa Processing Company, the Ghana Chef Association and Ghana Cocoa Board declared February 14th as National Chocolate Day to promote locally manufactured cocoa products, especially chocolates. What is Valentine’s Day without chocolate? It’s certainly a day less sweet.
According to the Government of Ghana, “the day was instituted to coincide with [February 14th] to reshape the celebration of Valentine’s Day and to promote the local consumption of chocolate and other cocoa-based products since cocoa is the mainstay of Ghana’s economy.”
One other thing we notice, Valentine’s Day is a celebration that Ghanaians take very seriously. Throughout the city of Accra you will find mothers, lovers, men and women decked out in red from head to toe. Shops and restaurants splashed in red, from the window to the wall promoting event specials for lovebirds and/or singles.
Here’s a fun fact for you. Usually the day after Valentine’s Day, newspaper headlines read “Mad Rush for Condoms” (Yes, this article is real). Unfortunately, pharmacies run out of condoms and cannot meet demand. On a more positive note, it’s great that individuals are at least practicing safe sex. All things considered, perhaps declaring February 14th as National Chocolate Day was a tactic for the government to encourage fellow Ghanaians to bestow their lovers with a more sweeter chocolate flavored gift.
Whereever it is that you reside— if you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, in a relationship or single and ready to mingle, please treat yourself to some chocolate.
Happy National Chocolate Day to all our fellow chocolate lovers!
The Mate at the Door
by Sean Gabriel
All those who've used a ramshackle tro-tro (the ubiquitous private vans that substitute for a public bus network) to get around town cheaply know it's a two-man operation - a driver at the wheel and a mate at the door. Particularly for commuter routes within the city, the high-energy dance of the tro mate is a ridiculous combination of hollering and fingering one's destination out the window, slapping the van to make sudden stops, stretching for change over rows of shoulder-to-shoulder bodies, and heaving a dilapidated side door back and forth, for hours on end.
My daily commute would take me from the Osu neighborhood up to East Legon and back again, and through the many journeys and transfers I came to recognize my favorite buses by the marvelous slogans adorning their backs ("no hurry no worry"). Though I don't know how much say the mates have in decorating their vans, I soon came to enjoy the experience of confusing them as an eager “obruni” (the local word for a foreigner) by trying to flag them down - most expats prefer to get around by taxi for the convenience and comfort. Indeed, squishing in my 6'4" frame into an empty seat was never easy! While some days’ commutes proved better than others, by in large I've been impressed by how the mates can run such a tight ship despite their hectic jobs. They usually know where everyone's stopping, but critically, they always know who's yet to pay!
I'm grateful to the many mates and ladies of Accra for brightening my daily life in the city, and for all their good humor as we shared in the traffic, dumsor, and sweltering heat together. Thanks for doing what you do and for keeping Ghana friendly!
About the author: Sean is a software product manager currently living in London, and a former Technical Fellow at the MEST Incubator in Accra. His encounters with fruit ladies even inspired him to lead a team hackathon around this idea for Accra's inaugural Global Game Jam in 2015. You can find him on Twitter @skaulana or his personal site kaulana.com.
The Magic of Harmattan
by Awo Gyan
In Ghana, it’s that time of the year when the Sahara desert reminds us that Africa is home, with the blowing of the mighty-dusty northeast trade winds to the west and beyond. There’s no winter, no fireplace, but the weather is simultaneously cold and warm.
From December, harmattan sends its messengers to tell the news of its coming. Gladly, they whisper it to the trees on the other side of the continent, excited to have traveled elsewhere.
When the trees get wind of the harmattan, the magic begins. Their leaves dry up and change to different hues of red and orange. And who said there was no autumn here? Gradually, the leaves fall, and the trees are left bare. As if to show reverence, the leaves lay prostrate and cover the ground like a carpet laid for a king so his feet do not touch the ground. The color makes everything glorious, and walking never sounded this good! The sun beams as usual, I occasionally enjoy the symphony from the crunching of the crisp dry leaves under my feet. What a masterpiece!
Harmattan arrives in grand style…. always. At night, when the sun has gone around to warm other lands, it moves stealthily and takes over. It loves to surprise people, so instead of waiting till day, like the sun, it creeps in silently with chilly winds and great blankets of fog. At dawn, as the sun slowly rises from the east, gusts of harmattan winds blow over the land, so you wake up and BAM! Harmattan! Just like that, from nowhere without warning! Chills slap your face in the morning and it stings so badly that your nostrils hurt and the shock makes your mouth dry up. The shock turns to happiness, finally! The heat is over, and you smile, but not too widely so the stretch does not crack your dry lips.
There are two groups of people in this season, the ready and the unready. The ready are those who anticipated harmattan’s coming, in spite of the changes in weather that are going on. These people have calabashes, bowls and chunks of shea butter in hiding. The unready don’t, and they, while their companions smile, stand still as the images of the various shea butter vendors they’ve bypassed without a thought reels in their minds. It’s too late now. Shea butter will become like hot cake, probably more expensive than it usually is– if they’ll find some, that is.
For many it is pure joy to take a bath with the cold water, others warm it up, but in the end, they get to their rooms as quickly as they can after their baths and smear the shea butter all over their bodies, paying special attention to their elbows, knees and feet. Not forgetting their lips and nostrils.
