Asabaako Music Festival in Ghana

Sometimes last minute trips are the most amazing ones. Asabaako Music Festival is one of Ghana’s biggest music festivals, highlighting local musicians Busua beach every March. After much deliberation, my friends and I finally decided to attend the Asabaako Music Festival – at midnight. However, we needed to figure out how to get from Accra, Ghana’s capital, to the other side of the country in the Western Region. It can sometimes be difficult to book lodging in Ghana online, because there isn’t always a clear website or active phone number available to inquire about lodging. Knowing this about Ghana, we planned to figure out lodging upon arrival – not realizing how crowded Asabaako made the town. A friend helped us figure out where to catch the bus and we were ready to go the next morning.

We went to the Kaneshie Market in Accra to take a VIP bus, similar to a Greyhound in the states. The 6 hr journey to Accra cost us 22 Ghc or roughly 5.50 USD, not bad for an A/C bus with comfortable seats. I could have done without the 3 hr church sermon courtesy of a zealous preacher – but that’s Ghana. We finally reached Takoradi after a few additional hours of traffic and took a cab to Busua beach through the pitch-dark dirt roads.

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My friends and I were exhausted, but we still had to find a place to stay. The festival already started and the town was quickly filling up with tourists, so it was our first priority. Like door-to-door saleswomen we knocked on every hotel door, until we found a cozy hotel on the beach for the four of us to stay for 15 cedi person or 3.75 USD. We settled ourselves in our room and just before midnight had our first toast on the beach to celebrate the long weekend ahead.

Beach Fun
Crystal clear water, white sands, and shady palms– chale, Busua had it all. I was prepared with all my beach essentials to enjoy the sunshine. Books and brunch on a hammock, I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved and sipped on coconut water all morning. The lobster was so fresh, seasoned by the ocean, and grilled to perfection. The rest of the day was a sports day at the beach. I learned how to drive a jet-ski, very loose interpretation of driving – mostly crashing into waves and capsizing, but that’s another story. After drying off, I schooled some boys on how girls do NOT play volleyball, but dominate. It was fun to meet new people, who all came to this remote beach village to enjoy the festival.

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Later, a group of percussionists started a rumba in the sand and I could hear Latin America in the rhythm. The beat of the drum was familiar and reminded me of home, a world away in a small Ghanaian beach town. It continues to fascinate me the pieces of culture from West Africa that persisted such an arduous history. It’s humbling to find your roots and feel reconnected to your own heritage in another country. New friends and old shared a chupito and danced in the hot sand for hours, laughing and learning new steps. See link to my Instagram, where I posted a clip of the drumming -> Busua Drums

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Performances
On Saturday night, Ghanaian rapper M.anifest brought the house down with a mix of hip-hop and afrobeats. It took a while before M.anifest came on, but he crowd was ecstatic when he took to the stage and began his set. Even at 4am after a long day at the beach, we are all dancing into the morning. I loved the energy of M.anifest’s show and how his music resonated with the crowd. He seemed humbled by the crowd of his fans that sang every word throughout the entire set. I linked one of my favorite M.anifest songs here -> M.anifest – Forget Dem

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The following evening was the infamous jungle party head-lined by rapper Yaa Pono. The stars peeked through the palm tree canopy and shined bright. The brand I worked with was very close with Yaa Pono’s team, so my friends and I managed to arrive to the party in his entourage. Just before he started performing, Yaa Pono’s crew pushed us through and soon enough we were behind the stage. It was an amazing atmosphere, to be in the jungle with good music and people. Here’s the music video for Yaa Pono song that he performed at the show -> Yaa Pono – Gbee Naabu

Asabaako was my favorite trip in Ghana and I hope to see other Travel Latinas there next year!

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Wine Ur Waistline

A warm medase paa to BKLPhotography for allowing us to feature these stunning and luminous images.

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Growing up as a 90’s kid in Los Angeles, California was awfully confusing for a young girl who carried some extra weight and a Latin accent. Back then, television screens were flooded with images of Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, which in turn set a true standard of “perfection”. Bodies’ slayed with thin waists, visible rib cages, and no “behind” were a testament to real beauty. I, at the time, couldn’t dare to compare myself to the images I saw on TV. I, instead, preferred to compare myself to a sack of potatoes. I was a chunky little thing, who loved tortillas, and pan dulce. Although my Mami did a fantastic job at showering me with love and appraisal, she also constantly monitored my eating habits, and tried, with little success, to get me involved with sports. Some time after my sophomore year in high school, I grew a few inches, and the weight around my belly distributed to the southern corners of my body. By the time I reached the age of 15, I walked the hallways of my high school carrying a womanly shape. Despite the even distribution of mass around my hips, I never felt I fit definition of beautiful. Cute? Maybe. Nalgona? Definitely.

