Despite being born and bred in London, I’m still very much Ghanaian. And boy am I made to know it!
From the strict up bringing, the food I’ve grown up eating (my favourite being waayche- Ghanaian rice and beans), the countless holidays to Ghana as a child- holiday meaning visiting every aunt and uncle there is to know. Later discovering many aren’t even a direct relation (and I only find that out because of some strange remark my aunt might say like ‘Oh, you know aunty Abena’s son is single… He’s handsome oh.’ Err, he’s my cousin!… No. In Ghana everyone older than you is an aunt or uncle. That’s a lot of cousins and potential insest relationships!
The sayings our elders come up with. Our wise elders who for some reason seem to repeat the same sayings for every piece of advice they offer (my aunt’s is ‘you can’t cut your nose to spite your face’ or ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’ I Just nod along like I understand).
And my name. Kai (meaning remember. Guess there’s no forgetting who I am)!
So, if I say so myself, I’ve graduated with honours in being brought up as a Ghanaian.
This means no matter what country I’m in, be it a city or rural countryside, if there is a Ghanaian nearby, our paths will, most likely cross. My ears have become ultra sensitive that I hear Ghanaians speaking before I see them (as was the situation in Marseille a few weeks ago. I literally stopped on my tracks and did the ‘slow head turn’ and there they were, two Ghanaians talking loud enough for me to hear of course! And more often than not, they will approach me and ask the obvious;
‘Are you from Ghana?’
‘Oh, fine, fine…’
And a few moments of awkward silence. I can then use that as a que to leave the conversation, or continue with;
‘Which part of Ghana are you from? ‘
‘I’m from Accra.’
‘Oh fine…Fine. I studied there/ I have family there/ my cousin lives there’ etc.
The last ‘fine fine’ conversation I had was with a young Ghanaian guy who cleans the communal areas of my building. He must have forgotten that we’d already had the ‘fine fine’ introduction about 5 years ago when I moved into the building. The other day, I walked into my building, past him with a smile- naturally thinking that would be enough of a greeting. This is London. People don’t have all day to ‘stop and talk’ after all!
It was just my luck that the lift was up on another floor so in the 20 seconds it took for it to arrive at the ground floor, he turned to me and we had the full length ‘fine fine’ conversation. Except this time the awkward silence couldn’t have been more awkward. I couldn’t have been more grateful when the lift doors opened and closed behind me.
Conversation ended… But more to come. Might not be this month, or this year… But it will happen again!
“If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages.” ELAINE LINER
This quote appeared just as I finished posting my last post. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
I often wonder if my blogging is a little too personal. If I’m putting myself out there too much, exposing vulnerability. I have a lot to say because a lot seems to be going on in my life!
But, how do I distance my personal life from expressing my personality in my blog? After all, didn’t I say this is my haven to write and express freely?
Does one, write in third person to keep ones thoughts and feelings separate from ones self?… Not quite.
I guess, if I stop writing about what happens to me, well, I’d have an empty blog!
Just a thought…
I’ve been a member of the online travel community for about 4 years. I generally use it as a means to connect with people before I arrive in another country. There’s nothing quite like the reassurance of knowing you have a friend on the other side. It really does make the world seem a smaller place…
My first experience ‘couchsurfing’ in fact wasn’t with the site. I put out an ad for a ‘house swap’ for a week or so (think The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet). Living in central London can really take its toll and I desperately needed out. Somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts. The countryside. I got a response from a lady in the Czech Republic saying she and her daughter were coming to London in a few weeks. If I could host her, she’d be happy to host me in her family suburbia home in near Usti nad Labem. That lady is Kamila, and her daughter Helen was 12 at the time. I’ll never forget the look on her little face when I turned up at Victoria station to pick them up… (did I forget to mention I’m black? Opps!). Now she’s almost 16 and her favourite music genre is Reggae (and mentioned during an African dance workshop last year that she fancied the drummer… The only black guy in the room)!