In fact everywhere else, harmattan takes self-love to a whole new level. I heard somewhere that harmattan reveals the truly beautiful ones. Butter up or it cracks your lips and heels in search of that beauty!
The fog is very heavy in the morning, but lightens up as the day goes by, and did I mention the dust? You can just use dust instead of harmattan in a sentence and it’s just fine. You wake up, dust. You breathe, dust. You sweep, dust. You clean, dust. You mop, dust. In fact, the most sweeping, dusting and mopping is done during this season. It’s sweep, dust, mop, repeat, and the cycle continues if you want a clean house.
In spite of all these, I look forward to harmattan. It comes with many chills and a lot of dust, and lessons—if you pay attention.
The trees tell us that sometimes we lose, but we also gain. Our failures can put us down, strip us of any dignity and leave us bare and naked, a spectacle to all. But we must stand tall with our heads up and keep on keeping on, our spring will come, our leaves will once again be green and our flowers will bloom, it’s only a matter of time.
They lay a beautiful carpet for harmattan with their leaves, so when his winds blow, they rise and show that indeed it’s here. Yes, sometimes in life we have to sacrifice things for others. You know exactly what will make others shine, give, let go. Help them to do their best. Your time will come darling, it’s only a matter of time
Harmattan catches many off guard and reminds me of preparation. To put something down for future use, save your savings for the future, ask those who have shea butter now, they’ll tell you. Don’t wait till it’s too late and pay the high price.
Self-love. Love yourself . Treat yourself well, be that king or queen you are and reign every single day. Forget about circumstances, they change. Enjoy every day you get and leave no room for regret.
If the dust settles, clean it up, you can take a break, but once it’s over, wake up, learn, improve, repeat. Do something every day that will take you closer to your goals!
Invest in yourself. Let your touch linger even after you’ve left, like the harmattan.
Be you! Be true! Make impact! Be like harmattan!
About the author: Awo is one of the winners of the 2016 Ama Ata Aidoo short story competition. She is a student at the University of Ghana studying Nutrition and Food Science. She can be found reading, inventing quirky recipes and "DIYing" when she's not writing. Awo enjoys doing voice overs and tries to be creative in every possible way.
Burger (it's not what you think)
by Priscilla Addison
If you are a friend or family member of mine reading this, then you already know I LOVE to snack between meals. My favorite pastime, when traveling to a new country, aside from sampling cuisine and beverages that are foreign to me, is finding a local but popular grocery store to scan its aisles for fun, interesting, and delicious snacks to purchase and try. If there are too many options leaving me at odds of making a decision, I find the nearest store attendant for guidance. When purchasing snacks, I have found that seeking local opinion is incredibly important. Clearly, I take my snack shopping very seriously!
I am certain my enthusiasm to try local manufactured snacks stems from my international upbringing. My family moved around quite often, due to my dad's career in international development. As a result, my four siblings and I attended a diverse range of schools: public, international, and boarding. Like most kids, my favorite subject was recess (mom and dad, if you are reading this I'm only kidding). I would use this time to trade small portions of my snacks for items I had never tried. And by the age of 10 (living in Dakar, Senegal and attending an international school at the time), I had sampled Senegalese bissap, Japanese nori, speculaas spiced biscuits and salted black licorice from the Netherlands, kimchi—a Korean side dish, Toblerone from Switzerland, Rugrats fruit snacks from the U.S., and much more.
Fast forward 19 years and not much has changed. When I moved to Ghana from Switzerland two years ago, one thing I noticed immediately was the lack of made-in-Ghana snacks on supermarket shelves. Quite the opposite experience I had in Switzerland. In Ghana, it was all foreign made products from China, India, Lebanon, Korea, Britain, Germany, the U.S. and France.
Little did I know, I would discover one of my favorite Ghanaian snacks on a road trip to Abrui with my two (older and little) sisters. I was hungry and we were sitting in traffic at a toll station with little or no options to quiet the stomach rumblings.
Anytime we are on the road, my sisters are adamant on giving the local street hawkers business. The street hawkers (read: street entrepreneurs, because that is what I believe they really are) sell almost anything, but mostly Chinese imports on the road: grasscutter, toilet paper, onions, shoes, puppies (YES, even puppies), electronics, plastic chairs, art, gum, fizzy beverages and water, books, newspapers and magazines. You name it! They sell it. It's like a convenience store at your passenger window.
With my sisters, how it usually goes is:
"Priscilla do we have enough paper towel at home?"
"Priscilla didn't you say you needed a bathing sponge?"
"Oh look! Priscilla, someone is selling peanuts. How about those?"
Seated in the front seat of our truck, I leaned over to our Ghanaian driver and asked, "Have you tried these peanuts? Are they nice?" After having received the necessary local confirmation from our driver, I made eye contact with the street entrepreneur, and in a blink of an eye he was at my window. These peanuts are in a bright yellow and red packaging and are named Nkatie Burger (Peanut Snack), or simply referred to as "Burger." They cost 1.00 cedis when bought by the roadside, but cost 1.50 cedis in local gas stations and Shoprite, a South African-owned grocery store. Sadly, I haven’t seen them sold in any other major grocery store.