Fast-forward.

At 22 years old, I touched down in Ghana. West Africa. The land of bright, brick red Earth, colorful fabrics, and hip-life tunes as well as afrobeats. The city of Accra is bustling. As I rode the tro-tro (a commonly used method of public transportation) women and men crossed the motorway, balancing baskets atop their heads selling fresh fruit, water sachets, plantain chips, Fan Ice yogurt and other miscellaneous items like electronics and bathroom tissue. Often times, the women work from sun up to sun down. Walking up and down along the motorways winding in and out of the car lanes amidst traffic; the real world is their runway, and they kill it every single time. They don’t drop their children off at day care before they leave for work. Instead, toddlers are strapped, perched just above their lower backs, using a yard of color fabric and carefully tied knots. As soon as their children are old enough to read, they too, join their parents on the motorway. Meanwhile, beats from the local radio station play from random car stereos and I can hear lyrics, sung in pidgin (an informal manner of communicating that incorporates Twi and broken English, heard across Ghana and used predominately among men to express solidarity, comradery and youthful rebellion) like “Ur waist, ur waist/ All I want is ur waist” and “Shake up your bum bum/ The way you whine whine e dey make me go down low”.  As I try to maintain a calm exterior, on the inside, my heart would randomly flutter; this too is beauty, and I can finally relate.

On a Sunday afternoon, I was with a group of program students from the California system and we’d organized a trip to the local beach, Krokrobite. I suited up with a two-piece bikini under my dress and I was ready to hit the sand. Upon arrival, I quickly realized I was “under-dressed” for the occasion. Most of the locals lounged around the beach and beachside mini bars in shorts and tank tops and any women seen wading in the water were fully clothed in leggings and t-shirts. Hesitant, I removed my dress and quickly wrapped myself in a beach cover-up. That’s when I heard someone behind me yell, “Eii, I like your waist line!” Blushing, I turned to find myself faced with three local men. I was soon at ease, as these men politely introduced themselves and we began a friendly conversation.

We somehow made our way onto the topic of waist beads. African beads have a long history as these powder glass beads have been seen all across the continent of Africa and are used as ornamental and symbolic adornment, at times representing signs of wealth, aristocracy and of femininity. Enlarged waistlines, hips, arms and calves are regarded as common characteristics of traditional Ghanaian beauty. Ghanaian beads (because of their inability to stretch unless they are untied or loosened) are worn around the waistlines, hips, arms or calves of young girls so these areas can develop well as they grow and their bodies are shaping. I’d heard about waist beads during my time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from a friend who’d previously been to Ghana. I, myself, started wearing strings of beads around my waist since my first trip to Rio de Janeiro, although in Brazil they are not symbolic. The beads that I wore were more of a fashion statement and also represented my time in Brazil. Before my departure to Ghana, I was warned by a friend not to flaunt my waist beads so thoughtlessly since a public display of waist beads was seen as the equivalent of exposing your breast.

As soon as I arrived on the beach, I was hesitant about taking off my dress for that reason. My intention was not to offend anyone with my body. When I inquired about this to my new acquaintances, I asked how come some of the shops surrounding the beaches all sold women’s bathing suits and bikinis but none of the local women actually wore them. I asked, how, in spite of the consistently humid year-round heat, women stayed so covered-up.  The answer was quite enlightening, “You see, us Africans, we come from kings and queens. So, we must dress as such. That means treating our bodies as temples and only sharing ourselves with our partners”.  These men went on to tell me that Africans are a very royal people. And to demonstrate it, they adorn their bodies with these colorful and uniquely made cloths and beads, which requires many hours of tedious craftsmanship. Ghanaians are just as concerned with their health and well being as they are with their outward personal care and appearance. It is common for Ghanaians to greet each other with variations of “Ete sen?”, spoken in Twi (just one of the most commonly spoken local dialects in Ghana) which translates into some form of, Is your body well? Or, How are you? In English, a Ghanaian might ask you, how is your health? Or how did you sleep? as a greeting or introduction to a conversation.

