Ghana (Part 2): November 1, 2009

Journey to the Cape Coast and Kakum

On Saturday, October 31st, 2009 my cousins and I woke up early to go to Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Park. At Kakum National Park, we walked across seven canopies that were merely ropes hanging from trees. These canopies were 130 feet high.  The bridge would shake as you walked along it, giving even the daredevils a fright. Some bridges shook more than others. And I was singing, “Hallelujah, thine the glory. Revive us again…” as I made my from one tree to the other. We took lots of pictures. The R’s [Rod, Regal, Rispah, Reuben] are pretty nice and I love how close knit they are. Rod is like the leader of the pact.


Tri-Lingual Ghanaians V. Mono-lingual Americans

I am truly amazed, as a monolingual individual, how many languages my cousins speak…FLUENTLY. The R’s mostly speak Ga amongst each other, but can lapse into Twi, Pidgin English or English in a matter of seconds. Intelligence. Americans (sigh) we really need to get our game up.

My father speaks Twi and Ga and growing up, my paternal grandmother used to speak to me in Twi. I would respond in English.  Although I have a slight understanding of Twi, I am not even close to being able carry out a full conversation in Twi. Something I am not happy about. However, I am taking every opportunity to learn my language in my country. Cousins teach me new words and I repeat them deliberately, trying to annunciate every syllable and pick up the accent while doing so. I sound crazy, of course, but hey, I try. People snicker as they walk by me. Shaking their head and probably thinking, “This American ayyyyy!” lol.

I Learn How to Pronounce My Last Name

One afternoon after church service, Rod introduced me to one of his friends. He asked me to say my full name, which is Ghanaian. When I offered my name, he chuckled. You’re not pronouncing it correctly. We stood in the middle of the sanctuary for about 10 minutes, just practicing the pronunciation of my name. I had it when I left the church. But the next day, I reverted back to pronouncing my last name the “American way.” (Sigh) Oh well.

Uncle Kofi showed me his church. It’s pretty simple and cozy at the same time. We were brainstorming ways for him to raise church funds.  I suggested that he partner with a non-profit organization that he supports.


Ghana V. Nigeria

My cousin Prince and came over to visit me this evening. He works for Nigerian company that’s based in Ghana. I told him that I had a great time in Nigeria, despite all the horrible things I hear about the country. He agreed. “Yep, something has to be done about their negative image. It surely affects the business of my company. People are hesitant to do business with a Nigerian company.” I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not cool if an entire world thinks negatively about Nigeria. Hence the reason for my blog: “Yaa Yaa In Naija.”

Nigerians told me I’d say it. Ghanaians told me I’d say it. Americans who have visited both countries told me I’d say it. So I’m going to say it. Ghana is very different from Nigeria! This difference was apparent from the moment I stepped off the plane.

When I stepped of the plane in Nigeria, people were loud. They shoved. They pushed. They shouted. In Ghana, people were calm. They were quiet. Laid back. And when I went outside, there was not much honking cars and loud taxi drivers. People were calm.

Later, when I crossed the street in busy Accra, a car did not try to run me over, speeding up and then slowing down when he is inches from my foot. Nope. People slowed down to let me cross. One time, Rispah and I were in a taxi cab. A reckless driver cut the taxi driver off. And do you know what the taxi driver did? Nothing. He simply slowed down. Honked one time. He didn’t roll down his window and hurl obscenities to the reckless driver, or get out of his car and threaten to fight the other driver. Nope, he simply drove defensively. Amazing.

So yep, I fully concur. Ghana is very different from Nigeria.

The Bare Minimum

We’re all looking for our dream guy. I know I am. Once upon a time, I was waiting on Casanova, but he seems to be evading me. Finding a man who’s suave, opens the door, pulls out chairs, and refrains from cussing around me is no easy task. Nowadays, I’m not asking for much; I just need him to have the bare minimum. Even with this slight reduction in standards, the Bare Minimum Guy, he’s still hard to find. To all the fellas out there, please ask yourself the following questions before you even think about approaching me:

  1. Can you open the door for me instead of letting the door slam in my face as you walk through it?
  2. Can you offer to carry this heavy box up to my apartment? Haven’t you noticed that this box is practically bigger than me?
  3. When you approach me at a party, can you ask me to dance instead of creeping up from behind and groping me like you are some sort of animal?
  4. Can you call me when you say you’re going to call?
  5. Can you not offer to take me to a strip club on our first date? (Yes, y’all. A nice young “gentleman” offered to take me to a strip club for a date.)
  6. Can you actually plan the date?
  7. Can you have some sort of a 5 year plan, goal, or ambition that you are actively trying to pursue?
  8. Can you pick up your iPhone and call me instead of texting me a message the length of a paragraph?
  9. Can you be respectful enough not to call or text me after 11pm?
  10. Can you select some place other than a movie theatre for a first date? How are we going to get to know each other staring at a screen for 2 hours and stuffing our faces with popcorn?

