I Like Religious People

I just have to talk about this. 🙂 Both Ghana and Indonesia are full of religious people. Both consist of diverse religious beliefs, and in both cases the people manage to co-exist peacefully. (There are some minority groups fighting each other though… I am not going to lie about it, and again, such fights happen in both countries).  Have I mentioned that Ghana consist of the most devout Christians community I have ever seen? Well, for this particular reason, I like Ghana. 🙂 I like religious people regardless what religion.

OmkarI am not a life guru to speak about what life is in general. But based on my experience of travelling and meeting people, those who are religious (or honestly believe in the existence of God), are the most peaceful, kind, serene, and tolerant people I have ever met.

Religious people (or believers) have a certain aura about them. Calm. Content. Worry less. Have a steady view of life. And believe it or not, they are just happier people (compared to their nonbelievers counterpart). I personally have been bugged by nonbelievers (or atheists) about my faith and religion, and never have the same problem coming from fellow religious people even when they belong to a totally different faith.

Islam symbolWhen I was still working for Siemens, my 3 favourite close friends were Catholic, Protestant, and Hindu. The Catholic always reminded me to go to prayer if I was still at my computer at 4 pm, the same way I always let her borrow my motorbike to go to her church every evening and I always made sure my motorbike would always be available. I never ate beef when I was out dining with the Hindu girl, and the same way they would try not to eat pork when they’re eating with me. The reason being: Respect. Now in Ghana, most of my friends are Buddhist, although some are Christians.  We have been extremely tolerant, I am very proud with how things are going in my life.

Well, the thing with us -religious people- is… we simply accept that we are different. Not worse, not better, just different. And yet our mutual beliefs of God seem to bind us somewhat.

And then there is the atheist side of life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind atheists at all. As much as I want people to respect my faith, I respect the atheists for not having any. But there are 2 types of atheists that I have encountered in my life. The first type is the kind of atheists who simply don’t believe in the existence of God, but let other people have their faith. The second type is the kind of atheists who not only disbelieve, but also pester other people as to why they believe in God to the extent of ‘boohooing’ them.

CrossTo share a bit more… when I lived in the ‘western countries’ (won’t name them), when I told people that I am religious and sincerely believe in the existence of God, the most common reactions I got were: a frown, raised eye brows, a “why?”, a bemused look, and an awkward silence (often followed by a fierce argument that religion is the sole reason this world is totally f*cked up). It’s never an easy “oh ok, we understand” situation. It is a lot easier to say I am a Muslim to a Christian, than to say I believe in God to a nonbeliever.

The modern world -usually from the advance western countries- are the least religious places as we speak (yeah… yeah… I know that we can find both atheists and religious people anywhere in the world). >>But why is it that the poor are those who would normally be religious? I’m still searching for an answer to that. >>Is it true that the religiousness of a country prevent the people from advancing properly? Maybe. >>Is it true that religions can’t work side by side with the modern way of life? Probable. >>But why do we need to advance to a certain level that is defined by others anyway? The aborigines don’t need to be dressed up or to learn the Internet. They were happy exactly as they were. >>Is it wrong to just be happy with what we currently have and progress slowly (if anything at all)?  No.

This whole thing begs for the question: Is ambition a virtue anyway? Now that question, my friends… still causes my husband and I to have heated debates to this date… 😀

Dian Retno Wulandari. Religious and proud.

PS: Please remember that the crusades were more about the leaders and their politics, and less about the religions.

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Attending A Japanese Tea Ceremony 101

The Master

I have been quite lucky, and I will tell you why…  🙂

Because I have been to a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Yay…!

If any of you think that a British Tea Party is some serious business, you might want to rethink that, once you’ve been to a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The British one is a party to begin with, on the other hand… the Japanese one is a ceremony… as in… ceremony. 🙂

Apparently, there’s no special occasion for having a tea ceremony.  Such ceremony is more of a hobby thing. Meaning: some Japanese-traditions-&-heritage-aficionados will get together and carry out the tea ceremony. Sadly not many Japanese youngsters are interested in continuing the traditions but the elderly would normally do so.

