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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...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.
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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... 

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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...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

His Feets' Should Be Tired...

In 2006 I invited Congressman John Lewis to be guest speaker at my law school graduation because I don't think we celebrate our heroes enough. In honor of celebrating our history, I wanted to be certain that a new generation and their Families would know who he was and what his sacrifices have been...
Little did I know that soon we would relive the 60's for all the world to see and that my peers would learn who he was anyway. What in the hell is going on America?

If there is/was any doubt that we are moving backward as a nation, the events of late should remove all such doubt! Police dressed in military gear and conducting themselves in manners reminiscent of bull connor and other American terrorists from the 60's South; cops attacking peaceful protesters, arresting journalists, and killing Black folks like it is open season. And now we see John Lewis marching again. If this doesn't bring it home for you, nothing will... His feets' should be tired but he marches on still in search of his Beloved Community. Thank you still Mr. Lewis!!!


Tonight I march in solidarity with those in #Ferguson because I believe the people have a right to orderly and peaceful protest.Play Video

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams; Tears of A Clown

People say I'm the life of the party cuz' I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty, deep inside I'm blue...
So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer its easy to trace
The Tracks of My Tears...
(Smokey Robinson)

The Tears of A Clown, When There's No One Around...

We never know another's pain, only the image they CHOOSE to show the public...

May he be at peace. May he and his Family find peace in knowing that he brought such joy to so many. His life was not in vain, may we all be so lucky. Sorry he decided to go so soon. He will be missed...
 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Eminent Domain, An Abuse of Government in Southeast, Washington, DC

While looking for something else on line this morning, I came across a link to a Washington Times article in which I was quoted back in 2004. Some time in 2003, before going to law school, I started working to mobilize local business owners in the southeast section of Washington, DC to save their businesses located in the Skyland Shopping Center from the heartless wrecking ball of government seizure of their private property,to be enforced in the name of eminent domain.

The plaza consisted of approximately 12 or 13 businesses, maybe more, that included a post office, a government employment office, two liquor stores, several eateries (one of which was a brand new KFC), a food shopping store, a discount variety store, a few hairdressers, a record store, shoe store and more. Post eminent domain, after several years of empty promises for a large anchor retail store, all that remains is the CVS Pharmacy. In 2003 and part of 2004, I lived and was an active citizen in the Hillcrest community, which is located near the shopping center in Southeast DC.

For most of the past ten years those store owners, mostly local residents who owned small "mom and pop" establishments, were deprived of their livelihood as their businesses were gradually shut down, local residents of a mostly economically depressed neighborhood were deprived of jobs and convenient services and a site that some neighbors complained was an eye sore to the community with the local businesses, spent the last several years having to live instead with boarded up and abandoned buildings, an even greater eye sore. There were no winners...

As a result of my activism, I befriended one of the store owners who went from owning her own home and a thriving business to filing bankruptcy and moving into an apartment. There were no winners... Sadly, the merchants owned their business but not the property. Try as they may, they had little leverage against their unsympathetic government.

I frequently visit Washington DC and on occasion make certain to make a special trip past the Skyland Shopping Center, specifically to see what has become of the plaza. In May 2014, just a few months ago, I made one of those trips. What I discovered was a vacant lot with a few guys sitting around on heavy equipment seemingly waiting to go to work. Presumably, more than ten years after wrecking the community and depriving small business owners of their livelihood, the city is finally ready to break ground on what will be a "new and improved" shopping center. In the interim, lots of people and a community were hurt. Most of the shop keepers lost, the community lost and after ten years of providing no jobs and receiving no tax revenue from once thriving businesses, the government lost too..

Eminent domain, all too often, is an abuse of government. In this instance there is no denying that such was the case...  Shameful! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Miss Higgi's Take on Philip Seymour Hoffman...

Every other story on the news is about the tragic overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. I am trying to understand what makes his death any more important than that of any other junkie... Here is what I put on Facebook in response to the arrest of four accused of selling him drugs... 

Sorry Folks but I feel some kinda' way about this...

