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...