May 31, 2010

Fufu and Love

You may be asking, what on this bountiful blue planet is fufu?


It's a staple of the Ghanaian diet, and other parts of Africa besides, that involves mashing boiled vegetables--plantain, cassava or yam--in a huge wooden mortar with a 4-foot long blunt-ended pole hewn from a tree until the vegetables become a sticky pale ball. It takes two people. It takes a long time. (Sounds like a relationship). The ball is then dropped in a spicy soup--palm, light or groundnut--and scooped up in the right hand and swallowed (not chewed - heaven forbid) whole.

And many humans could be forgiven for asking what makes a good relationship too?

Well, I was privvy to this tidbit of wisdom a couple of weeks ago at the marriage between a Ghanaian and Canadian couple of friends.

The analogy in Ghanaian folklore follows that creating a good relationship is like making fufu: one partner is the cassava and the other is the plantain (or yam if you're up north).

When you pound cassava and plantain into a sticky ball of fufu, which ain't easy, like you're average long-term relationship, you hit lumps, like you're average long-term relationship.

So, what next?

Ghanaians believe that it is the sole responsibility of the two to address the issues--those lumps--in the relationship. In other words, to discard those things that don't help the relationship, and keep pounding away at the rest. And to solve it yourself...

"So we are the caterers in the kitchen of relationship fufu, then..." I said out loud.

Culture and language - endless balls of fu....fu....n!!!

(Oh, and I chew my fufu...)

I love this T-shirt. Sums it up pretty well.


May 30, 2010

Top World-Wide Travel Bloggers

Here are some more fantastic travel bloggers from around the world. I've given a short note about each but I urge you to check out these blogs for yourselves, especially if you cannot decide where you want to go for your next vacation. These should give you a good start. Alternatively, if you're interested in travel writing, you'll also discover some excellent writers here.


Focus: A site mainly about travelling with children 
My thoughts: Sweet and simple and makes me want to go to England again, damn it! If you have children, check this out.

Focus: Writing and Worldwide travel
@everthenomad
My thoughts: Top quality writing. Dreamy. Guest post section is great.

Focus: Backpacking around the world on a budget
@happytimeblog
My thoughts: Great design and the journey makes me quite envious in a good way. 

Focus: Travel - Adventure - Life outside the box - Currently in Alaska
@dustcantkillme
My thoughts: Awesome design. Looks like a Thesis Wordpress theme to me! Alaska Marine Highway in Photographs makes me wish we could teleport already. What's with that? Why has teleported not been invented yet?

Focus: Currently in Sweden. Next: Turkey, UK, US
@seatofourpants
My thoughts: Jesus, the food photos in these blogs are killing me. My favourite cuisines are all Asian: Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese and I am very far from any of this, except Japanese. I love Introducing Mum to the Swedish Sauna. I guess you can see I'm skiving now. 

Focus: California family spends a year volunteering, traveling and homeschooling their kids: 6 months in South America and 6 months in the Mediterranean
My thoughts: If you thought, "We can't do that," then read this blog.


May 14, 2010

Interview with South Africa traveler and blogger: Museum Chick

You might think we planned this interview just in time for travelers heading to South Africa for the World Cup. Well, we didn't. I was just lucky to have met a traveler who fell in love with South Africa and agreed to share her tips here at our Blog. Introducing Danee from the Lonely Planet Featured Blog Museum Chick. Danee's latest post over at Museum Chick is etitled: "The Perfect Date Place in Paris...For a Rat."

'The "Sewers of Paris Museum" sounds much nicer when you say it in French..."Musée Des Egouts de Paris", but that can't detract from the fact that this museum is in the actual sewer!'

 I sent Danee the questions focused around the idea of 3 tips in each category for travel in South Africa. Here are her answers!

Danee of Museum Chick in Cape Town

Q. What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give visitors to South Africa?
A.
1. Go with an adventurous spirt
2. Don't be a scaredy-cat and do a Great White Shark cage dive (a highlight of my life).
3. Try the biltong (my favorite S.A. specialty), if you're not a vegetarian!

