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Kenyan Girl in Accra, Ghana: Eight (8) Years On

On University of Nairobi campus, I belonged to the largest student-run organization called AIESEC. As part of our to-dos, we had to have an International Exchange Experience working in another country. Initially, I wanted a French-speaking country so I could practice my French; however, Ghana came calling and I answered. On Saturday, May 8, 2010, I left Nairobi aboard The Pride of Africa to Accra, Ghana.

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Leaving my family and friends, when I travelled to AIESEC conferences, over the years was not so difficult but little did. I know that it was obviously easier to leave for two weeks than it was to leave for a year. It was a very emotional morning that Saturday; delayed flight meaning I had to hug my family and friends at the airport twice! Excess luggage (those were the days that Kenya Airways had a baggage limit of 30KGs); surely, how do you fit your life into two bags of not more than 30 KGs? Thank you Kenya Airways for reviewing the luggage allowance (though over the years I still pay for excess luggage)! That morning was filled with tears from Nairobi, through Accra to Timbuktu; I really cried.

Kenyan Girl in Accra, Ghana 8 Years On

At 12.30pm Ghana Time, we landed in my new home and everything was good. I forgot to mention that Ghana was not new to me; the wonderful experience I had at a conference in 2008 was the reason it was easier agreeing to come back for the one-year exchange experience. After all the immigration formalities, it was time to step out into Ghana for what was going to be an experience of a lifetime.

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Immediately I stepped out of the airport, I was greeted by a HEAT WAVE. Goodness me; I truly hoped this was not going to be the everyday experience. Ghana was and is still HOT. However, I have come to have a love relationship with the Ghanaian Heat over time and believe you me it is great for your skin and hair.

Occasionally, I am very grateful for the showers that come intermittently- I love rain! One thing that I guess I have still not come to understand is the Harmattan Season. Even after experiencing seven Harmattans so far, it still does not make sense to me.

 

Reflections

Fast forward to 2018. Yesterday, I was reflecting on the last 8 Years of living in Ghana.

For the first time in the 8 years, I am not in Ghana on one of my best days in the year for my usual anniversary treat to myself. I often am asked whether I would move back to Kenya and honestly, my answer has always been delayed; because the truth is, I do not know (do not get me wrong); I love Kenya more than any other country in the world—I am proudly Kenyan. It is my home, I am always super happy to be home and it will always be there but Ghana has a special place in my heart.

Kenyan Girl In Accra, Ghana_Eight years on

I always look back to the little girl that arrived in Accra 8 years ago and the amazing young woman she has become pleasantly surprises me. I know I may not have been able to have certain experiences both good and bad if I had not moved to Ghana and for that, I would always be grateful to Ghana.

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I have had a fulfilling experience working in Ghana and even though over the 8 years, I have had the same employer, Global Media Alliance, every year has been so very different. Working at GMA has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. It is at GMA that I grew my love for Human Resource; it was at GMA that I decided it was time to take up another career challenge and it was here that I learnt that the mark of a true leader is to remain true to your values and to be keen on influencing people positively.

 So, what are things that make me love Ghana so much? It is actually very difficult to portray the love I have for this country in writing but I will try it.

Over the last 8 years I have had such happy moments; being Maid of Honor to one of my best friends, hosting my family and friends and showing them around the country.

Kenyan Girl In Accra, Ghana_Eight years on

Kenyan Girl In Accra, Ghana_Eight years on

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The years have not been devoid of sadness and tears. In fact, my worst day is the day that I lost one of my employees- May He rest in Peace.

 

Ghanaian Culture

One of the things that Ghana has shown me is the importance of culture. Ghanaians are very proud of their identity and they have kept their culture so very strong. This has also been my cultural shock moment. I still remember the day I dared pass a document to my boss using my left hand; not that I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to use my left hand especially with elders, but it takes a lot of getting used to. So yes, this was one of those shocking moments.

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Then the issue of greeting everyone, including strangers! One time, I was using a shared taxi from Lapaz to New Achimota and this person gets in and greets me; I mean do we know each other? Have we met? This was a challenge for me especially since Kenyans like to mind their own business and greeting strangers is a no-no. I am now one of those who greet people everywhere I go. When I land in Nairobi I often struggle with this part. Nevertheless, occasionally when I forget and greet people, they are kind enough to respond. I am sure they often think- where is she from?

I have, over the years, enjoyed attending traditional ceremonies- I love dressing up for Engagements; Also, I love Naming Ceremonies the most and do I have to go into the details of how I was shocked with celebrations at funerals; I mean why are people not crying? The first funeral I ever attended was when my colleague lost his wife (God Rest her Soul). I could not attend the funeral itself on Saturday so I made time to go on Sunday for the Thanksgiving Lunch at their home; no one was sad! There were so much food, so many drinks and so much dancing. Then I understood that they are celebrating the life of their loved one.

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My favourite culturally rich moment was meeting The King, Asantehene himself when I attended the Akwasidae celebrations in 2013. I was confused but I was also very intrigued by the way Ashantis revered their King. I didn’t understand how one person could be so important; from being carried, to how he was adorned (I had never seen so much gold in my entire life); to how you have to remove your shoes and bow before him (I did this as I kept asking whether I was doing the right thing); to not talking directly to him but using a Linguist. Everything was just too awesome and priceless. This is where I decided and knew that I belonged to the Ashanti Kingdom; I had to be part of royalty.

Kenyan Girl In Accra, Ghana_Eight years on

Kenyan Girl In Accra, Ghana_Eight years on

 

Eight Key Ghana Moments

I would like to give you a snippet of my eight (8) key Things in the last 8 Years:

1. My Favorite Food – Banku and Tilapia.

 

2. Best Place – I have been to- Mt. Afadjato and Blue Diamond Beach Resort.

 

3. Favourite Moments – My Masters Graduation day at the University of Ghana. When I saw the Kenyan flag, I knew I was representing a whole country. My country was proud of me.

 

4. Best Times – World Cup 2010. Each time Ghana proceeded to the next level, the streets in Accra went wild. I was part of the wild always!

 

5. Worst Moment -I guess it goes without saying that my worst moment was when Suarez…..(insert tears).

 

6. Darkest Times – Dumsor Era. Those were depressing days- my goodness. You never know how much you value something until it is rationed all the time. Thank God for Electricity.

 

7. Grown-up Moment – When I moved to my own place. It was difficult not having roommates but extremely the best decision yet.

 

8. Everything some (pidgin)!

 

Conclusion

As you can see, the adventure has been exciting the last 8 years. I have had moments of laughter and sorrow, and the experiences have varied quite a lot; I did get lost in a trotro in my first week, lost my dog Rafiki. Also, I have been mugged at knifepoint and became paranoid about motorbikes for some time. I have visited various places in Ghana- proud to say I have NOT only been to two regions- the rest is covered; made lots of friends who have become family, gotten used to the idea of pure water- best thing ever in Accra traffic. I think I have learnt how to dance; learnt African print can be chic. In addition, I have had a fulfilling career experience. Finally, I have learnt the true meaning of “Home is Where the Heart is”.

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Ghana Medaase!! Happy eighth Anniversary to me. To many many more exciting adventures ahead.

 

By Emma Wenani (Kenyan Girl in Accra)

The Columnist is a Director at Global Media Alliance.

 

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