And to be honest, I am clueless as to why they are called Burger, because they do not contain any traces of animal products. My guess is because historically hamburgers are identified as the main staple of the American roadside. And from what I've seen in West Africa (particularly in Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Mali), our equivalent is peanuts, also referred to as groundnuts.
What I can tell you is that these peanuts are absolutely delicious. These little gems are generously coated in wheat flour and coconut, with a little hint of sweetness. They are a necessity to include among your list of road trip/travel snacks or serve to visitors with a much needed beer or glass of wine. Also, they are made-in-Ghana!
For those of you who don't have the opportunity to try this snack. Here's a nice recipe and a video from Precious Kitchen to walk you through the process. Do note, (in my opinion) this specific recipe is missing a key ingredient: coconut. I recommend blending dried coconut flakes and adding this to the wheat flour.
I did a little bit more digging and it's clear that this peanut snack is a favorite across West Africa, especially Nigeria and Cameroon. Burger is manufactured by a Ghanaian food processing company called Burger Food Industries (BFI), located in Accra. Also another point to highlight, Burger is a product that gives back through its corporate social responsibility mandate. According to their website they state: "We have invested in education by providing scholarships to several students from junior high school to the university level. In the health sector, our company spent over seventy thousand cedis in 2014 to finance the construction of a maternity wing of Taifa Polyclinic. In the same year, we also invested in the rehabilitation of roads in the Taifa community, where we currently operate."
Hearing about or discovering manufacturers like BFI, gives me much hope for this country, especially because BFI has been around for fifteen years! My wish for the country is to see other local manufacturers in various fields blossom and thrive. Most importantly, I want to be able to walk into supermarkets where made-in-Ghana products line the shelves of every major grocery store in Ghana.
So next time you're in Ghana or looking for a snack, I hope you choose to buy local. Let Burger be among your made-in-Ghana purchases! It's been tested and approved by yours truly.
About the author: Priscilla is a Co-founder of ’57 Chocolate. A lover of dogs and an international snack enthusiast. Her favorite snack is green-tea kit-kats. She is fond of eating a delicious meal in great company and conversation. You can follow her adventures on Instagram here.
A Safehouse for Children
by John Gershman
My favorite places in Ghana reflect a commitment to support the disenfranchised and support communities often stigmatized and without political voice.
One place I would like to highlight is the Jaynii Streetwise Foundation in Jamestown, Accra. Founded by a husband (Nii) and wife (Jay) who met while in a performing group of dancers and musicians, the Foundation since 2007 has provided a drop-in center, housing for orphans and kids with difficult family situations, music and dance lessons, and a playground for children in Jamestown, one of Accra’s poorest neighborhoods. About 25 children sleep there regularly and untold others drop-in after school and on weekends to play and hang out. They finance the foundation with musical performances, selling hand-made bags, and donations. A visit to the foundation for a drumming and dancing lesson (which support the foundation), nourishes the body with exercise and the soul, with wonderful music and time spent with Jay, Nii, and the children they support.
About the author: John Gershman is a Clinical Professor of Public Service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and co-teaches a course on Hunger and Food Security in Ghana every summer. He finds that grilled tilapia tastes best in Accra.
17 Reasons to be Grateful!
by 57 Chocolate
GRATITUDE. According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the definition of gratitude is "a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation." As the new year approaches, we at '57 Chocolate have so much to be thankful for. We decided the best way to celebrate the holiday season is to take the time to acknowledge all that we've accomplished, appreciate what we have, as well as where we plan to be in the coming years (short- and long-term).
January 2017 is when '57 Chocolate officially turns one year old. Can you believe it? We can't either. We made our first batch of chocolate in January 2016, made our first sale of 700 pieces of chocolate in April, and since then we have made an immense amount of progress.
A phenomenal poet, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said, "Be present in all things, be thankful for all things." When was the last time you practiced gratitude? We invite you to join us now, at this very moment to practice gratitude.
We encourage you to pause with us for 10 minutes. Find a quiet space, grab a piece of paper (or a journal), your favorite pen and write down 17 things you are grateful for (from January 2016 to present). We thought 17 things would be most fitting, given the upcoming new year 2017.
Don't think about it too long. Write down whatever first comes to mind. Ready? Set? Here it goes.... (in no particular order of course):
1. God. For the amazing opportunities and blessings.
2. Our mentors near & far (Yayra, Evelyn, Rudy, Fabien, Simon, Margie, Beverly, and Pam)
3. All the cocoa farmers, especially in Ghana, who labor to grow a crop which many of us take for granted.
4. Akyaa (thank you for being our first customer).
5. Nii & Diane, thank you for encouraging us to go the extra mile.
6. The Tony Elumelu Foundation, for giving us the opportunity to grow our idea.
7. Our loving and supportive parents (Mum & Dad) a.k.a Klaklo and Gari, we love you! Thank you for also serving as our taste-testers.
8. Everyone who has been to a '57 Chocolate tasting and has provided us feedback.
9. We are grateful for having moved back to our native country to bring this idea to fruition.
10. We are thankful for the learning process, especially the mistakes that we have learned from.
11. We are grateful for all of the challenges. It has forced us to stay alert, creative and think outside the box.
12. Working and learning with Fabien in his factory.
13. Having developed six signature flavors: 2 kinds of dark, milk, white, mocha latte, and bissap chocolate.
14. Thankful for all our global cheerleaders. Some who have never even tasted our chocolate, but have sent in words of encouragement to keep on keeping on!
