Monday, December 31, 2007

from the "1-2-3-4" dept.

Great parody of the Apple iPod spot... courtesy MAD TV:

And here's the Feisty original:

And, of course, the actual song and video:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

from the "it's almost over" dept.

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

- Bill Vaughan (h/t JG)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

from the "tell me more" dept.

Christmas dinner at Dave and Catherine Gage's was grand. The full meal with much wine.

Their house in West Van is a treat too. Right on the water, although you have to brave a driveway they aptly named "leap of faith."

As luck would have it, it snowed, rendering my vehicle useless in any attempts at climbing leap of faith.

We cracked another bottle of wine and I stayed the night.

Boxing Day started with a stunning view of Horseshoe Bay. Dave cooked up an unholy amount of bacon to go with a feed of eggs. A pot or two of coffee later, it was time to be on my way.

I'll be back though. To house sit! Bwah ha ha!

The rest of the day was filled with running around. I gave up on attempting to shop for new shoes. Instead I spent time with Sammy the Cat at Don and Linda's.

Then I headed home to do some preps for my online work. And then an aborted attempt to visit some friends in Burnaby. I found the general area of the get together but was unable to raise anyone on the phone.

I headed back to Deep Cove and planned to get to bed early. I'm writing Alberta news for the remainder of the week. I get to work from home but I have to start at 6. Meaning I have to get up at 5 so my brain is functioning by 6.

And it was. Actually I got up at 4 in order to be ready to go for 6. And I was able to watch the sun rise on a snow covered Deep Cove.

The work day went quickly and ended before I knew it. I decided to reward myself with a trip to a deep discount shoe seller on Granville St. I walked into the empty store and walked out with $250 worth of shoes (actually a pair of shoes and a pair of sandals) for about $70 including tax.

I may go back for more.

You're now up to date!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

from the "baby Jesus" dept.

Christmas. Wasn't it just?

Now I'm feeling the culture shock.

I worked Christmas Eve day at the CBC. It was the first time back working in a Canadian newsroom in a long time.

And how was it? OK. And surprisingly familiar.

The odd thing is that I'll be writing more news for the Corp. this week and next, but from home. Unless I drag my ass into the plant. I may.

Christmas eve was very quiet. Aided by a couple of tins of Kilkenny, I chilled at Randy's place in Deep Cove. Nice.

It is midday on Christmas Day as I write this. So far:

I spent the morning at Ted Shredd's place, feasting on waffles.

I spend some quality time with Sammy the cat at Don and Linda's.

And I'll soon be heading back over to the North Shore for Christmas dinner at Catherine and Dave Gage's.

A full day. Although part of me wishes I was back in Africaland. *sniff*


Friday, December 21, 2007

from the "Kasting out Peanuts" dept.

This could be the perfect mixture of classic Christmas pop culture with that funky modern (though almost classic) beat.

(h/t: Wendy S.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

from the "I've been here before" dept.

So... yesterday I headed to the CBC for my first day of work since returning to Canada nearly two weeks ago.

I've been asked to write local news and, because there have been many changes over the past year, I needed a refresher.

Holy crap! Changes? It's all new!

Needless to say the day was a big challenge, so much so that I'm going back in tomorrow for more training. Which means I miss the CTV sales party. Crap.

But I'm flying solo on Monday and methinks I need to know how to pilot the broadcast news airship more than I need to guzzle free egg nog.

Today is the CTV engineering party. I'm all over that.

Full report to come.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

from the "wha happened?" dept.

As unbelievable as it seems, I've been home for a week.

Over the past seven days, I've been struggling to write something that sums up the experience of returning to Vancouver after nearly a year in West Africa.

Trouble is, new and noteworthy events occur daily, causing me to delay putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Additionally, I'm writing an opinion piece for about reverse culture shock -- which, I find, hasn't really happened yet. That does not bode well for the bank account.

Rather than delay what is sure to be a lengthy treatise about my return to Canada, I thought that, for now, I'd take the easy way out. Here then, is a series of top ten lists.


1. Regaining my anonymity.
2. Coffee, coffee, coffee.
3. Sushi, sushi, sushi.
4. Obscenely hot and powerful showers.
5. Potable, flowing and soft tap water that encourages soap to lather.
6. My friends.
7. The sweet, delicious cold.
8. Customer service.
9. Good beer on tap. And the availability of decent whisk(e)y.
10. Driving my own car.


1. The rain.
2. The cold.
3. Rude people and that me-first attitude.
4. Traffic.
5. Regaining my anonymity. I'm not special anymore!
6. The prices.
7. Rejoining the workforce.
8. Bills.
9. Everything is so normal.
10. Feeling like I never left.


1. The people.
2. Globug.
3. Gato (who eventually became known as simply "Cat").
4. Cheap everything.
5. Big bottles of beer.
6. Red-red.
7. The sun.
8. The outrageously warm sea.
9. Travelling around the country.
10. Pints with Leffler.


1. My inconsiderate (and light fingered) roommate.
2. The heat and humidity.
3. The occasional water supply.
4. The almost complete lack of customer service.
5. The blackouts (though these really dropped off this fall).
6. Being the centre of everyone's attention.
7. Ants.
8. Malaria.
9. The lack of pedestrian rights.
10. The molasses-like internet.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from the "familiar territory" dept.

So... how am I faring now that I'm back in Vancouver (or, rather, Deep Cove)?

It's certainly been a head-spinning experience. The first battle: adjusting the body clock.

After last night, I think I'm finally normalized.

A full report is coming. But I have some errands to run.

Watch this space!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

from the "newsbreak" dept.

I had a hoot at the blooper party Friday night and finally, after being up for nearly 48 hours straight, I slept. Until 6 a.m. Dammit! However, I managed to roll over and eke out another few hours.

It was great to see so many friends and colleagues at the blooper party last night. I'm so happy to be home. Yet, in many ways, it felt as though I had never left.

The reaction to the long hair was mixed, though edged towards the positive. Methinks I'll keep it for a bit. And everyone was shocked that I came directly from the airport to the bash (stopping only for sushi dinner at Osaka in Deep Cove and a long, hot shower - not at Osaka).

Saturday morning started with a stroll to Honey's in Deep Cove for a double Americano and TWO Baden Powell muffins.

Up next: shopping. I need pants, t-shirts, a jacket, a working mobile phone, toiletries and a hard copy of the Globe and Mail.

Tonight: Dinner at the Arms Reach bistro, also in Deep Cove. And some quality scotch. I imagine it'll be a much earlier night.

The weather is certainly a change. It's cold ( 0 degrees) but the sun is bright. I can't express how nice the old air and hot showers are. Heaven.

Right. Best head out to the shoppes. It's that crazy Christmas shopping season -- and I'm ready for my first blast of reverse culture shock.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

from the "in transit" dept,

I'm in Frankfurt.
I'm bored.
I have 4 hours of boredom to kill.
I have a 10.5 hour flight ahead of me.
I just finished a 8.5 hour flight.

Africa is far away, t'ait it?

But, I am happy to be away from all the negative crapola at the house. Dorkus Roommatus is telling more lies. Good riddance!

