Sunday, November 15, 2015


Oh Dumsor, not sure if I should love you or hate you.
You remind me constantly what a precious commodity electricity is,
how easy my live has been, and that yes, it is possible to go without it.

You surprise me every day anew. Always lurking around the corner.
Never certain how long you will stay or when you leave again,
but grateful that I you are with me while I am writing these lines.

DUMSOR. My first Twi word I leared. Dum means off, Sor means on,
as for the constant on and off for electricity....  Ganz suess die Massen jubeln zu hoeren wenn er (der Strom) wieder laeuft. Fast wie wenn Ghana ein Tor schiesst...

The aforementioned Nkrumwh, while controversial at the end of his term, was responsible for building the first dam in Ghana - Akosombo Dam.

Finished in 1966, its construction created the largest man-made lake in the world - Volta Lake - to produce electricity for the aluminum industry they tried to build. Its a longer story I have a bit to say about, but will not bore you with the details at this point :) 

Anyhow, since 2004 the rainfalls have been less, the water level hence lower, and with it the electricity production. The second source for electricity production is Gas from Nigeria.

However, the pipeline was damaged and difficult to repair as Boko Haram is not so keen on visitors in its region. 
Ghana also had a bit of trouble to pay its bills lately as oil prices have been down.

This might seems nonsensical at first glance, but the Jubilee oil field which was discovered in 2007 a few miles of the coast and  started production in 2010 was supposed to sell its barrels of oil for around $140... not $40! 

International markets. As predictable as electricity supply in Ghana. 

Accra Accra BlaBlaBla

Sometimes I wish I would have chosen Trotros as the center of my research. 
Diese umgebauten Kleintransporter are the most important part of living in Accra. 
Besides sleeping I have spend most of my time either waiting for them, in them (until they are full and we can start driving) or sitting in traffic (which has be the great majority). 

Seemingly uncoordinated and superficial chaotically organized thousands of buses make Accra move. 
The stories are already endless and I have only sat in a couple hundred the past 2 months, but just to use the internet today here the pics:

More soon... 

Jamestown Blues

Last weekend I endeavored to see more of the city of Accra, as the last weeks have been purely consumed by work stuff, and decided to join two roommates to check out Jamestown, the oldest district of the city right by the ocean.

I had already heard that the beach is not really suitable for swimming as sewage of this 2 million people capital is lead into it, but i was not prepared for what was to come. Accra is a huge city and there are fancy parts of town, but fact is that manypeople still live in poverty, heightened by the current economic crisis.

Fish is a main source of protein and with other opportunities of employment missing (as products are to a large degree imported and industries are nascent or non-existent) fishing is a popular option to make a living. I am far from an expert on the maritime situation in Ghana, but I did interview a Professor from the University of Rhode island on the subject, which indicated the high
risk of overfishing and need for a moratorium to ensure that future generations will be able to benefit from the splendors of the sea.

The gentleman, which was working for USAID on a small scale fishing was unable to speak on the export industry of commercial fishing with exports large amounts of Tuna to wealthier customers around the globe.... 

Lighthouse views.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.



When one is interested in Ghana you simply can not get around the guy that lead the Gold Coast to be the first country in Sub-Sharana Africa to independence: Kwame Nukrumah. 

A bit of a controversial figure. Called everything from visionary to dictator that made his opponent die in jail. I tend towards visionary till 1960 and more towards dictator until the coup in 1966. 
Still pretty cool guy mainly responsible for bringing together African states into a Union. A true Pan-africanist, not quite as much appreciated by the West, nor his fellow countrymen and women towards the end, but now honored by a memorial in Accra. 

In all his glory. 

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah  (1909 til 1972 - he did not return alive after the coup in 1966, but had died in exile from which he continued to write...)

Joyous days. "Self Government Now" - the slogan for the CPP - Conventions Peoples Party lead them to independence on the 6th of March 1957.

As this decapitated statue of Nkruma shows, the people of Ghana were not quit as found of him towards the end of his reign.

Location, location

So my initial optimism about living with a friend of a friend of a friend was cooled down a bit after the rent was raised from $200 to $300 per months. 5 days after arrival. 

Its a long story that shall be spread one of these days, to those to care to know. Best over a beer. 

Suffice to say that there are greedy people, independent of passport colors (oder Sonstige). 

