Love, Nairobi.

If you’re a fan of travelling, Kenya is a definite destination to add to your list. We decided on a whim to go to Nairobi for Christmas; we wanted to go on holiday within Africa on a budget and we have no regrets. For us, travelling means experiencing the people and their culture in all the ways we’re allowed to do. Here are a few things we did that you too can do on holiday in Kenya before/after (or even without) going on the safari.
– Food is a beautiful part of travel so we tried to eat our way through Kenya. We had traditional Kenyan dining with the cultural mixes from Somalia and Ethiopia, at the Kilimanjaro restaurant. We had the pilau rice with arosto the first time and loved it. The second time, we had maini with pancakes and Somali coffee which my husband loved most. My personal favourite, the colourful biryani rice and chicken curry, was overshadowed by the tropical float. I was intrigued to find that the restaurant blended avocados into their smoothies; I was sold.

– Mama Oliech restaurant came quite highly recommended. Mark Zuckerberg ate there after all. The ambience was serene, calm. The only bump in the road was the ugali which we simply could not enjoy-a cross between banku and fufu although more banku than fufu.The samaki (tilapia) it came with was nicely spiced so we could focus on that, fortunately.
– We love a good view. We climbed atop the helipad at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in the Nairobi central business district for a breathtaking view of the Nairobi skyline. It was a beautiful and windy snippet of joy. On the way down, we stopped to read summaries of Kenyan history and their fight for independence. We found, unsurprisingly, that the British had been at it again; that thing they did with the walking into your country, telling you what is good for you and making you disappear if you disagreed with them? Yeah that. We were disappointed but not surprised.
– The Forest adventure centre is in the Kereita forest in Kimende about an hour outside Nairobi. There, we went ziplining. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this is for you. Also if you’re not, this is for you. If you’re scared of heights, this is also for you. What better way to face the fear than while dangling from a rope way above a dense forest in a valley? It is such an exhilarating experience. First,you’ll whimper and consider not doing it then you’ll hold your knees against your chest bracing yourself, then you’ll scream for your mother when you start to move. Then, you’ll start to feel light and excited and you’ll notice trees below you and the clouds above you. It’ll end, then you’ll want more. I would definitely recommend visiting the forest to do any of their other exciting activities (
East Africa has lots of unknown beauties and we are only just discovering them. You should definitely go to Kenya*, do things, live and laugh.
*Pack warm clothes if you live in 28-33° weather. Thank me later.

Just a girl, standing infront of a boy


That evening, it was raining.


It was as if the oracles had conspired to make my week in Paris hell. Normally, I have a small dislike for the city, but that week Paris was outdoing itself. The hotel my school had booked for us was anything but. The beds creaked when you so much as looked at them, the bedding looked and smelled like it had served many patrons before me, outside you could hear young people drinking and smoking and chatting in the alley below the window. I worried I might get high from breathing in the air. And it was rainy and cold. I sat at the foot of the creaking bed, careful not to take deep breaths so as not to cause the bed to wake my sleeping roommate. I was making a mental list of all I hated about Paris. In retrospect, that may have been counterproductive since I already felt miserable. I was tired but not enough to fall asleep yet so I held my phone in my hand, twirling it as I listed things. It beeped when I got to number 3. The notification panel showed I had a direct message on Twitter. I didn’t remember whether I had been chatting with someone but I doubted it. I hardly had direct conversations with my Twitter followers. We kept most discussions to the timeline, where anyone could see and join in.
I tapped on the envelope icon and opened my direct messages. It was from someone I didn’t even follow. I found that curious. Before I read the message, I clicked on the sender’s profile; she was pretty. Now I was even more curious. What was a pretty girl I had never met or spoken to doing sending me a random direct message?

<it’s annoying how much your bio is literally about me. Lol hi>

I looked at my Twitter bio again then at her bio then I chuckled. It looked like the generic description in my bio of what bios looked like on Twitter these days was almost exactly what hers was.

<lol. Don’t change it on my account>

<it was either that, or following you; so I followed you. :-)>

<good choice. :-)>

I went back to her profile. I was intrigued about the stranger in my DM. There was a photo of her laughing with 2 other girls in her header; I decided they must be her sisters. I began scrolling down her page, reading random tweets about chocolate and some awful puns. I searched for a sign that she wasn’t single or maybe had a royal dislike for kittens; there had to be a glitch if a pretty girl messaged you first on Twitter.