To give y’all a rough picture on how serious this is… The personnel who were to serve (and attend) a proper Japanese tea ceremony should take a full course/study on how to do it right.

Yup…! A course about drinking tea… (so stop whining about your French or tennis course! *Lol) 😀

Now let me begin describing… I won’t get too detail. No worries here… 🙂

  1. Before it all started, the guests will be provided with some Japanese traditional little snacks –to be had before drinking the tea.                           Gyuhi
  2. Once started, the master of the tea ceremony must prepare the powdered green tea in a cup –that looks like a small bowl (no handle on the cup). A pinch of this powder is mixed with some hot water and then whisked gently (with a delicate bamboo whisk) until it forms some froth (no sugar at all! Eeeek….) 🙂            
  3. The master will hand the prepared tea cup to the guest, and the guest must receive it with both hands (using only 1 hand is out of the question, and you’ll be out of the window :D). Both hands must hold the cup in a particular way with left hand at the bottom of the cup, and right hand at the side of the cup.

    Reese Witherspoon & Japanese Tea Cup

  4. The guest will then turn the tea cup twice –clockwise, and look at the master.
  5. The master will say “Please”.
  6. The guest can drink the tea. Strictly speaking, the entire tea in the cup must be gobbled down within 3 sips (or 3 gulps depending on how full the cup is :D), and at the last sip (or gulp) the guest must make a ‘slurping’ noise –to be polite… as in showing the master that the tea is delicious! 🙂
  7. Once finished, the guest will wipe the rim of the cup (where the lips have touched) with their right thumb. Then, the guest should turn the empty cup twice –still clockwise, and then return the cup back to the master.

That is how it’s done in a nutshell. *bloody hell* would be the right expression if you’re amazed by it. 🙂

But it is a lot more complicated in real life… I know I make it sound too simple here (I hope my Japanese friends won’t start flattening my car tyres for my clumsy explanation of their custom. :-))

The point is… it is not just about drinking tea. It is about how socially accomplished you are. It is about relishing the entire activity. It is about enjoying the serving of the tea. It is about connecting with the cup (yes, it is… :-)). It is about respecting one another.

Now compare this with the Indonesian way of making tea… 😀

The Indonesians will put a whole lot of tea leaves into some boiling water in a big pan, and then add some monstrous amount of sugar into it. Stir well. Then add big blocks of ice. Stir well.  Then put some of the tea into 1 litre plastic bags, drop a piece of plastic straw in each bag, and then tie the opening of the plastic bags with rubber-bans.

There you have it…! Best served chilled and drunken while walking down by some hot busy road in Jakarta. *Lol. 😀

I am blessed to ever experience such a thing like a Japanese tea ceremony. It was lots of fun… lots of it…! Such a day couldn’t have been better… It just couldn’t… 🙂

 

Dian Retno Wulandari. Life is sweet, even without sugar sometimes…

PS: Happy birthday to Inoh Chung Ryu. Thanks to Mika Hattori, Fumi Shigetta, and Keiko Mapperley for the experience. Thanks to the host Michelle Potin, and other attendees: Dorcas, Erie, Darunee, Rubaba, Farina, Grace.

PS: Happy Chinese new year… Gong Xi Fa Cai…!

 

We Are All Just Bees

Am I a secretary to my husband, or am I a boss to him?

In this era where gender equality is still being fought-for, I would understand when people think that a husband is the boss and a wife is the secretary.

It’s untrue. I know…! Right?

Nevertheless, when I deal with people, and they get exasperated with me, the first thing they would say is: “Can I speak to your husband…?”

As if saying: “Can I speak to the restaurant manager? I don’t want to speak to a low-life-waitress like you!”

Nothing…

I mean…

NOTHING... would anger me more than that… as if I am just a daft bimbo…?  (As if I have big enough breasts to be a bimbo anyway?)