My couch has had it’s fare share of surfers! To be honest the poor thing is sinking slighty, and I can never help but cringe when someone plummets on it expecting a firm surface. Never the less I refuse to get ride of it for sentimental reasons. It was one of my first ‘expensive’ buys when I first moved into my flat. When you buy your own full-sized couch you know you’re an adult! So, it’s not going into the trash until its sunk to the ground! Besides, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have called the slight ‘sink’ comfortable.
The guests. Well, my first ‘official’ guest from couchsurfing site was just the ideal guest! Renee from Valencia, Spain (see, I do like Spanish people!) We laughed, eat together, and she was into salsa dancing to we spent an evening at bar salsa dancing the night away. Its not always a song and dance when hosting. And I’ve accepted less guests since becoming a student. However my overall experience hosting has been good. Having said that I’ve had to make it clear on my profile that I use the site for cultural exchange. I’m trying to avoid the ‘freeloaders’ as much as possible.
My home is my temple. Not a hostel.
I can understand why many of my friends, especially females friends are skeptical about using couchsurfing to host or travel. Lets not beat about the bush. You’re letting a stranger into your home! But for the best of it, it’s felt like I’ve been letting friends into my home. How do I know it’s safe for me? Gut feeling. And references are a massive help. I’ve been lucky that I havent been put in any compromising situations. At the very least my guests are respectful, even if it turns out we don’t have much in common.
And it’s not a dating website!… But I’m meeting more and more people who’ve found their partners through the site! Sure, if there’s a mutual attraction who am I to judge? And besides, the common connection is often travel. Tania, a Mexican girl I hosted two yeas ago, told me that she was talking with a guy from CS. A month ago they got married! He moved to Mexico and they got married! Now that’s pretty cute.
But, no it’s not always cute. There are many men (and perhaps women but I’m yet to discover that) who use the site as a way lure in prey. It’s quite sickening and gives Couchsurfing a bad name. My advice is if you ever feel uncomfortable in a hosts home- leave!! A guest I had told me horror stories about having to lock herself the bathroom until morning after her host (male) tried to advance on her while she was sleeping! I urged her to leave him a negative reference to warn other potential guests about him.
If I’ve put you off couchsurfing, that wasn’t the intention! Like I say about the site- it’s a good idea. Let’s keep it safe and honest!
I know you’re out there. I can sense your presence through my page.
They are the readers that haunt my blog without leaving so much as a trace to let me know they’re here. They come and leave without a courteous ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’.
And that’s the scary part. Writing for an invisible audience.
It’s like living in a haunted house!
Wouldn’t it be better if you made yourself known? Then we could all get along like Casper!
So show yourselves!… Like what you see? Leave a comment. Don’t like what you see? Leave constructive criticism. Simple.
I’m tired of my blog feeling ‘haunted’!
Don’t all come rushing at once…
I’m a strong believer in living for the moment. It’s great being spontaneous sometimes.
I say sometimes, because as much it’s a word attached to my name, there will come a time (most probably when I get married) when I will have to give up my cherished spontaneity.
But until then, I’m still very much young, free and living with a curious travel passion so I intend to make the most of it with no regrets (if possible)!
Now you know I’m a spontaneous character, I can reveal I booked my ticket to Brazil this afternoon! I had to do before I changed my mind- and the price for the ticket seemed to be going up every few minutes (apparently a tick the website plays).
So, its done.
Ready, set, go…
Well, not quite. This is where I’ve probably leaped before I can crawl. I still haven’t sorted out an organisation to volunteer with. Or accommodation. I have a month but I know time will fly by.
Yesterday, I got a message from someone responding to my post about volunteering in Brazil.
‘Just want to answer your post about volunteering.