On January 7th 2016, I shot my shot. It wasn’t so much a shot as it was a feeble flick of the wrist with no aim or end in sight but it did the trick. not that there was a trick in mind…I dey explain. Basically, this happened.

His twitter photo was a photo of John Boyega from the Star Wars movie “the force awakens” so I know I didn’t message him for his confirmed good looks. Unless maybe John was an influence. It was a January night in London so I although I can’t remember if it was rainy, I’m going to say it was. I was spending the evening scrolling through my twitter timeline instead of studying when I saw John’s photo for the second time that week under the ‘who to follow’ tab. His tweets were about movies, video games and more video games but his bio made me smile. It was as if I had written my bio with his as my guiding template. I was slightly annoyed that he thought he could predict me but mostly amused at this John Boyega. On a whim, I followed him and sent him a direct message of exactly what I thought when I saw the bio. John was a good sport and joked back with me. It was 10 pm when I messaged him, we spent two hours talking about Ghana, fufu, and mental health. Yes.

When we started talking more every day and eventually cooking jollof together on Skype, I maintained to my friends that he was just a friend and it meant nothing. Three months after the rainy January night, he got on a midnight coach and travelled 8 hours across the English Channel to visit me. I reckon if a man crosses a water body for you, there’s something there. We ordered green tea and a hot chocolate from Starbucks intending to say our names were Fitz and Olivia, but, that was the one day the coffee shop wasn’t busy enough to need names to remember orders by. John was the kind of person to indulge me like that though and I liked it. During that visit, we had dinner after church at a Vapiano and over a shared risotto and Appletisers, we made it official.

A year and half later, we just got married. I’ve definitely married my best friend and the party is just beginning, so help us God.


Stripped Away

He spent his 22nd birthday getting into the mind of a 27-year old stripper.

It was a humid English summer and the night was particularly warm. Every image he had in his head of strip clubs came from American hip hop music videos. There were cages with half-clothed-to-almost-naked girls wriggling with glistening skins and howling men yelling and chucking dollar bills at them. The strip club on his birthday was not much different, except for the absence of cages and the howling men. He sat at the counter with two of his friends; from their seat, they had a clear view of the stage but he was not looking.

The dark-skinned girl furthest from them had caught his eye when she was dancing earlier that night. When she had stopped at where they sat to say hello, his palms got sweaty and his vision got blurry the way it did when he was nervous and wasn’t wearing his glasses. That was 15 minutes before; now she was sat casually on the stool next to him and was chatting away with him like they weren’t in a strip club with her in her underwear and him painfully aware of her. She told him she was Egyptian. She’d moved to London to study, this was a part-time job through university; it became full time after she couldn’t find work when she graduated. She didn’t plan to strip forever though, she would go back home, as soon as the fighting stopped. Talking about the fighting made her tear up; he was a little aghast, unsure what to do with her teary older, half-clothed woman. The Egyptian dancer composed herself and continued the conversation. Somehow, he felt so evolved discussing war and political unrest with an attractive stripper in the middle of a strip club.

When she found out it was his birthday, she felt bad she didn’t buy him anything. It was as if they had been friends for years and somehow should feel bad for not remembering. She offered him the only thing she could, given the circumstances. He was both giddy and a little apprehensive. It would not be his first time but it would be his first time with a stranger. Granted, he had transcended a level with her and they were basically best friends but even that made it all feel a little weirder. His friends started to laugh, they got raucous and thumped him on the back as they pulled him away from the counter to a more comfortable couch. Seated, he rested his head and waited for her to begin her gyrating, his heart beating in equal parts excitement and worry that he would give himself away; in retrospect, given her area of work, she was probably used to men giving themselves away like that. When she began, he laughed and held on to her hips. His friends threw £5 notes at them on the couch and hooted, catching them some attention. The Egyptian dancer-turned-friend gave him the only present she could in that moment and gave the 22-year old the lap dance of a lifetime.

He thinks of her fondly still.


Short Dresses Attract Rape.

