Accra Update: Two Weeks In…

Hey!

It’s Adjpants, your Fierceness and Slayage Correspondent, coming to you live from Accra, Ghana. I wanted to give you an update on my adventure so far. Hoooo my garsh- moving “home” when you’re essentially a foreigner in your own country is NOT EASY. It’s been a stressful couple of weeks. After two days holed up crying in a darkened room, I thought it was time to put on my big girl pants and share my ongoing story. If I can help even one person who’s going through the same thing, I’ll consider this a job well done.

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So! We’re now two weeks in- here’s what we’ve learned so far.

1. Taxi Drivers Are Thieving Knobjockeys.

I just… I can’t. Taxi drivers in Accra have left me so unable to deal, like I’m fresh out of being able to deal and there is no chance of stock replenishment. They are the bane of my effing life here and I really wish I had a car. Any rich Uncles reading this who want to buy me a Camry, please #CallMeMaybe.

I have previously only spent short periods of time in Accra/been on family trips with our own car. So this level of f*ckery is new to me. The taxi drivers will cheat you on sight. Yes, even if you speak Twi they can tell you’re a foreigner and they will double or triple the price. Haggle them down mercilessly- I usually like to cut the number they give me by half, take off a couple of cedis, and start bargaining from there. Even then, sometimes you’ll get to your destination and they’ll claim not to have change so you have no choice but to overpay. This happened to me the other day and I straight out lost it. We almost came to fisticuffs and I am normally such a peaceful, jolly person. So lesson learned- carry small notes and an old lady bag of change if necessary.

Another tip: if you’ve managed to haggle the price down in Twi, don’t then get in the taxi and start talking to friends on the phone in Queen’s English. You’ll notice the driver peering at you as if you lied to him, and suddenly there will be loud claims of how the agreed price needs to increase due to traffic/time of day/the crisis in Syria. May God smite them all with herpes. Also ladies? Always sit in the back seat. Some dudes are pervs.

2. People Have No Filter and Zero Chill.

Lemme tell you a story, paint you a little word picture. I met a friend of a friend the other day, nice gentleman, friendly and fun. I thought huzzah new friend, right? Wrong. He called me and we were chatting away, and suddenly out of nowhere he asked, “Are you watching your weight?” I was like, “…Um, no…” He replied, “Don’t you think you should be?” I was like O_O and he chirped into the icy silence, “I mean, don’t you think it’s getting too much?”

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WHUT.

Do you see why I am so unable? What fresh hell is this? And this sort of piping hot nonsense is commonplace. People here are for the most part, pretty judgmental. Which would be fine if they were using their inside voices- but they’re not. They’re telling you their opinions at every opportunity. I’m sure there will be many more of these occurences. Just keep an eye out for the headlines: “Crazed Non-Weight-Watching Ex Londoner Cuts Man In Public: Says She Regrets Nothing”

3. Slow Your Roll- You’re The Only One Rushing.

Coming from London where my life was a constant race against the clock, I find the slooooow pace of life in Accra maddening. I’m used to the big city where people will throw you into oncoming traffic if you’re walking just a touch too slowly. Here everything takes forever. FOREVER. There’s a general laid-back attitude to most things which can be so effing frustrating (some things need urgency bruv). It’s been driving me insane but then it hit me. Why am I hurrying when nobody else is? Why am I rushing to be on time for an appointment, when the person I’m meeting has no intention of being on time? I’ve been told that I need to relax, slow down, and just accept things as they are. I might have to do that, but not because I agree with constant delay and inefficiency. Because I don’t want to die of stress and or/rage.

4. Don’t Expect Everything To Make Sense.

There are so many things which just don’t make a lick of sense. Examples below:

How can I be asking a salesperson a question, and they can’t be bothered to answer me because they’re chatting to a colleague? How can it then be other customers who step in and try to help, while the salesperson continues to ignore my increasingly loud questions?

How can Accra be just as expensive as London? People tell me the prices for things and I just want to flip tables.

How can Ashanti be on this sign for the omotuo (rice ball) special at a local chop bar?

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This is a switch to turn on the air-conditioning, isn’t it?

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No, it’s not. It’s for the water heater. Is this life?

*Puts fingers on temples and sighs* Just don’t expect things to make sense.

5. The Kindness of Strangers Is Heartwarming and Awesome.

Moving to a new country can be extremely difficult and heartbreakingly lonely. I came here knowing almost nobody, and I thought I would just have to fight it out myself. BUT GAWD (I love how my people do that, just be halfway through a sentence and suddenly scream out to the Lawd)! See the way God is set up, he sometimes places people in your path to show you the way.

When I moved to Accra, someone blessed me with this golden piece of advice: join the Ahaspora mailing list. This group is made up of awesome young African “returnees” who have come to make Accra home. They have a huge network, and they’re a resource for almost everything you could ever need. Advise on housing? Done. Recommendations for good legal advice? Yes. Where to get your nails did? No problem. When I first moved to Accra, I went out on a limb and sent out an email introducing myself to the group. The response was overwhelming; within minutes I had invites to lunch, general friendly greetings and even some potential job opportunities. Chile if you’re moving to Accra, GET ON THAT LIST NOW.

