Saturday, 31 December 2011

Here's to the rest of my life

This year I became the NSPCC's Ambassador for Minority Ethnic Communities. eeek.. so many journeys that I'm on it seems unreal.

The past 365 days was a bit of a whirlwind. I begun my final year, became ambassador to the UK's largest children's charity and worked for Siobhain McDonagh MP, I'm Head Delegate of my university's delegation to the Harvard World MUN and managed to get myself on the Google mentoring programme after winning the Marketing Challenge at their inaugural EMEA BOLD Immersion Programme in London. Having lived in Singapore and accelerated my 25 countries by 25 plan, 2011 probably couldn't have gone any better.

Every year, I claim, is the best year of my life and that can only show that my life is getting much better, I'm moving up!

I have know idea what 2012 or beyond has to offer but with 2011 as the launching pad, I'm pretty excited!

Wishing the same for all of you guys too. My mantra is positive thinking brings positive action. It's based on Philippians 4:8. Even if you aren't a Christian it's a very good value to live your life by.

An academic journey of sorts

I'm the Head Delegate of the University of Manchester's World Model United Nations Delegation.

These are our facebook profile & page.

This is our twitter profile.

This is our blog.

If you can, please just like and friend and tweet and RT and follow us where possible. Having the support will really help us get some bigger VIPs to help us out to.

And of course follow me on this blog too! It would be nice.

Friday, 30 December 2011

I love British Multiculturalism.

I half expected that coming home to the UK after Singapore would spell the end of the Journey. Learn. Speak. blog, simply because the first action "Journey" no longer happens. When British people go out into the world we are so overly receptive to the cultural differences it has to offer, but then when we return home and are hit with rhetoric of assimilation and homogenisation and counter-rhetoric claiming Britain has no culture to assimilate to.

I won't be as rude as to say that Britain has no culture, there are things the British did, or ate, that are largely unique to themselves. The fact that these British traits/dishes aren't seen as exotic, does not rule out the fact that they are cultural. One thing I love about modern British culture, however, is the fact that multiculturalism is the main thread. I love that as a black woman of African descent I can look out of the kitchen window of the flat I share with a Sri Lankan and two white English girls, and watch a procession of Middle Eastern/South Asian Muslims commemorating a 6th century war. When our Prime Minister slates things like this by saying multiculturalism isn't working, I sigh, because for me, with all our faults Britain is a beacon of multiculturalism, and if we were more tolerant rather than fearful of things that have been misrepresented to us, we would find such beauty in the event I watched earlier this month.

I thought I would share it with you:

The one thing I took from this experience, you don't need to journey 7000 miles to experience culture and speak about it, but it's fun if you do.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

We need a revival in this city.

This week I passed my first 1000 views mark. It's taken me about a year to get here so I was just going to write a celebratory post to mark this milestone but sadly, I don't think I can because instead I want you to know that we need a revival in this city. This week after the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, London was dealt with a shocking blow.

A young lad named Seydou was stabbed in Oxford Street, Central London, on Boxing Day. He happens to be the brother of my sister's friend. It saddens me tremendously that his family are without a son and brother. We don't think enough about the effect this type of thing has on victims' families. When their child's death is as publicised as much as this one, the media scavenge where they can to get his friends and family to say something on record. It gets disgusting that a family can't mourn in private. What's more when a person is killed, the murderer doesn't take away one life, they take 5,15, 20 lives with them.

I remember getting a phone call that my cousin was in hospital after being shot. The police thought it may have been gang related, they treated it as such. And then they later treated it as wrong place wrong time. When I initially heard, I cried violently for half an hour. This particular cousin is more than a brother, he's like a twin. I cried and then I prayed. I was so hurt by the incident, I felt it was my time to cry out to God, my time to come before the altar on my family's behalf, so I led the prayers in my house and we prayed longer than I think the three of us have ever prayed before. My cousin is fine but had he not been fine, I don't know how I would have coped.

And so I don't know how the Seydou's family is coping right now. They probably aren't. All I know is that in that moment when I heard about my cousin I could find comfort only in God, I could hear only Him and when I prayed a curtain of assurance fell on me, I knew that everything was in His hands. As such I pray for the family of the young man. I pray that God grants them peace, that he comforts them and gives them direction.

