To life!

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Back in 2005, when I shipped a container, it involved me showing up at the harbor with the agent, navigating various fees and finally opening the container. Much to the dismay of inspectors, I didn’t even have a car in it. What was I thinking wasting all that money and space, just to make sure I could ship a bunk bed, a baby grand, and my precious books?

There was no money to extract from me. They asked my daughter to open her box of rock collections because they couldn’t believe she shipped little stones. They harrumphed and took off. (If you have space in your container, invite others to share space and cost!) When I shipped a car a year later, apparently bunched with other cars on ship’s deck and exposed to the elements, it was a much cheaper affair. The car arrived intact and was ultimately delivered to my house by my fabulous agent. (kiss, kiss, agent!)

The shippers don’t always tell you the following, so beware: when you arrive at airport customs in Accra, ask to fill out a PUBD form, Passenger Unaccompanied Baggage Declaration. Just because you’re flying while your container rocks on the sea is no reason not to fill the form at the airport. I forgot this time around. If I had gone back to the airport, within, say a matter of two weeks or so, it would have been okay. But I found out about the form after a month. It was a nightmare I’d rather you didn’t experience. Not only will you pay a penalty, you’ll be subjected to the most painful bureaucracy, traveling back and forth between a customs office outside the airport known as Aviance, and airport customs, then immigration, then back to Aviance, pay the penalty and finally get to fill out the blasted PUBD, all yellow and delicate like onion skin.

A new development (new to me, anyway) is the need for a tax identification number, for which you get to be a guest of the Registrar General’s building, a veritable zoo of buzzing, circling petitioners and overworked administrators. Might take a day or two of your time. Might I suggest you keep your Ghanaian passport updated if you have Ghanaian or dual citizenship? Gone are the days when officials bestowed benign smiles on you, saying, “Yes, you have an American passport but we know you’re a Ghanaian. We understand that sort of thing. Your name is Ghanaian, you speak Ghanaian and act Ghanaian. Welcome home, akwaaba!” These days, your Ghanaian-ness is not a given. After all, there are non-nationals who cheat the system and buy passports, so the government isn’t yielding.

If your passport has expired, arguing that you yourself have not expired won’t fly. It won’t earn you a national ID card nor a Ghanaian tax identification number that will save you from paying taxes on your old tv or craigslist couch you insisted on shipping. You will pay taxes on your fingernails, if possible. So, update your Ghanaian documents, okay? Now, it makes no difference if you’re shipping a car. Foreigners and Ghanaians pay the same taxes. Rather exorbitant. (Try to get your quotes or estimates before the following Tuesday, because every Tuesday, the rates change. Rates are pegged to the dollar, and curiously enough, they never go down. Pay quickly!)

Before I forget, insist on the ship giving you an original Bill of Lading so you can claim your belongings. Although Ghanaians tolerate e-tickets when it comes to airplanes, e-documents are still viewed with suspicion. Pay no mind to Mr./Ms. American shipper who blithely emails you an electronic copy from his or her iPhone. You’ll endure calls and admonishing from your Ghanaian agent who will urge you to call your shipper for a DHL delivery, or send a telex authorizing release from the ship upon indemnity of blah blah blah that will leave you weeping into your pillow. Especially when the USA shipper doesn’t understand what the fuss is and won’t even take your calls or respond to emails. Of course, all this is avoidable if you ship door to door. More expensive but probably worth the avoidance of a migraine and desperate phone calls to America, listening to someone say press 1 for this and 2 for that while your cedis or dollars tick away to the annoying music in the background.

Shipping door-to-door provides a hassle-free experience. You just send a container or boxes through a company/agent, and prepay duties, charges, etc. That way all you have to do is show up at the warehouse to pick up your belongings. Some will even deliver to your house. Now, isn’t that lovely! And when you do get your car and you’re cruising past the tro-tro minivans, you’ll admit it’s worth it!

You’ve got to love his name, President Goodluck Jonathan. These days, with world-wide economic problems, he’ll certainly need some good luck, along with expertise, to energize Nigeria’s economy. If indeed the elections are fair, it will be refreshing in an era where the presidency is achieved through grab-by-force. More here…

http://www.graphic.com.gh/dailygraphic/page.php?news=12538

A few days after the graduation, I got to hang out with the “Shuwaa” boys. Don’t ask me what that word means, I couldn’t tell you. But that’s what Tolu and his three close friends in Ghana call themselves. Unfortunately, the fourth one is in the U.K., missing out on all the fun (Hi, Enoch) 🙂

Bright and Tolu, while waiting for our orders at a restaurant in Sarbah Hall

Dennis, Bright and Tolu, saying hello to Enoch

There's nothing like Fufu and light soup with goat and fish!

Digging into his rice and chicken stew

Finger-sucking good, no metal to interfere with the yummy taste 🙂

 

With the witty one, Akua Baning

The three graduates, Bright, Tolu and Dennis. So proud of them. giddy giddy SHUWAAAA!!

As a Ghanaian-American writer, I have had similar experiences as Chimamanda who expresses herself brilliantly. Here she is, in her own voice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg

If you have any trouble, kindly copy the address and paste directly on your browser. The video is called Chimamanda and the single story.

Cheers,
Bisi

My nephew got married yesterday, and it got me thinking about marriage in Ghana. Contrary to what people think, Ghanaian families are stable. The men take pride in their virility and seldom abandon their children, which is not to say it never happens. Men do stray on occasion, and recently, women too. I object to either sex straying, but culturally, marital infidelity is not an acceptable reason for breaking up. In fact breaking up is strongly discouraged, unless your life is in danger.

The best way to court a Ghanaian girl is to go to her house and meet her parents. This immediately tells them your intentions are good. There’s nothing they hate more than a horny man skulking outside their home. Of course, it makes things a bit difficult if you want some privacy. Here’s a song by one of my favorite artists, Ofori Amponsah entitled “You’re my Cinderella.” You’ll see an example of how a Ghanaian parent reacts to a man chasing her daughter. Wishing the newlyweds a long and happy marriage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U0qMboaCGY

I’m new to blogging, but I’m going to do my best!

Last Saturday, my best male friend in Ghana got married. Good luck to him! I really like the bride. But you know what’s funny? The wedding was yesterday although they were already married. Ghanaians are so funny. They do traditional marriages, called an “engagement”, a rather elaborate and expensive ceremony unifying the two families. The man has to buy all kinds of things for the girl: clothes, ring, Bible, jewellry and booze for the family. That’s marriage. But thanks to past British colonialism, Ghanaian girls don’t feel properly married unless they’ve said I do the western way. Which is why half the time, the girls are pregnant at the altar, something that makes foreign missionaries frown–yikes, they had sex before marriage! Anyway, congratulations twice to the not-so-newly-weds!