During my time studying at the University of Ghana at Legon campus, I sat in classrooms, side by side with some of the descendants of these queens and kings. I have heard the words that so eloquently roll off their tongues when they raise their hands to give a response or pose a question. I have had the privilege of being taught by some of the finest educators in Ghana, one of them being Gertrude Aba Mansah Eyifa-Dzidzienyo, lecturer of archaeology, with an emphasis on gender studies, museum and heritage studies. Madam G.A.M. Eyifa-Dzidzienyo is the first woman archaeologist fully trained and currently lecturing in Ghana. She conducted her doctoral research among the Talensi in the Upper East Region of Ghana and at eight months pregnant she was still on the field collecting data. She proudly submitted her PhD thesis for examination and looks forward to graduating in July of 2017. This will make her the first woman to receive a PhD in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana. She has given hope to women in pursuing Archaeology and has enhanced the gender image of the Department of Archaeology by being the only woman working with male colleagues until the recent appointment of another woman, which she herself mentored and encouraged after her undergraduate studies. After paving the way, more women have also received their MPhil degree while others are currently enrolled. Madam G.A.M. Eyifa-Dzidzienyo is thriving proof that the Ghanaian woman is an educator and a leader, the elbow grease that gets the hamster wheels spinning. She serves as a reminder that women are nurturers, among many other things, giving light to future scholars, entrepreneurs, and philosophers.

I’ve heard the saying, ‘Feeling like I got the weight of the world on my shoulders’. After my time in West Africa I’ve come to the belief that Ghanaian women, West African women, African women, black women, women of the African diaspora, all carry the weight of the world on their hips. The curves of their bodies withstanding the weight of the millions of men, women, children that were ripped from their mothers and brutally shipped to the four corners of the world. Their royal lineage awfully tainted by the brutal experience our world has bestowed upon millions of black women. Mama Africa carries the ever lasting affects of the colonial rule that still to this day disrupts and intercedes in the unification of the African continent. The creases and wrinkles caused by the years of carrying this weight are traces of the white man’s border lines. The groove on her lower back providing refuge and comfort to her brothers and sisters, husbands, sons and daughters, uncles and fathers.

Reflecting upon it now, when I examine Ghana more closely, I see that the Earth is that bright, brick red color because Mama Africa bleeds for those who were lost and those that continue to struggle today. I listen to the lyrics of hip life, and I realize that they are a celebration of the African woman, her waistline, and her ability to smile and cry through her pain; she carries her crown high amidst of the constant geo-political warfare against Africa. In Ghana, when the women walk, they stand tall. They are proud to be Ghanaian; they are proud to be African; they are proud to be Ghanaian women; they are proud to be African women. I, then, examine my own body. And although I could never draw a comparison between my life experiences and those of African women, I’ve come to love and embrace the body and the curves I was given. It is this one body that has helped me through 25 years of life, across the land of three different continents. It is this one body that has helped me get through school, which wakes me up every morning for work. From watching her, I too, have learned to be proud of who I am, the life I have been given and the body that I was born with.

A song to get you in a good mood – Africa by Yemi Alade ft. Sauti Sol

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Instagram @steezy_b

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Instragram @steezy_b

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Instrgram: @steezy_b

 

My Ghanaian Love Story

I arrived in Ghana with little mindset of falling in love. At this point I’d been single for almost two years and I can’t stress how much I enjoyed it. At a younger age I’d experienced a very unhealthy, you could even say toxic, four-year relationship. As soon as I found an escape, I had no intention of relinquishing my freedom so easily. During those two liberating years I went through a streak of casual dating, valuing the ability to keep my options open and guiltlessly concentrating on my needs. It was during this time that I discovered my self worth and developed an understanding of my likes and dislikes as an individual.

I maintained my usual behavior at the beginning of my study in Accra, Ghana. I never pass up the opportunity to mingle socially and I quickly began enjoying the nightlife in Accra. I became entranced by the fluidity that the locals possess in their dance moves and I soon learned about azonto, alkayida, and hiplife (you can’t say hiplife without mentioning the Godfather, Reggie Rockstone). It was songs like Aye by Davido, Adonai by Sarkodie ft Castro (may he rest in peace) and Million Pound Girl by Fuse ODG that really gave the nightlife in Accra its lively and carefree vibe. Seeing everyone jamming to this music at weddings, birthday celebrations or in their dorm rooms really made me feel like Ghanaians must have been born dancing straight out of the womb.