15. We are extremely thankful for Ghanaian art and culture that inspires us and our work, especially the adinkra symbols.
16 We are thankful for time. The 365 days we've experienced together as Co-founders (both good and bad), because these experiences are what have got us here thus far.
17. Last but not least our customers! Thank you for your support and for following our story!
Your Music Play Station
by Kimberly Addison
Radio is huge in Ghana. It is in fact the country’s biggest source of communication. Almost everyone listens to the radio. Whether you are in an urban or rural region, in a taxi or a trotro you will hear radio stations blaring. One can say it’s a big part of our culture. There is literally a radio station for every kind of listener. My go to radio station happens to be Live 91.9 FM. I literally stumbled upon this station randomly, and I am so grateful that I did because I am hooked! My radio is forever locked into Live 91.9 FM.
The station’s slogan reads “Your Music Play Station”—this is so true! I always find myself jamming to the tunes they play. They bring you the latest in music, whether its Afro Beats, R&B, or Pop, while also taking you back with the best old school jams. It’s a perfect blend of the old and new.
The station not only has people tuning in from Ghana, but also internationally, in places such as the United States and even Russia.
I have grown to LOVE the different segments that air on the station throughout the day. Make sure to check out: The life style Café with Antoine Mensah, Route 919 with Sammy Forson and Touch Down with Berla Mundi.
If you are looking for a radio station that will keep you entertained and jamming from sunrise to sunset—Live 91.9 FM is your station!
About the author: Kimberly Addison is the Co-founder of '57 Chocolate.
Leavin' on a Jet plane
by Yana Kusayeva
February in New York is miserable. Just when I think the winter is about to end, it starts snowing again. Sometimes it gets so cold that walking outside actually hurts my eyeballs. Everyone seems to be so tense and tired. You’d think that any form of movement – be it running, walking, or dancing – is a good idea, but there’s just no energy for it. To maintain my sanity, I get out of the city for a couple of weeks. In 2015, I hopped on a plane and zipped across 5,000 miles to visit my friend in Accra.
Once I walked off the plane, the hot air felt like a much-needed hug. The sweat pouring down my face was no bother at all. And although my friend apologized for it being “hot like Hades,” I enjoyed basking in the Accra sun. Shortly after resting, we went out to Afrikiko – a cool bar with disco lights and a dance floor right in the middle of a courtyard! Sounds of Salsa, Reggae, and Afrobeats dominated that night, and there were dance lessons and live music. Also for you salsa lovers out there, they have salsa night every Wednesday.
It was nice being outside to enjoy the music, tapas, and good company. But moving my hips and shaking my booty was even more fun! Just as I was about to partner up with someone for salsa, we heard grumbling thunder, and before I could run off the dance floor, it started to rain. At first it was just a drizzle, so I decided to continue to dance. But then the drizzle turned into downpour, and when most people started to leave the dance floor to seek cover, I just danced and danced. I felt like the three months of being cooped up indoors were being washed off my body. And this is coming from someone who really doesn’t like rain!
In my mind, Ghana embodies friendship. The warm, gentle, patient and loving kind of bond that every person deserves and yet lucky to find and maintain. I love Ghana because this is where my best friend calls home. It is a place that will forever be one of the most hospitable and friendliest places on Earth.
About the author: Yana Kusayeva visited Ghana in February 2015 and fell in love with the people, the mangoes, and the nightlife. She loves traveling, food, laughing, and prefers to see kindness in others. After spending 16 years in New York, she now lives in Oakland, California. She is “mother of cats” to two orange kitties – Big Tony and Lt. Dan.
by Ken Akuwobi
Back in South Africa I heard a lot of interesting things about Ghana. Things that piqued my curiosity, raised my expectations and got me interested in planning a vacation to the country. Fortunately for me, I got an offer to work and live in Ghana with Aviation Social Center (A.S.C in the Fitness & Sports Department). It was as if God had planned for me all along to be in Ghana but first had to spike my interest. After careful consideration I took the offer. It was in my area of expertise, which meant work would be fun, plus I would get the opportunity to embark on wonderful expeditions exploring the Gold Coast from the inside out. This was a win-win for me. I had nothing to lose. I eventually moved to Ghana and lived in Accra, Achimota precisely. All through my stay in Ghana I did everything necessary to help me experience the uniqueness of the land. We took trips to the Cape Coast Slave Dungeon, Kakum National Park, Mole National Park, Paga Crocodile Pond, Elmina Castle, Lake Volta, and Kintampo Falls to mention a few. I also visited Ghana's beaches in La, Bojo and the infamous Kokrobite beach.
I attended the black and red themed funerals and colorful traditional weddings too. I virtually saw Ghana's ten regions and experienced each of their cultures, customs, foods and festivals. Thanks to my amazing and adventurous friends Vaughn, Melissa, Kay, Zoe, Adwoa, Adusei, Ivory, Paulina, Eyetsa, Andy, Maureen, Mildred, Kelvin, Nii-Akrofi and many more who made all these trips worthwhile.