Rest in Eternal and Perfect Peace Seydou

London needs to turn to God. Christians and Muslims need to bring God to the streets. There is a video of the aftermath of the Seydou's stabbing. If you listen carefully enough there is a lady praying. We need more of this and not just in times of crisis. We as believers should not wait to be shocked into professing our belief in the Most High. This city is in need of a revival for God and when we make the Most High our most high, when we revere Him more than our politicians and monarch and material goods, we will see a change to our communities.

So if you believe in God, I pray that you consider this city in your prayers, and take pride in your faith - take that leap of faith - and evangelise. Change the lives of our city's youth. This country's future is determined by the spirituality of our capital city and WE NEED A REVIVAL IN THIS CITY.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Being a good person and succeeding anyway.

So I recently begun a project with my sister. I won't go into the details of the project because it's still teething and experiencing the problems which come along with the teething stage. 

At the moment it's the problem that I'm a bit of a glory hunter. I never thought I was before but after my ACS experience, I'm not one to see a good idea go by. Before then, my sister and I were the types to sit on a good idea and then when someone else somewhere else in the world develops it, we would sigh and sulk and question  why we sat on a goldmine of an idea. Like whats-her-face said: "Shouldda, Wouldda, Couldda are the last words of..." 

Either way, I kinda made this new project a 90/10 type thing, or even 100/0 type thing and that was wrong. One thing I can take from the whole thing, is that my attitude to action would have worked had it been coupled with communication and  fair representation and probably just a couple more brain cells - I've not been blessed with many of those I fear.

So here are a few tips to "sustainable personal development" or in layman's terms success without the bitchiness!

1. I have come to realise that God gives you divine life changing opportunities, and when you don't act on it in time or with fervour he will give it to someone else. Should someone else benefit from the blessings God gave you? You may not believe in God - that's your thing - but the sentiment applies regardless. If you come up with an idea, grasp it, map it out and if you are passionate enough about it chase it and chase it and chase it. One day you'll achieve it and it will feel great.Why sigh and sulk and question yourself in hindsight.

2. "The dream you help someone else achieve may put you well on your way to realising dreams of your own"- MoNique. Smart words from the lovely lady. 100% true.

3. Set a SMART agenda. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Managed (Google told me that one). That means, don't just have the big vision in your head. Big visions are like walls. Walls are made of bricks which have to be made individually and layered individually. Equally a grand vision requires you to identify the smaller goals (e.g. call ABC about XYZ) and to attack those. A big vision as your final goal can be overwhelming just like a massive wall of many bricks and then you'll scare yourself into not doing anything.

4. GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE! Always, Always, Always! They often say the people you climb over and step on on the way up, will be there to meet you on your way down. It is never a nice feeling when one is used or stabbed in the back. I know that. I've felt it. I hated it and it knocked my confidence, in my ability to trust people, in my ability to be a good judge of character. And now I've done it and I feel bad about making someone experience that type of disappointment and distrust of me. It's almost the Golden Rule. If you succeed or fail always be fair to everyone involved.

These tips don't come from me. They're what I've been taught by others. I'll be sure not to take credit as if I am a guru on being successful AND nice. Fact is, I haven't lived enough of life to pretend to know anything about it. These four rules are just what I take to be true. They've struck a cord with my heart more so than most other things I've heard (especially rule 4 - tonight that's really hit me). 

To my sister, I apologise for not engaging my brain. For thinking alone. For not realising that I was. For not accepting I was when you first said it. This project is much bigger than the both of us, but with the both of us it can be much bigger. ily.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Bored of the pressure
of doing well this year
not that I cant do well
but that its going to be tough
and everyone's expecting much.
Bored of not knowing my destination
80mph in the fast lane
when the next junction could be mine.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ghana shouldn't ban second-hand cars... yet.

There is a video for this post below the text but the volume of the sound may not be loud enough. The text of this post and the video are largely the same.

So the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Sherry Ayittey said that legislation will be coming into Ghana to ban the importation of second -hand cars. I totally agree with the sentiment but I think she's applied a good policy to a country that cannot cope with such a policy.

How are Ghanaians supposed to afford brand new cars? We don't have our own car manufacturing industry to drive costs down.

I have a different 3-Phase plan. I will take a long time to make it the norm but they say patience is a virtue.