More from Vancouver. And I'm going to name names.


from the "on the road again" dept.

Greetings from Accra.

Gloria and I arrived in the big city around dinner time last night. We headed for Dot's hotel... and then had dinner at Tante Marie (sp). Tasty! Even got a few moments of visiting in with Kat.

Today (Thursday) has been typical Accra. Croissants and espresso at Koala. Internet at SharpNet. And lunch at an as yet to be determined joint in Osu.

I'm checking in at the airport late this afternoon. Departure time is around 8pm. Then the really long haul begins. 8.5 hours to Frankfurt. 5 hours in Frankfurt. 10.5 hours to Vancouver.

I'm gonna be baked. But I look forward to it. And the blooper party.

That's it for now. I'll post if I get access in Frankfurt.

Otherwise, the next time will be from Vancouver.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

from the "coundown" dept.

I suppose the countdown to my Canadian return began last January when I landed in Ghana.

I didn't give it much though until about a month ago when the countdown suddenly became much more real and important. I am leaving my African life and returning to my Canadian life.

I'll trade the hot for the cold. The smiles for the frowns. The goat soup for the graffiti.

I don't mean to sound down. I'm not. I'm really looking forward to being back in Canada. But, despite all the bad things that have happened (evil roommate, thefts) I am really going to miss this place. Likely more than I realize at this point.

With that in mind, I've already convinced the fine folks at CBC online to purchase a short piece on the culture shock I'm sure to experience when I land back in Vancouver. I'm nothing if not a good marketer of my experiences.

The last few weeks of my Ghanaian experience have been far busier than I'd anticipated.

I feel like I've been on a whirlwind goodbye tour of the country. While it could have been more extensive, it still was a big journey: Takoradi to Tema by bus. Tema back to Takoradi on the USS Fort McHenry. A bus from Takoradi to Kumasi. Then another bus to Tamale. Then back to Kumasi and then Takoradi. The last stop: a one night in Accra before the winged beast lifts my weary bones westward to Vancouverland, with a five hour layover in Frankfurt.

Tuesday night I had a final dinner with Christian and Eben, two reporters from SKYY. I haven't seen much of the SKYY people since I finished working there, and this was a chance to let me buy them dinner for all their help over the past eleven months. Plus, I wanted to give Christian my video camera. If I make any kind of a difference here, hopefully it comes from equipping a journalist with the tools to do his job.

They told me about some of the stuff going on at the station. Security cameras everywhere. Mass firings including the news director. A shift from reporting real news to reporting stories that generate revenue. In other words P.R. It's a shame, because SKYY is filled with some exceptional journalists -- and they feel let down and are wondering what to do next.

But a job, even one with long hours and small pay, is a job. And when SKYY is the only real TV game in town, it's not like you can cross the street to the competition. The only options are to leave the business all together (which many do), move to a competing radio station (and earn even less money), or move to Accra in the hopes of landing a job there.

It's tough to be a journalist in Ghana.


The farewell tour started about two weeks ago when I left Takoradi for Tema, a port city located about 35 km east of Accra.

Former-CTV colleague and JHR Kumasi trainer Brennan Leffler and I had arranged to join a US Naval vessel and spend two days chugging up the coast.

The USS Fort McHenry is on a seven-month mission called the African Partnership Station initiative.

The initiative includes officials from African and European nations and NGOs. The deployment in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa's west coast is, according to officials, designed to help central and West African nations build up their maritime security.

Leffler and I are working on a story about the ship's mission. There's a lot of outside interest in Africa and we're wondering if the Americans are beefing up their presence here because of China's increased interest in the continent.


It's dark when I finally arrive at the Tema bus station, which is really nothing more than a parking lot. For a moment I think that this can't be the end of the line -- but the bus driver confirms it.

It's just after 7 p.m. and very, very quiet. There isn't a taxi to be seen. How odd. Normally when you step off a bus, the traders and cabbies pounce. In Tema, not so much.

I walk to the road and flag down a taxi. I tell him that I'm going to Gussy's Hotel and he replies that he knows where it is. But after driving around for several minutes -- and being asked if I think he should turn this way or that -- I begin to suspect he hasn't a clue where to go.

I ask him if he has a clue. He doesn't.

In these sorts of situations I've learned to always carry the telephone number of the hotel. That way, I can call them and pass the phone to the taxi driver so he can get directions.

It worked like a charm and after a long drive through the hinterlands of Greater Tema, we arrive at a hotel conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. It's the keystone in a new development. And the only building for miles.

Meanwhile Leffler is still in the middle of his long journey from Kumasi. He eventually arrives at Gussy's sometime after midnight.

Brennan was supposed to travel with a reporter from LUV-FM in Kumasi. However the reporter decided to take an overnight tro-tro to Tema. Brennan advised against this, telling him that timelines were critical. The reporter wouldn't listen.

The Navy had instructed us to be at the port for a 7 a.m. departure. Brennan worried the reporter wouldn't make it.

After too few hours sleep, Leffler and I were meeting Mike Morley, the Navy's PR guy, at the Port of Tema gate.

We'd been told to meet at the west gate, which was a bit troublesome, as there didn't appear to be one.

Brennan called his LUV colleague and, as he had predicted, the reporter was mired in Accra's traffic. The Navy wasn't about to wait.

Mike, Brennan and I shrugged our shoulders and walked to where the USS McHenry was berthed. Rows of shipping containers lined the pier to create a security barrier. Ironically, all the containers were emblazoned with "CHINA SHIPPING."

Everyone is interested in Africa and its abundance of natural resources. Americans. The Chinese. The Europeans. The Canadians.

The plan was to sail from Tema back to Takoradi. Mike explained that we'd maintain a distance of about 50 miles off the coast and pull into port roughly 28 hours after departure.

To keep this entry short, I'll save the minutiae of the trip for a separate entry. But we had an amazing time and met a shipload (500!) of great folks.

[story continues below images]

Looking out over the Gulf of Guinea.

View from the bridge of the USS McHenry.

Tema and a rusting hulk.

Brennan and Mike Morley.

Into the sunset...

No topic was off the table including politics. I came away thinking that the men and women serving in the US Navy are far more moderate and clear thinking than the U.S. administration.

We came away with enough material for a decent story -- which is now in Leffler's hands and may be coming to a (Global) channel near you.

True to Mike's word, we pulled into port around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet several of the crew for dinner that night in Takoradi.

The ship was scheduled to remain in port for most of the week and Mike gave us an open invitation to come back. Unfortunately Leffler had to get back to Kumasi and I had to head north to Tamale.

[ to be continued]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ghana reflects progress in Africa - Yahoo! News

"The picture across the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa is still very much a patchwork. But a yearlong exploration by The Associated Press shows that progress — while fragile — is finding a foothold, in spheres ranging from democracy to education. Perhaps most strikingly, after few results from five decades of advice and $568 billion in aid, today's developments in business, education, government and other areas are being led by Africans themselves."

Full story:

Ghana reflects progress in Africa - Yahoo! News

[h/t ASL]

Monday, December 03, 2007

Vespa Vagabond

Here's a cool idea: hop on a Vespa and ride across America.

Vespa Vagabond: "...from san francisco to new york city on a vespa..."