My sister are in amazonas, is a ONG there, and she get free food and also a local host, free langauge classes, free tours in the jungle, capoeira and also dance lessons for free, she working in a opublic school and also in a animalcenter monday to friday, weekends she are with outher volunteers and also the hostfamily, she have been there 3 month now, great people she told me, maybe something for u’
Well of course I jumped at the chance of possibly volunteering in the Amazon! So I found the website and filled out the application. They got back to me right away. Two positions available- to teach english, the other to work at the animal centre. Seemed too good to be true. No alarm bells were ringing yet but…
I mean it was just a few things that made me wonder if if was a legit organisation. They specifically asked that they didn’t want volunteers with volunteer visa… Hmm.
Also they said they could offer discount fares for volunteers. Sounds great. How can I get the discount? ‘Send us the money via westen union’… I’ve got pretty good gut instincts so alarm bells were going off! I don’t like the idea that I could have possibly got scammed in my early attempt to research voluntary work. So, I’m trying not to let this set me back. After all still don’t know if they aren’t a legit organisation…. BTW don’t websites of organisations end in .org? Anyway!
I just want to offer my skills to an organisation and using my time (off from my studies!!) in a productive way by volunteering. Am I asking too much?
Never-the-less I’m staying positive that something great will come out of this trip!
Then I can return to my studies nextspring/summer term feeling like me again…
A few weeks ago, or even months ago, I read about a graduate who tweeted she was looking for a job. And guess what- she got one. A highly paid one mind you.
Today, just a few hours ago, Taryn, my uni mate whatsApped me saying she tweeted that her dream job is to work for Lonely Plant. And guess what. No, she hasn’t got a job with them (yet) but they tweeted her back a response (along the lines of no vacancies available, but still- its a response)!
So, no, I’m not going to pretend to have got the hang of tweeting, because I haven’t. So no tweets from me asking for work experience let alone a job. However I am happy to put it out there in the comfort of my safe haven (this blog), that yes I am looking for work experience (or even a job) in my field of studies- Journalism (including my passion if possible- travel). Travel Journalism. There. I wrote it!
I have a few months off from my studies so its the perfect opportunity for me to get a heads up by getting some experience. The first place that came to mind was Ghana. To write for a magazine like EnjoyAccra or TimeOut Accra. But then I thought; ‘why not get out of my comfort zone and learn another language’ so naturally Brazil came to mind!
I’ve been meaning to go back to Brazil since my last visit in 2009. So why not now? I would make my stay worthwhile by volunteering, experience carnival, and perhaps teaching english. Not to mention learning Portuguese. I was surprised by how few people spoke English. And it was frustrating for me to not be able to communicate fully with the people as I found them so expressive (but I did become an expert in sign gestures)!
Where ever I decide to go in the following months- be it Ghana, Brazil or else where, I know I have to make sure I gain a fulfilling experience.
So maybe I should stop thinking about it and just do! Book the fight and get the experience.
…Don’t think- just do it!
Now there’s something they don’t teach you in school.
‘cake, cake, cake, cake, cake!’… They say the older you get, the harder it is to shift the unwanted bulge of indulgent eating. So from now on I’m conscious of what I put in my mouth 😉 Having said that, my lovely neighbour Bev treated my to a healthy Italian salad at Princi… and of course I couldn’t resist trying their new lemon and fudge cake… We shared so half the calories!
Another year has flown by *sigh*. From the 15th october I’m officially in my late 20’s. Almost 30.Now there’s a thought for my peers at university. For some reason they think I’m their age (teenagers!) and I’m in no hurry to burst that bubble.
Isn’t 30 the age that you’re supposed to have it all? The career, the hubby, maybe a child, at least a stable relationship and a good job? And this birthday has brought me closer to that unrealistic reality. Never-the-less, I do love it when Oct 15th comes round! It’s either a time to get friends and family together as I did last year, or head to one of my favourite cities, NYC.
Since 2008 every other year I’ve spent my birthday in New York. It was my first time and I loved it! I’m a city girl so I expected nothing less. I traveled alone and I managed to meet lots of people so had lots of fun. Then I went again in 2010. With a friend. Not as fun as the first time, but still- its New York!!
