Living Back Home…

My iPhone photography skills at the top of the Jamestown lighthouse :-D

My iPhone photography skills at the top of the Jamestown lighthouse 😀


Happy new year……y’all. *chuckles* I won’t get bored of this for a while.

So I’m back in big bad Accra, blogging like I said I would. It’s 2015 baby! Despite despising the hype, there is something exciting about a new year starting. Something refreshing. So I hope you’ve all written down some goals. I hope you have a new focus for the year. I hope you’ve consulted with God on what His will is for you henceforth. I hope you’ve started on a new foot mentally and so on….

I’ve decided to do a mini ‘Living Back Home’ series, for those flirting with the idea of coming to live in Accra, Ghana or another African city. I really should have done this during my first first year here but to be honest it would have been a lot of angry ranting rather than a balanced perspective on life in GH. If you have any questions or specific topics you’d like me to address don’t hesitate to reach out and I will happily cover them in a post or two.

As 2014 draws to a close…

To those who habitually blog and post, I salute. I need that discipline for blogging in 2015. Yes. I haven’t blogged since my one year anniversary in September and a lot has happened since then. Mostly personal stuff but a lovely round up to the year.

1. I was on CNN, y’all. (Not an American but felt y’all was appropriate here 😀 ). I featured on Inside Africa talking about my lovely project: MGCubed or Making Ghanaian Girls Great! Check us out! (We’re within the last 5 minutes or so) —->

CNNhttp://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/international/2014/10/06/spc-inside-africa-ghana-girl-power-c.cnn&video_referrer=

MGCubed on Twitter – https://twitter.com/mgcubedgh

MGCubed on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mgcubedhome

MGCubed video – http://vimeo.com/90391911

Still don’t actually remember what I said because I still cringe when I see it. I’ll watch it properly one day guys. I promise.

2. Moved house! I moved out from the East Legon side ❤ to around the Osu side of town. Currently loving the new neighbourhood and the new appartement *French accent* and a new roommate *swirls*

3. Went to Lagos, Nigeria to witness my beautiful sister-friend get married to her beau. Being a maid of honour isn’t easy but so so worth it. A pleasure to serve ❤ Lagos is an interesting place too. Would defo recommend.

4. Came back to London to wind up the year for Christmas and new year. Christmas was lovely. African girls know what Christmas day means: cooking the WHOLE DAY then not really having an appetite afterwards 😦 #HouseGirlsUnite! Spending NYE in church with Pastor O and some of the people I love most exciting me is an UNDERSTATEMENT. Whoooo! And the sales of course. We can’t forget the sales.

Also…I’ve been discovering some MORE lovely places in Accra!

Nails – Marie Noelle’s Spa (located in Osu near Noble House/Heritage Restaurant)

Website – http://www.marienoellespa.com/

Food/Drinks (cough) – Burger and Relish (Osu. Take Koala Down and follow to the end, it’s on your left). Lovely ambience and the drinks are lovely.

Website – http://burgerandrelish.com/site/

Coco Lounge (Airport City) – Currently in love with this place! Such a cool laid back vibe but swanky with great drinks and a simple food menu. It works! Plus they sing and dance when you order tequila on Tequila Thursdays. An experience.

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/iconhouseghana

Mukase Chic Eatery (Osu) – Mayneee. I don’t know who this lady is but I must meet HER! This lovely lady (who is my friend in my mind lol) has opened a place (currently a pickup/delivery place but soon to be a restaurant I here) and sells some of THE nicest local food I’ve had in GH. And I mean proper local food like garden egg stew, abom….*salivates*. She also has healthy versions (i.e. very little oil and so on) I HIGHLY recommend.

Blog – http://mukasechic.wordpress.com/

Instagram – http://instagram.com/mukasechic_eatery

Out of Town Excursions – Aqua Safari Resort – A super lovely resort in Ada, about 2 or so hours away from the city (depending on traffic of course). Very scenic with beach sports, water sports (jet skiings, paddle boats, a boat cruise to the estuary etc), a grill, minerals (soft drinks) and a lovely beach. Not like Labadi. Labadi doesn’t even count as a beach tbh.

I have vowed to explore more African locations whilst I’m in GH. It just makes sense. Now I have a default travel partner too it makes it all the better. Yay!

