Laugh of the Day

THIS gave me a good chuckle this morning. You have to wonder at the thought processes that were put into place before this endeavour....

Book Review: 'Changes' by Ama Ata Aidoo

In the relative boredom of my life at the moment I've been scouring through my mate Afrocentric's extensive book shelves...after all what are friends for? Anyhoo, knowing me she recommended Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo since I've never read it, so here's my review....

Title: Changes: A Love Story

Author: Ama Ata Aidoo

First published: 1991

Story: The book follows the married life of Esi, who is an independent and educated woman frustrated with what she considers the drudgery of her life. She finds it hard to balance a demanding job with the demands of being a mother, wife and home maker. In Esi's world it is almost impossible for these two sides of her life to happily co-exist. Her husband, Oko, is also frustrated in their marriage and they are each trying to discover a balance in which they can both be happy. She finds her husband affections cloying while he finds her job a threat to their marriage and feels disgraced that he should be vying with her job for her attention. One morning Oko, decides to seduce Esi in a last ditch attempt to revitalise their marriage. Esi is unimpressed and what ensues is Oko raping his wife. From then on their marriage implodes and eventually the two divorce. Drawing ridicule for Esi from her in-laws and confusing her own family as to why she wants to divorce such a good man.

Around this time Esi meets the handsome Ali and following her divorce, they become involved. Ali is a well educated Muslim man, with a well educated wife who was forced to leave her education behind to raise their family. Despite her recent divorce, Ali's wife, and warnings for Esi from her nana and best friend Opokuya; Esi becomes his second wife. Married bliss does not last long and eventually Esi realises she is no longer happy. Ali feels his home is with his first wife and Esi get's only snippets of his life. And these snippets decrease the longer they remain married, soon he is giving her the excuses he was giving his first wife when Esi first met him. The book ends with Esi coming to terms with her new married situation.

Review: Sometimes when I read a book I have a silent little moment at the end when I love it. I had that with this book. I find it so sad. At times throughout the book, Esi annoys me because I feel she is a selfish character yet I can't help but support her attempts to truly acquire happiness instead of giving up and giving in like all the other females in the story. However, she does give in—in the end—to a situation which even she seems to realise is worse than that she started in. In some ways this book can be seen as an affirmation that African woman cannot have it all, in terms of a happy marriage, happy kids and a fulfilling career. But rather than that, this book feels like a subtle warning to be aware of what you hold and to cherish it. Esi should have been a little less self absorbed and realised her blessings in the first place, and even though I admired her courage to look for her happiness in the end I pitied the life she ends up with. Oh mobo! I really did enjoy this book. I'm impressed that it touches on marital rape in Africa, the martial destruction it can cause, the honest and innocent (?!) ways in which it can occur and the way society views it all; yet this is all done without detracting from the main story and becoming a crusade thinly veiled in a story. The peripheral characters such as Esi's mother and her nana; the side story of Ali's wife's personal struggles between education and family; and the interaction between Opokuya, Esi and Opokuya's husband all add a bit of positivity to Esi's sad story making you aware that her life does not exist in a vacuum of other factors. It was also brave that Esi left her daughter with Oko's mother and the author does not paint this act as evil merely the actions of a conflicted and honest character that she simultaneously loves and fears her daughter's presence in her life. Most of all I like this book because it all seems very real. A thoroughly good read, and not long winded in the least at under 200 pages!

Ratings: I give this book four little nsoromma's out of five! 4/5 stars

Mind the Gap: Some General Observations About London Travel

I was having a conversation recently with Afrocentric and Nsoromma about travel in London and it was interesting to say the least. Travel in London has the potential to be soul-destroying or life-affirming. Hopefully, it'll lean towards the latter if you take note of some of these general observations. Now place your tongue firmly in cheek and remember these the next time you venture out with your (increasingly expensive) travelcard!