I didn’t go this year because, well, of course I’m a responsible student! I couldn’t possibly justify taking a week or so out of my studies to celebrate getting ‘nearer to my 30’s and still in school!’ so, I opted for a road trip to Marseille instead! Marseille. What a marmite city- you either love it or hate it. I was on the verge of hating it after having an egg land on my lap from the sky (well technically the flats above the kebab shop, but as i didnt see who did it, I’ll just blame the skys of Marseille!), but I’ve since changed my verdict. Not sure I love the city, but I really like the city… I loved the long walks through the narrow street, and the walk up the steep roads to get to the Cathedral. The view was definitely worth it.
I wasn’t so keen on the food however. I’m not a fan for French food (unless it’s Pierre Victoire in soho). Ah, but I did try frogs legs! Lets just say, it tastes like chicken with an after taste. Embarrassingly after leaving three restaurants without ordering, I opted for falafel at Au falafel and it was delicious!
I’ve been back for almost a month. Yet I’m still finding it difficult to write about this trip. The trip I had such high expectations of. However I disappointed myself by staying in the capital. Trapping myself in Addis… Not the best place to spend three weeks when there’s so much of Ethiopia to see…
Sometimes pictures speak louder than words…
I will update about my experience in Ethiopia soon 🙂
So, just in case you forgot.
How do I make a career out of my passion for travel?…
I picked up the latest edition of Robert Kelsey’s What’s Stopping You? at Heathrow airport on my way to Addis Ababa this summer. My eye caught the attention of a sunshine yellow book with a very up front title. It questioned me as I hadn’t dared question myself in a long while. If anything was going to get me motivated for the coming academic year, this was the question I needed to ask myself to get the answer.
As much as I come across a free-spirited, confident, independent person, I often question my past and wonder how it shaped me in an unconvensional way. I celebrated my 20something birthday recently (lets just say I’m nearing 30)! Although most people say I’ve still got a lot of time, frankly, I don’t feel that way. Most of my friends from school have their careers, marriage and kids. I’m not saying I’m ready for all those things. However the main quality I feel I lack stability. What’s stopping me from pursuing my passion, my dream to travel the world, and make a career out of it?… A Travel Journalist?
I started questioning my potential in secondary school when I received the highest grade in the year in a mock english SAT’s test. All eyes were on me as never before. The pressure in surpassing my mock test grade for the actual SAT’s was too much for me to deal with and this could possibly have been my first High F-F (fear of failure) experience academically. So I failed all expectations and got a very average grade… The girl with ‘so much potential’ as my teachers reported each year, left school with just 4 GCSE’s. ‘Fear of failure’ as Kelsey puts it, was installed in me.
Never the less I still manged to leave college with 3 A-Levels (photography, Film Studies and Performing Arts), and an AS in Critical Studies. University should have been at the fore front however I pursued other avenues such as acting and modelling. I was also trained by 3x winner of Best Model Trainer UK, Francis Mathew aka Catwalk Professor. I went on to do pageants, shows and editorials. But fear of ‘judgement’ made me leave the modeling world. So, what was next?… Perhaps my true calling- Travel!
I’m now studying for a BA Journalism. It took me a while to realise it’s a tough world out there for a woman without a degree. But, the life experiences I’m gained from my travels have been vital in shaping who I am today.
So the best way to conquer my fears is to question myself. What is stopping you Kai? Would I really be satisfied doing anything else other than Travel Journalism? No? Then get on with it!
So, now I need the skills to help accomplish my career. I’ve got this new blog which I’m using as a haven to write. Constructive criticism is always welcome (actually please be nice because I am technically still sensitive to F-F). Work experience is very important but perhaps the most difficult to gain. This will forever be a catch-22. Employers are looking for applicants with experience however how are you to gain experience if you’re not given a chance?
I’m open to any companies in the media industry that would be willing to offer me some work, internship/work experience.
Thanks to Mathy (whatthejobisthis?!) for the encouragement to write!