Celebrate YOU!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola and Good Timing!

Timing is everything. It seems had I stayed in Ghana another week or so, it might not have been so easy getting back in the US. As Ghana so far, is not one of the affected countries, no one asked me a thing coming through Customs. Nothing. Although I had expected at least a question about how I was feeling or where I might have traveled while there... Honestly, I had considered visiting a few African countries while on the continent before coming home but decided against it. I felt it wiser not to complicate the matter. Ghana was on the safe list and I decided not to roll the dice. Good decision...
Since coming home I have had two experiences where medical professionals were leery of being in my presence. One was a doctor who literally tried to diagnose me for bronchitis or pneumonia from across the room. I said to her, so the nurse has obviously told you that I was in Africa so now you think you can diagnose me from across the room? She turned beet red and then gave me a BS exam. I reported her and was asked to return to see a real doctor who examined me to see why in fact my chest was feeling so heavy. He did not guess. He listened to me breathe and took an x-ray!!
I have been home for 18 days. I have absolutely NONE of the symptoms of Ebola and the incubation period is 21 days. I am no more in the woods than are those who are reading this post. I complained that it was her type of "medical" response that allowed the situation in Texas to escalate. The deceased went to the hospital as soon as he felt the symptoms, fully disclosed his circumstances and was sent home in a highly contagious state. Who knows why the nurse turned him away but if it was due to fear and a desire to just get him out of the hospital, that has proven to have been a HUGE mistake. Granted I understand the need for precaution but if our medical professionals are afraid, we all need to be damn worried!
I compare Ebola to HIV & AIDS in that as long as it was restricted to Africa, as was HIV & AIDS to the gay community, it was not "our" (mainstream America) problem. The lesson is that we live in a global society without borders. Nothing is restricted to any one class or place. We ARE our Brother's Keepers.
Be Well Everyone and live wisely. Wash your hands regularly, don't shake hands with others and think as well as behave with good hygiene sense where ever possible. Wipe down gym equipment BEFORE & AFTER use. While we can control with whom we swap saliva, blood, urine, feces, vomit, semen and some other body fluids, swapping sweat with strangers can pose a very real, unknown risk. This thing is getting crazier by the day...
Glad to be home albeit only briefly. Panama & South America this time... Looking forward to it!
¡Ten Cuidado Mis Amigos!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Black, White & Blue...

Over the past few days, I have watched this video several times as it makes its way around the internet. It captured a White woman preventing the arrest of an innocent Black man in her neighborhood. I admire and applaud this woman for her courage and that she cared enough to intervene and come to the aid of another less capable of defending himself.

I am struck however by two things;

(1) Black officers, in the nation's capital no less, harassing an innocent Black victim for simply being present in the "wrong" neighborhood, an indication of their distorted view of themselves and that blue blood runs DEEP! and 

(2) I wonder if me, as a Black female attorney, could so forcibly assert myself by intervening in police activity and achieve the same result. Would I warrant the same level of respect or would I be sitting on the curb next to the accused under arrest for obstruction of justice? Did this woman even have to indicate that she was an attorney or was being White enough to command total compliance and damn near an apology from these Black officers? What would have been the response, to her much less to me, if the officers were White? Acquiescence? Hmmm, Just Wondering...

Happy for the outcome but the background music is not so melodic to my ears. Conversely, it is deeply disturbing no matter the radio station. Officers are in such denial of their inherent bias, which is so ingrained in rank and file from top to bottom, that it renders them incapable of being objective and therefore incapable of doing their job effectively. I am pessimistic that their prejudice can ever be fixed or reversed. So now what?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lights Out in Ghana!


Ghana still has issues with its infrastructure. Supplying electricity is a huge problem. Roving outages are scheduled, usually for 12 hour periods in various parts of town. While one area is out, some other area is going full blast. If you don't have a generator and lots of people don't, you endure the outage in pure darkness. And let me tell you some areas are pitch black! They manage. Guess they are just used to it. Like that bucket, you had better have some alternative light source if you are planning to live in Ghana! Keep the cell phone charged, save all data when working on the computer and keep a modem (air card) because with the electricity goes your internet router! You must live to plan for outages... Crazy in 2014. I know...