[ h/t gadling]

from the "hold yer horses" dept.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

You're waiting for the US Navy story.
You're waiting for the Kumasi story.
You're waiting for the Tamale story.

They're coming. Really. I just have to finish 'em. And I'm close. But today, there were distractions aplenty.

I'm still seething about ANOTHER theft. The value is low, but the disgust is the same. This time 5 kg of rice. I hope the thief chokes.

There's been no water for the past few days. Normally, this isn't a big deal. Still, I'd like to have one more real shower before I leave town.

Packing has gone swimmingly. I'm leaving a lot of clothes and stuff behind -- no sense carting it all to and fro.

Unfortunately I've still crammed my faux hockey bag and backpack full of stuff. Plus a carry-on holding two laptops. And my camera bag.

I had intended to blow out of town tomorrow (I want to put as many KM between me and the thief as possible). But I also wanted to have dinner with two SKYY reporters first. We'd planned to do that tonight -- but one had to delay.

That means I'll take the bus to Accra Wednesday -- stay somewhere swanky Wednesday night -- then head to the airport midday Thursday.

I'll be leaving with mixed feelings. In many ways, this has been the best experience of my life. And, in many ways, the most disappointing -- though that has more to do with the bad roommate who continues to blind people with his layer of bullshit. Bitter? Definitely.

Though through the rose coloured glasses of hindsight, I'm sure the stuff that has my blood boiling will seem petty. As in petty theft. Bwah ha ha.


Tuesday I'll commence a-writing. Finish up the remaining chores. And take a beer or two with Christian and Ebenezer.

After that it's one more sleep in Takoradi. Two in Ghana.

Good night and good gravy!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Telecommuting from the road: the art of combining work and travel - Gadling

Telecommuting from the road: the art of combining work and travel - Gadling

Virgin America adds a little humor to safety video - Gadling

This has to be the funniest safety video (save Duck and Cover) ever:

Virgin America adds a little humor to safety video - Gadling


from the "touchdown" dept.

I landed back in Takoradi Saturday, courtesy of a five hour bus ride from Kumasi.

Gloria was waiting at the bus station and we headed to Akroma Plaza, the standard "welcome home" dinner spot.

Justice, my preferred taxi driver, picked us up and after a quick visit to the supermarket (the last time?) it was home for a rest.

Call to prayer interrupted that at 4:10 a.m. And the Christians had their go around 6 a.m.

It's now late Sunday morning as I write this. A day of sorting stuff and deciding what to take/leave lies ahead.

I'm only here until Wednesday... then off to Accra before flying home. There seems to be a lot of stuff to do (write about the US Navy ship and the trip north)... but for now... it's just multiple cups of coffee and the Sunday New York Times online.

And some snickering at the snow in Vancouver. Oh, goodie!

More to come.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

from the "briefing" dept.

A short note. Surprise!

I've finished all my interviews in Tamale. My work is done. It's time to go home.

Tonight: dinner with JHR trainer Nichole Huck and her partner Shawn.

Tomorrow: The 6 a.m. bus back to Kumasi. I'll have dinner with Leffler. The last one until next year.

Saturday: The noon bus to Takoradi.

Sunday: The packing begins.

More tales from the last few days to come. Likely this weekend. I've also got some pictures and video up on FB and Flickr.



Here's a sample... from Salankpang, about 45 km east of Tamale, in northern Ghana:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

from the "hot tamale" dept.

After a seven hour bus ride from Kumasi, I am now in Tamale - the largest city in Ghana's north.

My interviewing begins tomorrow and continues through Thursday and possibly Friday. I'm looking forward to getting this week put behind me so I can get back to Takoradi and start packing.

Hard to believe I'll be complaining about the cold and rain in a little more than a week!

Much more to come on the weekend.


Monday, November 26, 2007

from the "blurb" dept.

Back from a weekend on the US Navy ship USS McHenry. Great experience and people. Lots of cool photos.

Now I'm off to Kumasi and Tamale. Likely offline through the end of this week. Photos and stories to come!


Friday, November 23, 2007

from the "have some fun while I'm gone" dept.

It's Friday... the countdown is now 14. In 14 days I'll be back in Vancouver. Crazy, man.

In the meantime... I'm a few hours away from hopping on a bus to the port city of Tema. It's about 25 minutes from Accra and four hours from Takoradi.

Tomorrow Brennan, Sa'id (a reporter from LUV FM in Kumasi) and I will board the USS McHenry and sail up the coast. We're doing some stories on the ship and its mission (security, goodwill) for LUV and Global National.

The schedule has us sailing overnight and putting into Takoradi Sunday morning.

Then on Tuesday or Wednesday I will begin the long journey to Tamale and Northern Ghana to work on the magazine articles that I've mentioned previously. Then back to pack and get ready to move home.

In the meantime, I'll be offline. So, if you're looking for something to keep you busy, here's an early Christmas treat:

Holiday Snowglobe



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

from the "when cabinets attack" dept.

So... I'm sitting in my room and doing some work on the computer when suddenly, from the kitchen, I hear this unholy crash.


Turns out that one of the cabinets on the wall decided to go for a little journey all the way to the floor.

At least a dozen plates were smashed to bits as well as all but one of our glasses.

To add to the fun, at least four one-litre containers of juice and UHT milk were crushed. They burst, of course... resulting in a nice milky-juicy-glassy soup all over the floor. The ants are going to love that...

Here's the video of the aftermath:

Two hours of cleaning later, I'm ready for a pint.


from the "topping the charts" dept.

In the run up to a footie match between Canada and a local South African team, a South African website thought they'd try to explain the difference between America and Canada:

"Although they sound the same when they talk they are an independent nation and completely different to their neighbours The United States of America - who beat Bafana Bafana on the weekend."

Their top ten list of things Canadian is here!



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

from the "due process" dept.

It's tough to be a journalist:

NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.

US Plans Case Against AP Photographer

(via Drudge)

Monday, November 19, 2007

from the "erm" dept.

I'm still not sure what to make of the Miss Landmine Angola 2008 beauty contest.


It does make you think... doesn't it?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

from the "soupy sales" dept.

A fantastic link from Wendy in Winnipeg:

"Aqua Books started using a new logo this spring that was a riff on Andy Warhols' soup can. Owner Kelly Hughes said he though the logo was hilarious, but "Campbell's, apparently, did not." See their letter to him, and his reply."

Read Campbell's cease and desist letter and Hughes side-splitting reply here:

Aqua Books | Winnipeg Manitoba Canada | The Soup Incident | Used Bookstore

from the "not-quite-the-USO" dept.

Brennan Leffler and I are hoping to cover this story for the media folks back home:

DAKAR (Reuters) - As it steams down the West African coast, the USS Fort McHenry faces one of its toughest battles: to convince skeptical Africans their continent can benefit from more U.S. military involvement.

The 600-foot (185-metre) ship, which saw combat in the first Gulf War, is embarking on a six-month mission to train West African navies to fight drug smuggling and maritime security threats in a region which supplies nearly a fifth of U.S. oil imports, rivaling the Middle East.