They say chivalry is dead…

I was very impressed by how forward yet respectful many Ghanaian men were in their approaches. Unlike many of the encounters I’d experienced in LA and Brazil, although persistent, Ghanaian men were very conscious of personal space. Many of them engaged in pleasant conversation – inquiring about what courses I study, what I’d enjoyed about Ghana thus far and asking my birthday in order to give me an Akan “day name” (I am Wednesday-born, me din de Akua). Potential suitors attempted to woo me through invitations to dinner, rides to class and even having food delivered to my dorm room. It was refreshing considering that we now live in the era of “Netflix and chill” and I came to realize that I preferred this more traditional way of dating. I watched as many of the other girls in the program fell into relationships and I came to the conclusion that for many of the local university boys it was a scramble to snag an obruni (local word for “foreigner”) early on in the semester.

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It was no different for my floor mate and also best friend. She became fond of one boy in particular who lived in the International Student Housing dormitory, informally known as ISH (located on the University of Ghana, Legon campus). And I slowly began to focus my attention on his best friend. We were introduced on a rainy Sunday when a bunch of us decided to have a movie night in the TV room at ISH. Beyoncé had recently released her self-titled album (also what I consider to be the soundtrack for my entire Ghana experience) and the girls and I were binging on Beyoncé music videos and pizza. I was outside the TV room when a group of boys approached and asked if there was a party happening. Although I dismissed the encounter as casual and friendly, I did exchange numbers with one of these boys and this is how it all started…

At first, we began seeing more of each other socially. Usually it was a friendly encounter in the hallways, at a soccer match or out and about in town. And the fact that his best friend dated my best friend only facilitated these encounters. It became all too natural for us to hang out together, most frequently sharing meals with one another.

In the dormitories on campus we lived a very tightknit lifestyle. Exchange students and local Ghanaian and Nigerian students live harmoniously (with some occasional Nigerian vs Ghanaian rivalry) under the same roof and naturally these people became my family. As inherently communal people, Ghanaians normally sit in a circle and share their meals with one another from a large bowl whilst conversing and joking around. This usually includes typical dishes like waayke, fufu and banku. It’s the simplicity of these moments that I miss most. Hearing the phrase, “you are invited”, while being handed a spoon to share in the meal was one of the most comforting sensations. It helped me feel closer to home, even from the other side of the world. I found myself craving these interactions more so than the idea of being anywhere else.

I caught myself spending more time at ISH than my own dorm – a women’s dormitory called Volta Hall. After some time, I subconsciously began to suspect that my feelings for this boy were becoming deeper and perhaps the reason behind my desire to linger around ISH for longer than usual. We had a conversation once to clarify our intentions and I insisted that I didn’t want the commitment, reluctant to acknowledge any of his objectives to be anything more. As the days passed, I realized how much time we were spending together.

Looking back, I am able to pinpoint the exact incident where my feelings became all too apparent. My crush had fallen ill to a severe case of malaria and I made it my mission to nurse him back to health. I went out of my way to sneak food into his dorm, made sure he drank all his medication and stayed hydrated and even watched over him while he slept so I could be there to readjust his blanket if he got cold. It was in this moment that I found myself feeling vulnerable. I didn’t like the feeling of being exposed to any possible injury and I reminded myself that I shouldn’t get so attached, especially since I was unsure if he reciprocated my feelings.

Knowing that my days in Ghana were numbered, I desperately grasped onto every moment. And although I was completely breaking my own code, which was never to focus on one boy for too long, I reassured myself that it was okay for him to receive my affections as long as it made me happy. And he did, in fact, make me happy. We spent a lot of time watching movies on his projector, eating and laughing. And he took care of me. But he took care of me in a way that didn’t feel like he was bending over backwards to cater to me, but in a way that made me feel safe.

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And then, love happened. It crept up on me so unexpectedly that after two years I couldn’t run from it anymore. And although I tried extremely hard to fight it, I finally succumbed to its beauty. I realized that my past relationship had left me with a very bruised idea of what love should feel like. I knew that it wasn’t loneliness or lust that lead me to falling in love. Instead, I’d found someone who is humble and genuinely regarded me as an equal, gave me all the patience in the world, someone who looked at me as if there was no one else in the room.