I will share with you in detail some of my discoveries, but before I do, I will not forget to add that Ghana is one of the most hospitable and safest countries in the West African region. I have visited other countries in the region, so I can attest to this fact. What makes Ghana even more unique is that apart from the hospitable people, there is an all year round season of fun things to do. Whether it’s the rainy season or the dry season there is a variety of activities to do. Let me share with you these little rumors about Ghana that I found to be true. And by the way, I love Ghana for these little things.
People carry things on their heads. They carry gallons of water, wood, food, building blocks, and goods, literally everything. This is so true. I was en-route to my local tailor's store to collect my hand-made colorful kente shirt, when I came across a woman carrying a bundle of firewood on her head. I instinctively ran towards her to help. When I asked her "wo ko hie?” (where are you going?), with the intention of helping, she smiled and said "me ko ton dua" (I am going to sell this firewood). I asked if I could help her carry the bundle. She said "oh pakyc debi, me da se" (oh no, thank you). She politely declined, explaining to me that she traded firewood for a living and was used to it. She further explained that even if she let me help her today would I be there to help her the next day? And the day after? She made sense, I thought, as I smiled and nodded my head in understanding. She smiled with gratitude in her eyes and repeated for the umpteenth time "pakyc me da se" (please, thank you). I could only stand aside and watch her move along, with fantastic posture despite the mass of firewood on her head, swinging, her stride was feminine and elegant. After that encounter I soon got used to seeing people carry all sorts of things on their head. Interestingly enough, almost no-one wears a hat despite the scorching sun. Amazing right?
The sacred crocodile ponds of Paga, located in Ghana's Upper East Region, near Burkina Faso are ruled by the souls of the dead. This might sound a little spooky and perhaps unreal but it is true. With the help of a friend in that community, I contacted a 96 year old elder, who happened to be the oldest in the community at the time. I inquired about the history and nature of the pond. To my surprise, he admitted the rumors to be true and further explained that the belief was passed down from one generation to another. He said the souls of the dead have made the Paga crocodiles docile and harmless to the people of the land and their friends. Indeed, these crocodiles were shockingly docile. At one point we almost mistook it for a big 9 foot crocodile statue. At least it blinked constantly. This convinced us it was alive. We patted it on the back from its head to the end of its tail. It was definitely alive, breathing, and quite cognizant of its surrounding.
Another thing in Ghana that really tickled me was how Ghanaians call the local canteen a “chop bar” and a bar a “spot.” So you pretty much eat at a chop bar and you drink at a spot. Note that a chop bar can become a spot, but a spot cannot become a chop bar. It's a general understanding. And a very interesting one too.
I could go on and on with an unending list of things that made it worth my stay. However, I would like to conclude by saying, if you're looking for a combination of hospitality, indigenous activities, security and camaraderie with the local people, then you should visit and experience Ghana. If you're up for it, I'd say…akwaaba (welcome)!
About the Author: Ken Akwuobi is a Fitness, Wellness & Life Coach with a Bachelor's degree in Sports Science from the University of South Africa. He has a neurolinguistics programming certification from the Action Factory NLP & Life Coach Training Institute. He is an alumni of the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan-Atlantic University where he obtained several certifications in business development & management. A few of his passions are youth empowerment and charity. Hence his active involvement in non-governmental organizations such as the Youth Empowerment Initiative & Helping Hands International.
by Daniel Bonsu
Pidgin unites like no other. There have been many times that a well-timed outburst in broken English, popularly known as pidgin, has saved me and certainly many other young Ghanaians certain blushes. From abusive headmasters, to nosy foreigners, pidgin is that dirty word your nosy little brother wants to learn but can’t because the young padwan or "jedi" would need to pick it up on his own. “Den tins some,” (“It’s one of those things”).
Now picture this. There are several unique pidgin terminologies that span different high schools, districts and regions in Ghana but for some weird reason we all understand each other. “Like wosop”? “My brain deh bust” just thinking about it. In Achimota where I had my high school education, we had the weirdest terms likewise Botwe, Pojoss, Abugiss, Presec and many other high schools but by some unique force of alignment we all understood each other when we spoke various renditions of our broken English.
Then the issue of how the pidgin language destroys our normal English language. “I no deh bab” (I don't understand) because I could come out of an exhaustive class discussion on the pros and cons of Marxism, IN PIDGIN, and ace the subsequent paper in well written normal English. For some of us, pidgin helps us to get our thoughts out quicker and gather ideas with more ease.
Pidgin may not work for everyone, but for some of us who remember the story of the Tower of Babel from the Bible, pidgin English is not just another language for communication but a unique imprint on every Ghanaian, an imprint that will last for generations to come.
I love meeting new people. I am a photo blogger. I tell stories of people I meet by the roadside. Actually anywhere really. After I tell it I try and help or support or empower. It can be in any form. Donation. Encouragement. Connection to a potential mentor. I work with a lot of NGOs. Free digital strategy for their organizations. Why? Because I can. Here are some of the images of the beautiful people I meet.
Visiting kids at Adaklu-sofa in the Volta Region with Pencils of Promise Ghana.
Mentoring kids/youth with LEAP Africa at Konko Village in the Eastern Region. This was during an outdoor activity.
George Sarfo, a 17 year old native of Berekuso village in the Eastern Region and his wooden remote control car.