Well, this a first. Our lights went out somewhere around 6am yesterday morning. It is almost 6am again, still no lights... Thankfully we have a generator but it runs on diesel fuel and as you can imagine, pumping it for 24 hours can get quite pricey. We turned it off for some portion of the day and overnight. I thought for sure when I returned last night, certainly when I awoke this morning, that the lights would be back on. Not! Oh Ghana...

Be thankful for the little things folks! We take so much for granted.

This is one Ghana-Ism that I will not miss...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ghana-Ism: Ghanaian Meets "Bronie"

Ghana-Ism:

Today I travel to the Ashanti region, to Kumasi. I purposely travel by bus to see the country side, just as I did when in South Africa, from Jo'Burg to Durban. This ride however is much shorter, four hours as compared to seven or eight... Although I am thinking that I probably should have made arrangements to fly back. No need to see the country side coming and going. Oh Well...

When I called the bus company to inquire about price and scheduling, the agent was overly friendly and seemed impressed that I am a tourist scheduling a trip with his company. He very proudly told me how nice the buses are, how efficient the company is and that when I was ready to travel I should ask for him. Not a problem...

Shortly after speaking with him I get a call from an unknown number. I answer and he lets me know that it is him. This was a call from his personal number. Soon after again, I get a text message from the same number...  He texts "Hi Hellen its me again, Ive really not had any white frnd b4 and I would want us to be frnds if u ok with it" and then he signs his name...  Poor Thing!!!

I text back; Sorry to inform you but you still don't. Not that we are friends, but I am FAR from White. Helen from NJ (as I had referred to myself when he asked what state I was from) is a PROUD Black American woman! Burst his little bubble. He apologized profusely. I think he was terribly embarrassed and thought that he had hurt my feelings. He called and texted me back to make sure I knew how sorry he was. Told him not to sweat it. Sure he will never verbalize that assumption again...

Although I have been told that in some respects the Ghanaians consider Blacks [Americans] as they do Whites...  I am told it is because we "talk like them"...  They call us all "Bronies" (or something to that effect). I thought it was a derogatory term reserved for Whites but no, they call us (Black folks) Bronies too...  Conversely, I have been corrected more times than I can count when my response to what part of Africa I am from is that I am American. They smile and say yes but you are African and welcome me "home"! So there are mixed views regarding Black folks I suppose...

I am off to meet my "new best Friend" and travel to see the Ashanti region where I will stay for at least one night, if not two. Enjoy Your Day. I will report back in...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

When Two Black Women Gather In Ghana...

Today I will have lunch with Dr. Esi Sutherland-Addy. She is the daughter of the late Efua Sutherland, noted poet, writer and author here in Ghana also the woman who most befriended and inspired Maya Angelou during her time in Ghana. She writes about their relationship in her book that I just finished reading, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
I feel honored that Professor Sutherland, who teaches at the Institute for African Studies at University of Ghana, agreed to give little ole' me some of her time. I met with her briefly in her office on Thursday. I stopped by her office expecting only to make an appointment to see her but she received me without an appointment. Ghanaians are such gracious people.
We chatted a bit. My interest in meeting with her is to share and get feedback and another perspective on what have been my experiences, observations and concerns while in Ghana. When it became evident that we will likely engage in spirited and insightful discussion, she suggested that we meet for lunch today.
Nothing by chance. It is no coincidence that Maya passed while I am here in Ghana thereby prompting me to read the book she wrote about her time in Ghana. I had no idea when I picked up the book that it had anything to do with Ghana. It is no coincidence that I will have lunch with the daughter of the woman who was such a tremendous influence for Maya during her journey in Ghana. Nothing by chance.
I look forward to being amazed following my Gathering with a Black Woman in Ghana...  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ghana-Isms; Tales From Ghana


Ghana-Ism:  Tales of those things worth noting that have happened or experiences I have enjoyed during my stay in Ghana. Often I place these things on Facebook and neglect this space where I should be writing. So here's sharing of a few laughs and a few enlightening moments I affectionately call, "Ghana-Isms". Enjoy! 