So there it is.

I fell in love 7,558 miles from home on a continent in another hemisphere of the world. Not necessarily the ideal conditions to fall in love. And even worse that it hadn’t really sunk in until the day that I was leaving. From one moment to another, I felt like somehow my lungs lacked oxygen and the ground under my feet was splitting in two. I felt faint at the realization that I would no longer have the luxury of seeing this person everyday or steal kisses in the staircase or share a coke and Pringles while intertwined on a couch.

Simultaneously, I had also fallen in love with Ghana. And I realized that this boy embodies everything that I love about Ghana as well. And although the heartache that I felt when I left Ghana was one of the most difficult I’ve had to endure, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for any material possession or amount of money. In fact, as I replay certain moments in my head, I would give anything to relive it again. Would I recommend falling in love abroad? Most definitely. There is something very beautiful in leaving tiny pieces of yourself and your heart scattered around the world. Most importantly, falling in love abroad isn’t just limited to a person or a place but it begins with falling in love with yourself, sometimes over and over again.

A few more local songs to get your hips moving! I have an entire playlist when I work out.

Patoranking – Girlie ‘O’ (Remix) ft. Tiwa Savage

VVIP – Skolom Ft Sena Dagadu

VVIP – Hustle

WizKid – Show You The Money

WizKid – In my bed

WizKid – On top your matter

Castro – Seihor ft. D-Black

Stoneboy – Pull up (Remix) ft Patoranking

E.L. – Shelele

Yemi Alade – Johnny

PSquare – Collabo ft Don Jazzy

Patoranking ft Wande Coal – My woman my everything

Davido – Skelewu

Olamide – Bobo

Kiss Daniel – Woju ft Davido, Tiwa Savage

Mr Eazi – Skin tight ft Efya

Runtown – Gallardo Ft Davido

Davido – Tchelete Ft Mafikizolo

Some local songs featuring foreign artists…

Wizkid ft Drake & Skepta – Ojuelegba (Remix)

VVIP – Selfie ft Idris Elba and Phyno

Timaya – Bum bum ft Sean Paul

Davido – Fans mi Ft Meek Mill

A few other songs that remind me of my study in Ghana..

Rihanna – Bad ft Wale 

Miley Cyrus – Wrecking ball

Chris Brown ft Lil Wayne – Loyal

Movado – Give it all to me ft. Nicki Minaj

 

 

 

 

Ghana is not just a place, it is a feeling

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In the spring of 2014, I decided to do a semester abroad with my university through the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). While many of my classmates were submitting applications to study abroad in London, Madrid and Paris, I decided to pursue the road less taken. In my heart, I knew I was destined for Africa. But as vast as it is, I had no idea where exactly to start. At the time, EAP provided programs in Botswana, Ghana and Egypt. By the time I decided I wanted to study abroad, I’d already missed the deadline to apply for the Botswana program and the Egypt program was limited to certain majors. So, Ghana it was! A few weeks later, I received my acceptance letter to study at the University of Ghana, Legon and I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. But as the pre-departure process began I would soon be filled with doubt from external sources. As I informed family members and friends of my study/travel plans, those feelings of excitement quickly turned into nausea.

The reactions all varied from “wow, you’re so brave!” to “be careful, girl, I heard some shit is going down over there” to “aren’t you scared you’ll catch something?” It was incredibly frustrating to me that people didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm. And I knew, had I decided to go to London, Madrid or Paris the reactions would not have been as discouraging. I began to wonder, had I been hasty in making such an important decision?

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Entrance to the women’s dormitory where I lived for a semester

For many, the continent of Africa is a mystery, making it easy to create generalizations. When people think of Africa, they picture the emaciated poster child often times used by Save the Children campaigns, conjuring images of war, famine and disease. And although this may be the case for a small number of African countries, it is not the same for the vast majority. Africa is extremely diverse – possessing 47 countries (55 if you include the islands off the coast), over 1,500 official spoken languages and dialects and many various religions. These are just some of the factors that influence culture, philosophy, governance, economics, societal values and art in all of these countries.