1. If there are empty seats available anywhere on the bus/ tube/ train, DO NOT SIT NEXT TO ME! You have just given your thanks to God above when you get on a half-empty tube/ train carriage or bus when a leering man decides to park himself right next to you. Never mind the 15 other empty seats available. It's Boris Johnson's law that somebody must sit uncomfortably close to you, stinking of stale cigarettes, whilst trying to rub himself against you. With that goes your 27 minutes of thinking up what excuse you're going to give work about why you're late (again), instead, begins the game of how far away you can edge away from the person whilst they're trying to physically sit on your lap....

2. It is not proper transport etiquette to stare at your fellow passengers during the daily rush hour. Yes we're a city of people watchers but one must be subtle with it. So when the 6"3 man wearing a tartan dress, bovver boots, and sporting acid pink hair steps onto the Northern line at Camden, feel free to stare at him all you like but only via the reflection of the windows! I can't vouch for your safety once the words that strike fear into every Londoner's heart are uttered: "What you looking at?!"

3. One must remember that the South Londoner is a different breed of Londoner, in particular those that hail from the South Eastern region. Eye contact is seen in one of two ways: a declaration of war, or an indication of willingness to marry a person. A personal music player and an engrossing book are your only friends in this part of town.

4. There's no point running for the bus. Really. Most bus drivers take malicious pleasure in watching you frantically waving at them to stop via their side mirrors. 171 bus drivers in particular take great enjoyment in waiting until you're a a mere metre away from the stop and then zooming away into traffic with enough skills to rival Jenson Button. If you're lucky and a driver takes pity on you, by the time you pant and heave your way onto the bus winded by the whole 20 metres you had to run, the hostile stares of your fellow passengers will be enough to ruin your morning. They'll have to wait a whole 36 seconds as you simultaneously hunt for your Oyster card (you probably left it on the kitchen table) whilst trying not to display just how unfit you really are.

These are just some of the few recurring travel observations we made. How's travel different where you live?

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Body Issues

This blog post is mainly an extension of Sankofa's post on her own blog, Altius Tendo, entitled 'You have such a pretty face...'. In her post, Sankofa describes the awkward manner in which people approach the issue of her weight and certain individuals' failed attempts to compliment her in spite of her size.

Unfortunately, Sankofa is not the only FAT girl who has had to deal with back handed compliments and snide remarks with regards to her weight. As a child, I grew up with my cousin. (For the purpose of this blog, we'll call her Amina). Amina is only five days older than me and our mothers are very close. We were therefore treated like sisters and often compared to one another. Me and Amina spent the majority playing (and fighting) with each other. We had the same interests, wore the same clothes (sometimes against our will!) and the same dislikes. In fact, there were a lot of similarities between us except:

1. Amina was (and still is) slimmer than me.

2. Amina is shades lighter than me.

3.Amina's hair was longer and not as tough as mine.

Now, in a Ghanaian family, you know exactly what that means. Amina was considered the beautiful one and we often heard comments like this: Amina is soooooo pretty and Oh! Amina is a nice girl. (You know what is intended by the word 'nice'). Whoever was making the comments at the time, would look at Amina with so much adoration in their eyes, then would turn to me with a pitiful look and /or a half smile. (Sometimes, I wouldn't even get a glance!) Now, I may not have been "beautiful", but I was certainly more smart academically. Thus Amina and I neatly fitted the stereotyped 'beauty and the brain'.

I must say, it didn't really bother me while we were really young, but at the age of 12/13, when a girl starts becoming more aware of her physical appearance and her physique, this started to become a problem. I won't comment on the hair and skin tone issue because these were things I eventually learnt to accept, and even love. But as for the weight, well, that is still very much an issue I am still dealing with.