  1. One time (and still on-going) I got into a difficult conflict with the visa center in Ghana of the UK Border Agency. After a long tiring discussion, the officer said, “Perhaps you can come again with your husband, tomorrow?” (!!@#$$%^%$$#@#!!) Ha…! As if my husband would know what to say and what has happened… I single handedly dealt with everything!
  2. Once, a Ghanaian plumber came to our house to fix the washing machine tap. Apparently he refused to take order from me because I was only a woman. He demanded to speak to my husband and so he started to talk shit to me. Needless to say, I called the building management and had that ‘God-forsaken-plumber’ fired at point blank. He shouldn’t have messed with me.
  3. Well, many other examples but I won’t waste time on them.

I am the brain of the family. Yes, that sounds arrogant, and… trashy, but I am. 😀 (I can feel my husband is rolling his eyes behind my back, but let him be)

My husband always comes to me when something needs deciding or when something needs considering or when something needs taking into action.

But why?

It’s not because he’s telling me to do those things, as in: “Oi! Secretary! Come here! I need 4 copies of these documents!”

Everything is more like “Excuse me boss… do you think I need to make 4 copies of these documents?”

😀 😀 😀 😀

He appreciates my opinions. He needs my approvals. -Oh bless his heart… 😀

Once, my husband told me that he is just like an old faithful dog. He only needs a little love to keep him going. -Oh let’s bless his heart even more…! 😀

But nobody is the faithful dog, nobody is the master. Nobody is the boss, nobody is the secretary. We are all just bees in the end. We carry around some little mud with us, we then build a bee hive where there are flowers nearby, and we live happily ever after in that little hive.

My husband happens to be the worker bee.

And I am the Queen bee.


With our little son as a wanna bee.

“bzz….. bzz…. bzz….”

Dian Retno Wulandari. Gender equality, ah… taste the sweetness!

PS: Later that evening, the plumber called my husband and had some man-to-man conversation. The plumber told him that his wife is a bitch. *LOL*

PPS: Do I really look like a daft bimbo? Or does this happen to every housewife??

What a Ghanaian Schoolboy Showed Me: The Ogling Business

My husband has long told me that many Ghanaian men would stare at me in an obvious-creepy-manner. Almost shamelessly… or better: proudly. To put it shortly, my husband often tells me that some man is ogling me (since we’re in Ghana, that is).

Isn’t he sweet… –my husband? I always thought that he would say things like that to help me feel beautiful or sexy or interesting. But I knew better. Such thing is impossible. Not because Ghanaian men don’t ogle, oh they do. The Ghanaian men would ogle the Ghanaian ladies in their super tight clothings, and the Ghanaian ladies would know that they are being ogled, and play along by smiling flirtatiously, or fiddling with their stylish hairs, or moving around in the most interesting manners. I have watched such behaviours between Ghanaian men and women happened in the mall, restaurants, clubs, alliance francaise, etc.

Anyway, despite my being familiar to the Ghanaian ogling business, I couldn’t believe it when my husband said that I am being ogled quite frequently. As I said before, such a thing is impossible. Why is it impossible, you ask…? Oh, don’t make me explain.

See, people ogle Angelina Jolie’s smoldering look.

Or people ogle Meriah Carey’s voluptuous boobs.

But surely people won’t ogle me.

That photo of me above, was taken last Sunday, yes… only 2 days ago, taking my son for a little trip around our compound. That is how I look these days: a very comfy t-shirt, shorts or jeans, and a pair of flip flops. My dress code for most occasions.

Now tell me, who would ogle me…? You wouldn’t, would you? I can imagine I could get some well-deserved-disgusted-stares from fashionistas out there, but definitely not an ogle. 🙂

Having said all that, little did I know what was about to happen a few days ago.

— A Few Days Ago —

So off my husband and I went to Accra Mall –to do our weekly grocery shopping. He parked our car near Gate 1. We walked from our car to the gate, holding hands as usual, complaining about the dust as usual, and having our little conversation as usual (about quantum physics, numeric trigonometry, DNA mutations, bla bla bla mundane stuff).

Just before we reached that God-blessed-gate, my husband jolted my hand and abruptly stopped. I was stunned for a few seconds, but before I knew what was happening I heard my husband was talking to a schoolboy who stood –strangely– very near to me with a big grin on his face.

