Thursday, February 19, 2015

Adventures in a Foreign Land - International Money Transfer

The post office was just behind my office. The plan was to stop over there during my lunch break. I learnt I could access the international money transfer service there. Of course I was excited. I wasn't exactly broke, but I could do with the money.

It's lunch time, I head on over to the post office. I tell the guy at the counter that I want to use the international money transfer service. Then he asks if I'm sending or receiving. That question had me mighty confused. Simple enough question, but I didn't get why he was asking me that question. In Ghana, anytime I used the international money service, I just told whoever was in charge I wanted to use the service and then I was handed a form (receiving form) to fill out. No questions were asked. And then it hit me. I am in the developed world. Most of the moneys sent via international money transfers originate from the part of the world I was in, with their final destination being the part of the world Ghana is in. It would make sense to assume everyone using the service in Ghana was receiving. You can however not be too sure about everyone using the service in the developed world. After a whole 30 seconds of me with my blank look, I answer the guy (he was starting to look frustrated). I smile and tell him I'm receiving.

He then tells me if I want cash, I'll need to go down the road (more like take a bus) to the bigger post office, because he can only give me a cheque. Of course I wanted the cash but I had to do this during my lunch break, actually get lunch, and head on back to my office. So I tell him the cheque is just fine. It really wasn't, but my bank was right across the road from the post office, so I figured after getting the cheque, I'd dash on over there, deposit the cheque and hopefully get my money.

I pick up the cheque, head on to the bank, walk to one of the tellers (there wasn't a queue, nice) hand my cheque over to her, she takes a look at it, looks at me, smiles and says, "my dear, why don't you deposit it in the ATM. That way you'll have access to some of the money before the cheque is cleared. If you deposit it with me, it'll take you 3 days to get your money". Must have been a day of blank looks for me, because that's exactly what I gave her for 2 reasons.
1. Why does she think I need the money right away (but really I did)? My skin colour means I desperately need cash, really? Is she racist?
2. What does she mean? Who deposits cheques in an ATM? She's totally messing with me. Yeah, definitely racist!

She smiles at me again and says, "oh dear, you probably don't know how to do that (of course I didn't even know you could do that. totally racist). Come let me show you". She moves from behind the counter and heads on to the ATM machines outside the banking hall with me. Of course I'm grateful this kind lady was being so helpful, but my mind was made up. She was just racist.

She tells me what to do and shows me how to do it, and tells me I can withdraw up to a certain amount of the money before the cheque clears. Then I ask the obvious. "What stops someone from dropping in a blank sheet of paper and withdrawing the accessible amount"? She then tells me that actually does happen, not often, but it does and it's usually a minority group in the country that does that (oh yeah, she just confirmed, she is racist), but they do track some of  them down (yeah, the joys of living in a country where streets are named, houses are numbered, and your bank account indicates all of that, and it's easy to track at least your house down).

I deposit the cheque, withdraw the accessible amount and skip (actually, I just walked) on back to the office on an empty stomach. Lunch time was over. Doing the post office, the bank, time spent giving blank looks and the tutorial I got on depositing a cheque in an ATM machine, just took too much time.

Moral: the fact that something is always a certain way where you from doesn't mean it's that way everywhere. Be open to new ideas. The fact that machines where you are from don't perform a certain function doesn't mean they don't do that in another part of the world. Who knows, that function just might be available where you are from sometime, so learn (I hear there are ATMs of some banks in Ghana that have the cheque depositing function now).
The fact that you have heard of racism doesn't mean just because you are a certain colour, you should be looking for racism in your interaction with any and everyone of the group that are usually accused of racism. Come to think of it, I was probably being more prejudiced and racist than this person. She was just a nice sweet lady who wanted to help (I know no teller in any bank in Ghana if they could, would leave their desk to go help me out with anything). Don't go looking for something that isn't there just because you've heard it exists in the part of the world you in. Racism in no way looks like what I experienced that day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Much? Your Life!