The city of Accra (Ghana’s capitol), itself, is bustling with activity day and night. The earth is a beautiful redbrick color, the skies are always blue and the people always in high spirits. Ghanaians are some of the most peaceful people I have ever met and the level of hospitality is heartwarming. At the same time, Ghanaians are also extremely hardworking. Many service jobs require long overnight 12-hour shifts. And most clerical jobs often involve waking up at 4:00am daily in order to avoid rush hour or take public transportation. Ghanaians are not afraid to perform backbreaking labor. Simultaneously, Ghana possesses some of the most innovative businesses in West Africa.

I don’t blame anyone for having a misconstrued image of Africa. It is difficult to understand a place you have never been to. My hope is that I can change at least one person’s misconceptions about Africa – easing fears and concerns about safety and encouraging travel to lesser-acknowledged destinations. I have put together a list of recommendations and travel advice – including a few things I wish I’d known prior to my departure (for peace of mind). I hope that I can shine some light on the otherwise mysterious cloud that shrouds the continent of Africa.

 Pre-departure

  • Lets just get this clarified and out of the way: You are not going to die from Malaria!
    • My university’s health insurance only covered half of the daily anti-malaria medication that I was prescribed. I was in a panic because the nurse at the health center told me any anti-malaria medication sold in Ghana is counterfeit. I went through a grueling process of rushing to the local Emergency Room and having my personal insurance cover the remainder of the medication, which also had to be switched to a generic brand. HOWEVER, weeks into my study abroad program I decided to stop taking the medication and never contracted malaria throughout my entire six-month stay. On the other hand, there were kids in the program who took their anti-malaria medication faithfully every day and still contracted malaria

Yes, malaria is common. However,

  • Anti-malaria medicine is extremely easy to find over-the-counter (and affordable) and you don’t necessarily need it pre-departure (which can be very pricey if you don’t have insurance that will cover it)
  • If you happen to contract malaria, it is extremely easy (and affordable) to find treatment over-the-counter. Recovery time is usually 2-3 days (about the same amount of time it takes to recover from a cold or the flu)
    • Signs of malaria: Fever, shivers, nausea, lack of appetite, diarrhea. If you start to feel any of these symptoms, I highly recommend going straight to any corner pharmacy and asking for malaria treatment medication. Usually, people begin to feel better within 12 hours of the first dose and this will reduce recovery time. Make sure to eat properly and take cold showers to reduce fever
  • You will need to show your yellow fever vaccination card upon entrance into Ghana
  • I strongly advise buying a voltage convertor if you plan on using electronics like laptops or home appliances like hair dryers, etc.

Tips for travel

  • Always bargain and negotiate the price! This goes for taxi rides (negotiate fares before getting into the taxi), most articles of clothing, fabric etc. Never just settle for the first price they offer
    • Some Ghanaians can be very pushy when it comes to selling items

 

  • Fruit from street vendors is delicious, fresh, inexpensive and prepared right in front of you!
  • Nightlife in Ghana is amazing
    • For nightclubs, lounges and bars, locals will dress to impress in heels and dresses, etc. However, for daytime, dress modest and appropriate for the weather since it is usually hot and humid year-round: flip flops, etc.
    • Nightlife in Accra does not begin until midnight and will typically last until dawn
  • BUG/MOSQUITO REPELENT!
    • This is also the best way to avoid catching malaria, since malaria is spread by mosquitos
  • Tons of sunblock
  • It is good to have a lot of cash (of course I wouldn’t advise carrying it all at once), especially small bills. Only supermarkets accept credit/debit cards
  • ATMs are fairly accessible and for the most part open 24/7
    • For people who bank with Bank of America – Barclays is a sister branch and will not charge international ATM fees. Otherwise, I suggest signing-up for an account with Charles Schwab, in order to avoid ATM fees
  • Come prepared with your own hygiene products especially (girls) if you normally use tampons, as these items are a bit difficult to find and pricey
  • Almond milk is EXTREMELY over priced, as well as some other imported items like coconut oil, cashews, dark chocolate, etc.
  • Try as many of the local dishes as possible – fufu, banku & tilapia, jollof rice, fried rice, kenkey, indomie, waayke, yam (chips or boiled). (Prepare to put on a few pounds, but its worth it!)
    • Some of these may cause diarrhea/constipation (but its worth it if you want the full local experience!)
    • And don’t be afraid to eat with your hands! (Ghanaians will appreciate your effort)
  • Google Maps is not very useful in Ghana and most locals do not go by addresses/street names. When telling the taxi driver where you are going it is important to know points of references
    • Always agree upon a fare before getting into the taxi
    • It helps to have exact change when bargaining fare price
    • Taxi drivers like to be called “boss” or “boss man”
  • Warning: Local Ghanaian men are quick to profess their undying love/ask for your hand in marriage. Ghanaian women, on the other hand, are typically more conservative/reserved
  • When it comes to trusting locals use your instincts. Some locals are more exposed to foreign influences and cultures than others and can assist you in reducing culture clash/misunderstandings. Overall, most locals are extremely friendly and willing to lend a helping hand
  • Always use your right hand when greeting, shaking hands, picking something up, etc. The use of the left hand is considered bad luck/taboo
  • Ghanaians have a different standard of costumer service. Do not be frustrated or discouraged if the service is slow. It is also common for some of the items on the menu to be unavailable or made differently than described. They don’t share the same “the costumer is always right” philosophy. Patience is very important
  • It is typical for Ghanaians to be behind schedule. So if they tell you they are going to meet you at 2:00pm don’t be surprised if they arrive closer to 3:00pm
  • The official language of Ghana is English and is heavily influenced by its British colonizers. There are nine local tribal dialects spoken all throughout Ghana. Make an effort to pick up colloquial phrases such as “Charley” meaning friend, “Akwaaba” meaning you are welcome/invited and “Obruni” meaning foreigner or white person

