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

Sunday, September 02, 2007

from the "testing" dept.

Every weeknight MSNBC's Keith Olbermann offers up his three worst persons in the world.

If you don't get MSNBC, you can catch the best of his offerings (and that of the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Bill-O, and many more) on Crooks and Liars. It's a daily "must visit" for those who love American political fodder.

But back to Keith. I'm going to try and upload a sample of his "Worst Person in the World." If it works, stay tuned for videos from around Takoradi.

With the internet at home, I have the pow-ah!


from the "trailer life" dept.

This VIDEO is funny as hell.

And no, he doesn't remind me of me.

And beware. If you don't like the F-word, don't watch it! Seriously!

Tip of the hat to REW for the link.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

from the "where'd winter, spring and summer go" dept.

Happy New Month!

I can't believe it's September 1st. My JHR gig is nearly done and the countdown to December 7th will is underway. Crazy! I am SO looking forward to the cold air and a hot double Americano on the Deep Cove public wharf.

It rained all day. Not that I mind, it's a good excuse to relax and do nothing. The internet, water and power were down for most of the day, so I had to amuse myself with the Simpsons movie and the final few episodes of Prison Break season 2.

The nearby evangelical churches have been going nuts the last few days -- including all night last night. The screamin' and singin' and prayin' seems to have stopped now (Saturday evening). But I reckon they're getting rested up for Sunday. I'm praying for a full night of sleep.

A full report tomorrow...