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IMG_1715Aqua Safari – Ada…(Top pic – some of my teaching team and I).

Whole 30 challenge

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Since being in Ghana I’ve really struggled with eating healthily. If you know anything about Ghanaian cuisine it’s mostly centred around starch. Starch and some more starch. So combined with my work schedule…blah blah *insert other excuses* I fell into the trap of eating what was convenient and naturally not always the healthiest.

So as I was trawling through Instagram I came across 2 Ghanaian ladies doing the Whole 30 challenge. I was intrigued.

So what is the Whole 30 challenge? (Taken from their website)

Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies or fertility issues) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat – even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?

Strip them from your diet completely. Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health. The most important reason to keep reading?

This will change your life.

We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. We know this because we did it, and tens of thousands of people have done it since, and it changed our lives (and their lives) in a very permanent fashion. (Need convincing? Just read some of our stunning testimonials.)

Program Rules

Yes: Eat real food.

Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed. Don’t worry… these guidelines are outlined in extensive detail in our free shopping list.

No: Avoid for 30 days.

More importantly, here’s what NOT to eat during the duration of your Whole30 program. Omitting all of these foods and beverages will help you regain your healthy metabolism, reduce systemic inflammation, and help you discover how these foods are truly impacting your health, fitness and quality of life.

  • Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.
  • Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
  • Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.
  • Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
  • Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. (See below for details.)
  • Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.
  • Do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats* with “approved” ingredients. Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point, and will tank your results faster than you can say “Paleo Pop-Tarts.” Remember, these are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients. 

One last and final rule: You are not allowed to step on the scale or take any body measurements for the duration of the program. This is about so much more than just weight loss, and to focus on your body composition means you’ll miss out on the most dramatic and lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So, no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat or taking comparative measurements during your Whole30. (We do encourage you to weigh yourself before and after, however, so you can see one of the more tangible results of your efforts when your program is over.)

All the necessary info to take part is free. You don’t have to buy any nutrition packets or supplements or anything. Plus they also have some really helpful forums where you can ask questions til your heart is content. 

The biggest challenge for me was the sugar (big sweet tooth), alcohol (no wine :-(), no grains (no oats, eku egbeemii, hausa koko, no rice, no bulgar wheat, no pasta – even brown?!). The rest didn’t really affect me, dairy makes me want to vom.

I’m on day 21 and going strong. So far I feel fantastic, my energy levels have increased, I feel lighter and I just feel better. It’s difficult to explain but when you’re only putting healthy wholesome food in your body you just feel your best. I’m not even craving bread or rice believe it or not. Naturally when the 30 days are up I will of course have bread, rice and pasta again during my lifetime but it will be limited. I would definitely recommend trying the programme. It’s given me a new level of discipline. And it’s also made me realise that Haribos are evil. Below are some examples of what I’ve been eating. I’m not really consistent in my picture taking. Some other stuff I eat include yams, sweet potato, grilled chicken breast, more fish, more salad etc.

Boiled ripe plantain and spinach stew.

Boiled ripe plantain and spinach stew.

Grilled tilapia and salad with meko (onions, tomatoes and peppers)

Grilled tilapia, kontonmire and salad with meko (onions, tomatoes and peppers)

Phillipo's grilled tilapia and salad!

Phillipo’s grilled tilapia and homemade salad!

Scrambled eggs, red onions and tomato with black pepper.

Scrambled eggs, red onions and tomato with black pepper.

Pan fried beef fillet steak (seasoned with ground fresh herbs, black pepper and garlic) in extra virgin olive oil and a cucumber salad.

Pan fried beef fillet steak (seasoned with ground fresh herbs, black pepper and garlic) in extra virgin olive oil and a cucumber salad.

Beetroot. carrot, apple and ginger smoothie. Divine.

Beetroot. carrot, apple and ginger smoothie. Divine.

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Egg salad for breakfast.

Egg salad for breakfast.

My fake Spanish omelette - eggs, red onion, sweet potato chunks, a few strips of the pan fried beef from last night's dinner and salad!

My fake Spanish omelette – eggs, red onion, sweet potato chunks, a few strips of the pan fried beef from last night’s dinner and salad!