Recommendations for Nightlife

Republic Bar and Grill – Osu

Bella Roma nightclub and shisha – Osu

Purple Pub – Osu

Shisha Lounge – Osu

Firefly Lounge – Osu

Coco Vanilla Lounge/Shisha – Adjiringanor/East Legon opposite John Jerry Rawlings house on Argriganor Road

Beaches

Labadi Beach

  • Best during the day on the weekends, or
  • Reggae nights on Wednesday and Friday

Krokrobite Beach

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  • Here you can also shop for beads, fabric, clothing etc.

(it is acceptable to consume alcohol on the beach, and there are often beachside bars that will serve alcohol)

If you are looking to explore beaches outside of Accra, Cape Coast and Ada Foah also offer breath taking beaches

 

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Ada Island offers a variety of clean, warm and secluded beaches and resorts

Recommendations for Food

Philipo’s for banku and tilapia – East Legon opposites Jerry’s bar

Fish and Fries for seafood – East Legon near University of Professional studies

Mama Africa for banku and tilapia – Osu, near Epo’s

Tasty Jerk for kenkey and pork – Osu near Epo’s

Certain foods only available during certain times of the day/week

Fufu (served mainly for lunch)

Agatha’s – Medina near Rawling’s Circle

Bush Canteen – Legon University Campus or East Legon

Asanka Locals – Osu or East Legon

Asaabea – Osu near Cuzzybro’s

Rice balls (Omotuo) Sundays after church

Mawuli – Labadi

  • For these local dishes, bowls of warm water and soap are brought out for guests to cleanse their hands before they begin to consume their meal

For people with sensitive stomachs or prefer more familiar dishes

Epo’s – Osu

Coffee Lounge – East Legon near the AnC Mall

Starbites – East Legon

Burger & Relish – Osu near Shisha Lounge

Goldin Tulip Hotel – near Airport

Barcelos – Accra Mall

KFC – Oxford Street in Osu

Chix and Ribs – AnC Mall

Pizza

Eddy’s Pizza – East Legon

Mama Mia’s – Osu

Papa’s Pizza – East Legon

Sports Bars

Champs (karaoke) – Paloma near Circle

Honeysuckle – Osu and AnC

Cuzzybro’s – Osu

  • Don’t shy away from befriending the locals and asking for recommendations. There are so many more options than just the ones I have listed above

Concluding Thoughts

Ghana is a feeling I wish I could share with everyone. Ghana felt like home in so many ways. I understand that Ghana is only one country in Africa and many African countries are far from the same. But so many of them offer such beautiful cultures and experiences. In Ghana I found love, I found peace of mind, I found thrill and excitement, I found kindness and compassion. I learned to appreciate things that we often take for granted in our high pace society. I learned to slow down. I learned to pause and enjoy a fresh breeze or a cold glass of water on a hot day. If there is anything that I would like my readers to take away with them, it is this – do not be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone. Do not let others discourage you from following your path. There is so much more to gain from taking a risk and following your heart.

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