Dear Madam Otiko Djaba,

I saw a video once where tea was used as an analogy to illustrate the giving of consent. I found it quite apt so I’ll attempt to narrate it now with my own additions:

– If you offer someone a cup of tea and they say no, don’t make them tea.

– If they say “not sure” to the offer, don’t make them any tea until they say yes.

– If they are too drunk or incoherent to say yes or no to the offer, don’t make them any tea.

If they turn up at your house with a sexy, attractive empty mug looking like they are asking for tea, don’t assume they want tea until they say yes to an offer for tea.

Now substitute sex for tea. It’s really quite simple; if the answer is no, then you do not have consent to present them with sex.

Do you see now how problematic the statement you made regarding short skirts/dresses is? You have essentially told young girls that what they wear is an invitation for rape. If they get raped, it will be their fault. You are telling young men that a girl in a short skirt is asking for it and it is alright for them to take liberties without her consent. This is a toxic lesson to teach young people and I do not think a person in your position should be teaching it at all. This is propagating victim blaming and completely obliterating the need for consent. As Minister for Gender I had hoped you would teach young men to respect their female counterparts, to have self-control and to always ask for consent no matter what a girl is wearing. I had hoped you would teach young girls to be confident and not shrink themselves for society’s approval.

Rape is a violent crime; anyone who perpetuates it is a criminal and the person it is done to is the victim. It should not matter that the victim was wearing a short dress! I understand how you might think you are helping the girls by telling them this; protecting them even, but instead, let us hold predatory people responsible for their actions alright? Let us tell those who think what a woman wears is an invitation for unwanted advances that they are wrong and that they still need an emphatic yes before having sex with anyone. Let us teach young men the importance of consent, the need to get it first and the importance of refusing to have sex until they have received a clear green light.

Imagine a world where people ask nicely for sex and deal appropriately with a “no” instead of taking short dresses as an implied “yes”.

I was hopeful. I am still hopeful so, do better. Empower, educate, speak out against wrongs and work for better. While you’re at it, try not to encourage anymore victim blaming while inadvertently excusing crime.

Thank you.


“BREAKING NEWS: There will be no Ghana @ 60 celebrations.”

I would be elated to see this headline in the newspapers over the next couple of months.

Ghana turns 60 on 6th March, 2017; 60 years since we gained independence from colonial leaders in 1957. I would be so proud if the president declared that he would not be allocating any part of the budget to celebrate this year’s anniversary. For our 60th, Ghana could spend the day working, being productive, and brainstorming ways to make the country better so we have enough resources to celebrate our 65th anniversary.

Each year, without fail, we engage in all the pomp that comes with the occasion- the holiday, the marching, the decorations, speeches etc. In 2007, when Ghana turned 50, the government at the time basically went into excited mode and made to throw the nation a lavish 50th anniversary celebration. The celebration was estimated to have cost us about US$60 million (GH¢60,179,481); this sum included an overdraft facility, funds from the government treasury and funds from the African Union Consortium[1].


At the end of the celebration, the Government had defaulted in some of its payment to companies and was effectively in debt. In my opinion, there is so much more we could have used this amount of money for instead of throwing ourselves a ‘pat on the back’ type party to celebrate the passing of another year.

The issue isn’t that we have nothing to be proud of as a nation. We have some things to be proud of, however, any celebration should reflect our status and economic situation and state of mind. It would be better that all individual Ghanaians were made aware of the need to change our attitudes, if we want a general change, instead of reinforcing us by throwing us a shindig and giving us a day off. I am happy to go on a cleaning exercise on 6th March or, attend strategy meetings with sandwiches and juice for lunch, to come up with progressive plans for Ghana than to listen to unending speeches about how well we’ve done since breaking free of the British.

We all need to be in the trenches together to develop the nation. If we give up a few independence parties, we could have more to celebrate in the coming years.

I do solemnly hope that 6th March gets cancelled this year.

The Waakye Seller is dead.

The waakye seller is dead.

I never thought about it.

Somehow I never considered that life happened to her as it happened to the rest of us.

I never imagined that my Saturday could be thrown into such turmoil.