AND: that you guys will be happy to hear that my initial anger (and injudicious actions) was overcome by something like fuck it -forget it -generosity  :) 

Lieblings-Mitbewohner :)    I love chickens!!!

The kitchen area in West Legon. Pretty cool place (total rent $400)... leider auch am A... der Welt.
One major issue of the location was traffic. West Legon is the rich part of town. Everyone has a big car (including all the german engineering we are used to in Hamburg), but no traffic lights, oder Abbiegerspuren. So if I left the house by 7 it would take me at least 2 hours to get to the office (at the IWMI)...

My beautiful mess : )

Night view!!! I will for sure have to right about DUMSOR!!! Which means off on in Twi. Referring to the state of electricity...

... and who says books can not protect you from Malaria should see this beauty (thank you again for TAP that allowed me to take two books with 23 kg - one just for this Malaria protection tower :)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Accra - the first week of amazingness and more

Arriving in Accra was easy. I was allowed to take my two bags 
(one literally full of 38 books, yet still only 23 kg). 
My wonderful friends took me to the airport and even carried the bags to check in 
(thank you Bibi and Carmen!)TAP airplane allowed me to take my guitar along too, 
not knowing how poor my skills are and how many people I will be annoying 
with my attempts to improve : ) 

Nana, a lady I had met a few months early at the African Literature Association meeting
in Bayreuth, did not only pick me up, but also rented me a room in her house. 
Here in Ghana you always have to pay ahead of time
for your apartment or room. So many people must pay for one year in advance. 
In my case we agreed to 3 months. 

Accra is a huge city, and my colleague Hanna had warned me already about the traffic. 
Around midnight the city was calm, but the next days would reveal how right she was. 
We arrived “home” around midnight and the lights were actually back on! 
Accra also has a huge issue with electricity supply and the lights were 
off when Nana had left the house to pick me up from the airport. 

The house is located in West Legon on Asante Mireku Street, 
close to the Westland police container (in case 
you ride in one of the trotro - minibus converted into a public transportation vehicle
that is what you tell them to get you off :). 
The interior is pretty minimalistic also because Nana has just returned from some major travel 
a months ago… so initially there was no refrigerator, nor cooking option (besides a rice cooker) 
and no washing machine (which is a luxury, but very nice to have… as 
anybody that has spend there days hand washing laundry knows : ). 
Also no bed in my room, but a closet and a matt with blanket on the floor. Which is actually perfect for me. I can 
even fit my yoga mat next to it! 

The first day was spend cleaning, unpacking and reading. I was planning on going the the IWMI (the International Water
Management Institutie) where a colleague (Edmund) had dropped of the SIM card for my phone (which is the phone number on all my business cards that I had printed with the help of Johannes in Germany!) Since the city is huge and public transportation my only option if I want to remain within my budget, yet Nana (who has her own car and never used the trotro system) could not help me… so she had planned on dropping me off there… well, things happened differently, and so I spend a day reading and she doing yoga : ) The evening became productive again, as Nana (now equipped with my rent money of $600) was ready go shopping for kitchen appliances. We know have a fridge, oven with stove top (Herd) and even a washing machine (that still needs to be hooked up, but is there). 

Day two was more productive, as I really wanted to get my SIM AND to meet Ben (a researcher with the IWMI that was returning from Kenya and passing by the Accra office to Kumasi at noon that day). Its a long story but I made it with the help of numerous people directing me to the right trotro and through the streets and even field of urban gardens of Accra to get there (note to self do not eat any salads in Accra as it is real sewage that is used for watering). The SIM was handed to me by Mrs. Mohamed and Mrs. Funke even had an office organized for me to wait for Ben, which arrived a couple hours later. Unfortunately I had not taken my laptop, as I wasn’t sure about the security in the trotros (I am still not sure about it), but the book did its job and the meeting with Ben was fantastic. I hope to go back next week to meet Philip and the rest.
Also he dropped me back off at the Achimota trotro station which made the way back quiet a bit easier. 