While I am very sorry that yet another life was lost to drugs, I am not happy that this guy's death, that of a cop, a politician or any other non-lay person is somehow deemed more important, more worthy of solving or investigating than that of any other person.... He had SEVENTY bags of heroin and died with a needle in his arm, just like many another junkie. What makes him or his death any different, any more important, any more sad or more worthy of mourn than that of other junkies?

I do not appreciate that taxpayer dollars are being spent and more value is being given this guy's life than any other... SEVENTY bags of heroin, cocaine, five prescription meds, 20 hypodermic needles and a burned up spoon? Like it or not, he was just another junkie... Albeit very talented, at the end of the day he was just another junkie, who will be no more missed and was no more loved by his Family and Friends than any of his junkie peers, some of whom undoubtedly were also great losses to our society. His celebrity should make him no more special nor the person who sold him the heroin that HE willfully ingested, no more criminal... 

Might sound harsh, but it is the truth of how I feel... If I were on the jury, it would be an uphill battle for any prosecutor to convince me to convict whoever sold Mr. Hoffman the UNtainted drugs that HE willfully ingested. I cannot see that I would condone or be in any way complicit in upholding a double standard that gives his life any more value than that of any regular Joe! Either ALL loss of life of persons engaged in criminal activity has value and should be vindicated and aggressively investigated or no life engaged in criminal activity has value and is worthy of protection or vindication... 

If law enforcement can find, and in record time, those persons who sold drugs to this actor then there is no question that law enforcement knows and is much more capable of ending/solving many more crimes than they would have us believe. Seems they and/or society just has to care about or assign value to the life of the victim... Plain & Simple! 

It is my guess that Mr. Hoffman, who purchased and injected UNtainted drugs into his own vein, would join me when I say, STOP the double standard!!! May he and his many drug addicted peers rest in peace...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Silent Molester...

Over the years I have tried to find the right description for snow. I go to bed and rest peacefully only to awake and wonder how could something that can cause such destruction and so disturb my tranquility, occur so peacefully and without a whisper while I slept...

Shouldn't something so devastating, so disruptive to my day come with a bang? Shouldn't I know or have heard it creep up on me? Not the case with snow. Sometimes I go to sleep with much anticipation about what will greet me in the morning. Other times I awake to a white blanket that has covered my world in the night that I was not expecting. And still there are those times when I awake quite happy to learn that the forecasters were dead wrong and there was much ado about nothing.

No matter the circumstances of how the white stuff greets me, I have spent many a morning staring out my window in deep despair negotiating with myself if I dare venture out into the white madness or not... Yes, it is that deep for me!!! 


While beautiful (on a postcard, that is), there is no denying that snow can really muck' up a day. Don't believe me? Ask the folks stuck in an airport sleeping on benches because the flights are grounded, stuck in their car on an Atlanta highway for 27 hours because - why did that happen? (still SMH), someone risking life and limb because they are too broke or have been too busy to replace the bald tires on their car (OUCH!)... Something with that much power to cause such chaos, should make some noise upon entrance. Don't you think?

Not snow!!! Like a molester, which literally means one who bothers, annoys, interferes or causes trouble for another, snow often creeps in the quiet of night to disrupt even your best laid plans! It just seems to me that something that mighty should announce its presence like a raging thunder storm... It should wake me from my sleep. It should pound against the windows and the rooftop! It should make some damn noise!!!

So finally, as I ponder yet again on another morning during this 2014 winter from hell, what I will do on the dawning of yet another day blanketed in whiteness, I have a fitting description for that seasonal annoyance I call snow, it is now officially "The Silent Molester"...

In my heart I know that today, like most other dreaded snow days, I will ultimately muster the fortitude to proceed and not let it totally bother (molest) my day, but for right now, at this very moment, I just had to vent!!! Thank you for indulging me!!!

If you share the plight of my forecast, be safe and stay home if you can... If you just happen to be in sunshine, DO NOT brag to me!, at least not today!!! (smile) Most of all however, EVERYONE be thankful and Have a FANTASTIC Day as this too shall surely pass! It will, I promise...