Phase 1: Privately Owned Public Vehicles
These include Taxis, Trotros, and Trucks. These are vehicles that transport passenger and goods. They become proper contributors to the economy because as yet, a lot of them (Taxis and Trotros) fall into an informal economy, which really helps no one.
I would say that each of these vehicles are given a state assigned expiry date - based on car by car MOT servicing. Once a car is expired the owner must turn it into the government for recycling (the government should be nice enough to pay him), and buy him/herself a new vehicle.

This will bring in competition to the industry thus driving down passenger costs in the near future but raising the quality of transport in the long run. Taxi drivers with newer cars should be allowed to charge more for the fact that they are providing a nicer service. Taxi drivers of older cars will have to lower their charges to appeal to passengers who would otherwise choose the newer car. The newer cars, I believe, will always be patronised by the Ghanaian public because they are by far the safest option (no cracked windscreen and faulty seatbelts). Drivers of older cars will then want to emulate their colleagues and get new cars to earn more money, therefore the older cars are phased off of our streets.

An immediate ban on second-hand cars will only leave the public thinking the government doesn't understand their plight.

Phase 2: Wealthy Private Car Owners
When richer citizens buy a car 1st/2nd/3rd hand... they are taxed in accordance to its age. This system is used in Singapore up until a 15% cap on the value of the car. The older the car, the more work it would require and the more tax it is costing the owner, as such it gets to a point where it makes sense for him/her to buy a new car, save the hassle of constant up keep and pay the base rate of tax once again. the old car is bought by the government and recycled. Coupled with the tax, is an age limit for the cars (for all those owners too stingy oor sentimental to let go of an old carbon emitting vehicle), the car owner is warned of the upcoming expiry on his car and if he fails to make movements to renew his car, it is simply confiscated. ahhh welll!

Phase 3: Poorer Private Car Owners
This is the hardest one because of course the main concern is poorer car owners. I do think that a comprehensive and efficient public transport system  - hybrid of government owned and privately owned vehicles - will soften the blow of any harsh policy. The government, I would suggest would pay these car owners for their car and recycle it.

...And Recycle It?
The government can recycle all the cars they buy/confiscate from the public. Cars would be stripped down to various elements melted down and used for other things. Or our film industry could buy them as stunt cars and the like. Our artists could buy them for installations at exhibitions. Our schools could buy them for the 6th form common room. haha. Jobs will be created in the evaluating of each car, the policing of cars on the road (by transport police), at the car disassemble factories. I think this plan will do more good than evil and perhaps the Minister should try this rather than just banning second-hand cars which is extremely impractical.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Yoruba or no?

So one thing I enjoyed about travelling around South East Asia is picking up a few words here and there from each country, although I must admit I don't remember much of it since returning. I can only say "welcome" and "goodbye" in Malay and "thank you" in Thai. My sister is much more skilled in picking up new languages. When she went to Singapore 3 years before me she learnt Mandarin - she doesn't currently speak it but she's the type of person who could recapture it if she spent enough time in Chinatown.

She gets that from both my parents, they're both really good at picking up languages. My father is Yoruba (tribe in Nigeria) but upon meeting my mum and her family, he took up Twi (from the Akan people in Ghana) and because my father could understand and speak Twi we never really developed the need for Yoruba. Like Ga or Fanti is to my mother, Yoruba was my dad's special secret language, used solely for speaking to his family - my sister and I rarely took any notice, let alone an interest in learning it. We could guess largely what each conversation was about. On the phone each of my parents would get overly animated if a family member would share frustrating news/opinons. This would betray the mystery of a secret language. My sister and I, if I remember clearly, would always be able to decode the situation without one direct translation from any word in any of my parents' secret languages.

As we have grown up though, being able to read my parents' body language instead of translate their words has not been enough. How can our parents ask us to learn French and Mandarin when we can hardly communicate with our own grandmothers effectively? Queue going to university. SOAS - the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London - was my insurance choice to study African Studies and Politics. The undergraduate course would have enabled me to learn Yoruba, and decode once and for all with unquestioned authority all those family phone calls. My family (on my mum's side) couldn't see why I would make this my degree. They were less than impressed to say the least and my father didn't show the type of enthusiasm I would have expected from an immigrant man who's child had grown up to decide that she wanted to discover and claim ownership of her heritage for herself. In the end I chose Manchester, and I don't regret it.