He must be about 12 yo, or 14 max. Perhaps about 5 cm shorter than me (and I am not tall, mind you). He was wearing his school uniform, a white shirt, and a pair of dark shorts.

I vaguely noticed that a group of schoolboys were walking in the opposite direction, but I didn’t pay attention to any of them. But my husband obviously did. He said to the boy, “Do you know her??” pointing a finger at me. I stood silently, flat faced, bewildered.

The boy, with a big grin on his face shook his head and said, “No”

My husband turned to me and asked, “Do you know him??” to which I answered “No”.

This is weird, I thought.

All that time the boy managed to keep the grin on his face. He looked somehow amazed at what he was looking at (that’s me, fyi). The look on his face was priceless.

Trying to be polite, I took my sunglasses off, and calmly said, “How are you?”

At the very sight of my-uncovered-eyes, his own eyes were widened, and his big grin got bigger, and he just stood there marveling at me (or so it seemed). He nodded as a response to my small talk. Not the right answer for a ‘how are you’ but he was probably off somewhere else in his head. 🙂

Never will I say that I have pretty eyes, but they are the best feature of my face (I think), and to make things clear, let me describe how I looked that day we met the boy. I was wearing a loose comfy t-shirt. A pair of tatty jeans. A pair of worn out flip flops. No make-up none whatsoever. I didn’t even brush my hair, it was simply tied back to a simple pony tail. Suffice to say that I was not dressed to impress.

To break the awkwardness, my husband suddenly said in a light-hearted tone, “Isn’t she the most beautiful woman in the world?” (I kicked him –furtively– for saying that) 🙂

The boy, still oddly grinning, raised both hands and gave us 2 thumbs up! He said, “Yes!” promptly and nodded vigorously (still grinning, mind you).

I got shivers down my back, and cued my husband to move on to the gate and leave the poor thing alone. I put my sunglasses back down on my face, and casually walked away from the boy taking with me my sometime-hard-to-believe husband.

At the gate, I curiously turned my back to see if he was still there. Lo and behold, there he was. Standing still, facing towards me (still grinning!), not caring that all of his friends were already along way ahead of him.

So my husband was right. I do get ogled sometimes. 🙂 But the whole experience lit a light bulb inside my head. All the things about how the Ghanaians would be so generous with their expression to the beauty in the world.

The morals of the story are:

  1. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. 🙂
  2. If something is beautiful, don’t be afraid to marvel at it. If something is attracting you, let the world know it.

I remembered how many times I have been stopped by strangers at the market (in Makola) just so that they could tell me that they think my bracelet is pretty. I remembered how many times my maid told me that she thinks some of my shirts are nice. I remembered how many times the nurse at my chiropractic stroked my hair and said it’s beautiful.

Yes, marveling the beauty of God’s creation is not a sin, and the Ghanaians know this since a very young age. God bless the Ghanaians. 🙂

Dian Retno Wulandari. Lessons learned.

Kissing Vodafone-Ghana Good Bye

Let’s write about something light-hearted for once in a while, OK?

Vodafone Ghana Transmission Staff

My throat is sore, and I can’t stop sneezing. When I looked out of the window this morning, everything looked hazy, and visibility was impaired. Sahara is in the air.

It’s the peak of the Harmattan season where the wind blows to the south and brings the Saharan sand with it. Some of that sand got stuck in my throat and won’t ever make it to the Atlantic Ocean. Poor little sand… 😦

Alix in African SuitSo I thought today was going to be a bad day, but as the day unraveled itself I found it as one of the most memorable days in my life. My husband’s contract with Vodafone-Ghana is coming to an end tomorrow, so my son and I were invited by his staff to a little farewell party.

It is always heartbreaking to leave a country you’ve called home for many months. Sometimes it is not the country per se, but more of the people we’re leaving behind (having said that -I do miss the Brussels metro). Oh the pain of packing a home into boxes… Hmm… … …

But let’s stick to the sunny side of the road for now… 🙂

The Vodafone bunch who arranged this parting-get-together are some of the best bunch we’ve ever met. Typical Ghanaian, they are always so welcoming, and having fun, and happy, and oh… did I say that they have the most generous laughter? Well, they sure do. 😀

Great African foods were laid out on the table, moving emotional speeches were made, jokes were laughed at, and reminiscences were cherished. But most importantly, they got a present for me 🙂 Oh yes! Some African fabric, beautiful and colourful, and on top of that, they also got my husband an African shirt, and some cute African suite for our toddler. (Have I said the word ‘African’ too many times?)