About the author: Over the last two years Daniel Adae Bonsu has word to help other young people improve their understanding of ways to address the problems they see through engagement in the creative arts, digital solutions and entrepreneurship. He is a recent graduate with a Management Information Systems degree at Ashesi University in Ghana. Daniel strongly believes that young people have the power to influence the world. You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or visit his website here.
by Larisa Bowen-Dodoo
I draw inspiration from illustrious Ghanaians in Science, Technology, and Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) fields. Dr. Ave Kludze is one of my favorites. He is a Rocket Scientist at NASA and the first African EVER to command a spacecraft in orbit. His awesome journey is no small feat.
Second, Ghana is filled with extremely creative minds doing amazing stuff. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of them, and I must say I am totally in love with their products! See here, Real People's Company (RPC).
RPC is a Ghanaian product design company, creating products Africans can be proud of. Paul Kweku Akrofie, the founder and creative mind behind RPC, believes quality can come from Africa. The company currently designs and manufactures “holders” or backpacks and carry cases right here in Ghana.
“All holders by RPC are designed, handwoven and sewn in Accra, Ghana by our design and production team. Steadily growing, our small team is made up of talented and passionately driven young individuals. We continue to perfect our craft with a focus on quality, while looking for innovative ways to overcome the many setbacks and constraints we are faced with on a daily basis. Our resolve remains unchanged, Quality can come from Africa and if it’s built here it can go anywhere in the world.”
I’ve got my holder! You can grab yours right here.
About the author: Larisa Bowen-Dodoo is the founder of Levers in Heels, a digital platform giving a voice to African women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). You can follow Larisa on Twitter @BowenLarisa.
The Team with the Best Moves!
by Kimberly Addison
Ghana is a football (soccer) loving nation. Although I appreciate and admire the sport I do not watch it religiously all year round like some of my friends do. Yet, if you catch me on a fourth year, you would think I am the biggest football fan you’ve ever met. I LOVE the FIFA World Cup. I mean who doesn’t? During the period in which it takes place, where ever you are in the world, you can feel the electric excitement pulsing from city to city throughout your country. National pride has sweetened the air as you and others ‘rep’ your country’s flag or favorite player’s jersey. During the days and nights as matches occur you can hear the enthralling cheers of excitement or the thunderous cries of disappointment. It is truly amazing. And it is something I look forward to every four years.
I love Ghana’s national team the Black Stars. They always bring vim (a Twi word meaning power, passion, or enthusiasm) and vigor to their games. In my (humble or not so humble) opinion, our beloved team is hands down the team with the best dance moves. It’s hard not to fall in love with the Black Stars when you see them singing and dancing their way into a stadium before a match. It’s infectious and they make you want to join in on the fun. During the 2010 world cup, the Black Stars won a lot of hearts with their footballing and their dancing. They were the only African team left standing in the quarterfinals. The whole continent was behind them. It was fortifying. And it was unifying. Though heartbreak soon rippled across the continent after Uruguay’s defeat of Ghana (thanks in large part to Suarez’s hand) in what is perhaps the most memorable match of 2010.
In the 2014 World Cup there was quite a bit of controversy with our much-loved team. Additionally their normal vim and vigor was not at its peak—they did not do as well as they had done in the 2010 cup. Nevertheless, they still brought their dance moves with them to Brazil—celebrating goals with Ghanaian dance swag.
About the author: Kimberly Addison is the Co-founder of '57 Chocolate.
Ghanaian Style- of Course!
by Rebecca Engle
It’s hard to leave Accra. Hard to leave because there is so much left behind. So much to see, so much to do, so many people to greet. Hard to leave because traffic makes any journey outside of a tiny bubble impossible. If you’re unlucky like me, traffic is so bad that you miss your flight because a 10 minute trek to the airport turns into a hot, humid journey that stretches from early morning to midday.
If you are a brave soul who wants to leave the city and braver still to leave by car, you will be fiercely rewarded. The Ghanaian Road Trip is unparalleled. You can go from bustling, dusty Accra up into the lush green hills surrounding the city where storm clouds and cool breezes gather to accompany you on your journey. You can meander along the coast, taste the salty air on your tongue, and revisit the stifling weight of slavery’s history at Cape Coast Castle.
Whichever direction you wander in, resist the urge to make your trip easy and travel by plane. Flying over the countryside, you miss so much. You miss pineapple fields that stretch outside the window, botanical gardens, rivers to cross, crisp, fried plantain chips for sale on the side of the road. You will definitely miss getting up to date on the latest Ghanaian music booming from your car speakers as you race away from another lorry on the highway. I won’t sugar coat it, your body may hurt after a bumpy journey, but your spirit will be rewarded.
And at the end of it all, you can come back to Accra, stop at Philippos in East Legon for tilapia, banku, and a beer to wash away the heat and dust after your drive.
Be a brave soul. Step in a car, drive off into the sunrise, feast your eyes on all of Ghana.
Stock up on provisions before you leave the city--nothing beats the convenience of road side sellers.
Prepare for highway acrobatics - Lorry on top of lorry passing each other in their own version of a Formula 1 race
Look at the window: Green meets green meets sky.
Best way to learn about Ghana -- talk to any driver.
Cape Coast Castle.
Cape Coast Castle.