The rest of the story:
U.S. to woo Africans with naval diplomacy -

If all goes according to plan, we'll be sailing up the coast of
Ghana next weekend.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

from the "silhouette masterpiece theatre" dept.

This is hilarious...

Silhouette Masterpiece Theatre

h/t to dot dot dot

from the "social butterfly" dept.

So... I arrive home around 2 p.m. on Friday, December 7th.

Within hours of planting my size 10.5s on British Columbia soil (not that I'm super excited, yet)... the fun begins. And I don't mean a holiday Tazering, Bro! If I'm hanging around international arrivals for 10 hours, it means I'm drunk on Vancouver air, not some poor confused man who needs (actually -- DIDN'T NEED) 50,ooo volts of calm-me-down.

Here's the itinerary:

First up, a little afternoon Christmas party at a certain North Shore production company (SaltRox? No... BarSoap? No... SipWhisk(e)y?). Let's just say I'm expecting some good Scotch.

Then comes the annual Vancouver TV Blooper Party. It's a unique event where all of Vancouver's television newsrooms get together and show their blooper tapes. And get drunk.

The following day, it's the CBC Christmas party. I may skip that one as I don't have a thing to wear (that fits).

My only concern is appearing at the blooper party in front of all my peers from all the stations... after 24 hours of skybus travel, 11 months in Africa, a worrisome weight gain, and near-shoulder length hair.

I am soooo f*cked!


from the "roadtrip into yesteryear" dept.

From Gadling, my favourite travel blog:

One for the Road: Around the World - The Grand Tour in Photo Albums - Gadling

from the "whoops!" dept.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ghanaian leader in car accident

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blame Canada

h/t Wendy S. and the Onion.

from the "countdown" dept.

I'll be home in 24 days. 24. Amazing.

I'm still not sure what the plan is regarding a return to Ghana. I want to, but at the same time I'm going to be a lot more careful about where I live and with whom.

Airfares from Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto and even New York are high and rare. This, I realize, is due to the African Cup of Nations football tourney.

It starts Jan 20, 2008 and I don't want to miss it. But if I have to pay an extra $1000 for the privilege then I might elect to stay in dark, rainy and cold Vancouver. Except I won't have a home in January! Anyone need a house sitter?

And if I'm not coming back, that means I'll have to bring all my crap home... instead of being able to leave some of it behind. Which I'll likely do. I can always buy new shorts and flipflops.

There is still a ton of stuff to do between now and December 7. I have to finish one magazine article (due Friday) and research two more. I can write the remaining pieces in Canada, which will guarantee a little holiday income.

The time is gonna fly... I know that!


Canadian firetruck responding to U.S. call held up at border -

Talk about homeland insecurity...

Canadian firetruck responding to U.S. call held up at border -

Saturday, November 10, 2007

from the "me too!" dept

[this makes a dandy update to the previous 'theft' entry]

It's nice to know that after 11 months, I'm not alone.

While some people think living in a foreign land is all kittens and puppy dogs, the reality is that it's hard. And it's made harder because frustrations sneak up on you and catch you when you least expect it.

Sophie, who works with JHR in Accra, posted an entry on her blog this week that had me standing up yelling "me too!" Check it out here.

Like I said, it's nice to know I'm not alone.


Friday, November 09, 2007

from the "history repeating" dept.

So it has happened again: Another theft.

This one, while not large in monetary terms, stings more than the others. It makes me want to pack my bags and go. I'm tired of being ripped off and taken advantage of.

Some background:

Since I arrived in Ghana, I've had the following items snatched:

- 1,000,000 old Ghana cedis (worth about $100) from work.
- A still camera (worth about $500) from work.
- A video camera, also from work, but I got it back.
- A wind-up radio (worth about $100) from my home.

And yesterday, 10 new cedis (about $10) from the kitchen table. Nice.

On top of all that, I am still disappointed that I was taken advantage of when I paid rent last January. I don't care about the money. I care that I was squeezed for 200% more than what I should have been paying. I don't even begrudge someone making a profit -- but 200% is a joke.

Where does this leave me? Pretty pissed off. But I've learned some good lessons and I am trying not to leave Ghana with a bad taste in my mouth. But I am very, very sour.

Back to the latest theft. Here's what happened:

I had about 10 new cedis worth of utilities to pay to the daughter of the landlord. She lives in our house, so I left the money on the kitchen table. A few hours later it had disappeared. How? Well, let's just say someone has access and, obviously, can't be trusted.

I had an inkling that the money would be snatched and I was proven right. I've been accused of encouraging the theft by leaving the money out. Right, in my own home. We call it the common area, but in reality only two others are supposed to share it. Apparently not. See above comment about someone having access.

I'd love to write more about the latest episode, but I think I should wait until I'm home.


I'm also damn tired of the revivalist preaching. Every night this week our neighbourhood has been filled with this bullshit wafting through the air. If you're speaking in tongues three hours a night, five nights in a row -- well, it's all an act, isn't it?

And the faux preacher gets to scare the shit out of people and drive home in a new car.

I am so looking forward to home.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

from the "alterior motives" dept.

From the Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya:

Europe charms ‘poor’ Africa in exchange for oil

By Mildred Ngesa

I am still trying to understand if Africa truly matters to the rest of the world especially the West. Does the continent warrant the attention it has been getting recently? That for me is the question.

Over the weekend, I sat through sessions during which German President Horst Kohler charmed his way into the hearts of African presidents, economists, intellectuals, journalists and artists.

Call me pessimistic or cynical, but something tells me the affection towards the continent in recent years is an attempt at something more than just the desire to foster “cordial relations”.

Suddenly, anybody who is somebody in Europe is focusing on Africa with such passion and conviction that it is sometimes too good to be true.

In a month’s time, Africa will sit at the summit at Lisbon in Portugal together with European Union countries and deliberate on crucial trade agreements under a document called the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The signing of the agreement is seven years behind schedule. And even this year, it might not be passed because African countries are sceptical and reluctant to sign a trade agreement that may make them lose out on concessionary export tariffs which is a source of revenue for many countries.

The agreement is a complicated document touching on trade, business transactions, import and export as well as potential for economic romance between Africa and Europe on a partnership basis as opposed to dependency on aid as has been the norm.

I have been listening to significant top-guns in the EU explain just how “fair and free” trade would thrive between Europe and Africa were the agreement to be signed. Several times, I have almost been convinced that out former colonisers are sincerely considering us as equal partners in economic development and are looking at us with renewed interest.

But I have also learnt that there is always a catch when a deal seems to be so good. There is no doubt that Europe is wooing Africa for its raw materials and natural resources although it appears to be coming a day late after China.

Free and fair market

However, the assumption that Africa will in turn find a free and fair market in Europe as a result of signing the new deal is more of a mirage.

Journalists from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote’d voire, Uganda and Zambia have joking about prospects of hitting oil in various African countries, saying this could explain the sudden scramble for Africa’s “Black Gold” by the Western countries.

Depending on which corner of the globe you are from, oil could have a lot of negative connotations to a developing country despite the wealth that comes with its discovery.