When I started secondary school, I was most definitely the biggest girl in the class. No questions asked. It did not help that my bra size was a 32B. It may not seem like much, but trust me, in 1998, that was big for an 11 year old. (I am well aware that 11 year olds these days look like full grown women). I won't pretend that I spent my all of my secondary school years self loathing, but I was bothered about my size. However, I was very good at covering up my insecurities and acting like the insensitive comments didn't bother me one bit. Covering up my insecurities did somehow turn into fake confidence, and although I don't know exactly when it happened, by the time I started sixth form, I was beginning to feel beautiful. Don't get me wrong, there were knock backs on the way. Let me give you an example: I remember at the age of around 14, I was at my cousin's house one night. My other cousins were there. Altogether there was about seven of us (including Amina). We were in my cousin's room, watching T.V. There were three boys and four of us girls. I can't remember what I did to upset one of my cousins, but all of a sudden he, (let's call him J) started laying into me, verbally. The things spewing out of his mouth were venom. "You need to lay off the donuts you fat bitch" and all sorts were coming out of his mouth like word vomit. I mean, I have never hated any of my cousins, including J, but I was hurt for ages, especially since none of my other cousins stood up for me, but found J's abuse hilarious. I must confess that Amina was the only one mature enough to apologise afterwards.

Anyway let's fastforward eight years, I (sort of) don't have the same beef I have with my weight. Don't get me wrong, I do believe I am attractive, and not ugly by any stretch of the imagination. however, let's not pretend that I am a size zero. Also, I am still having to deal with people's annoying comments. Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, I was with an...acquaintance, (let's hold back from calling her a friend), we had just finished a night of rehearsing a church performance, and by the end of the night, we were all famished, so I started going on about what I wanted to eat. Hear my girl: that is why you are so fat! I was knocked back by those words because it had been ages since I had heard those words. Also, I didn't think grown-ass women made digs at each other like that. Plus, I thought it was below the belt since we had had a discussion earlier where I told her that my weight was the cause of frustration for me because it is one of the only areas in my life that I find hard to control. (That's "friends" for you *sigh*).

I have come to the conclusion that I can't afford to rely on other people to make me feel good about myself. That is something I will have to do by myself. I mean, I do have issues with my weight, but loving myself is something I am learning to do everyday.After going on a countless amount of diets (and gym memberships!), I have come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, God, in His infinite wisdom, created me to be fat. It seems with everyone there is always something about themselves they have an issue with. Which is why like Sankofa, I don't have time for people that go on and on about how much they hate their belly, their big nose, their small boobs etc etc.

Oh yeah, back to Amina - it's funny how a bit of maturity will allow you to see things totally differently. Please don't get me wrong, Amina and I have BOTH grown up to be beautiful women, but I don't feel, AT ALL, that she is the more beautiful one. I look at us, and think wow! I may be a few kilos heavier, but Amina and I are EQUALLY beautiful in our DIFFERENT ways.

Let me leave by telling you this: everyone has body issues, but it is up to YOU to deal with yours. Do not rely on ANYBODY to help you get over them. Also, ranting about what you don't like about yourself is BORING for those who have to listen to you. The chances are your so called 'listener' does not really care about your complaints. Also by ranting, you are only drawing attention to what people would not have noticed in the first place. Most importantly, God must feel so insulted everytime you open your mouth to say you hate something about yourself that He created.

Anyway reader, whtaever your issues are, learn to appreciate what you have.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize - DISCUSS

So, President Obama has won this year's Nobel prize for peace. I must admit that when I saw the headline I thought 'huh?' I couldn't think of any ongoing war he had stopped or any impending war he had avoided, or really anything that showed that he was working towards world peace. You see there's a reason that some people are on the Nobel committee and some (me) are not.

The committee explained his winning is a sign that they want to support what he is aiming for; his efforts in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, the immediate closure of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay and his push for peace in the Middle East to mention a few of his peaceful pursuits. Now although all these things are true and do represent a goal of 'world peace', critics might well say, "but he hasn't actually done all of it", I mean in winning the prize President Obama is in the company of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, German scientist Albert Schweitzer, Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohamed ElBeradai all of whom were awarded for tireless efforts or lifetime work in the 'field' of peace. Are 10 months as US president and 'good ideas' enough to deserve a place in the often controversial list of Peace Prize Laureates?

I don't know, as I continued to read I agreed with the reasons behind his success, it is very important to encourage and support those who strive for the good, there are too many people giving props to drug dealers - Curtis Warren listed included in the Times Rich List as if he's making an honest living , paedophiles - the furore over Roman Polanski's arrest for drugging and raping a 13 year old, cheats, warmongers and other such unsavoury characters.