She was a constant, like my barber, she wasn’t meant to ever leave. She was the land mark I used to give directions to my house. “When you get to the junction, there is a blue kiosk on the left side of the road. There’s a waakye seller in that kiosk-Sallah waakye- come down that road and take your first right. You can also just ask Sallah, she knows my house.”

Every Saturday, without fail, I bought my usual from Sallah. Waakye, two boiled eggs, fried plantain, spaghetti, and when I was feeling healthy, salad (really just sliced cabbage and lettuce). When my girlfriend visited, I would go to Sallah’s early to make my order and set it up at home before she got there, it was almost like I had cooked for her. She knew it was Sallah, but she appreciated the effort. Some days, she would stop over at the junction when she got to the blue kiosk and give Sallah money, a sort of tip for her constantly nourishing me.

When I heard the news, I was walking to the junction, cash in hand, order in mind. It was a Saturday like any other. I got there to find a woman locking up the kiosk. It was only 10 am. Had Sallah sold all the waakye and not saved me any? I started to get irritated. Before I spoke, the woman- she looked about 30, maybe less- started to cry. I was taken aback and unsure how to react. What does one say to the crying stranger locking up your favourite waakye seller’s kiosk? I did not know. I stood awkwardly for a few good heaves of her ample bosom as she sobbed before asking,

“what’s wrong?”

“Sallah-” She managed between sobs, “-she died yesterday. They say it was malaria.” My first thought was how malaria was still killing people in 2016 then my next thought was, what happens to my waakye now? I didn’t mean to sound callous but I needed to know,

“Oh. I’m so sorry, so who will sell her waakye now?”

“No one, Sallah didn’t have children.” It was at this point that my world came crumbling. Sallah was dead and with her, her waakye. My Saturdays would never be the same again. My waakye seller had died and thrown my diet into turmoil.

This morning I drove past the kiosk and saw 3 children playing near it. I know how Sallah feels about the neighbourhood kids playing by her kiosk- she worried they would knock the waakye sauce over-so I stopped to yell at them; it’s the least I can do for Sallah.



“Cirque! cirque! cirque!”

The mate was yelling out of the moving trotro. He made circles in the air with a hand stuck outside the car as he yelled. The trotro was headed for the Kwame Nkrumah circle.  She sat in the backseat of the trotro, right by the window. It was the best seat in her opinion. You didn’t get squished by sweaty people and you could stick your nose out the window if you smelled something unpleasant inside the trotro. It was the best seat but she had made a mistake sitting there today.
The trotro was going to Circle from the Spintex road, she was going to the Coca cola roundabout; that was less than one third the full journey this trotro was making. The mates grumbled when someone who wasn’t going that far away got on a trotro bound for the city centre. From her spot at the back, it would take her longer to exit further annoying the mate.

Another dilemma: unless someone else was going her way, she would have to yell “bus stop!” when the mate reluctantly called out, “coca cola!” in 5 minutes. She usually preferred to sit near the mate on such short distance rides so she could poke him or wave slightly instead of shouting for her stop. She remembered the day she’d sat panicked as the trotro went past her stop hoping someone would yell bus stop. It was a difficult walk back home two stops later.

Today, she wore uncomfortable shoes, she couldn’t walk back if no one said bus stop at coca cola for her. She started to feel sweat building under her arms. It always happened when she was getting stressed out. Taking deep breaths, she began giving herself a pep talk under her breathe.

You can do it. It’s just one quick shout. Woosaah. Just a quick shout.
“Coca cola!” went the mate. Her heart was doing double its usual and some back flips too. She opened her mouth and willed her voice to work.
“Bus stop!” said the voice.

It wasn’t hers.
She glanced in relief at the woman on the other end of the backseat. She smiled a thank you at her and got a quizzical look in response. The woman would never know what she’d done today



She lay there writhing in pain. She could barely speak. The red hot pain circled around her lower back and went up her spine. She had never known it to hurt this much. Her eyes were shut as she curled up in a ball on the corner of the wool rug wishing she could scream it away- she would if she could speak.

He hovered above her unsure what to do. He had offered her all forms of comfort. Now at his wit’s end, he put the kettle on, maybe some tea would help. Tea solves all. Over his shoulder, he called out, “would you like peppermint or camomile?”