 The Great White Sharks (not Greg Norman)

Q. What are the top 3 places to visit if you just had 7 days?
A.
1. Cape Town
2. Kruger Park
3. The waters of Dyer Island for a Great White Shark Dive. I used Brian McFarlane's company ( http://www.sharkcagediving.net/ ) (these are really the only 3 places in SA I've been)



Q. Name 3 hidden South African treasures?

A.
1. I'm always a sucker for museums and art galleries. My favorite “hidden” treasure is the South African National Gallery. I say “hidden” because I don't think most people think of art galleries or museums when they think of South Africa.
2. My favorite local South African artist, Xolile Mtakatya. His work can be found at the Cape Gallery and the South African National Gallery. He does vibrant portraits of locals.  http://www.capegallery.co.za/xolile_mtakatya1.htm
3. In Cape Town on the V&A Waterfront, there is a great sculpture always tugs on my heart strings. The "Knotted Gun" sculpture to promote non-violence, was created by Swedish artist, Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd and can be seen in many countries around the globe including S.A.




Q. What about 3 hidden food or drinking joints you’d recommend?
A.
Biltong stand on the V&A Waterfront. Wish I could remember the name!
Bread Milk and Honey on Spin St. in Cape Town- a small, family run cafe with the best S.A. coffee, Origins
Had my favorite meal at the restaurant, Addis in Cape Town. Ethiopian food that is best when eaten with your hands!

Q. What are the 3 most dangerous places?
A.
Maybe it's naïve of me, but I didn't feel it was dangerous anywhere that I visited. I don't have three to name but one would be in the water. I saw a lot of sharks!

Q. Can you name 3 other good South Africa blogs to read?
A.
Caroline Collie's “From Africa, with Love” for a great expat 's view of S.A. http://www.carolinecollie.com/
South Africa Blog, for everything S.A.- http://www.southafricablog.co.za/
Mushy Peas on Toast- Because she is funny, cool and doesn't hold anything back. http://mushypeasontoast.blogspot.com/

Q. What about 3 must-bring items?
A.
Your best camera and many lenses. There is a Kodak moment every few seconds in S.A.
Comfortable hiking/walking shoes
Bug spray

Q. Anything...in 3s: give us your list of 3 things?

A. Here are my 3 regrets about my visit to South Africa:
1.  Not staying longer. I was there 3 weeks and could have stayed 3 more.
2. Not visiting wine country. I hear that it's beautiful.
3. Not staying longer...you get the point.

Q. Weirdest thing that ever happened to you in South Africa?
A. My husband and the flight crew thought it was weird that I was crying on the plane because I didn't want to leave S.A. I'm a cry-baby but, yes, South Africa was that amazing.



Thank you Danee! While I have overcome quite a few fears in the past five years, I don't know if I could overcome my fear of sharks. Perhaps. Maybe. I would love to visit South Africa, though, especially for the World Cup. And I really understand the tears in the plane. It happened to me too. If you want to read more about the hot date place for rats "After reading about it in an article about the world's weirdest museums and realizing it's just a five minute walk from my apartment, I had to see what this museum was all about. Haven't you ever wanted to pay to go into a sewer (sarcasm insert)?! Well, at only 4.50€ it was actually worth checking out. This is proof that the French can make anything a museum, and a good one!"

May 10, 2010

Ballistic World Travel Bloggers

Lonely Planet has selected the cream of the travel blogger crop to take part in their blogsherpa Beta program. All of the bloggers below syndicate their content live to theLonely Planet website so that you can view their articles by location as you research travel destinations. The LP bloggers have banded together to bring you a complete, up to date view of the world by syndicating their world travel writing content live to this squidoo lens.


Here are some of the profiles over there:


Happy Time Blog
"Ever wondered what it's like to sell it all and go travel the world? - That's just what we did.Aaron and Georgie have been travelling the world since April 2008. We sold everything so we could experience something new everyday. We write about what we see from the road as we go, pictures and videos, tips and advice - Mucho Mucho LOVE Come Join In."