But now I have the choice of a Master's programme and SOAS has reared it's head again. If I were to study there I would take an Africa related course, and if I were to do that then I think it's only right that I learn my father-tongue. But given that I'm down to one Nigerian grandparent who speaks alright English, given that I have no immediate intentions to go to Nigeria, and I'm not immersed in the Nigerian community any more so than DJ Abrantee from ChoiceFM, is it really worth taking the language as a significant portion of my Master's course? Perhaps, my father has liked having a secret language known only to him (and of course 85million other people but me and my sister). Perhaps I give my mother an unfair advantage in that she still has two secret languages to interchange at the flick of a tongue.

I've given you the context of my dilemma. Do tell me, in my shoes, would you learn Yoruba?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Response to 'Where are all the role models?' from Sidney Boahen

A friend of mine was this year listed as one of the UK's top 100 black graduates. I'm really proud of him, as I hope to get myself into the same list next year. It's the type of honour that makes someone look at your CV for that extra 2 seconds, or hold a conversation with you for a couple minutes longer than your peers, because they think you've been certified as having something to bring to the table. In other words, it opens doors.

Until this publication came to existence however, there were volumes of calls for black role models for black children; black professionals who themselves opened doors for black youngsters. My friend, Sidney - Future Leader and ACS Debater extraordinaire - has just added his voice to those calls but I'm afraid I will have to disagree holistically with his argument. I suspect he knew I would, which is why he tagged me in the facebook post.

I am wary of allowing a young person to believe that they can be anything they see someone else become. I'm a rich rapper and you can be like me... I'm a rich footballer and you can be like me... I'm a rich lawyer and you can be like me... but there aren't any well known, rich or successful astronauts (of African descent) so even though you've spent every night since the age of 7 staring at the stars trying to name and count them, I want you to pack away that telescope and look for a profession our community is aware of. This here is the mistake a lot of our most outspoken friends make. Their heart is in a good place, and I do agree that young people can extract advice from, and have doors held open by, elders in their community, but I don't agree that a role model must always be the same race as the young person or that a role model is necessary for success.

Sidney in his article, doesn't account for 'the firsts'. We hail these firsts as demi-gods! (when I think BET, I think "XYZ paved the way for the rest of us") but what did these firsts have that we seem to lack in our present-day community, without the will to find it? I would say it was colourblind determination to achieve the goal they set for themselves based on their own internal desires regardless of the context in which they lived. Understand me before you lambaste me. That is not to say that people like Barack Obama, or Tidjane Thiam (who Sidney refers to) were not aware of the obstacles positioned in their way because of their skin colour and heritage. It is rather to say that knowing full well that there were hurdles in their path and that the finishing line was 100 metres away, they worked their damned hardest to come in pole position when their opponents were running a simple 100m sprint. It had not been done before, but if they were to wait to see it done, they would have missed their queue. It frustrates me that one would say "You can not aspire to be something that you have not seen" when if anything our history has shown that the opposite is exactly the case. Slavery went on for centuries. Generations born onto plantations - bought, sold, raped, maimed. Slaves, for hundreds of years, had only seen slavery in their community but that didn't stop them from wanting to be free. They hadn't seen freedom, but aspired to it with fervent passion. If Barack Obama had waited to see a black man become President of the USA before he decided to run himself, you would all still be waited to see Barack Obama as President of the USA before you decided that your heart's desire is yours for the taking.

If you can't see someone standing there in all their shining glory, with the door wide open waiting for you, then it's up to you to recognise that your number is 1. You are the first. You may never be the richest, you don't need to be. You need to be the best you can possibly be at the thing you have a passion for. And if your motivation rests on you being told that what you want to do has been done many times before by people who look just like you, think, 'Do I love it enough to do it when I can't see anyone at all?' When you can answer yes to that question, you're on the path to great things.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A week to remember

This is a week to remember, undoubtedly.. although it might pass unnoticed in the larger population of the world. I trust that there are a few of us with shared interests who are to an extent excited by what this week will bring.

On the same day Egypt and the DRC were to go to the polls. Both elections are contentious issues. In the case of Egypt, the system not the participants, is flawed. Egypt's elections will not bring about the immediate democracy that its people campaigned so hard for- if the military gets its way Egypt's democracy will be put on ice for yet another 12 months minimum, but they've waited over 50 years already what's another on the calendar? This would be Egypt's first ever election. Coup after coup has been the usual passing of power. and so you can see why people may be excited and eager to take part.