Isn’t it a happy thing… to be happy with people around you even though you don’t know them that well or at all? Like when you dance in concert with others, or like when children play in a sand pit. It was hard to decide though on whether I was happy or sad to be at the farewell little party. But I guess it doesn’t matter.

Every time we leave an old place to a new territory, I always feel like I bring some of that old place away with me, and I hope our presence can make as much as an impact to the place we leave behind. At least we knew that after we brought Cecilia to London, she suddenly applied to study at a Nursing Academy as soon as we got back to Ghana. She said she wants to be a nurse, and that she doesn’t want to be a maid forever.

Well, I’m proud of her. I’m sure as hell, my husband is also proud of his staff. These people are going to go a long way… even after we’re gone.

Geraint & Ulan in African Cloth

Dian Retno Wulandari.

PS: Thanks to: Afuah, Armstrong, Emmanuel, Henry, Iris, Jerry, Martina, Kumi, and everyone else that made this happen.

PPS: Cecilia is our current maid-turned-nanny. She’s not the one who pissed in our car. Just so you know… 🙂

PPS: My husband was technically asleep when we took that last photo above. Poor man… tortured by his wife for blogging sake. 🙂

GHANA Fun Facts

“Ladies and Gentlemen… Meet Ghana!” 🙂

Here I sum up of what I know (and think) of Ghana, again, as an Indonesian who was oblivious to how the Ghanaians live…

1. Ghana is a West African country. Yes, West Africa… we are no where close to South Africa. The distance between Ghana and South Africa is more than the distance between Thailand and Australia, or between Canada and Venezuela. (So please stop asking me if I go to South Africa often!)

2. Ghana is a small country, smaller than the island of Kalimantan (Borneo), smaller than Sumatra, even smaller than UK. The whole population of Ghana is about 22 million people. That is about the same number of unemployed people in Indonesia. 😀 (Population of Indonesia is about 240 million people)

3. The official language in Ghana is English. Nevertheless, the locals speak their own dialects for daily activities (being most popular: Twi dialect), and they learn English at school.

4. Ghana is totally surrounded by French speaking countries being: Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Togo. This makes French to be the most used international language in Ghana after English.

5. Ghana is a sub-Saharan country with a tropical climate. Yes tropical! We don’t live in the middle of a desert. On the contrary, we have big trees, big animals, big insects, big rain, big humidity, and big heat. (Just like at home in Indonesia :D)

6. Ghana is not adjacent to the Sahara Desert. There is Burkina Faso between Ghana and Sahara.

7. Other than the rainy season, Ghana has Harmattan season. That is the dry and dusty and hot at day/cool at night season. During this season, the wind blows from Sahara to the south bringing with it the red sand from the Sahara desert. During Harmattan, we’ll have sand everywhere… On the road, on the cars, on the windows, on the floor, on my curtains, on the carpet, in my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth… simply sand sand and sand everywhere… 🙂

8. The cocoa produce is one of many Ghanaian prides. (Cocoa is what chocolate is made of). Ghana is the second largest cocoa producer in the world! The first being Ivory Coast, and the third being… guess what…! Indonesia…! 😀

9. In Ghana, when you have a fever and see a doctor, you will be tested for Malaria. Just the way we will always be tested for Typhoid in any case of fever in Indonesia. 🙂 (Every single Ghanaian I have ever met, has had Malaria at least once in their lives and my poor little son has already had it twice in 6 months!)