Highway Pit Stop.
Impromptu rest stop & siesta.
Aburi Botanical Gardens.
Welcome back to Accra! Celebrate the end of a long journey at Phillipos.
Don’t forget a well-deserved Star Beer!
About the author: Rebecca Engle is a travel fiend, part time photog, music lover, and budding chocolatier. She has lived and traveled across West Africa. When not hunting down the best street food, she is working to further entrepreneurship in Africa, particularly in healthcare and agriculture. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @cocoabex
For the Love of Mango!
by Erica Daniel
The best time to be in Ghana is hands down January and July. You may wonder why and I am here to let you in on a secret… It’s MANGO SEASON! As of January and July the juicy, plump, aromatic, sweet fruit fills the streets, shops and markets of Ghana.
Imagine yourself transported to mango heaven! Sometimes I feel like Bubba Blue from Forrest Gump when I talk about all that can be done with Mango! You can have fresh juice, smoothies, make chutney, souflee, fruit salad, grill it, use it as a marinate, put it in salad, make sorbet, infuse it with alcohol and so much more! The possibilities of what can be done with mangoes are endless and all so delicious.
If you are anything like me you may automatically begin to ask yourself why are there only two seasons? Shouldn’t mangoes grow year round? Chale, you are not alone! For years I have had the same question. The months I go without mangoes I feel so lost and empty inside.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh Mango, when you are not in season, I sure do miss you!
Apparently, we should all be counting our blessing, as Ghana is allegedly the only country in the WORLD with TWO mango seasons. #Blessed #StopAllThatComplaining #IKnowItsHard
Truth of the matter is there are more than five varieties of mangoes grown in Ghana. It takes a mango tree four years to bear fruit but only hits peak maturation about its sixth year. Exporters and Economist alike coin mango the “Gold” fruit noting its exportation could truly boost the overall Ghanaian economy. However, the mango produced in country is barely enough to satisfy all of the mango lovers (like myself) in Ghana.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, only 20 percent of yields in 2013 were exported. Of the remaining 80 percent, half was processed locally and the other half sold direct on the local market. In 2015, companies like Blue Skies, had to import 65 percent of mangoes from Brazil, Senegal, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and South Africa to meet production needs.
So what’s really the problem? Harvesting mangoes can present quite a challenge and is subject to extreme fluctuations. Transport and storage are among two of the largest barriers faced by farmers in bringing their product to the market. Thus, many farmers end up unable to capitalize on their entire harvest. Meaning those fruits unripe at the beginning of the season tend to fall victim to insects and often rot while still on the trees, (e.g. a lot of lost mango to the market).
The good news is a few investors see the gains in increasing the value chain for mangoes and stabilizing the cultivation of our delicious “gold” fruit. Hopefully overtime we will be able to enjoy a longer mango season and as a country, begin to reap the economic benefits of exporting the fruit.
So hang in their my fellow #MangoLovers! There is light at the end of the tunnel after all!
Poem & Visuals
by Paul Currie
slow flow in a row of ripples
gives work to our valiant canoeman
as we immerse ourselves
in the moods of this river
though the dam has tamed its wild
it is still the life-giver
and we share our sighs
with the call of the cormorant
and the wind’s whistle through whetted palms
and the trials of the tilapia
facing load bearing boats
tell of ingenuity sprung
from precarious living
on the banks of the volta river
As Ghana’s river, it is also the life giver (and taker), with so many creatures living around and in it, and so many people relying on its bounty. The most ingenuitive sights are the floating aquaculture nets, farming the most delicious tilapia, at war with the opportunistic kites.
About the author: Paul is a wanderer, photographer, story-teller, currently in South Africa, researching informality, access and resource requirements of African cities with uMAMA - urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment. He is fascinated by the nature of coincidence, the ways in which people come together, the energy and vibes of city-life, and the meditative benefits of being in nature. Visit his photos and musings at unionsquarebackslide.com
An Endless Sustenance
by Akosua Koranteng
Two things I live on and that give me sustenance in the 3 months I spend in Ghana a year: The Arts and Plantain.
Initially I thought writing about these two things there would be no correlation between the two, but in further thinking- I think Ghanaians will agree with me that plantain is a sort of art on its own.
Plantain is a "banana like" vegetable that can be found all over the continent and is a staple food in the Ghanaian diet. There are many ways to eat and prepare plantain which is why this famed starchy food it is somewhat an art of its own.
When you come to Ghana one of the first things hawkers will offer to sell you on the streets is a packet of Plantain Chips. This is plantain cut in very thin slices and deep friend in oil-my personal favourite. Then there's kele wele, which is plantain that has been cut up into small cubic pieces and seasoned with hot spices like pepper and ginger then deep-fried. Yum. Then there is good old straight up fried plantain for the purists and grilled plantain for those weight conscious people.
It doesn't end there, plantain is also used in the pounding of Fufu, where it is mixed with other vegetables like coco- yam and when pureed and mixed with flour, plantain can be made into little "Kaklo cakes." I'm sure by now you get the picture- however plantain is prepared, you're bound to find your taste of plantain in all its variations, much like Art.