Some African nations are not any richer despite their many oil wells that have provoked devastating wars and conflict. Africa knows this and the West knows it even better. That is why it is so keen to cross the high seas and grab yet another chance to gobble down the black gold. Nobody here admits that raw materials and natural resources rank highest as the reason for the West’s sudden love for Africa. That and the fact that left-wing countries like China, Russia, India and Brazil have descended on to the continent with zeal, waving an economic-infrastructure partnership strategy in return for their investments. This presents a much more “attractive” package to Africa.

No wonder Europe is on a mission. It is fighting is reposition its priorities in Africa to woo the continent to a “cordial agreement”. Africa knows this and is hesitant. Its leaders are re-thinking the continent’s priorities, calculating their moves while re-checking their losses and gains.

I have been anxious, biting my nails for the best of Africa’s technocrats, Economists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals to push the agenda forward and be on the alert lest we sign off the continent in a deal which might cost us dearly sooner rather than later.

On the whole though, it feels great to watch those who once colonised Africa shift and fidget uneasily as they build up a case for “partnership”. It feels good to know that the paradigm shift is portraying Africa as a crucial player on the global platform. Yes, it feels really good, if only the rules of the game were clear and genuine. But there is also the nagging thought: Will Africa play it right this time round?


from the "minimalist" dept.

I arrived back in Takoradi last night.

Went for dinner at Akroma and it was good.

Kumasi was a good time and half the Christmas shopping is done.

More delays are harshing my mellow with regards to a freelance project.

Only 30 days remain until I head home. Yikes!


Sunday, November 04, 2007

from the "Kumasi update" dept.

I'm still in Kumasi, where I've been for the past four days.

I'm here to do some interviews for a freelance project, buy some Christmas presents (3 down!) and hang out with fellow JHR-ite Brennan Leffler.

On Saturday we attended an event called the Skuuls Reunion -- a sort of battle of the schools. I don't have time to explain, but a full story, video and images are coming. I'll post them when I'm back in Takoradi.

I finally heard from the guidebook folks -- I will not be working on the next edition of Lonely Planet Belize, but there are a number of other interesting opportunities with LP floating around.

My plan is to get three freelance magazine articles but to bed before I leave for Canada. Then I'll hang out in Vancouver until early January. And then... I reckon I'll come back here.

That's how it looks today...


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

from the "trick or treat" dept.

I'm heading to Kumasi this morning to work on a series of magazine articles. It's taken a while to get them off the ground, but I think I've finally received clearance. Let's hope.

One of the bonuses about visiting Kumasi is I'll be able to swap tales with Leffler. I also plan to buy a bunch of stuff at the craft market for upcoming gift giving. So much for the surprise!

In other news: I sold this photo to T-Mobile U.S.A. this week. It will be included as a desktop image in this mobile phone model. Cool, eh? A little extra cabbage for me to spend back in Vancouver. And, hopefully, a nice new phone.

And with that... Happy Hallowe'en!


Friday, October 26, 2007

From the "looking the other way" dept.

I'm close enough to a group of white folks in Takoradi's market area to determine they're from an English-speaking nation. Likely Canada. If pressed, I'd say Ontario. North York, maybe?

They're the perfect subjects to test my theory on something that I've noticed happens a lot in Ghana: The obruni snub.

I look over at the group, smile and say hello. They stare, and turn away. Ah ha! I knew it!!

Obruni is the Akan word for "white man" and snub describes what white people do to each other here.

I first noticed the obruni snub back in January. I had just arrived in Ghana and spent my first couple of days exploring the capital, Accra.

You see a fair number of white folks in Accra. And they see you. But you'd never know it.

When two black people pass, they usually greet each other. Same goes for when a white person and a black person pass. But when two white people pass, they tend to look the other way. Obruni snub!

I wasn't even aware of how prevalent it was until I met a reporter from Halifax. He had been travelling around West Africa and our paths happened to cross at a local beach resort.

Over beers one night he explained how other white people constantly snubbed him. They would shoot dirty looks, look through him, or simply look away.

We concluded that it has something to do with the "African experience." White people come to Africa for a lot of reasons. Many come for some magical "pure" experience. As if microwave ovens, shopping malls and horseless carriages don't exist here.

Some foolishly assume that talking to other white people somehow cheapens their three-week-17-country-bus-tour-of-sub-Saharan-Africa experience. Meeting white people isn't why they came. They came to see the real Africa. You know, like lions and shit.

But just because you're in Africa doesn't mean that you have to be a dick.

Saying hello to someone is just polite. You might even find you have something in common (I like the Indigo Girls too!). Or exchange a great travel tidbit (hemp shirts are so comfortable on the plane!).

But many folks won't change. A friend of mine once called these people "little lost souls." They travel the world with this faux idea that wearing a Che shirt is not only cool, but that it will make the world a better place -- unaware that they're financing a sweatshop in Cambodia. Nice going, Chet.

Travelling is about experience. Experiencing the place you're in, the people that live there, and, yes, the people you cross paths with. You don't have to buy them dinner -- but a smile to acknowledge that you're a long way from home doesn't mean you're selling out.

It just means you're being human.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

from the "fame, fortune and romance" dept.

I Made Photo of the Day on Gadling, my favourite travel blog. It's the second time.

To see the image and their blurb, click here.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

From the "food fight" dept.

The battle of the bulge has long been my cross to bear. I've been involved in a serious food fight since I was in grade school. And, as I'm dragged kicking and screaming into middle-age (can't we use another term like youthful maturity?) I find the war on weight is one I am steadily losing by gaining.

Not counting my birth weight, I have, as an adult, weighed as much as 351.5 pounds and as little as 180 pounds. Deep fried foods contributed to the former, cycling to the latter.

As I stubbornly enter the wrinkle years, I am conscious that my weight is once again climbing in proportion to my belly size. There's intelligent design for you.

How did this happen?

It goes all the way back to when I moved to Vancouver a decade ago. At the time, my main form of exercise was cycling. Those two wheels were the reason I dropped all the weight and kept the fat demons at bay.

But I suddenly found myself cycling less. This was not due to laziness but rather the work of a cracked-up thief who snatched my mountain bike whilst my back was turned.

It took some time to find the right replacement and during this period of indecision I began to expand.

Eventually I set myself up with a new rig and all was good. Then I moved to South Vancouver and all was bad. I stopped riding because it took so long to get anywhere cool. It was easier to drive and I racked up a serious debt at the Bank of Carbon Credits. And no small amount of guilt.

But I can't take all the blame. I also have a digit firmly pointed at the CBC. Yes, our national public broadcaster also contributed to my expansion. How? Telecommuting.

At the same time that I was cycling less, I was working from home more. Initially it was great. I'd roll out of bed, throw on a pot of Joe, fire up the computer and start working in the basement office.

Eight hours later I'd drag my arse upstairs, stuff my face and shift into neutral. The justification for this was simple: I had just finished work, I deserved a break.

While my mind was getting a kick-ass workout, my body wasn't. I didn't wander around the workplace because I didn't have a workplace. And I didn't leave the house to go for lunch or a midday stroll. I just went upstairs. The only thing increasing more than my waist size was my productivity.

I soon realized that I had to open the front door start walking -- which I did. But, unfortunately for my gut, I found little of interest to motivate me to explore my neighbourhood for more than about 38 seconds.