10. I find that Ghanaians have the most generous laughter. Just seeing them laugh can make me laugh.

11. Most of Ghanaian people are religious. I like this! 🙂

12. The women of Ghana are very proud of their traditional dresses. I love this fact about Ghana. The traditional dress is seen on a daily basis, and it flatters their naturally curvy figures. It’s usually a set of blouse and long skirt, made of African Batik or African Print. Bright coloured outfits really flatter their dark skin. Splendid! 😀

13. Yes, there is something called African Batik or also known as African Print. There is a history behind this colourful African print. It was brought to Ghana in the 1800 by the Dutch, guess where from…?? Yes, Indonesia! In those days, both Indonesia, and Ghana were colonised by the Dutch, and the beautiful Indonesian cloth was brought to Africa, and then reproduced by print (instead of by batik which means: write).

14. Similarities between African Print, and Indonesian Batik are: both are considered to be prestigious clothing fabric. Both symbolise social status of the wearer depending on the motif being worn (whether you are from a higher or lower class in society). Both are beautiful. Both are commonly used as part of wedding dowry in both countries. Both typically use breathable, absorbent fabric as their basis. etc.

15. Differences between African Print, and Indonesian Batik are:  Real African Print is… uhm… printed. 🙂 Real Indonesian Batik is hand written/painted. African Print is being produced in industrial scale. Indonesian Batik is manually produced in a smaller quantities. African Print can use any colour imaginable. Indonesian Batik is generally limited to earth colours. The motive of African Print is large and chunky. The motive of Indonesian Batik is small, and dainty. African Print is generally better value compared to the pricier Indonesian Batik.

16. The young ladies of Ghana shows no reservation in flaunting their curves. Tight clothing is a staple for a night out with friends. They can be thin, fat, or somewhere in between, all will be wearing super tight dresses.

17. Showing skin is desirable. Again, the young ladies seem to like wearing minimum clothing, and showing maximum skin. It could be very, very, very short pants, or micro mini skirts, or low plunging neck lines, to body squeezing tank tops. The sexier the better. They even sell special kinds of bra that can be seen (due to very low neck line) and still look cute.

18. I find the Ghanaians to have the most hair styling creativity. When I get away with straight pony tail for the last 20 years, the Ghanaian ladies do the most extraordinary hairstyle imaginable and they change it as often as once a week. Whether it is long, short, straight, curly, braided, plaited, buns, ups, downs, blonde, black, brunet, blue, pink, wig, weave, clip on, relaxed, etc… You name it, they do it! Remarkable…

19. These Ghanaians seem to have natural talent of having athletically toned body. I see elementary school girls as young as 9 or 8 yo, and they have bodies like Sarah Jessica Parker, by nature. 😀  Their arms and legs are beautifully shaped (God must’ve been in a good mood when He created the Africans). While non-African kids would have arms and legs either looking like twigs or sausages, the African kids look as if they’ve been attending the Olympics.

20. Just like in Indonesia, the usage of right hand for social interaction is encouraged. It is impolite to use left hand (such as for handing something over, or for receiving it). And the reason for this custom, is the same for both Ghana and Indonesia. It is because we use right hand to eat, and left hand for toilet affairs. 😛

to be continued….

Dian Retno Wulandari. Going Ghanaian!

PS: If you are Ghanaian, please comment. I’d like to know what you think. 🙂

Ghana, First Impression…

By an Indonesian who thought she has seen it all.

It was right in the middle of a very hot summer in Belgium that we found ourselves frantically packing our apartment down to move to Ghana. The decision came suddenly, but all we needed to do was look forward to another adventure. That was exactly what we did, and got.

August 2009, smooth touchdown at Ghana International Airport. The hot climate of Ghana was easy to cope with since we came from a painful hot summer in Belgium 🙂 We had done some Googling research about Ghana but still we were feeling nervous apprehensive about it all. I tried hard to see the goodness of this new place. But I must say that the first impression was not impressive at all, well there’s no impression 🙂 . It is sad to say, but Ghana International Airport is the worst airport I have ever seen. Not only that we must ride on a tatty bus to get on and off the plane, the hassle of baggage claim and custom check seems to be endlessly chaotic very challenging.