Some lovely places in Accra

Guys, I’m recovering from typhoid. Ghana showed me that I’m obroni *wails*

Been out for the count for the past 2-3 weeks but I’m feeling much much better. I was taken very good care of by the folks at Health Link hospital in East Legon. Many thanks to you guys.

How are you all doing? I hope you’re well!

I said I’d tell you all about some lovely places I’ve been to since I’ve been here (Can’t believe it’s coming up to the 6 month mark!) so here goes…(pics to come later, internet is shaky). Most are food places (don’t judge me – I need variety in my diet). I’ve already told you about the wonderful CrossTrain Ghana fitness bootcamp I’ve joined. Branch Fitness is also a very good gym to check out if you’re in the Spintex area. They’re opening a branch in East Legon soon too!

Okay so here goes…Where to start…

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NIOBE SPA – Niobe Spa started off in the African Regent Hotel near Spanner Junction (not far from Accra Mall) and they established their own branch in East Legon in the Sansiro/Lizzy Sports Complex. As soon as you walk in, you know you’ve arrived. It’s a well-designed modern space and it could have easily been a spa you’d see in London or elsewhere. Staff are attentive and welcoming, and the service is really good. Very professional and they offer a wide range of services. I think they’re the only place in Accra that does threading? Ding, ding, ding! Winning! I normally go here for my mani and pedicure needs (O.P.I. products galore), as well as my eyebrows. The pedicures are amaze balls. (Ask for Felicia Sarpong and tell her I sent you ;-)) and my nails always receive rave reviews. Price wise it’s on par with what I pay in London e.g. £4 for eyebrow threading but they’re aware they’re one of the upscale beauty monopolies and their prices reflect that. I ain’t mad. My favourite memory here was seeing the beautiful John Dumelo. I still get hot flashes. Call me boo.

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EXOTIC TRENDZ – Hair, hair, hair! If you want your hair done with finesse, don’t go anywhere else. Again, very professional. Service is good too. They have 5 branches, I used to go to the Accra Mall branch but it’s just so busy. I now go to the A&C Mall branch in East Legon which is much bigger and less busy. I’ve seen people of different ethnic backgrounds come here so it’s not just for the Ghanaians amongst us. They have a barber in each location too so the gents can get a nice trim too! Ladies, they do every treatment you can think of. Beauty services are available too but I wasn’t really a fan of their waxing, a bit rough and always left me with some sort of mark. Their manicures and pedicures were okay but it never looked neat to me. I must warn they can be pricey (hair wise), but they do gorgeous blowouts and don’t just pile grease on your hair so you fry in the sun ☺

For the Foodies

SANTOKU – The best restaurant in Ghana. Go there. The end.

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No but seriously, Santoku has excellent Japanese food. Not just by Ghanaian standards, just in general. Located in Villagio Vista by African Regent Hotel and ex-President Kufour’s house, Santoku aims to impress. As soon as you walk in: class. The menu is creative and there are lots of fun things to try. Only downside is that if you go for an early dinner, it feels like the staff are just staring at you and checking how you’re doing every 5 seconds so it gets a bit awkward lol but once the people traffic picks up everyone’s busy so you can enjoy your food in peace.

My personal recommendations: their spicy endamame, new style salmon and avocado sushi which is…*salivates* as well as their tuna tataki salad with and white fish tempura.

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NourishLAB – NourishLAB Smoothys. Name says it all. With over 40 different fruit smoothies, you’re spoilt for choice and you can still mix and match what you’d like! Smoothies are 7 cedis now which is just over £1.50 which is brilliant. My absolute fav is #25 – the Super Muguyaro which is passion fruit, lemon and pineapple. They also sell little pastries, fresh salads made in front of you and have free wifi so you can take your laptop and chill out for a while. A great café-style spot, affordable and healthy! Woop!