Free Wheelings
Navigating the road of the Unconventional. For most of a decade I functioned as an Engineer until the day that I finally threw my hands in the air and took to the road. This is the story of my experience finding my way from W2 to 1099, building a life and an income on the road and living outside of the box. Travel, photography and the story of how to get there written as I get there instead of afterwards.


And...one more for good measure. Somewhere else as obscure as Ghana, when you're not IN it...


Great Places in Bulgaria
Great Places in Bulgaria is a blog about alternative
tourism in Bulgaria - the natural beauty of Bulgaria you won't find in
travel brochures.

May 6, 2010

Ethical and Fair Trade Shops UK and USA

Mother's Day is coming up next week in the USA. And it's World Fair Trade Day next weekend too. We've recently been accepted to promote fair trade products and, to disclose fully, we will be rewarded for this as an affiliate. I love fair trade, I've worked in the area and I've written a lot about it so it makes sense to me. I love to promote products that I know will help alleviate poverty at the grass-roots. 


If you live in the USA, you may wish to mosey on down to your local Fair Trade Shop and buy Mum a box of Fair Trade organic chocolate. Online, of course. 


As someone who lives in the world's second largest cocoa producing country where stories about unfair practices in the industry abound, I can tell you that putting pressure on producers by demanding fair trade practices makes a difference. It's a steady and sure way to make change, to make poverty history, and to ensure a more equitable existence for many. And your Mum will love you for it. Click the picture and see for yourself.

globalexchangestore.com-banner576x600

If you live in the UK, you can high tail it to the online Ethical Super Store (oh my God this is amazing) which sells everything a modern household needs, and lovely gifts to boot.  Better still, they sell Traidcraft products and as someone who once worked for Traidcraft I know they do what it says on the box. When you buy from Ethical Superstore you get a choice of marvelous products from all over the world--dishwashing liquid, mops, solar lighting, garden accessories, furniture, fantastic skincare products, books, music, DVDs, wine, I mean EVERYTHING. Click the picture or the link and see for yourself. 


Culture for beginners in Ghana

For those just about to arrive in Ghana, and those treading the waters for the first time right now, you might enjoy learning the basics of Ghanaian culture with this short story:

Greetings

Ghanaians will always take at least five minutes inquiring about each other's family, work and health before getting down to business. No matter how pressing the matter at hand, priority is placed on the other person and the family, and there is an obligation to ask after the well being of the others’ family before anything else.

When traveling, if help is needed it is polite to first at least inquire “How are you?” to whomever you meet before asking for the help.

Shaking Hands

 

Like many international cultures, shaking is done exclusively with right hands. In Ghana there is an addition to this. In informal or friendly situations the middle fingers are clicked together to make a sharp “snapping” sound. In formal work situations or when meeting elders the snap is left out.

No left hands


Also, like many international cultures, never use the left hand for anything of significance. It's considered dirty. Do not use the left hand to eat--Ghanaians eat with their right hand--to handle money, to wave, to shake, or in any intereaction with other people.

May 5, 2010

Drinks in Ghana: Alcoholic and Non-alcoholic



A Short Note on 2 Alcoholic Drinks in Ghana


Akpeteshie: Distilled from sugar cane, this fiery, clear liquid can be found all over Ghana in plastic water bottles or larger vats sitting in ramshackle roadside shacks. It is often used to pour libation at a ceremony where upon a few drops are sprinkled or poured on the ground to appease the Gods.

Palm Wine, as the name may suggest, is the fermented liquid that is “tapped” from felled palm trees and, therefore, is sold fresh throughout southern Ghana where palm trees grow. A hole is bored in the tree for the juice to escape. The juice is left to ferment and then drunk.

May 4, 2010

The topless insanity of itchy appreciation

You may want to read the whole post over at G-lish. Here is an excerpt:

"I’m a woman on the brink of insanity with itchiness. It’s a painful, prickling itchy. I have heat rash across my back, my neck and ears, just like this time last year, but worse. It feels like the chicken pox, or a bee sting, or the reaction I get to insecticide-treated malaria nets. I want to scratch my skin off. I can’t touch my face as it hurts, as though my fingers have tiny razors in their tips and microscopic glass shavings have embedded themselves in my lips, forehead and nose.
 