There are a handful of organizations and collectives such as Accra dot Alt, Alliance Francaise and The Studio that make sure that the Accra calendar is full of Arts and Cultural events all year round. If you're around in August check out the Accra dot Alt Chale Wote Street Art Festival. From its humble beginnings the festival now attracts thousands of people from all over the world who come to observe and showcase visual, performance and musical arts. Taking place in the heart of James Town, Accra's historic quarter and week after the Homowo Festival of the Ga people, it’s a great opportunity to witness the beauty and energy of this coastal community and take in an array of aesthetic experiences from the fishing boats lining the sea to the murals and street arts on the walls of historic James Town buildings.
In November, be sure to attend the Sabolai Radio alternative music festival. This festival, also organized by the custodians of alternative arts and culture in Accra, Accra dot Alt, is an opportunity to witness the richness and diversity of local music talent in Ghana.
During the week, make sure to get down to Osu on a Wednesday night to Listen to some live music at Republic Bar and Grill. This local watering whole adorned with vintage pictures by famed African photographers like Malick Sidibe and portraits of celebrated pan Africanist heroes such as Kwame Nkrumah, Muammar Gaddafi and Miriam Makeba, is the perfect place to soak up the historic cool of Accra. Don't leave without ordering a Kokoroko, one of the many cocktails on Republic's menu inspired by locally invented beverages. The sweet taste of Bissap (Hibuscus Juice) mixed with rum and whatever magic they put in that glass of goodness will help you dance to the sound of Afrobeat all night long.
Check out some work of local artists at the Artist Alliance Gallery, Nubuke foundation gallery and The Studio. Here you're bound to find works of local art rock stars like Serge Attukwei Clottey, Ibrahim Mahama, and Isaac Opoku.
Love hip hop? Keep track of what's happening on the Accra Hip Hop scene via Yoyotinz, an online platform created to showcase all things Hip hop in Accra. Be sure to also check the Alliance Fraincaise D' Accra cultural calendar to see what amazing concerts, theatre shows and more are happening at the Alliance Francaise amphitheater.
Dance your demons out at Kizomba nights on Wednesday nights at Afrikiko- Don't worry about having all the right moves, there will be plenty of friendly people on the dance floor willing to teach you.
So in short what do you do in Ghana? Eat Plantain and enjoy the sights, sounds and movements of the city.
About the author: Akosua is a Ghanaian born South African who is currently finishing her Master’s in African Studies at the University of Cape Town and also runs her own natural hair and skin care company called AKAN Organics. Fanon is her first true love and her ultimate goal is to spend most of her time reading, writing and travelling Africa.
by Akinyi Ochieng
Ghana’s tourism sector is woefully underdeveloped. As home to some of Africa’s greatest empires, the country’s history and culture have been beautifully preserved, albeit poorly understood by the outside world. From its beautiful wildlife to rich, unique cultural traditions from kente to batakari to the castles and forts that dot its shoreline, Ghana should be one of the world’s top international tourist destinations. But there’s something to be said for domestic tourism too.
To many people, the big city is the be-all, end-all.
I get it. It’s a mentality I understand myself as a former self-described “city girl.” But it was Ghana’s beautiful, under-explored retreats just a few hours outside the city that changed my mind—and I hope will change yours too.
Here are three gorgeous weekend escapes from Accra that every person should make:
The majestic Akwapim mountain range begins about forty-fives minutes outside of Accra, in Ghana’s Eastern Region. Aburi has breathtaking views of the lush, green mountains, which are often shrouded by fog in the early morning. The cool weather and quiet make it one of the most serene locations in southern Ghana. The Aburi Botanicial Gardens and Aburi Craft Village are also well worth the visit. Check out nearby Ashesi University, one of Africa’s first liberal arts universities if you’re looking to feel inspired. Founder Patrick Awuah was recently named a MacArthur Genius Fellow.
About 120 km east of Accra, Ada might be off the beaten track of most guidebooks, but it is well worth the visit. The town is easily reachable by tro-tro from Accra (hop on one of the regularly moving vans leaving from Tudu Station). At about $5 each way, it’s a bargain for such beauty. Situated right where the Volta River meets the Atlantic Ocean, stunning wetlands dot Ada’s coast. The area is a noted birdwatchers’ paradise, but there are plenty of activities for water sport lovers at the local Aqua Safari Resort. Visit Rum Island to sample some akpeteshie, locally distilled spirits. Buyer beware—it’s strong!
Sitting near the village of Dzita is the eco-tourist lodge Meet Me There. Built using locally sourced materials, the lodge has a serious eco-friendly vision from the compost toilets to the organic garden where many of the ingredients for its delicious dishes are sourced. Enjoy a walk by the beach or take a swim the saltwater lagoon. Located in a quiet area, the sound of the waves will lull you to sleep as you take a nap on the veranda under the coconut trees. If you’re looking for nearby activities, you can check out Fort Prinenstein, a former slave fort or take a boat trip down the Volta. Profits benefit the lodge’s sister NGO, Dream Big Africa that focuses on sanitation, education, youth empowerment and health. Learn more here.
About the author: Akinyi Ochieng is a writer and researcher of Gambian and Kenyan origin who studies the culture and politics of emerging markets. She is the Executive Editor of Ayiba Magazine, an online hub for African’s innovators, creative, and entrepreneurs. You can follow her on Twitter @kikiochieng and her blog.