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BAKESHOP CLASSICS – For all your cake needs, I present to you BakeShop Classics. Located in Trade Fair, behind Zenith College, BakeShop came as a recommendation from a colleague. I wasn’t wowed when I got there, service was pretty slow and I was waiting a while but once I tasted their glorious carrot cake I bought for a friend, I was bowled over. We were still eating it in the office a week later and it STILL tasted so good! (Trampy I know. But don’t judge us). They do any cake you want with lots of different designs, Spiderman, Barbie, Cinderella etc for the young’uns or Louis Vuitton bag cakes for the bag fanatics. The prices are great too. Definitely worth it and very reasonable. The next time I went service was much better. Go ahead. Check em out! http://www.bakeshopclassics.com

LITTLE INDIAN SUNSHINE SALAD BAR – This hidden gem is off Osu Oxford Street, literally next to Firefly. They have an actual sit down restaurant and then the salad bar in a greenhouse style building in front. The salads are absolutely lovely and portions are massive too. My fav: 3 spice chicken salad. You’ll be stuffed after even eating half so it’s easily 2 separate meals. They are pricey though approx. 18 cedis but they have lovely options for vegetarians and other dietary requirements. They also sell wraps, sandwiches, samosas, spring rolls, cake, pastries and so on!

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DNR TURKISH RESTAURANT – Shawarma, shawarma, shawarma! Actually owned and run by Turkish folk this is a lovely place for authentic and tasty Turkish food. Prices are reasonable and again portion sizes are massive so make sure if you’re ordering from here you have at least one other person with you. Staff are really nice too and are good company as you wait for your meal. Average meal prices are around 18 cedis. I’d personally recommend the chicken shawarma with chilli. If you want to visit, DNR Turkish is located on the Lagos Avenue road by the Zenith Bank.

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THE LUNCHBOX GH – The Lunchbox GH is a relatively new mobile company which recently relocated from Joyce Ababio College of Fashion in Cantonments to East Legon. Strengths: the company has a great menu – barbeque chicken sandwiches, lemon pepper chicken, red velvet brownies, grilled chicken, fruit salad, smoothies, Caesar salad wraps (just to wet your appetite) and they’re always trying out new recipes to add to their repertoire. The average meal is about 12-15 cedis but fruit salads are much cheaper at say 3-4 cedis. My only gripe is the wait for delivery. The company is very new (only had their official launch in December) but waiting up to 1 hours after you’ve order for your food when you agreed on a time isn’t cool. If you’re nearby and you can pick up yourself definitely check them out. They’re on Twitter (@thelunchboxgh) and Instagram (@thelunchboxgh) too.

I’ve found my fitness solution….(Living in GH)

It’s been a struggle guys. In London, I was on the straight and narrow, eating lean meats, proteins, well over my 5 a day recommendation for fruit & veg and so on. Then I went to Ghana and it, erm, kinda went belly up.

My work schedule is a bit crazy, I was trying to settle in, find balance and all that malarkey but I tried to look for local gyms. Good gyms basically charge in dollars or the equivalent to £80 (I would never pay £80 in the UK, let along Ghana) so I resorted to the Couch to 5k app on my iPhone on the compound at 5am. That didn’t last long. Let’s fast forward a bit. I went on the Accra ExPat and found CROSSTRAIN GHANA.

Their description (sums up it nicely):

We bring the gym to you.
Crosstrain is a new concept in fitness and wellbeing. The company has been established for people who find it challenging to stay fit for reasons including lack of time and lack of motivation.Our focus is on results-driven, personalised fitness and wellbeing programs in a group setting. This group is your group because you choose who you are comfortable training with, whether friends, family or workmates; then for the next 45 minutes, you can have a private gym with specialist nutrition advice, at the location of your choice. The minimum group size is 5 people with the maximum being 20 people.

The outdoor venue you choose to train at could be a house, townhouse complex, gated community or even your office carpark. All we need is a minimum of 48 square meters (half the size of a tennis court) of flat hard outdoor space to set up our equipment.

There are classes in multiple locations including AU Village, Duchessville (opposite Cantonments Gardens), Polo Club (Airport) and some other places. They have a variety of times (really early or after normal working hours) and they actually cap class numbers at 10 so they have 1 person to 3 ‘athletes’ as they like to call us so you get lots of attention on form and correct technique etc. The first session is complementary so it’s mostly observing (which is basically a lie you get stuck in almost straight away) but it was absolutely amazing. Very attentive staff. The other athletes were really nice too. Very supportive and encouraging.

Great mixture of cardio, strength, flexibility, boxing, plyometrics, weights, circuit training. All in one session. All you have to do is turn up (equipment and water is provided). Brilliant. If you’re in Accra definitely get in contact with them and get involved!