She heard a distant voice ask her about tea. The way he said the second option rhymed with ‘smile’. Grunting, she turned over slowly, wincing in pain. He was looking expectantly at her. She whimpered and made to open her mouth, she would respond even if it was the last thing she said. With effort, she said softly, “it’s camomeel.”

Mind the [cultural] gap

I nudged the tip of her boot across the aisle as I uncrossed my legs. “I’m sorry.” I said it quickly. She smiled and mouthed, “it’s ok” raising one hand to show me how ok it was. Politeness on the underground and constant apologies are normal. That wasn’t the issue. It was the fact that she caught and held my eye, as if she might actually make conversation.

As I stepped on to the crowded Oxford Street, I held my bag close and walked head down, occasionally staring into space. I looked anywhere but at the other people walking around me.

Then, “I like your hair.”

I turned to the voice next to me. It came from an older man with dreadlocks who had something that looked like a type writer case. I smiled and thanked him. My first thought was, why were people interacting with me today? I made to walk on. The man walked next to me.

-where are you from?

The question that always makes me hesitate. I could say London though untrue. It slows the conversation down and lets me go free. If I say Ghana, I might have to, on principle, make sure they know it’s Ghana not Guyana and that it’s in West Africa and no, I don’t know your friend in Kenya. It doesn’t always turn out that way though so in the spirit of my weird morning spent interacting with strangers, I answered:


-Oh 3te s3n?

I raised my eyebrows. His accent was thick and clearly not Ghanaian but here he was speaking twi.


-Wo y3 Ghana ni?

-mepaky3w aane

-mep3 Ghana paa. Mep3 twi kasa

-Where are you from?

-Sierra Leone. M’atena Ghana many years.

And so we went on to discuss my hair and then his desire to marry a Ghanaian woman because, “mep3s3 me nom Ghana nofo).” It took me a minute to gently turn down his proposal; he had to accept he was too old, even for me. I kept smiling minutes after we departed. I was starting to enjoy my day of connecting with strangers on the street.

I went to an all-girls senior high school where one of our mantras was, “don’t forget your HI’s and Hello’s.” That is how I started saying hi to people I didn’t know as long as they were within earshot. It clearly doesn’t fly on the streets of central London. I am less worried about looking like a weirdo saying hello to people on the streets of Accra. They respond as if it’s expected. There are times I sense my entire upbringing being questioned if I walk past someone without a greeting.

After my Sierra Leonean encounter, I went on to another one more fleeting but equally noticeable. I saw her in the distance and thought she was someone I recognised. I had a Hi ready as I approached her. I got closer and realised she wasn’t who I thought but I’d spent the last few steps looking at her so it was awkward. She made it easy for me by smiling and saying hello. I was pleasantly surprised again. It turns out in spite of the cultural gap, occasionally, even people on the busy streets and underground want a friendly face to connect with on their commute.

This is Ghana

There is a universal answer to many questions and statements in Ghana. It doesn’t matter what you ask, I know one answer that is used often and flippantly; it is also meant to be a full and final response to your every query. Here are some examples:

  1. The Government spent $947,000 branding buses? How outraged are Ghanaians?
  2. Wait, what about the Members of Parliament that approved the Ameri deal? Surely they will be made to justify their actions?
  3. Did that really happen? Koala shopping centre sent an employee on foot to deposit a sack of cash by herself which led to an attempted robbery and her being shot? Can she bring an action against them for their negligence?
  4. Former Guantanamo prisoners are being shipped over to Ghana by the United States? How do citizens feel about this?

Answer: THIS IS GHANA. (sometimes followed or preceded by ‘Chale’ to make you feel included)

It is our apathetic way of saying, “this is how things work in this country; we don’t hold leaders accountable, we don’t ask difficult questions and we definitely do not attempt to ruffle feathers, take it or leave it.”

If you are Ghanaian, chances are you have given and/or been given this answer at least once this past year. I am unsatisfied with this answer though. This may be Ghana but it can get better. It would help if we moved away from the contentment we have developed with the mediocre state we are in. This is Ghana, but it shouldn’t be. The next time you are tempted to sweep an important issue under the rug or act with usual apathy towards anything that should ordinarily concern you, don’t. This is not the Ghana I want for the future, hopefully this is not the Ghana you want either?