In an effort to reverse the unwelcome growth spurt, I would visit my old Commercial Drive neighbourhood and wander around. But even that took some effort, especially on those cold, dark, wet Vancouver winter/spring/summer/fall nights.

Still, I managed to find a balance between caloric intake and expenditure. I wasn't getting fitter, but I wasn't getting fatter either. Or at least, I didn't think I was.

I noticed another increase in girth last December, which also happened to be the same time that I snagged a gig to move to Ghana, West Africa as a journalism trainer.

Perfect, I thought. I'll lose weight in Africa! It'll be easy!!

And so I began worrying less about my intake and more about a second round at the Irish Heather pub. T'was the season to pig out. And I did. Oh, how I did!

Several weeks after bidding adieu to my city, my friends and the Irish Heather, I was in Takoradi, Ghana and ready to shed the excess pounds.

It was the perfect plan: I didn't have a car, so I'd walk more. It was hot as hell, so I'd sweat more. And I certainly wouldn't be tempted by Irish pints or fattening foods.

Nearly 10 months later, I realize that I was sadly mistaken.

My clothes -- even my big, custom-made billowy African shirts -- are tighter. When I walk I feel like Vito Spatafore.

Jumping on a luggage scale last week at the local bus station confirmed my worst fears. I actually gained weight in Africa.

How could this be? Blame the Ghanaian diet.

First: Most dishes are carby. We're talking rice, beans, plantains, yams... you name it. If it's got carbs, it's on the menu. Add fattening sauces and you've got a plateful of trouble.

And the carbs sneak up on you too. Looking around, you'll see that the average Ghanaian woman is slim; the average Ghanaian man is ripped. Logically, if I eat what they eat, should I not also be slim and/or ripped?

Fat chance.

And it doesn't help that the portions here are shockingly big. Think American portions, but on steroids -- sort of like Marion Jones, if she were a plate of rice and beans.

The slim and the ripped dig right in. And then, after coming up for air, they wash it down with 625 ml bottles of beer. When in Rome...

Which brings us to my weight. I'm certainly not at 351.5 pounds again, but neither am I a waify 180.

My biggest concern isn't my health (I'll live forever!), but rather how to lose the extra ballast before I return home in December.

I already have enough 'splainin' to do about my lack of tan and crazed-composer hair. How do I explain getting fat in Africa?


Sunday, October 14, 2007

from the "grab bag" dept.

It is hard to believe, but in less than eight weeks I'll be back in Vancouver and getting ready for ChristMESS merry making. Tick, tick, tick.

Between now and then I have a few things to attend to. The big news is the long-in-coming confirmation of a writing gig. It's a three part magazine series. The theme is "empowering women in Africa" and the focus is on Canadian-funded development projects. Now the tough part: finding them!

The first part is due at the end of October. Parts two and three shortly thereafter. The hard work begins tomorrow. Thank God I have the internet at home.

The project will take me through December 7, when I fly home.

Already my four weeks in Vancouver are already starting come into high demand. Many people are asking if I'm available for work. And I am... sort of.

Here's the issue: There is still no word on the Belize guidebook project. If it comes to pass, I'll be heading down there immediately after New Years. And if that's the case, I probably won't want to work my ass off through the holidaze.

On the other hand, if it falls through, I'm coming back to Africa and a couple of weeks employ in Canadaland will more than cover the plane ticket and a month or three of rent.

We'll see.


Brennan Leffler was in town for the past few days. He's JHR's new journo-trainer in Kumasi and came down to check out Takoradi. We drank beers on the roof, went out for several dinners and yesterday visited Cape Coast castle.

As I've toured the former-slave castle several times previously, I elected to drink beer and watch the rolling surf at a restaurant next door. Is that bad?

We spent Sunday chowing down on fresh fruit before hanging out at the bus station waiting for his bus back to his new home.

I'll likely head up to K-town as soon as I get my research done for the articles. They'll likely involve a trip up north, where many development projects are based. I want to re-visit the market at the cultural centre to load up on Christmas gifts. Then continue on to Tamale.

That's about it for now. It's a quiet Sunday night and time to watch some downloaded goodies. Prison Break, Bill Maher and perhaps my 100th viewing of High Fidelity.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

from the "teeny, weeny post" dept.

I'm alive and well and in Accra. Been spending the last few days meeting and greeting the new JHR peoples. Nice gang of folks, although younger than my group.

Former CTV colleague Brennan Leffler is one of the new faces. We've been hanging out and laughing our asses off. He brought 4 seasons of Family Guy and 51 (?) episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm to entertain me.

On Sunday I'll accompany him and Shawn & Nicole to Kumasi. Nicole is the new JHR person for Tamale and Shawn is her fella. They plan to spend a night in Kumasi before heading north.

I'll hang in Kumasi for a few days and then return to real life in Takoradi. Looks like the big magazine writing gig has evaporated. And no word yet on the Belize guidebook gig.

That's it!


Saturday, September 29, 2007

from the "hello, old friend" dept.

It's been a while since I've posted... I've been busy finishing up the JHR video and dealing with a couple of new projects.

I need to take a bit of a mind break and before I start writing blather again. Part of the reason is stupid FaceBook. So many people I know are on there that I often post links and whatnot there but not here.

As well, the interNOT has been sketchy lately. Another fine reason, no?

Anyway, I'm going to take the weekend off and do little more than twiddle my toes and perhaps start setting up my room upstairs.

On Tuesday I'm off to Accra to meet the new batch of JHR folks. That'll be fun.

And I'll hear whether I snagged a gig to work on a Belize guidebook. I sure hope so.

Lastly: after suffering from recurrent athlete's foot for the past several months I've found a solution: bleach! After a couple of days of soaking my feet for a few minutes in water with a tiny amount of bleach -- my toes are returning to normal.

Months of creams only kept it at bay. It now appears that it has run for the hills.

Yay bleach!


Sunday, September 23, 2007

from "required viewing/reading" dept.

Ah, Sunday morning.

Even in here Ghana, one's thoughts (at least mine) turn to politics and the plight of the world.

Up first, Maclean's cover story on how Bush is the new Saddam. The cover is absolutely brilliant!

And next, a little music. Great lyrics & video. Worth the wait.

Can you imagine the day when Bush is no longer in charge?


Thursday, September 20, 2007

from the "modern living" dept.

The only thing scarier than this:

or this:

(h/t OLOPH)

is this:

What you see in the photo above is, believe it or not, a ray gun. Yep: an honest to goodness people zapper. You can't make this sort of thing up. The Daily Mail has the story here.

I can easily imagine someone hiding these devices in the bushes (get it?) near polling stations on U.S. election day 2008.

Democrat? Zap!
Libertarian? Zaaap!
Independent? Zaaapppppp!
Immigrant? Zzzzaaaappppp!
Anti-war? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzaaaaaaaaaaaaapppppppppppppppppppppppp!! Zap! Zap! Zap! And one more for the troops! ZAP!

Yeah! Democracy!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

from the "a thousand words x 3" dept.

I've been busy over the last few days working on the JHR video case study. It's coming along and I hope to have it posted here next week.