It should be GH¢1.50 ($0.44).
Not according to me, but according to one shop owner in Accra.

you must be one "special" kind of person to do this
A bottle of coca cola goes for GH¢1.50. To scrape the crown cork as pictured above rendering the expiry date just about invisible, so as to sell expired coca cola to unsuspecting consumers, really just means you place the value of a human life at the price of the product. Products (consumables) expire because? Expiry dates are quoted on consumables because?

At least with expired goods on sale at Shoprite, seems it's about negligence (someone forgot to remove the expired goods from the shelves because, no attempt is made to conceal the expiry date). But with this, I'd say wickedness (plain and simple).

But really, who's willing to bet that had the shop owner not attempted to be smart, just about no one would have noticed the coca cola was actually expired (quite a bit of attention was drawn to the crown cork by this action).

Regardless of how tedious it makes shopping, I won't purchase a consumable without checking the expiry date. If the date isn't visible, no way am I getting it. There are just too many negligent and "special" people around.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Answer!

In answering the question, most people I know (myself inclusive) had it wrong.
That's not necessarily such a bad thing. Matter of fact, it's a good thing.
Why?

Answer: She was hoping the guy would appear at the funeral again.

If you answered correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American psychologist used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly.

If you didn't answer the question correctly, good for you, neither did I.

If you got the answer correct, kindly let me know and I'll take it from there.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Question!

Someone sent this question to me a while back.
I pride myself on being smart, but I actually answered wrong (wonder why since it seemed pretty simple and rather straightforward). I felt almost better when just about everyone I asked got it wrong too, and these are smart people (at least they pride themselves on being smart).
Want to share it (see how many actual smart people are here). Here goes:

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing. She believed him to be her dream guy so much that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later, she killed her sister.
Question: What is her motive for killing her sister?

If you've already seen this, you know why you shouldn't get it right!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Crush?

Nah! Still too early (translates to I'll make another attempt at sharing something inspiring).

For as long as I can remember, I've been trying to read the whole bible. Naturally, I'd start from the beginning (Genesis), by the time I read the story on Cain and Abel or push to Noah, I just go like, "I already knew all of this. Heard stories about all of them in Sunday School". All of them referring to Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah and the ark. And then I'd quit. Then there was this time I just decided to focus on particular books in the bible. I was more successful with that. At least I can say I've read the whole of the book of Proverbs.

I've always felt I need to seriously spend more time studying the word of God, and stop my halfhearted attempts at doing so. I downloaded a bible app onto my phone (YouVersion) and it really has helped. There are so many resources available on there, from daily bible verses to bible plans. I found I could select bible plans for a couple of days or months. Last year, I picked up a year long bible plan and completed it on December 31, 2014 (felt real good). The bible plans I found were a way for me to spend time on the word of God everyday. From a few days, to a few months and then to a year (baby steps).

At the start of this year, I started a new bible plan, another year long plan. But get this. This plan is "Bible in One Year". That means next year this time, I can say I've read the whole bible. Interesting thing is, there are so many stories in the bible I never heard of (they didn't make children stories of those for Sunday School). The people involved I may have heard of but not some accounts of their lives in the bible, and the thing is, all this is in Genesis. There are actually so many interesting and inspiring stories after Noah and the ark. What I totally love about these plans are the fact that there are daily devotionals included, so after reading the bible passages, I get to read a discussion on it, which give more insight into what I just read.

I find this very helpful for me because Christianity I find is hard today. Why? Because quite a number of people seem to enjoy guilt tripping others into it (how about you let others or lead others to discover the goodness of God without guilting them into it?). It really is so sad. People try to use current stuff e.g. social media to share the word of God and then threaten you. e.g. forward to this number of people or this and that will happen to you. If you love God and hate the devil you will forward to this number of people. If you don't, means you don't love God and you do the devil (totally rolling my eyes right now). I'm sure it's okay to love God and not forward every message you get about Him to a particular number of people (and I'm sure that doesn't mean you have a thing for the devil either).