Ghana-Ism:

Mostly, water here is sent to the home not through local pipes in the street but through lines that run from these HUGE water tanks, called "poly tanks", to the house. Mine sits atop the roof and gets its water supply from a bigger tank located elsewhere on the property. The tanks are large enough that the water will last for a year or two...

Well lucky me, mine sprung a leak, the one atop the roof. So of course that meant that it had to be drained and repaired. The water was leaking into the house. It takes 24 hours for the sealant to dry, so what does that mean? NO running water for 24 hours.

The guard asked did I have a bucket so that he could "fetch" me some water. Fetch me some water? From where? Why would I have a bucket and what exactly am I supposed to do with this bucket? LOL!!! EVERYTHING you need to do that requires water for the next 24 hours! SMH!!!

An American Friend who has lived in different parts of Africa for some time, tells me that in the bush, where I will never venture, one will learn to bathe, brush teeth and all with a gallon jug of water. So who am I to complain about having a whole bucket? Putting it in perspective....

I somehow managed, really I did. Try this at home... (smile)


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Ghana-Ism:
I am constantly amazed by the difference in temperament between Americans & Ghanaians. Ghanaians are more cool, calm, laid back, slow paced. They are not very excitable people, unless they are talking in their language angry about driving or something...  LOL!!!  Their temperament is akin to folks in the US South. They take "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to the nth degree!!! Following is an illustration of what I mean... 
When I arrived at the airport in Accra, I was impressed that I was off the plane and through customs in what felt like less than 15 minutes. Record time for any airport! 2.5 hours later however, when I am JUST getting my last bag off the claim belt, I am not so impressed... 
American with a frown in her brow and excitement in her high pitch and very agitated "WTF" voice:  What in hell took so long?
Ghanaian with a smile on his face, cool, calm, collected and in a very controlled "stop making an ass of yourself" voice:  
But Madam, did you get your bags? 
Translation: So what in the hell are you complaining about?
Moral of the story: Just Chill Miss Higgi OR start drinking and grow gray hair cuz' the Ghanaians are just fine...
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Ghana-Ism While Walking:

As I walked around Accra (Ghana) this morning taking in my surroundings, the term "third world" crossed my mind. It is a term that I have always rejected. It connotes an air of superiority. It implies somehow that there is a "first world". Never heard anyone speak of a "first world". And hey!, didn't civilization begin in what is now considered "third world"? What was the "first world" doing while the "third world" was toiling in all its brilliance to lay the ground work for the rest of civilization? Just wonderin'... Oh! and is there a "second world"? Never heard tell of that either... Hmmm....

Seemingly citizens adapt to their assigned classification

physically, 
mentally,
socially,
for the good,
for the bad
and otherwise...

Lesson: Never underestimate the power of suggestion. It can permeate your mind and totally distort how you see yourself

physically,
mentally,
socially,
for the good,
for the bad
and otherwise...

This Morning I was Thinking as I Walked...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ghana-Ism:

Black folks all over the world seem to love chicken. Ghana is no exception. This Black person only eats the breast and of course the occasional basket of hot wings. For the life of me I cannot figure out what they do with the chicken's breast in Accra. There are only two places that consistently have breast. Potential dinner, AKA chickens, is roaming all over the place but the restaurants never seem to have breast. God only knows what becomes of the best part of the chicken. One restaurant explained that they use the breast for Kebabs, which are very popular here.

So one day I was in one of my regular places, Papaye's in Osu (GREAT Place), where I am sure to get a breast. I ordered my regular, Grilled Chicken Breast, Fried Rice & Cole Slaw. As in the south and in the Caribbean, folks here are slow as molasses and never quite know what is your hurry... This night the restaurant was especially crowded so the wait was long. Just as I was about to be come the "ugly American" and ask why the wait, the waiter showed up with our food. Much to my dismay, on my plate was a pitiful wing and some other part of the chicken AND it was fried not grilled with that "special" sauce on top.