I've also been working on some new freelance opportunities, but they may not be as solid as they originally seemed. No matter, t'was all gravy.

In lieu of words, I present three photographs taken the other day in Takoradi. I love having a point and shoot again.

[ What's old is new again! ]

[ The Branch Office? ]

[ think The Commodores: It's a cheap... hawse... it's mighty, mighty... ]


Saturday, September 15, 2007

from the "it's over" dept.

The headline is a little misleading, but, officially anyway, my JHR gig is over. It began January 15 and ended today, Sept. 15. Boy, did it go FAST!

I still have a video to finish for JHR's head office, but that's work I can do at home.

SKYY News is now Kevin's responsibility and I can concentrate on freelance.

Speaking of Kevin: he, Jessie and Mia (a Swedish national who works for UNHCR in Accra) have gone to Togo for the weekend.

I've decided to hang out in Jessie's apartment (which used to be Mark and Janet's) in LaBone until they return Sunday. I would have joined them, but I didn't have much motivation to go for just the weekend.

A Togo visa costs about $40... and the only thing I'd do in Lome is buy coffee... which Kevin is doing for me.

I do want to return to Togo, but would rather head north to Kpalime and spend time up there. It's also easier and cheaper to just hang here in Accra.

And after discovering an Indian grocery store, I want to load up on stuff there! Masala! Paneer! Tikka this and that! Drool!

Also, the idea of another visit to the sushi joint is most enticing.

That's it for now... got to go watch the rest of the Ghana-Canada Women's World Cup match...


Thursday, September 13, 2007

from the "where'd everyone go?" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Trisha, Graeme and I had dinner together at the incredibly good Monsoon Sushi in Accra Wednesday night.

It was their last dinner before hopping on a plane bound for Canada (via a stopover in London).

There's just a few of us left...


From the "Great Ghanaian Border Expedition final report" dept.

[ events from Sunday, July 15, 2007 ]

The last day of the Great African (or Ghanaian) Border Expedition started at early. Our driver, Smiler, picked Jesper and me up in Takoradi around 7:30 a.m. The itinerary had a single entry: New Town, a small village in the extreme southwestern corner of Ghana.

The drive west was uneventful except for a couple of roadblocks, which provided "opportunities" to "contribute" to various police benevolent funds.

By 11 a.m. we'd reached Half Assini and, thanks to an uncharted fork in the road, faced a major decision. One branch continued straight, but was not paved. The other branch was paved, but headed north.

We decided to take the paved road, thinking that it would lead to the border. About 15 minutes later we discovered we were wrong. We had arrived at a dead end: Jaway Wharf.

Still, there were some interesting things here: A long fishing pier, a customs office and an arch with giant letters spelling the word akwaaba ("welcome" in the local language).

We asked a snoozing official if we could walk to the end of the pier. He grunted in the affirmative but asked us to surrender our passports and promise not to take any pictures.

Some of our research indicated that the Ghanaian boundary with Cote d'Ivoire was the high water line on the eastern edge of this part of Eby Lagoon. If true, it would mean that the pier was actually Ivorian while the shore remained Ghana. Unfortunately, we'd also seen maps that put the boundary in the middle of the lagoon.

The area is as beautiful as it is serene. Standing at the end of the pier I felt like I was back in Deep Cove, B.C. The feeling lasted until I realized there were no mountains, million dollar homes or yachts anywhere to be seen.

We asked some fishermen if they knew the location the border. They didn't have a clue. We asked the border official if he knew. He wasn't positive, but he seemed to think that the boundary was out in the middle of the water. Aargh!

After retrieving our passports, we jumped back into the Land Cruiser. Smiler headed back towards the junction.

The road to New Town is unbelievably bad and ranks as one of the worst roads I have ever driven on. It is rutted and pockmarked with huge potholes, with water obscuring the their potential depth and danger.

We were tossed to and fro as if in a small ship on the high seas. The distance wasn't far, but the going was unbelievably slow. Even with our super-plush Toyota suspension it felt taking a few spins in a laundromat dryer.

The scenery was stunning. The road to New Town parallels the Atlantic Ocean with a buffer of coconut trees separating the road from the beach. On the north side of the road there is nothing but lush emerald-coloured rain forest.

As we rattled along we noted that that the national electric grid had stopped several villages back. About half an hour later came the sign we'd been anxious to see: New Town.

Dotted with palapa huts on a sandy peninsula, the village of New Town marks the end (or beginning) of Ghana. Just beyond the group of Ghanaian huts we could see a cluster of Ivorian huts.

The official crossing to Cote d'Ivoire was little more than sand track that passes through a stand of coconut and palm trees. Nestled amongst the trees were the Ghanaian customs and immigration house, a few tiny shops and a bar.

Jesper and I walked into the small office to ask permission to wander around. After explaining our mission several times to several people, we were told that the commander had left for Jaway Wharf, the spot where we'd just come from.

Permission could not be given, we were told, unless the commander approved it. And there was no way to contact him, because there was no mobile coverage.

For a moment it looked like we'd have to be content with staring towards Cote d'Ivoire from the parking lot. Then, thankfully, a middle aged chap came to our rescue. He worked for CEPS -- Customs, Excise and Preventative Services and, as it turned out, was a bit of a geography freak.

He said we could walk up to the frontier, which was marked with blue CEPS signs. He wouldn't tell us where the border markers were, but hinted cryptically that they were near the CEPS signs.

With that, we were off. Smiler took the lead having finally understood our bizarre quest. We walked west through the cluster of trees, passing goats, chickens, sheep and a family making palm nut oil. A few hundred metres from the customs house we could see a line of CEPS signs in the middle of a clearing. The frontier!

We aimed for the sign closest to the water, which is the both the southwestern corner of Ghana and the southeastern corner of Cote d'Ivoire. At the base of the sign we discovered a wee border marker. Victory!

For the next hour we explored the area with our CEPS friend, walking in and out of Cote d'Ivoire. No one seemed to care.

After taking dozens of pictures, it was time to escape the heat. We decided a toast was required to mark the end of our Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire-Togo-Benin border expedition.

We stopped in at the tiny watering hole on the Ghanaian side of the boundary and found it served little more than warm beer. There were a couple of other people at the bar: A friendly mix of lubricated Ghanaians and Ivorians. I struggled to speak with the Ivorians, but failed miserably thanks to my complete lack of French skills. Even Jesper, the Dane, was more fluent in my second official language. Shameful!

And then, at that little bar in the middle of nowhere, the CEPS man, the Dane, the Canadian, the Ghanaians and the Ivorians hoisted their pints aloft, toasting international friendship and the conclusion of another successful border expedition.

Up Next: The Black Sea. (2008)


from the "hack, hack, cough, cough" dept.

We've visited this issue before in the electro-pages of Roadspill. And, according to the following report from

Vancouver set to vote on outdoor patios smoking ban

Vancouver could join other Canadian cities like Victoria, Edmonton and Saskatoon, when it votes on a proposed smoking ban on outdoor patios.

Vancouver city council will vote next week on a recommendation to prohibit smoking on restaurant patios, near public doorways, windows, and at enclosed, or even partially enclosed, bus shelters.