This comes as I receive an email from a reader of This is Ghana which made me worry about how I’ll make peace with all this life when I return home.

We’d corresponded on and off and I wrote to her that adjusting to life at “home” can often prove more challenging than adapting to a foreign culture like Ghana. Returning home is “reverse culture shock” I said.

She replied:  Going back home was very difficult…just being shocked at how we live in Australia- how much we have, how much we waste, and how much we take for granted without being appreciative or even realising that not everyone in the world is as privilleged as we are.

This has been my fear for the better part of my time living and traveling abroad for the past five years. Back after Japan, when I struggled for months to re-adjust after one year on the island of Shikoku, it was just cultural and I was young. Now it’s much more than that.

I struggled with affluence before I experienced life in a poverty-stricken country. I knew something was very messed up with the wholesale brainwash of Christmas gift-giving years before I arrived in Ghana.

This is my fear. How to integrate. How to pretend. How not to go mad. How not to lose a lot of friends. How to reconcile the two?"

Ghana survival essentials: Do you have these three qualities?

Ghana would flash alongside despots and endangered gorillas on the international media’s Africa radar if peace and friendliness were newsworthy. But Ghana, a nation where followers of all faiths—Christians, Muslims, and Traditionalists, all—work, eat, joke, and vote together, displaying a remarkably high level of mutual acceptance as they enjoy their constitutional right to Freedom of Worship, is still a bit of a secret. If there’s one thing we’re not good at, though, it’s keeping secrets that really ought to be shared, which is why we decided to write this story.

The idea took form during one of many spontaneous trotro journeys. I had been “sweating like a pregnant toad”, as Ghanaians say, in velvet-heavy humidity on the hot side of an old, rusting lorry-bus (trotro), while a lay-preacher shouted a revival-style sermon above my head for three hours before we set off on a four hour journey that unfolded, like a market lady’s wrap skirt, to seven hours, because we broke down. It was while five men were simultaneously shouting at the driver who was banging on a piece of smoking engine, and every other man stood peeing along the road facing the jungle halfway to Kumasi, and one proposed for my hand in marriage, that the three Ghana survival essentials whacked me over the head. It was a perfect Zen-coma-trotro moment, a state you must enter to endure and rationalize the numerous near death experiences and delays that every road journey absolutely guarantees. I thought I best mention these survival essentials now, before we get started; you might want to find another country. Although, this advice applies in varying degrees to travel across all of Africa and most developing nations.

Right. So, when a man (or woman) peeing along the side of the highway proposes marriage to you midstream—the eleventh in two days (granted, the other ten weren’t peeing)—and all you want to do yourself is pee (but you can’t because all eyes are on you), and get where you had to be—three hours ago, you need Patience, with a very, very capital P. You might point out that there is no middle road when it comes to capitalisation, and that’s how it is with this most important of attributes. In fact, since you made it to the end of this paragraph, you might actually have what it takes.

Now, if you’re over thirty you’ll remember waking up early to catch the best cartoons, and how much Boy George wanted to be Madonna, and how much Jon Bon Jovi just wanted their hair, and all the chores you did to save up for those feather hair-clip thingies and stone-washed denim jeans. Well, Whoa-oh! We’re halfway there-ere…Whoa-oh!...because the second most important survival attribute is (not an ability to spout useless 80s pop trivia but, rather) a Scooby-Doo-like, Dogged Determination. (By the way, if you’re under thirty, you’re probably not still singing “whoah-oh, living on a prayer-er…” Anyway, whatever age, you’ll be saying your prayers in Ghana—especially on the road.)

The determination is because you will encounter many obstacles along your journey. This is a good thing. It may be locating the vehicle (among thousands) to take you where you wish to go (which may not necessarily be where you end up), or finding the office that processes the twenty-third piece of paper you need to legitimize your stay, or finding a copier to copy the twenty-third piece of paper since the office (now you have finally located it) has a photocopier but it’s “finished” (not working), or not giving up when the internet crashes for the fifteenth time in an hour and you still haven’t opened one email.