My advice would be to reach out to people, and keep your heart open. I’ve already made some new friends, and I can’t thank them enough for welcoming a stranger with open arms. They’ve checked in on me, taken me out for cupcakes, welcomed me into their homes and given me a wealth of advice and support. Y’all are the real MVPs.

So darlings that’s it for now. Keep your eyes peeled for more Accra Updates! And anyone else who has recently made the move back, or is thinking about it? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re all in this together.

Love,
Adjpants

Homecoming.

My dearest loves. It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m sorry I’ve left you for so long without providing some sort of foolishness or tea-spilling. Why have I been absent? Because I moved away from London 2 weeks ago…

*cue gasps*

That’s right. The last couple of months have been an insane emotional rollercoaster, a whirlwind of goodbyes. I wanted to write about what was happening in my life, but can I be honest? I was avoiding it because it hurt and I was scared. But someone once told me to “write through the pain,” so here goes.

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(FYI this is my brave face. The hearts are cute non?)

A bit of background for those of you who are just getting to know me. I travel a lot and I call four different places home (Ghana, Nigeria, Australia and England).

I was born in Australia to Ghanaian expat parents. We then moved to Mexico for a few years before settling in Nigeria. I had a blissful (and hilarious) childhood there before heading to boarding school in England.

After I graduated from uni, I worked in Australia for a few awesome years before heading back to the UK for another stint. After a rough start in London, I slowly started to feel a strange and unfamiliar sensation. I was starting to settle in. Settle down. Everything started clicking into place and for the first time in my life, I could actually see myself staying in the same country for years to come.

But bruv, you know how life sometimes throws you a curve ball? Things changed very suddenly and it became clear that this just wasn’t going to happen. I would have to leave, yet again.

While my international background is interesting, it is by no means unique. Apparently people like me are called “Third Culture Kids” and we’re everywhere. Children of expats, we went to international schools and were taught the capital cities of every country in the world (shout-out to my IITA peeps WOOP! I know you remember Stripies). We didn’t know what racism was, because our friends looked like a United Colours of Benetton ad. For us, constant travel was normal and stability was never guaranteed.

The last couple of years in London, I started to realise how much I craved that stability.

But sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. I was now faced with a choice- where to next? Back to Australia made the most sense. I lived there for 3 happy years, and Melbourne wasn’t voted “Most Livable City in The World” for nothing. It’s funky, fresh and fabulous. And yet I didn’t feel quite ready. Something was telling me it was time to go home to Ghana.

But “home” can be a problematic concept when you have never actually lived in your home country. I tried to move back about 6 years ago. Saying it was a bit of a train wreck would be like saying Uncle Donald Trump’s hair is a bit off.

I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock, wasn’t ready for how my own people would see me as an outsider. They said I was too British, too feisty, too Westernised, even too Nigerian. My grasp of my parents’ language, Twi, was… well…it was dusty. This added to my frustration and sense of isolation. I only lasted a few weeks before fleeing to Melbourne.

So. When I found out I would have to leave London, that still small voice of calm said, “Go home.” After my previous experience, I was definitely nervous. Nah let’s be real- I was terrified. What if it doesn’t work out? What if I fail? What if I still can’t fit in? What if I still feel rejected? What if I can’t find a good job?

As I started packing, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. At one point I sat on the floor of my rapidly emptying bedroom, surrounded by bits and pieces of my past, and I just sobbed. It seemed so unfair- why was this happening to me?

Now check this out. Somehow at my lowest moments, when I’m just about to fall to pieces, my mother knows. Even though we live in different continents, there seems to be an invisible string connecting my emotions to hers. Right at that moment she called, and she waited patiently while I cried and cried and cried. Then she said, “Dry your tears. God has never failed you, and He won’t fail you now.”

With those words, she reminded me that there is someone looking out for me. She reminded me that you can’t miss out on your destiny. Whatever is meant to be, will be, and you have to trust the journey.

So my darlings, as I write this I am in Accra, Ghana. In the distance I can hear rushing traffic and the ever-present thump of hiplife music. My grasp of Twi is still rusty, but it’s better than it was 6 years ago. When I arrived in Accra recently, I managed to negotiate the price of a taxi without being royally ripped off with the “abrokyire” (overseas) price. That, my friends, is progress.

I’m effing scared, and there’s no shame in that. But I’m going to try and give this a shot, and I’m taking you guys along for the ride. We’ll explore the city together. We’ll go and see all the landmarks. We’ll hunt down the best brunches and the stiffest cocktails, and we’ll find out where all the hipsters hang out. Welcome to Love, Adjpants: The Motherland Edition!