For further information:
Kojo Adomakoh
0244 316 236

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crosstrainghana.adom?ref=stream

PS a good gym on the Spintex Road is Branch Fitness – affordable and good facilities – branchfitness.com

Living in GH – Pt 1

Well hello there guys. Again, a happy new year to you all.

So I’ve noticed (as I’m sure many of you have) there is a massive gap in the blogosphere, social networking and in general on the Internet in terms of useful information about Ghana. It doesn’t really go much further than describing how welcoming and lovely Ghanaian people are (which is true) and some observations about our culture and customs. If you’re anything like me I want to know where I can get my hair done, my nails sorted, my eyebrows threaded…you know, the important things in life 😀 No but seriously I wanted more practical information about everyday living in GH.

I definitely think the most helpful is No Worries Ghana – http://www.noworriesghana.com/ (created by the North American Women’s Association) and to some extent Accra Expat – http://www.accraexpat.com/en/ but it still leaves a lot to be desired about living in Ghana. Maybe actual books are better but a tad out of date?

I also find the ‘Ghana Expat’ Facebook group pretty good as you can directly interact with other expats and get timely advice and tips but to be honest I’ve found out the most by exploring, making mistakes, making notes and then repeating the process. So this is a little mini series on tips, advice on places to go, personal recommendations etc.

Money Matters

First and foremost, a general comment. I cannot overstate how expensive it is to live in Accra. London is a notoriously expensive city but Accra trounces London. Like I’ve said in a previous post, when here on a longer term basis ride the tro tro (bus system), it may not be as pleasant but it will save you loads. Example: A 15 cedi single journey in a taxi could cost you 80 pesewas (less than one cedi) in a tro tro. The only issue is that tro tros may be packed, you could end up waiting forever to board one, the driver could bump up the price once they see high demand etc…regardless, it’s far cheaper than a taxi. Don’t expect to come to Accra and live on a shoestring…

Rent

In the nicer areas of town they charge in dollars. I embarked on a 2 month search for a place and the average price was $900-$1000 and that didn’t include any utilities. Some places weren’t even furnished. If you want a nice modern apartment you’re talking about $1300 and upwards…A lot of the ‘nicer’ things in Accra are charged in dollars e.g. gyms, some attractions

Shopping

Shopping wise you’ll find yourself throwing out the cedis almost uncontrollably. And I’m not talking about luxuries like new clothes, shoes and jewellery. (Money management is a major issue for a lot of people. Example: Utility bills jumped up 75% (yes 75%) when I arrived and they’re set to increase by a further 9% this Jan.)

Ghana is still very much a cash economy and prices are almost always negotiated so it seems like you’re always at the ATM drawing out more money. Plus if you want some creature comforts like your favourite bubble bath, shampoo, snacks etc be prepared to pay as much as 4 times what it would cost in London/US etc. I’d recommend shipping out a massive box/barrel  of the basics, your must haves, toiletries etc. Clothes wise I’d recommend the same. Even at the malls there’s a massive lack of choice fashion wise (if you’re not going for African inspired styles that is). There’s not much else apart from Mr Price and some other random shops.

Grocery shopping wise aim for the South African chains; Shoprite and GAME. They tend to be cheaper than their Lebanese counterparts (Max Mart, Marina Mall and Koala) but still 2/3 times what you’d normally pay in most cases. (I’m aware of the import duties etc, it’s still ridiculous though). Also please be aware of expiration dates and freshness of things bought at these places especially biscuits, cereals etc. By the time you’ve gotten over your mini heart attack and paid for your goods you sometimes find the biscuits are stale or for the cereals some insects have managed to in. Maybe it’s due to the heat? If you have things you can’t live without just bring them with you or see if you can find a Ghanaian substitute.

I love Ghana, I really do but I wasn’t adequately prepared for the financial drain it would pose. I normally stay in Kumasi where things are WAY cheaper. Like everything. You can live on a shoestring there.

A wise old man once said, “There is no sea near Kumasi but fish here will cost half the price than fish in Accra”. I’m not sure why though? I’m sure there are some complex economic forces behind this. Maybe there aren’t? I’ll keep searching for enlightenment.

A trip to KSI is due soon. I’ll be sure to tell you lovely folks all about it.

Any other queries or questions you may have about Ghana, please feel free to ask and I will endeavour to answer them best I can.

Until next time folks…