All I’m asking is for the bare minimum, fellas. The bare minimum.

Ladies, is there anything else that you see missing from this list? Feel free to add them below in the comment section.

World AIDS Day 2012 Reflections

A few months ago, as part of my orientation to become a counseling and testing volunteer at a local HIV/AIDS clinic, in Atlanta I attended a seminar entitled “HIV 101.”  Physicians, researchers, HIV/AIDS advocates, and others affected by the virus shared recent developments on HIV vaccines and other topics such as how to advocate on behalf of HIV patients and the obstacles persons living with HIV encounter in Atlanta and all over the country. Some people even shared personal stories about how they have lived with someone with HIV.

While listening to the personal discussions, I couldn’t help but notice the following:

Stigma is ubiquitous

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11 Things I Learned in 2011

On December 31, 2011 at 11:48pm four friends and I stood in 40 degree weather hugging ourselves to keep warm and waiting for the Peach to drop. Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta was crowded that night. I didn’t know what my friends or the hundreds of other Atlantans were feeling about 2011, but I was more excited about saying FAREWELL to 2011 than I was about saying HELLO to 2012. 2011 was a hard teacher. In fact, she was the toughest  teacher I have ever had in my entire life, but luckily, I’m a good student: I studied and took good notes. Since I’m a generous person, I’ll share them with you, so we can both walk into 2012’s classroom, prepared to tackle whatever lesson is thrown at us.

Here’s what Professor 2011 has taught me:

1. Be humble or be humbled. 

The year 2011 taught me that humility is a trait that I need to cultivate. Humility is the understanding that everything in life – houses, cars, family members, friends, significant others, money, jobs, and even life itself – can be taken from us in an instant. It’s accepting the people in your life and uncomfortable situations with a grateful heart. When things are going well for us – promotions, high-paying jobs, expensive cars, beautiful homes, healthy children – we have a tendency to take our blessings for granted. But if we take a moment, step back and imagine our life without our family, without a relationship with a significant other, without our money, without our jobs, we will realize how truly precious our life is.

In 2012, I urge you to take a moment to be grateful for life and its gifts; never leave it up to Life to humble you. Trust me when I say: it does not feel good when Life has to humble you.

2. Love yourself. Accept your flaws.

“You’re mad because of that?! Geez, you’re so sensitive!” are two phrases that I have heard more times than I’d like to admit. It burns my ears each time I hear it, possibly because there’s a hint of truth in those statements.  The slightest joke or comment can offend me at times. Confronting the offender is not easy for me to do, so I’ll hold a grudge against the offender, putting a strain on the relationship

While sensitivity has it’s down sides, it can also be a positive trait. My sensitive nature is the reason why I get along with different types of people from different walks of life. Friends, family members and even strangers have come to me for comfort or a listening ear in their times of trouble. I give people the benefit of the doubt, even when there’s hardly any benefit in the doubt. The drawbacks: people won’t tell me the truth for fear that I will become offended and I have to hear that disgusting phrase  I articulated earlier. I acknowledge the good sides and the bad sides of being a sensitive person; it is my strength and my weakness, but I’m okay with that.

In 2012, I will continue to work on developing a thick-skin, but in the meantime Scribbles & Tostitos readers, allow me to re-introduce myself, “My name is Yaa Yaa and I’m extremely sensitive. Please plan accordingly.”

3. Do what you feel is right for you. 

Have you ever noticed how many people offer advice? Seriously, everyone is a Dr. Phil or a Dr. Phyllis. If I had a quarter for everytime someone gave me unsolicited advice, I’d be a wealthy woman. (To be fair, I’m guilty of offering advice that wasn’t called for too; I am working on this.) Silly me, I was trying to follow every piece of advice I was hearing and it practically drove me crazy. I woke up one day angry at him, angry at her, and ultimately angry at myself for following such faulty advice.

Today, I’m a wiser woman. My 2012 mantra is “Yaa Yaa does what’s right for Yaa Yaa.” My parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, or uncles, even close friends won’t understand the choices I make, but that’s okay. It’s a lonely road but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night without holding grudges towards good-hearted people who didn’t know how to solve my problem.

Do you know what the most bizarre thing about advice-givers? Typicallythe advisor takes no remorse when their “great idea” doesn’t unfold the way it should. In fact, they’ll say to to you in an inaudible tone, “Why did you listen to me?!”

4. Don’t take it personal. 

Everyone in life is fighting some sort of inner battle. Most times people are so engrossed in their battle, that they’ll lash out at you, the innocent bystander. When it happens, know that their ugly comments have little to do with you because people will often project their own problems onto the others. Ignore ugly comments, bad attitudes, backhanded compliments, and other gestures that people use to harm you. It’s not about you; it’s about them.

5. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

I am looking for a job. The job is the destination and my search is the journey. And what a journey this has been! At one time, I was so focused on finding a job that I wasn’t enjoying this season in my life. Sun up to sundown, I was on the Internet replying to postings or editing cover letters.  One day, I looked up from the computer long enough to realize that some gainfully employed people envied my life. I am around family and close friends; I don’t have to deal with workplace drama; and I have free time that most gainfully employed people wish they had.

That’s when I started taking advantage of my free time. I started this blog; I started spending quality time with my niece and nephews. I started writing more and reading books I’ve always wanted to read. I started learning more about my field of global health and development.  Now, I can say that I am truly enjoying my journey. Like any other journey, my journey has it’s twists, turns, bumps, and occasional stop signs, detours and dead ends, but I laugh, I cry, a reflect, and then I move on.

6. You teach people how to treat you. 

People will only do to you what you allow them to do to you. You set the standard and if someone doesn’t live up to that standard, then there you must enforce consequences. A consequence may be your absence or a candid conversation. Simple as that. Women who say that their boyfriends don’t treat them right, I say shame on the guy and then shame on her. If a guy isn’t doing right by you, then women, you have the power to change it.

7. If you can’t change the situation, change your perspective.

After I had item #6 down pact, I quickly noticed that there are some people who are “unteachable.” These people might come in the shape of a supervisor, family member, or spouse; you’re going to have to deal with this person no matter what and they are NOT going to change. You can’t “punish” them. An open discussion with this person is not always feasible. When you’re faced with an “unteachable,” #7 comes into play: change your perspective; change the way you look at them. Look at the good side, focus on the positive and overlook the negative.

8. Family members are angels on earth. 

I don’t know one person on this planet that can support me like my family does. I have a mother, father, three brothers (two older, one younger), two nephews, one neice and two sister-in-laws, a loving grandmother and a grandpa. I also have numerous cousins, second cousins, fourth cousins, and adopted cousins. Each person, in their own unique way, has been there for me in my time of need. They have encouraged me when I just couldn’t find the strength to continue with the journey; they kept me grounded when I thought I was too cool for school. They have even drove 30 miles from Marietta to Spelman to bring my favorite snack (Tostitos), so that I’ll have something to munch on while pulling an all-nighter. Each person that I have the honor of calling family are my Angels on earth.

9. Silence is golden

Oprah shared some wisdom with her Facebook fans in September. Although I found everything she said inspirational, there was one piece of advice that struck me. She said, “Each day spend quiet time alone and listen to that still small voice within you.”

She didn’t specify who that “still small voice” belonged to because at the end of the day that doesn’t matter. Christians would call it the holy spirit, others call it God, some call  intuition, while others call it their inner voice. Whatever you call it, I’ve found that when my life becomes hectic, when I have tight deadlines, when my e-mails are piling up, and when my task list becomes long, I just bury myself in the workload and get in done. Oprah challenged me to stop, and listen to that still small voice within me.

Each day, I try to set aside quiet time. For me, quiet time is not prayer time, it’s not the silence I hear while driving alone in my car; it’s not the pause I hear on the phone when my cell phone company puts me on hold for 20 minutes. My quiet time occurs right before bedtime; I’ll sit up in bed, focus on a spot on my wall and let my mind wander. I’ll listen to my thoughts, I’ll search for negative thoughts and for positive thoughts. A funny thought will enter my head and I’ll laugh of course,  but when all my thoughts are gone, I just listen. And I let that voice say whatever it needs to say. It may sound strange but this activity has helped me tackle my bout of insomnia and helped keep myself at peace when things went haywire.

10. High standards yield less options

Many women are asking themselves, “Why am I still single?” The media has capitalized on this question, distorting it to read, “What is wrong with women (especially Black women) who are single?” Of course, there are a few women who have a severe personality flaw that taints their love life, but most of the time women who are single have high standards. Women, when you have high standards, you’re going to have less options. If you want a man – any type of man – then lower your standards. You’ll no longer be single, but good luck in your relationship with the guy you’ve attracted with lower standards.

11. Less money results in less problems (sometimes).

Flipping through the channels the other day, I came across Mase & P. Diddy’s old music video entitled “More Money, More Problems.” I chuckled at that ridiculous costume that the rappers were wearing and then I thought seriously about the concept “More money, more problems.” I thought about my life when I was working and I think about my life now. When I was working and had extra money, I was always trying to find an excursion: NYC, DC, Houston. You name it, and I’d salvage enough money to get there. Oh the mental calculations I would endure to determine if a trip was financially feasible. In those days, planning a trip was stressful.  Traveling was stressful; making arrangements and activities for my destination was stressful; trying to find time to travel in the midst of a hectic work life was stressful.

Nowadays, I don’t have that form of stress. I don’t travel because I can’t afford it. When Expedia sends me deals to my favorite destinations, I don’t even open it. No need to spend hours scheming on how I can force an weekend getaway into a strained budget. I just don’t go. I have money for bills, food, and other essentials and that’s about it. And surprisingly, I am content with the travel hiatus (although I hope it doesn’t last too long).