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Is it possible it won’t work out? That I’ll fall flat on my face? BISH IT MIGHT BE- but there’s only one way to find out.

They say you can never go home again. I’m going to try and prove them wrong. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “all God’s children need travelling shoes.”

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And if those travelling shoes happen to be serving Pocahontas realness… well that’s a bonus, hunty.

Love,
Adjpants

Soundtrack to My Weekend: Iyanya- Le Kwa Ukwu

This post should really be called “Soundtrack to My Life” because I’ve had this song on repeat for so long now. Growing up in my beloved Nigeria means that my heart belongs permanently to Afrobeat. Initially made world-famous in the 60s and 70s by the legendary Fela Kuti, Afrobeat has continued to slay folks up until 2014. I love how modern West African artists are blending the old Afrobeat style with the typically Congolese/Central African sound, commonly known as makossa/soukouss/coupe decale. Add to this blend some of the best elements of modern pop music and you’re left with something INCREDIBLE. Get your chops round the video and then we’ll talk.

*sips palm wine*

And we’re back! Here’s why we love this track:

1. The phrase “Le Kwa Ukwu” is Igbo for “Look at that backside.” Perfection. You’d better effing look at it.

2. I am drunk in love with Iyanya himself. I mean. Are you going to SIT THERE and tell me that you don’t see how his waist moves as if independent of his body? You don’t see that glint in his eye? And that smile which is scientifically proven to cause arrhythmia? Just take a moment to look at that face. Honed out of the finest milk chocolate by a merciful God. I am so unable right now.

3. That thumping bass line. Those frantic drums. The smattering of cheeky guitar, so familiar to me from Central African/Francophone music. You know when you’re dancing and suddenly a track comes on that makes you lose your goddamn mind? Iyanya’s hit song “Kukere” was one of the most popular Afrobeat hits of 2013. Every time the opening bars start playing, there are howls of “THAT’S MY SAWNG” as people sprint for the dancefloor. Like, people are constantly injured in the struggle for prime dancing space. We Africans take partying extremely seriously- I myself have been known to do some quick stretches in the corner when my jam starts playing.

4. The whole song is about a man appreciating the beauty of a woman. The way she moves. The way she makes him feel. The vibe is sexy, sassy and most importantly, FUN. It makes me giggle.

So now tell me the truth- were you able to sit still while watching this?

Where The Heart Is

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My darlings! I’m sorry for my absence. After a busy few months in the mean streets of London, I’m taking a well-deserved break. I’m spending the festive season with my folks in Nigeria.

I’ve lived away from home for most of my life, but the truth is that you never get used to being away from those you love. Being at home, I find that I breathe easier. Sleep easier.

I took this lovely picture from the front porch when I woke up on my first morning back. It made me think: I must be blessed because nobody gets quite this lucky, this often.

Love, Adjpants

Gimme one reason to stay here…

Hello darlings! Apologies for my absence.

So it happened. I left Melbourne and moved back to the UK a few weeks ago. I’ve been a bit of a nomad for the past few years but I can safely say this: leaving Melbourne was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I’m lucky to have incredible friends who helped me pack up my beloved flat. As I sat on the floor of my empty living room, I still thought I’d be fine. I was serving casual moving-out realness like so:

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And then it hit me and I was like OH LAWD WHAT HAVE I DONE.

(I was going to insert a picture of my ugly cry <here> but I can’t do that to you nice people)

Was it scary to uproot myself after getting so comfortable? Yes. Am I worried I may have made a mistake? Maybe. But like my dad always says, life is not a straight line.

A lot can happen in two years… let’s effing do this innit?

Love, Adjpants

How do I love thee, Melbourne…

I actually can’t count the ways in which I love this town. I just can’t. It’s a vibrant, gorgeous city with a small-town feel. This is the first time I’ve lived in a place where I felt like I was on the inside, rather than on the outside looking in.

Falling in love with Melbourne was a slow burn. It was like falling for a guy who initially seemed like a hipster douche. A bit too trendy for his own good, nonchalant and cliquey. Ray-Ban wearing, hair styled to within an inch of his life, boat shoes so shiny you could see your face in them. But then as you got to know him, you noticed his wicked sense of humour. His eclectic taste in music. His amazing foodie ways. His incredible friends from every corner of the globe.

Once you realised all those things, you never stood a goddamn chance.

I write this surrounded by boxes, as I pack up my life to head back to the UK. It’s hard to describe how blessed I feel to have had this love affair with the world’s most liveable city (BACK OFF, SYDNEY)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes.

The Melbourne skyline at dusk

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A pair of… I want to say cockatoos (?) having a chinwag

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The view at Lavandula Farm, Daylesford. Paradise just an hour outside the city

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High tea at the beautiful Chateau Yering winery in the Yarra Valley

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Sunset over the Twelve Apostles, along the Great Ocean Road

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Tennis fans watching the Australian Open on the big screen at Federation Square

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