Day three was mind-blowing and simply beyond my wildes dreams amazing! The trotros took me to the University of Legon, which is around the corner yet still very hard to get to by food. The city planning of Accra was not made for pedestrians. .. nor for cars it seems. 
Traffic is a mess, and trotros stuck in it with everyone else! 
So many people along the way helped me, as there is no other way to find a place without a map or a smart phone! 
Still I arrived sharp at 9 am in the office of Prof. Justice Bawole, a man that was introduced to me by a good friend who also studied in Manchester (Thank you Coree!!!). A very busy guy, but incredibly nice and welcoming. He took me along to his first lectures of undergrads in NGO building and management. A packed room with at least 200 eager students he gave an enthusiastic lecture, despite the increasing heat and the slow internet (there was an AC unit in the room but not working, and his laptop was hooked up the internet, but very slow). After a short break between his 2 hour classes we drove together with his assistant to the other side of the huge campus, across the street to the graduate business school. Very impressive building… as well as students -once more. The Master students gave presentations on a case study of corruption (the class was called Ethics). I wish I would have taped it, as it was very insightful. Let’s just say that I feel we all try the best we can in the circumstance we have been given! 

Finally at three we were able to have lunch, which Prof. Justice invited me to in the upper teachers lounge (or something like this :) I had Red Red - a mixture, kind of stew of white and dark beans, fish something and palm oil, as well as fried plantains. Delicious! 
He was gone to get his children from school, but not before promising to meet back up of the lecture I wanted to go to that evening, and to take me home afterwards (as taking the trotro after sunset is a thing one should test out slowly… and sun sets around 18:30). 

I actually filled my time with meeting with three Emmanuels that all belong the department of economics. All friends of friends or their cousins :) Longer story, but it was nice to meet more students and wander the beautiful campus streets lined with tall trees! 

At 17 o’clock the lecture in the auditorium was set to begin. The minister of finance - Mr. Seth Terkper - was supposed to talk about the 
“The state of the Ghana Economy - Recent History and immediate Prospects”. I had seen the poster that morning 
and was delighted to get a chance to hear it from the "horses mouth". The steep and huge auditorium, I assume can hold a 1000 people was fairly empty when I arrived, so I got a front(isn) middle aisle seat that separated two parts, next to an older lovely guy studying accounting. It was to be filled completely. Me being the only foreigner as far as I could tell. 

Mr. Seth Terkper gave an immensely impressive presentation for an hour, which I would love to write an entire entry on. Just these couple words to remind me: Middle Income Country, Gold, Cocoa and Oil price. The following two hours he answered questions from the student body, which lined up in the middle aisle in front of a bright light and a microphone in blocks of 5. He took the time to answer all questions - more or less thoroughly. Again impressive. But sadly no one asked about agriculture and no woman had come up either. Me eager to get up, but not daring to do such a thing the third day I arrived in the country I don’t really know, but the guy next to me was very encouraging so finally towards what was the end of the discussion I dared to walk up and sat down as number 4 in line to ask a question. Just then two girls came too! And another guy… which I all let go ahead of me… as I didn’t think… 
you know. Just than the podium announced that the last 5 questions should be asked now. Me being number 8!!! A sign??? 
Should I sit back down??? Was it not my place to ask questions?? The two guys ahead of me stayed. I kept on sitting on the stairs. … and again a guy that saw my pain, encouraged me to stay and ask. 
Sacred like hell, with weak knees I finally got up and as the very last person that evening was allowed to ask the Minister of 
Finance of Ghana “What about agriculture?”… I started with a flattering  comment of course and thanks plus ended on me being happy that two women had just asked something as the discussion that evening had been seemingly been dominated by men… or something like it… I was just super nervous and happy at the same time. Well, afterwards : ) 
He even addressed my ag question, but with the answer revolving around EPAs and AGOA… still. awesome! 

And if these wasn’t crazy enough, just wait. Prof. Justice, who I searched for outside the auditorium after the session, says come on!! and then takes me along to some private audience room, in which the heads of departments get to eat and drink a bit with the Minister afterwards!!!! 
So I grab a water and sit down in the corner. And who sits down in front of me???? 
Mr. Seth Terkper!!! Telling me that he hopes that he answered my question for me!!! I was star struck and out of words! Almost : ) 
I am so impressed with this guy… 
and all on my third day there! 

My luck was set to continue, but nothing so far topped, and maybe will ever top the meeting with the Mister of Finance! .
Still on day four as I called the GIZ in the morning to see if we could touch base in the coming weeks, the 
head of the MOAP - Market Oriented Agriculture Programm - Dr. Thies decided to have me picked up by a driver immediately and take the time right than and there to give me an introduction to it all! He also involved his right hand man Uwe and introduced Mike to me - the guy responsible for the SEWOH (Sonderinitative Eine Welt ohne Hunger)! These older gentleman seemed quiet enthusiastic to share their knowledge and time with me. I can only guess that there is not many female german visitors coming to their office
On top of it I was allowed to use the internet, which at the moment is a major benefit! 