Well done Barack, let's just hope that your speeches, good intentions, and awards are not your only legacy.

Are You Joking? You Called Her A Paki?!?!?!?!

Ummm, it's late and I really want to go to bed but I am up in arms!

If you don't know, this is all about Strictly Come Dancing, professional dancer Anton Du Beke has an Moroccan dance partner, Laila Rouass, and he 'jokingly' called her a Paki. He publicly apologised, she, although offended, accepted the apology and the BBC 'stood by their man'.

People are bleeting that this is political correctness gone wrong blah-de-blah. Usually, I am the one bemoaning political correctness gone crazy (argh, vertically challenged for short??? Nah, your just short mate!). But how is it OK to get rid of Carol Thatcher for calling a footballer a gollywog (blatant racist term in the UK) but to keep Du Beke because it was 'in jest'? How comes racism is OK against Asians but not against black people?! WTF?!?! In jest my ANUS, look if that was a black chick being called a nigger people would be up in arms, there would be shouts that the BBC is institutionally racist. But Du Beke get's let off?!! And WORSE, for some unknown reason it's OK for Bruce Forsythe, a veritable darling of British primetime TV to say being called a Paki is not different than Brits being called Limey's. Like, ARE YOU BLOODY JOKING?!?! No, it's actually EXACTLY the same as being called a Nigger, Gollywog, Chink, Spazz (for spastic) and all the other words that have a real serious negative effect on a group in society, and lead to victimisation and deep divisions in society. It is not an innocent adjective. It is a vile, foul, offensive word. I tend to support the BBC almost unreservedly but honestly, this is badly done!

10 (Very Annoying) Things I Love About Ghana

When we talk about our motherland, we tend to talk about her in the same way we talk about our family. In other words, I love her but she can be so annoying! And, oh yeah...if you're not one of Mother Ghana's children, don't even think about uttering a word against her! I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. In my last post entitled "Welcome to Ghana", I went on a rant on how erm...strange my experience was at Kotoka International. But trust me, now that I'm back, I am missing Ghana like crazy! So here is a list of ten really annoying things I had to endure in Ghana, but (not so secretly) wish I could enjoy in London.

1. Having to barter for everything. When we first arrived, the first thing I noticed was that nothing has a fixed price! Come on, if you are going to sell something, at least know its market value. However, after bartering the price of slippers from 35 Ghana cedis to 20, I started to think 'hey, this is good! I love the fact that hardly anything comes with a price tag'.

2. GMT (Ghana man time). GMT to me was pure fuckeries at the beginning of our holiday. Can you imagine waiting for two and a half hours for someone to come and pick you up. I mean, why tell me you will arrive at 10pm, when you reall mean 12.30 am? The thing that kills me is when the said person (finally) arrives, there is no remorse or any effort to even try and feign a bit of haste. One morning, my cousin called and said, "hey, I will be at yours in an hour and a half".

"O.K", I answered lazily, and went back to sleep. Well it goes without saying, I managed to get an extra hour of sleep AND have breakfast before he actually arrived. Wow! this is not bad, I can actually get as much sleep as possible, watch an episode of Tinsel AND have a big breakfast, and still be ready on time. This is only possible in Ghana.

3.Family. What else can I say here? Whether in Ghana or in Timbuktu, the very people we love so much and hold close to our hearts can sometimes be the source of so much annoyance. But this is more true when the first thing your big (not so slim) cousin, who has not seen you in ten years, can say to you is 'o shri-eh!, you are fat!'. As if I need reminding of the fact that I have grown two dress sizes in the last ten years. Not only that, my charming big cousin soon started to give me her sob story about how she hadn't been paid at work for over eight months. (I guess I don't need to spell out what she was getting at here!) Needless to say, political correctness is not at the forefront of Ghanaian's minds. Nevertheless, after a week of being back in the U.K, I am actually missing my family terribly.