Lighting up within six metres of any of those areas will be prohibited once the ban takes affect, likely in about six months from now.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan attributes the move to public pressure.

"We've had a lot of complaints over the years from people who feel they can't enjoy the patios because of the smoking that goes on,'' he said. "It's a real quality of life issue for many people.''

Sullivan said the city is also mindful of how it is perceived by outsiders as it gets closer to hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"The world is arriving in 2010 and we want to have initiatives like this in place so we can showcase some of the progressive moves we're making here," he said.

However, Sullivan said the city needs time to consult with businesses that will be affected by the ban, which is why it is not expected not take effect for another six months.

BC Restaurant Association president Ian Tostenson said his chief concern is that smokers will migrate, along with their friends, to patios in other municipalities such as Richmond, Burnaby, and North Vancouver, where a ban has not been imposed.

"If it happens, it should happen across all municipalities,'' he said, adding that such a move would ensure a level playing field for all businesses in the Lower Mainland that would be impacted by a smoking ban.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The year 2000 arrived today in Ethiopia. Let's celebrate the new millennium and hope their's is better than ours.

And speaking of good times, should we hoist a glass and cheer the end of the global war on terror?

What's that you say? You missed it?

No worries. CBC's Neil Macdonald explains in his Reports from Abroad.

A tip o' the cap to Wendy (who needs a new blog!!) for that.

On a personal note, I am travelling once again. Off to Accra today to have a farewell sushi dinner with Trisha and Graeme (Trisha worked with JHR in Kumasi, Graeme is her freelancin' hubby).

Not many JHR folks remain... I'm starting to feel lonely. But a new batch arrives in a few weeks, as does my pal Brennan Leffler -- who will be taking over for Trisha at Luv FM in K-town.

My gig is over Friday, although I intend to pop in and out of SKYY on occasion. I've got a few freelance irons in the fire as well. But I will certainly enjoy some quiet time.

And finally: I've been able to get a copy of the CTV story about Vancouver's Scott McNabb.

McNabb worked building temporary housing at a mine near the village of Youga, Burkina-Faso. He became close friends with the villagers and was in the process of helping them improve their well when he died in a car accident outside Tema, in southern Ghana.

Heron Hanuman is the reporter. Gary Rutherford shot the Vancouver material. I shot the stuff in Burkina-Faso and Ghana. And edit-God Tim Latham made it all click:

[For those of you reading this on Facebook -- you'll have to go to My Videos].

(C) CTV [Original air date: September 6, 2007]


Monday, September 10, 2007

from the "six, five years later" dept.

Much will be written today about what happened on September 11, 2001. Here's my contribution.

To say the world has changed is an understatement. I'm sure everyone but George Bush wishes things were like they were on September 10, 2001.

Like everyone else, I will always remember where I was on that day: Driving around Europe on the Great Central European Border Expedition.

We heard the news at a gas station in Lichtenstein. It was just before 6 p.m. and Peter Hering, our fearless leader, had gone in to pay. When he came out, he told us something terrible had happened in New York.

We flipped on the van's radio for the news. It was in German, but there were English words: New York, terrorist. And German words: flugzeug (airplane), angriff (attack).

Translation wasn't really needed, although Peter tried. His gasps and the look of horror on his face was enough. I actually have this moment on a video tape back in Canada.

That night, after we were nearly arrested for taking pictures on the Swiss-German border, I was able to see the first video images from NYC but with German commentary. It would be two days before I was able to watch coverage in English.

I remember trying to reach Barbra Bateman, a friend, NY Post reporter and resident of Manhattan. Eventually, I did.

I wasn't scheduled to return home to Canada until Sept. 20th. I had a week booked to explore Ireland before flying back to Toronto and, a week after that, Vancouver.

When I did get home I found that everyone had gone through an experience that I hadn't. They'd watched it live. They'd been inundated with 24-hour coverage. I missed all that. I felt like I didn't get it.

I understood what had happened, but I didn't go through the emotional wringer that all my friends had. It seemed distant, like a flood in India or an earthquake in Iran. Terrible, yes. But I was disconnected.

Back at work I went straight to the video archive and pulled the raw tapes from that day. It was awful but I still didn't really connect to the event on the same raw level.

A year later, fate determined that I'd be in New York. At ground zero, shooting the first anniversary for CTV News.

At the end of a very emotional day I was heading to ABC's temporary feed point to send my pictures home. It was located in a hotel near the site of the WTC.

As I waited for an elevator, a woman walked up. She was a firefighter, wearing her dress uniform. Thousands of emergency services personnel from around the world had come to New York to pay their respects to their fallen colleagues on the first anniversary.

I asked the woman where she was from. "Ohio", I think she said. Without thinking I asked if she was here for the anniversary.

"Yes, my sister was on one of the planes."

I got it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

from the "walk by shooting" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Mary runs a small shop on the road between my home and work. I've been planning to snap pictures of Mary and her family for a while... and finally did tonight. Head over to flickr (click on Mary) to see more.

Mary is taking Kevin and me to church tomorrow. I'm bringing the "good" camera for that...


from the "Y2K redux" dept.

"Honey, I'm too hot."
"Shut up and smile!"

Don't forget that Wednesday (Sept 12) marks the new millennium according to the Ethiopian calendar.

It's time to party like it's 1999. Again!


from the "games people play" dept.

Here's your Saturday morning cartoon:

Courtesy: Toothpaste For Dinner via C&L.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

from the "roofing" dept.

My new little Sony point-and-shoot also takes video. Although this new (and expensive!) camera is no match for the one that "walked away," it is better than dragging the SLR around all the time.

Here then, a video... a panorama from my roof in Takoradi, Ghana, West Africa.


from the "slow motion" dept.

I haven't written much original material over the last few days because I haven't had much to write about.

I'm shocked that it's already Sept. 6th and my JHR stint is done in just a few days. Most of my colleagues are already finished and a few have even left the country.

Wasn't it just January?

I'm still working on the video case study for JHR. It's taken more time than I'd originally thought, but that's due to a total lack of energy on my part. Plus slogging through hours and hours of interviews isn't exactly fun.

The good news is that the script should be finalized today. I anticipate editing to be straight forward, but there are always dangers with such assumptions.

I'm hoping to renew my visa today -- which will at least get me out of the house. I'll be here all weekend cursing the Church of Disturbing Decibel and trying to edit.

Next week I head to Accra to visit with Trish and Graeme before they head home.

Thinking ahead: The plans for my trip home in December are falling into place. I've got places to stay and offers of work. I still hope to return to Ghana in January. We'll see.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

from the "Drub-Ya" dept.

Every now and then, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann offers up a "Special Comment" on his daily news show Countdown.

These personal commentaries generally take no prisioners and come down hard on the Bush administration and the monkey-f*** that is Iraq.

But this week, Keith's Special Comment really takes the Lil' George to task. Compared to FoxNews, this IS fair and balanced!

Crooks and Liars has the video here.

Watch and be amazed...


from the "get on your way" dept.

My pal Susan recently reminded me of the wisdom of Dr. Suess.
Here's a fine example. Read it. Live it!

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

---Dr. Seuss