It’s more a tortoise than a hare kind of determination, if that helps, because nothing gets done fast, except switching channels to the UEFA Championship, or the English Premiere League, or any Blackstars game.

And, finally, the third and final attribute, which is as much about survival as preventing malaria, is this: A-Steve-Martin-meets-Billy-Connelly-meets-Queen-Latifah-who-meets-The-Queen-of-England, royally-bonkers, whacked-out Sense Of Humour; after the fifty-fifth, breaking-down-pee-copier-email incident, you will need it.

In fact, your journey’s sub-theme could be: Learning How to Laugh No Matter What. Because there is the poverty you’re not going to believe when you first encounter it. Poverty is not “funny haha”, but life is, and the ladies selling strings of beads from shiny aluminium bowls balanced on their heads, and the elderly woman selling freshly charred plantains from her smoking brazier by the open sewer, or the children who shout “obruni!” when they spot you every few feet, or the men or women you promise to marry if they agree to be husband/wife number seventeen, will be shaking with laughter.

If you are not naturally blessed with the three attributes, you have two choices:
1. Cultivate them very quickly, or
2. Try Europe instead. Apparently the London underground only keeps you waiting an hour on a bad day. It’s up to you. Look. I don’t know much, but I do know that life in Ghana is nothing if not wildly unpredictable. It is certainly not “neat” or “conventional”: Japan is neat; France is conventional; Ghana is anything but.

Right? Now we can begin. Although, this is not exactly the beginning. And it’s definitely not conventional. Patience, trust me.

And so your journey begins...

May 1, 2010

Why Hostmonster rocks your Wordpress blog

I just did a post over at G-lish about why I love Hostmonster for my blog hosting needs. Especially good if you're on the road.

Check Why I love Hostmonster for my Wordpress Blog.

Basically, if you're setting up a blog then you should check them out. Their service is exceptional. I really don't know how they do it, but they do. All the way to Ghana to boot. I'm lucky. Read the article to understand why.

If you don't know Wordpress then that's the place to start. I didn't either in December 2009. That's our blog. G-lish.

Everything But Ghana: Top Global Travel Bloggers Part 2!!!

These awesome blogs will deliver a killer blow to hit the road. In here we cover Cambodia, Switzerland, Malta, Australia, Mexico, Spain, Japan, China, Vietnam, Green travel, recipes and England. 

Focus: Budget travel in the Philippines, Southeast Asia and Australia
@evilmartian
My thoughts: If Cambodia is on your radar, read this. Having lived and traveled a little there, I know this blog is on the money. I can vouch for the Australia section too! I miss the same things about Sydney and I never thought of the trains as double-decker, but hey, they are!



Focus: About Europe, mainly Switzerland with a focus on Malta too
My thoughts: Breaking the Swiss stereotypes. Providing a window into Malta too.


Focus: Sshiksa blog is a travel and photography blog, covering so far MexicoCubaUK & Ireland and Morocco. I'm a 27 year old Estonian woman and i write about my travels the way i experience them, not so much as a guidebook on "how-to".
My thoughts: Lovely intro to Morocco as well as MexicoCuba and Ireland.

Focus: South Korea
@lexliang
My thoughts: This is the Korean equivalent of our blog, This is Ghana. Want anything Korean, come here.

Focus: Spain and Worldwide
My thoughts: Oh I love how this looks. Mexico and Japan!

Focus: Green Earth Guide author writing about green/eco traveling mostly in Europe and the USA
@travelingreen
My thoughts: I love this site. Green travel, recipes and great layout.


Focus: World Travel: Traveling, writing, being human in quirky vignettes.
@uncommontravel
My thoughts: China, Vietnam, and simplicity in design at its best. 

Focus: A site mainly about travelling with children 
My thoughts: Sweet and simple and makes me want to go to England again, damn it! If you have children, check this out.

Cherry Blossom by Jason Dunn Turtle by by whl.travel
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