4.The heat! Damn that Ghana sun is hot! Seriously, how is it that I am drenched in sweat five minutes after coming out of the shower? We slept under full blast of the air conditioning and two ceiling fans! However, now that I am back in London and preparing to face a long cold winter, I am actually missing the Gold Coast sunshine.

5. Having to wait for over an hour for chicken and chips! Can someone please help me out here? Am I being unreasonable, or am I within my rights to have a moan when I have to wait the whole afternoon for a plate of chips and a chicken sandwich to be sent to my hotel room? kmt! I mean, you wait no longer than five minutes for your two piece chicken and chips meal in this part of the world! But, I have come to the conclusion that if "fast" food in Ghana is not so fast, you can at least find comfort in that fact that it is being prepared from scratch and has not been sitting there the whole day!

6. The Accra Mall. O.K, don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Accra Mall. But when you see the same Shoprite sign in every Ghanaian film, when your social life in Accra is based in the coridoors of the mall, when you can't step into the mall without bumping into the same dozen people you saw yesterday in the same blasted mall, IT ALL GETS A BIT ANNOYING!! But seriously, I will miss the Accra Mall. After all it houses Rhapsody, the best bar/club in Accra.

7.Frank Rajah Arase films. Let me not even lie, I watched enough of these fims. But how many times do I need to see the same two girls fight over a light skinned man/kente wearing prince? And how many Ghanaians do you know with the name Akeela, or Zazee? And seriously, where are the kingdoms of Azula and Mumuni? Nevertheless, I will miss evenings with my family in Ghana, watching these films.

8. The taxis! These yellow pannelled vehicles were the cause of so much amusement when we first arrived in GH. I remember sitting in a Taxi from Abeka to Lapaz. Now anyone who knows Accra knows the roads on that route are murder. I mean, I was expecting bumpy roads in Accra, but that route takes the piss! And it didn't help that the taxi I was sitting in was nothing more than a metal shell on wheels. I wasn't sitting in a car at all. I was practically on the floor. And everytime the monstrosity of a vehicle went over one of those God forbidden port holes, I got scared that the metal shell would give way, leaving our bums to hit the dusty streets of Accra. Anyway, now that I am back in London, my Oyster Card is my friend. Seriously, although I would do anything to not have to sit in a overcrowded train carriage, who can afford a taxi in London?

9. Road hawkers. In Accra, it is not necessary to go to your nearest supermarket to be able to tick everything off your shopping list. While in GH, I found it slightly irritating that I couldn't look out of the car window without someone waving t-roll in my face. Now, I actually miss having to walk all the way to the supermarket to do the weekly shopping.

10. Wacky driving. I HATED the fact that people in Ghana drive like absoloute maniacs. But when you have to settle back into life in London, and you're running late to work/ church/ any other important place, you wish your bus would jump the traffic light and cut into somebody else's lane to get you there on time!

Trust me, I can't wait to be doing this again:

Networking, Networking, Networking

Last night, Afrocentric and I attended our very first Ghanaian Londoners event at the Dust Bar in Farringdon, organised by the lovely Adwoa Agyemang and we had a blast. We were late (gotta work on that GMT) but we still managed to catch some great speakers including Bex Mortty of Quality Network Solutions and the London representative of the NPP whose name unfortunately I didn't manage to catch. There was immeasurable Ghanaian talent in one little room and that included a fellow Ghana blogger Kwabena of Ghana Hype. Kwabena is also the creator of the wonderful Kayobi clothing line and if you haven't checked out his stuff, I suggest you do so asap.

Anyway, when the actual "networking" session began, let's just say that Afrocentric and I took a little while to get into the swing of things. Alright, we were down right wusses! I find networking really hard people! Tell me I'm not alone in this. It feels like the first day of school all over again. We eventually manned up and met a myriad of creative (and analytical) minds. Still I sometimes wonder at the usefulness of these networking beyond meeting new people. How many people really utilise these new contacts when all is said and done? We would still do it all over again a heartbeat because new people are new people, no long. So, what are the thoughts of people out there on "networking"?

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