I remember when the movie "Gravity" come out, there was so much noise made about it. As soon as it was in cinemas in Gh, I went to see it. Who wouldn't want to see a movie with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in it? But that's just the thing. It really was a movie with just George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. 5 minutes into the movie I caught myself dozing off in the cinema. I couldn't believe it. How? So I stayed wide awake for another 10 minutes and when I realised nothing was happening and George and Sandra were same place they had been when the movie started, I curled up, found a comfy position, and I slept (no way was I letting the air conditioning in the cinema go to waste. I had paid for it. if I couldn't enjoy the movie, I could at least enjoy that). My point? It's very possible to fall asleep while watching a secular movie and not only when listening to the word of God.

Now as a rule, I always get popcorn even when I don't feel like it when I go to the cinema (I have fallen asleep while watching other movies and I find that nibbling on the popcorn gives me at least 20 - 30 minutes before I start lolling away).

Inspiring? Well, I will get to that crush thing in my next post.
And oh, I hear a certain young lady has decided not to pursue the case she has against a Gh celebrity she's accused of allegedly raping her (can't say I'm surprised). Like I wrote in my last post, even if she comes out to say he really didn't rape her, his reputation has already been ruined (but who cares? I'm not talking about this celebrity stuff).

Friday, January 09, 2015

Crushes!

Ummmmm... a new year just started and this is my first post of 2015? I want to talk about something this insignificant? Yeah, I feel bad. Well, at least I'm not talking about some Gh celebrity being accused of raping a teenager (I'll leave that to the celebrity bloggers to blog about). On that though, seems the problem quite a number of Ghanaians have with it is he had sex with a teenager (he's admitted to that). As to whether it was consensual or not, is not the issue. The problem is he is 49 and she is 19 (his daughter is just about the same age). Whatever happens, even if the girl recants, his reputation really is just ruined (but I really am not talking about this).

Happy 2015, and all the blessings that come with entering a brand new year!
Let me put up something inspirational (I think) then if I haven't put up 2000 words, I'll talk about crushes.
I'm Anglican. I go to church every Sunday (yeah, really). The Gospel is read (bible passage), a hymn is sung, the preacher says a word of prayer, the preacher preaches and at that point I zone out (embarrassing, but it's the truth). Why do I do that? Well, I figure that's less embarrassing than dozing off and have my head lolling backwards (mighty embarrassing). Besides, when I zone out, no one even notices. I come back to earth when the preaching is over and we rise to say/sing the Apostles creed or Nicene creed.

Why not change churches if the preachers in my current church are not exactly interested in keeping me paying attention? Well, I have heard other preachers preach and pretty much the same thing happens. See, there are 3 priests in my church and any of them can preach according to their roster. Sometimes visiting priests come in to preach. Some preachers will start, just when I'm zoning out, they say something interesting or funny, I come back, I'm getting into the preaching, and then in an effort to reach the non-English speakers in the church, they translate what they say into a local language, which I probably don't understand (again, embarrassing), and then I go and come back to earth when they are done. Some preach all through in English with lots of jokes, so I stay with them throughout, laugh, enjoy what they say, but at the end, I don't particularly feel inspired or like I learnt anything. Matter of fact, 10 minutes after the preaching is done, I don't remember what it was about. As for some, as soon as I see them approaching the pulpit while the hymn is being sung, I know it's time to go.