I reminded the waiter that I had ordered a breast. At first he tried to convince me that whatever was on my plate was a breast. I looked at him like either he was crazy OR he thought me pretty damn dumb! Upon realizing that his explanation was not holding water, he then explained, GET THIS, that the wing WAS attached to a breast! Yes, you heard me right. He said the wing was attached to a breast. I now look at him like he is crazy or just damn dumb and I tell him "then go back in the kitchen and find the breast that WAS attached to the wing and make sure that its not fried"!!! LOL!!! I can't make this stuff up! Really I can't... Sounds like an old Robin Harris joke...

Ghana-Ism making me smile... 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ghana-Ism:
Recently I was talking to a very nice Ghanaian man, not even 40 yet. I appreciate him because he appreciates being Ghanaian and living in Ghana. He is committed to staying here and making it better. Most folks here want to be your new Best Bud, not because they don't genuinely like you but lurking in the back of their mind, it is because they want to come to the states or want you to help them get something or someone to or from the states. Quite draining after a while so I find this particular guy quite refreshing and I enjoy helping him...

One day we were talking about the states. He shared that a relative of his wife traveled from the US to Ghana to marry. He brought with him a ton of personal goods and mountains of clothing. My Friend described it as wasteful and had a hard time understanding why one person needed so much stuff. When do you ever get to wear/use it?

He pointed to the shoes on his feet and told me that it was only the second pair of shoes he had purchased since marrying in 2010! He had worn the same shoes for four years!!! He remembered he said because he had gotten married in the previous shoes and had not bought a new pair since. He owns three pair of shoes; dress shoes, sneakers and an open sandal. He doesn't see why one needs more...

He is amazed and not impressed by American waste. His in law left for the US and left all his "goods" at my Friend's house. Much to their delight, he called other Family members to come and take them. They were in heaven. Folks here like anything American. I offered a colleague a cup of Peppermint tea. He was excited until I responded "no" to his question if it was from the states. Then it became just tea and he was no longer interested... Crazy I tell you!!!

Meanwhile, I am sure that I brought no less than 30 pair of shoes with me for a one year stay in Ghana... I could learn a little something from my very wise Ghanaian Friend...
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Ghana-Ism:
What a wonderful walk this morning. Really roamed off the path and wound up in what felt like a village. My Friend laughs and tells me not likely in the heart of Accra! It sure felt like  a village to me. I obviously looked out of place. From afar I saw an old woman watching me with a look of amusement on her face. As I approached, she said to me "You are lost?" LOL!!! I kinda' sorta' stood out as a foreigner and wherever I was, not too many Americans frequent I am sure. I asked her which way to the road because all around me all that I saw was what I am calling a village, a contained and communal living area, muddy paths and shanty like homes...

I romanticized my image of the popular African proverb, "it takes a village". I idolized that survival in the village was collective, communal, that when one eats, all eat... I surmised that the people in the village pooled their resources to feed the village. I marveled that the woman cooking in what seemed the center of the village and who had a swarm of folks around her, was the person designated to prepare at least that meal, for everyone in the village.

My Ghanaian Friend laughed at my "village" fantasy. She then told me "I hate to burst your bubble but no, that the lady is selling breakfast!". They earn so little money here, I often wonder how they survive. I thought I was on to something. Guess not...

I walked a little farther past the old woman before finding a young woman who could also see that I was lost. She walked me to where I could see the road and pointed me in that direction. That was fun!!! Gonna' miss these adventures...

My Friend will take me to a real village in the next week or two. If what I saw this morning was not a village, I need to prepare myself. Stay tuned...

And for the record, in response to yesterday's post, I traveled with 42 pair of shoes and one pair of sneakers!!! I know, THAT IS RIDICULOUS!!! So why have I bought 2 new pair since I got here and surely will buy more before I leave? Beeeecaaaauuuussseee, I'm a Woman? LOL!!! Sounds Plausible to me.!!! 
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 Ghana Beauty:

Naturally Beautiful... Stole an exchange with these two little girls one day after my early morning walk. They were picking flowers outside my house here in Ghana. Told me they wanted to make something lovely with them...