Yesterday I got lost in Accra taking 8 different trotros to got a market that was not one. I guess I have to take the good with the bad. I can’t always be so lucky. As i am writing this we are out of electricity again, but the last 20 some hours we had some. The water is running all the time and I even have been using it in the water boiler to make tea just like in Germany. My stomach seems fine with it so far. 
Most of the time I buy bottle water though, but I have a little store two streets down that supplies me with all I need. Of course many of these products are imported and made by large cooperations I hate to support. But if I want some jam on my bread I don’t seem to have an option. Prices are of course are higher than back home, but that was to be expected. And on a very positive note I just has a bottle of wine this weekend that was excellent for just $5!!! Its the small things that matter, and they are good! 

I do miss home. More than expected actually. I never seem to think about these things before I leave. I wonder if it really was the best idea to book a flight for next summer…. but oh well, now I am here and it hasn’t even been a week. 
There is a good likelihood I will try to bother you people with Skype session to curb my loneliness! 

So all in all the first week was great! But also overwhelming and a bit lonely. I am not sure how to continue. 
There is no set plan. And on top of it we have two holidays this week: 
Founders day tomorrow and some holiday on thursday that has to do with the islamic calendar
… Malembe, Malembe as they always said in the DRC. Slowly, slowly….

Alltägliches… und der Rest der Tage:

Meine Unterkunft ist etwas abgelegen, aber ruhig. Mein Kleines Matten-lager auf dem Steinboden einfach, aber bequem. 
Die erste Woche war überwältigend, aber gut. Strom gibt es nur sporadisch, aber doch regelmässig. Die Stadt ist riesig, aber mit etwas Zeit kommt man überall hin… 

Was mir fehlt sind Freunde und Familie. Das war wohl abzusehen, aber irgendwie blende ich das jedes mal vor meinen 
Abenteuern aus. 

Essen ist ein bissel schwer zu bekommen, aber Zwei Strassen weiter ist ein kleiner Gemüsestand und ein Tante Emma 
laden. Den mitgebrachten Wasserfilter kann ich nicht installieren. Also bin ich wieder am Plastikmülll produzieren… allerdings benutze ich für mein Tee als auf für Zähneputzen und solche Sachen das Leitungswasser. Bisher ohne Probleme. 

Die Moskitos und ich haben uns angefreundet, und ich mir jetzt ein Netz über meine Lager installiert - Dank Gaffer Band und Bücherstapel als Halterung. Fliessen Wasser haben wir übrigens immer, und sogar Warmwasser wenn der Strom da ist, und Bedarf besteht. 

Die meisten Leute sprechen English, allerdings ist es teilweise doch schwer für mich en Akzent zu verstehen. 
Müll ist ein Problem auf den Straßen, aber wir haben eine Tonne… die auch abgeholt werden soll. 
Ansonsten hat Accra alles was man sich wünschen kann… auch Pools, Malls und Massagen. Nur ob man sich 
das leisten kann ist die Frage. Wie schon erwartet ist Vieles einfach teurer hier unten… vor allem wenn ich 
Anfangen würde Taxis wie der Rest der Weiss-nasen zu nehmen. 

Gestern habe ich mich durch 8 Tro Tros in den Süden der Stadt, in der Nähe der Oxford Street, durchgeschlagen 
und zurück. Manchmal anstrengen, aber eigentlich finden man immer Jemanden der einem hilft. Man muss halt nur 
Zeit mitbringen wenn die Hilfe zwar gut gemeint aber doch nicht richtig ist… Dafür trifft man dann auch Leute 
die einem einfach so Gutes tun. Gestern, als ich ziemlich verzweifelt nach 3 Stunden an einem Markt angekommen 
bin, der keiner war und ich vor der Rücktour schon Angst hatte, hielt ein leerer Kleinbus- Fahrer an: George und fuhr 
mich -für umsonst - zur nächsten Tro Tro Sammelstelle (trotro 37) das ich innerhalb einer Stunde schon wieder zu Hause 
Trust and go ist die Devise. 

Heute chill ich dafür zu Hause rum… und hab Internet (Dank Nana)!!!!