And then last Sunday happened. There was a visiting priest. We are singing the hymn, I'm preparing to go, we done with the hymn, he says a word of prayer, I'm about to go, and then I hear, "start living in 2015". Of course I come back, mainly to say to myself, "we are 4 days into 2015 and now you say I should start living in 2015? What about all the years preceding 2015? What have I been doing? Seriously?" So now he has my attention mainly because I want to argue with him in my head. Then he breaks it down.
S - Stop making excuses
T - Take inventory of your life
A - Act in faith
R - Refocus your thoughts
T - Trust God

Not only did his message make so much sense, he added a whole lot of humour to it, plus there were real life examples, and he kept engaging the congregation, asking us to repeat stuff, asking us questions, etc. Most importantly, I felt inspired. By the time he was done, I literally felt like running up to him and lifting him shoulder high (seriously). But, he was just visiting, now I'm seriously thinking of looking up his parish and joining, all the time hoping he's not a one trick pony. But really, what I find so impressive is today, 5 days after, I can remember the message without looking into a book (I didn't take notes. beats me how I still remember any of it).

Before I start getting judged, I should say, I have received messages on social media talking about how people don't have time for the word of God, how churches are getting empty and clubs getting full, how people fall asleep while being preached to but are able to sit through countless movies. Well, I don't bother zoning out during some movies, I sleep. Not doze, sleep. We all have different gifts/talents (that's in the bible). Not all are meant to be preachers. Much respect to all the preachers out there. If for every 10 people you preach to, there is 1 of me, my utmost respect in trying to reach us (at least you try).

Now, for this priest, not sure I got his name. Hope his parish isn't too far from where I live.

But there goes my post on crushes. Maybe next time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Power of Visual Images; The Power of Celebrity Status; The Power of The Police

Most of this played out in my mind barely 2 weeks ago.

Visual Images
Just about a month ago, I received a video via a group I'm part of on Whatsapp. Save for the comments from others in the group succeeding the upload of this video, I wouldn't have downloaded it (not very keen on using my data to download just anything). And then I downloaded it, and I've been able to watch the video just once. Too traumatising! The video was of an adult physically abusing a baby. From the group and later from news media, I found out the adult was a nanny tasked to take care of the baby. The images were just too horrifying. The video I learnt went viral over the internet, and from the BBC website, I learnt "... the case sparked outrage across the country (Uganda) after a video was released". I also learnt from the same website that the father of the baby reported the abuse to the police, and circulated the video online to family members. The footage was later shared more widely, provoking horror and upset internationally (worldwide). The nanny has since been arrested, tried in court and sentenced for her crime (all in the space of I'd say a month). Thank God. This nanny will pay for the crime she committed. She is currently serving her sentence. Glad justice wasn't delayed.

Celebrity Status
I'd say a day or so after I saw this video, I heard a story. Kwaw Kese, a Ghanaian musician (celebrity) was arrested by the police for allegedly smoking an illegal substance in public. Yeah, I'm sure countless of other Ghanaians have been arrested for smoking similar substances in public, but no one gets to hear about it. For obvious reasons, this is news. Oh no! I won't begrudge Kwaw Kese sneezing becoming news, whereas me doing same really is nothing. He is a celebrity and I'm sure he has worked hard to achieve this status. What really does get me thinking is, quite a number of other celebrities have spoken out against his arrest. I hear there is a campaign on social media calling for his release. Yes, there are problems with our police and the judicial system in Ghana, and some celebrities are calling for his release for a number of reasons.
Eg. 1. Chris Brown came to perform in Ghana and supposedly smoked an illegal substance while performing on stage. He was not arrested (I doubt if he was even questioned) and allowed to go back to his country.
2. The police themselves fail to arrest and prosecute their own when they commit crimes. cc: the #CalBank #GhanaPolice shooting.
While some are rubbishing what the police are doing in the arrest of Kwaw Kese, others are begging the judicial system to be lenient with him. Okay, if he did what the police are saying he did, then technically, he did commit a crime. Hardened criminals have friends and family who love them and don't want them to spend even an hour behind bars. Is that justification for releasing them? Well, Kwaw Kese has been behind bars for close to a month and he is not being granted bail. Apparently, narcotics related offences are non-bailable.
I'm sure there are issues here. Personally, I have problems with our judicial system and with the Ghana Police Service, but you won't get me calling for the release of a suspect in a criminal offence because of those issues. Our celebrities shouldn't forget that they are role models to a whole lot of people, children inclusive. What is the message they are sending out there? They have the platform to be heard by a wide array of people. They should use it carefully. There aren't a shortage of causes to lend their voices to. There are campaigns for eradicating poverty, for ending hunger and for world peace to name a few. There's even the #ISpeakForJustice campaign if they feel so strongly about the police in Ghana.