But once we were in the car and on the road, my heart began to light up. I saw so many similarities between Ghana and Indonesia -my mother land 🙂 The banana trees by the road, the bougainvillea blossom everywhere, the street sellers, the shape of the houses, the big billboards everywhere and oh… the not so immaculate roads and streets. They even sell Indomie (= instant noodle) in Ghana! I was happy but not for long. The Indomie they sell in Africa tastes terrible different. 😀

It didn’t take me long to find out that Ghana is nothing like Indonesia. In fact they couldn’t have been more different from each other. 😦 The first time I asked my driver where I could go shopping, he informed me that he could take me to Accra Shopping Mall. 😀 He described it as something huge and beautiful, and he used his hands gestures by waving them around to illustrate how big it is, and his sense of pride was infecting me with excitement. 😀 Shopping Mall…!! I like that…!! Coming from Asia where the best shopping malls are reigning the world, I am into shopping mall baby…! 😀

I proudly stuffed my wallet with some USD 100, a whopping amount for a developing country’s standard. So off we went to this shopping mall. Woohoo…!! 😀 I was celebrating Ghana until my driver parked our car in a parking lot of something that looks like an old warehouse, I stayed quiet. Then he showed me into this building. Still confused, I wondered if he misunderstood me and took me somewhere else instead. After a while of finding our way inside this building, I asked my driver “Can we just go to the shopping mall?” He replied innocently, “Madam, this is the Accra shopping mall.”

* Gasp* I felt like my heart skipped a beat, my mouth went dry, and my back started sweating. I bowed my head down and looked at the floor. It was not shiny, nor reflective. I tilted my head back and looked at the ceiling… there was no void nor mezzanine. Oh My Gordon Brown…! It is not a 10 storey, nor a 5 storey, but a one story building…! I looked around and saw some few small shops. “Are you kidding me?” The whole setting looks more like a shopping arcade rather than a shopping mall.

Accra Shopping Mall

But it’s ok, I propped myself up and continued with my mission: my first ever grocery shopping in Ghana! It is all just a part of the big adventure, isn’t it? I looked around this medium sized supermarket (=Shoprite), clutching my wallet nervously, excited and scared at the same time, I decided not to worry. I had enough money or so I thought. In Indonesia, USD 100 can buy a month worth of groceries, and in Belgium that amount would provide about 2 weeks’ worth of groceries. So what is there to worry about? I started to fill my shopping cart with one thing after another. All the basic stuff we needed like detergent, coat hangers, towels, disinfectant, etc.

But that was not all my dear friends… The biggest surprise came to me when we were at the cashier, paying for all the stuff we thought we were buying. A whopping amount of over USD 300 for the most mundane stuff I had in my cart. I thought I was speechless when I was proposed by my husband, but this experience gave me a new meaning to speechlessness. 😀 I had no choice but to cancel most stuff I had wanted to buy. I was left with some detergent, fabric softener, coat hangers, clothes peg, shower gel, cup noodles, and baby cereal. That came down to just over USD 100. I shamelessly asked my driver to pay the “just over” bit of the USD 100.

plastic coat hangerGob-smacked, we drove back home and I didn’t say a thing. Being a developing country that is not any better than like Indonesia, I thought everything in Ghana would be good value. But I couldn’t be more wrong. Ghana is simply the most expensive country we have ever been to. Even more expensive than Belgium, more expensive than UK! (I wouldn’t even start comparing it with America) I paid one US dollar for one stupid plastic coat hanger. One dollar! For something that normally wouldn’t have cost me no more than 20 cent.

On our way back, my driver asked me if we have a shopping mall this big in Indonesia. I said: “with all due respect to all Ghanaians, that thing is not a shopping mall. In Indonesia, just the parking space for a shopping mall would be bigger than this entire thing”. “Yes, we do. It is nice”

When I thought I have seen it all, just a week later my maid pissed her pants in my car! Yes, she literally pissed herself whilst sitting in our clean and shiny Land Cruiser, and left the car smelling like an ugly public toilet. Curious? I’ll tell you about it later. 😀 Just keep reading…!

Cheers,

Dian Retno Wulandari. Going Ghanaian!

PS: To be fair to this country, I will also post about some good things in Ghana. It is, however, where our home is at the moment. 🙂