Not sure why, I have heard various reasons, but until well into their teenage years, girls here wear their hair shaven like the boys. I have accepted that it is not for me to understand.  The beauty however of these little girls minus the hair, makes Indie Arie's point that we are not our hair. Their natural beauty is undeniable...
I LOVE THIS PHOTO!!!
Helen MissHiggi Higginbotham's photo.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ghana-Ism:
OK, reality check!!! I am so sensitive to being ripped off by my Ghanaian "Brothers & Sisters", because that is how they con you into believing that they are not deceiving or manipulating you, that I found myself debating a situation wherein I was being charged 100 Ghana Cedis (GH¢), LESS THAN $30, $26.86 to be exact!!!, at a beauty salon, a really nice beauty salon, for services rendered which included:

(1) took old braids out
(2) washed and deep conditioned my hair (my products but so what!)
(3) put wonderful & intricate braids (dreads) back in (my hair but so what!)

So as I laugh at myself, I ask myself WHAT in the hell are you complaining about? REALLY Miss Higgi!!! Even if they are ripping you off, you are still DOLLARS ahead! I honestly think that what prompted my elevated suspicion was that one woman seeing my finished product, commented that in the states I would have paid $400 (NOT MISS HIGGI) for the same hairstyle. Not sure about that but I am I would have paid at least $200. I felt convinced that her comment planted the 100 GH¢ seed in the minds of the workers!!! The price quoted to me a few days prior was so low that I honestly cannot remember it because I knew that I would pay the stylist more anyway. I do know that it was less than 50 GH¢.

Sometimes, and rightfully so, we get caught up on the principle, but then at other times we have to ask ourselves is it really worth the risk of unnecessarily elevating our blood pressure? Sometimes NOT!!!. This was one of those NOT moments! They were really nice people and the beautician is going to get me this bomb Ghanaian hair product that I can't wait to start using, so what the hell! I tipped the young lady 10 GH¢, which is generous, gave her 5 more for car fare to get me the bomb hair product and kept it moving!!!

Keepin' it in perspective!!!

Hey! Didn't I have a hair story the last time I was here? LOL!!! This one at least has a happy ending! I will go back to this salon. No question... 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ghana Tale:

It is early Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed relaxing and enjoying a quiet moment to read. My peripheral vision, which works overtime, sees something moving along the salmon colored wall to my left. Without my glasses, I think it is a harmless baby gecko, which I HATE! No, not at all... 

I put on my glasses and into view comes a spider somewhere between the size of a quarter and a 50 cent piece! Of course he has to die!!! 

I get my shoe and do my best to kill the bastard. He might be big but he moves fast. To get even with me, he goes for refuge behind the headboard of the bed in which I am relaxing and reading... So I guess he got the last laugh as certainly I am no longer comfortably resting propped up on pillows lined along the headboard. Instead I am sitting unsupported in the middle of the bed where I will see him if he plans to resurface, to attack! LOL!!! 

Luckily I am at a Friend's house and will not have to wonder about the whereabouts of Mr. Spider as I sleep in my own bed tonight. (smile) Her house is not alone. Trust me, I have seen Mr. Spider's spider cousins. Usually I, or at least my shoe, am the last thing they see... (smile) This one was quick and got away. Good for him... 

Ghanaian spiders will not be on the list of things I will miss... 

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 Stay Tuned, More Ghana Tales & Observations to Come...


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Was Thinking This Morning...

As I walked around Accra (Ghana) this morning taking in my surroundings, the term "third world" crossed my mind. It is a term that I have always rejected. It connotes an air of superiority. It implies somehow that there is a "first world". Never heard anyone speak of a "first world". And hey!, didn't civilization begin in what is now considered "third world"? What was the "first world" doing while the "third world" was toiling in all its brilliance to lay the ground work for the rest of civilization? Just wonderin'... Oh! and is there a "second world"? Never heard tell of that either... Hmmm....

Seemingly citizens adapt to their assigned classification, physically, mentally, socially, for the good, for the bad and otherwise...

Lesson: Never underestimate the power of suggestion. It can permeate your mind and totally distort how you see yourself, for the good, for the bad and otherwise... 

I was thinking this morning...