The Police
Rewind to March 8, 2014. Corporal Bernard Frimpong walked into Cal Bank and opened fire right there in the banking hall. The room was full of people, all of whom were unarmed. Why? He had a disagreement with one customer outside the bank and knew he could open fire inside the bank and get away with it. Three persons sustained gunshot wounds. A report was made against the corporal at a police station, and barely a month after the incident, the corporal was still in uniform and working at his station. Everything that happened was caught on camera by the bank's CCTV, which is now available to the police. In an interview in September 2014, a PRO of the police said the footage is being used to train their officers on proper conduct (no comment). I should add that right after the incident, a police PRO reported in different media in Ghana that the customer who had the disagreement with the corporal was a suspicious character who struggled with the corporal over his weapon, causing the weapon to fall and start firing (I wonder where that weapon was manufactured and how shallow minded the police think Ghanaians are). Eventually, this same PRO came out to say the customer was an innocent victim in an unfortunate incident, and that the corporal had been detained while investigations were ongoing (he didn't even apologise). Thing is, the harm was already done. Person A might have heard on medium A that the customer was labeled a suspicious character by the police, but person A might not have heard on medium B when the customer was labeled an innocent victim by the same police. In the interview in September 2014, the police PRO revealed that the corporal had been arrested and is out on bail. Apparently attempted murder of a roomful of people is a bailable offence in Ghana. Corporal Bernard Frimpong has supposedly been out on bail since March 2014. We are in December 2014.

Visual Images, Celebrity Status, The Police
The police are not above the law, but increasingly, the police themselves are making it seem that way. So, the police say they are using the CCTV footage to train their own. How about releasing that footage online so Ghanaians can train themselves on what to do when a police officer opens fire in a bank? But seriously, imagine the international outrage that would follow, should a video showing a Ghana police officer walking into a bank, and opening fire on unarmed civilians, be released online. (I know you were all scared and running for your lives, but didn't anyone in the bank that day record this incident on their phone?) The power of visual images cannot be overstated. If a celebrity whose flight from the law will not be so easy, has been refused bail for a narcotics offence, then is it too much to ask that a police officer who attempted to murder a roomful of people should be refused bail?
Celebrities, please if one of your own is suspected to have committed a crime, how about you aid the authorities in their investigations, rather than call for the authorities to also break the law. The power of celebrity status cannot be exaggerated. If you want a campaign to lend your voice to, how about #ISpeakForJustice (that's me calling for support), at least then you'll be speaking out for justice, plain and simple, not asking that rules or laws be broken. That way, no international act can come to Ghana, commit a crime and walk away. Why? Because we have been speaking for justice and we have been heard. Or you could set up your own charity and help the less privileged in society.
Police, do not shy away from prosecuting your own. What example are you setting for criminals and potential criminals? The message I'm getting from you is, if you want to be a successful criminal, join the police service. Then, even your bosses will cover up for you if knowledge of your crime gets out there. The power of the police should not be overlooked.

P.S. Finally, (I just had to add this) if it were possible for me to die and come back, I'd make sure what ever crime committed against me is captured on camera, and that footage is available to me (viral videos, here I come). Or I'd come back as a celebrity. Even if I commit a crime, other celebrities will demand, while others appeal for my release (better yet I'd be the kind of celebrity that can go and commit a crime in someone's country, and walk away a free person). But, it would be best for me to come back as a police officer. I could commit any crime and get away with it. Even, rather than admit I was wrong, the police administration would cover up for me, and put the blame on someone else.
It really is not too late (Ghana Police Service, here I come!).
http://www.facebook.com/ispeakforjustice