Further south the DRC is also having elections. And as can be expected the particpants not the system is flawed.. that is the story of sub-saharan Africa. President Joseph Kabila inherited the apparent democracy from his father who stole it from the dictator Mobutu who violently and inhumanely seized it with unashamed neo-colonial Belgian and US sponsor, from the country's first president, Patrice Lumumba. That has been the story of the DRC. Now in the country's elections candidates with rumoured history of serial rape, dealings in blood minerals and all other types of crimes run for positions in government that will give them access to large quantities of funds.

I'm not one to trust western media (and I throw Al Jazeera into this label) when it comes to African affairs, simply because I know that the world doesn't rate us, but I reckon in this case - the case of the DRC which is not only the poorest but the most dangerous place to live in the world - some accusations may just be true. It worries me that in the spirit of democracy someone with such a shady past with no sign of remorse or reform could be given legal power and the resources to govern the people he tormented for years. Many more statesmen have been expelled from the political arena for much less than what this gentleman is being accused of.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Aid vs Sovereignty


You may find this post in another blog as well, I don't know (at the time of writing this,) whether I want to submit it as an article for a political communal blog 'cartel' I'm in, or not.

I submitted my dissertation topic form two weeks ago, on the deadline, about 3 mins before it was due to close. It was an idea I had been toying with for weeks, but fundamentally it is the basis for my studying politics in the first place - Africa.

Africa is my beginning and end I guess and so writing about it, giving myself the opportunity to understand it better is key. I didn't expect though that confirmation of this topic would come in the way it did...

The week before I submitted my topic form it was announced that the UK will slash aid to African nations who refuse to embrace homosexuality as a part of their society. At the recent Commonwealth Summit the British Prime Minister reasserted this policy. David Cameron argues that the right to be gay, and gay rights form an integral part of Human Rights and therefore, any country that does not uphold gay rights or even goes as far as to oppose it and introduce punishments upon the LGBT community is infringing upon International Human Rights and therefore unworthy of Western aid.

Those sympathetic to the gay rights movement won't really find a problem with what the British Prime Minister is proposing. That is not to say that I am not sympathetic with gay rights, but that I am more sympathetic with the more basic Human Rights being sidelined for this issue. The right to eat, for one. The right to an education, and the right to quality healthcare (although the American republicans may disagree with these two). The three sectors of infrastructure I have just named are heavily funded by Western aid. This means that any cut to the amount of help given at the beginning of the process will ultimately result in a cut to the quality of service found at the end. Can David Cameron really boast of moral high grounds when he is willing to see a young 5 year old girl go hungry week-in week out at the request of Western gay rights organisations (who enjoy 3 square meals a day)? Where is the moral high ground when that girl - lesbian or straight - grows up to work in a farm her entire life against her every desire, but as her only option, because the quality education wasn't there for her?

I am not a Utilitarian but in some cases the pleasure of the majority and the superiority of the greater good for the greater number must take precedence. There are some things that we cannot gamble with.

Cameron's declaration also confirms all that Kwame Nkrumah and his peers feared and warned against. The Prime Minister claimed that Britiain's position is one in which they can tell the African countries what they "expect" from them. He is unashamedly claiming to have the power to change the mindset of a people over whom he should have no control. My apologies for playing this card but it reminds me to much of the impetus behind colonialism - to civilise the barbarians, who in this case are barbarians because they believe that every man's relations should be with a woman and every woman's with a man. Today it is gay rights, tomorrow it is trade with British businesses, (or maybe that was yesterday actually!) When will Africans decide when Africans are ready?

I just hope African Heads of States make the decision to comply or resist based on what their people want. I am frustrated by what David Cameron has put forward, and one may argue that the best thing to do for the young girl is comply and move on, but Africans need identity and pride in their identity as the only ones who can shape and dictate what that identity is. If Africans choose aid over their principles then so be it, but if they choose their religion, culture and traditions over £36million (the amount the UK give to Ghana) then I would respect that decision too, because the most important contributor to national development isn't foreign aid, but pride in the national identity decided by Africans.

The worrying prevalence of homophobia in Ghana

I wrote this and intended to publish it on the 23rd July 2011, 3 months before David Cameron's campaign for gay rights in Africa:

No matter what I say it will probably be taking in the wrong way by someone. But I think I should say something, because my sister appears to be getting tired of me talking for hours on end about the things that annoy me without showing signs of actually doing SOMETHING about it.

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed something in Ghanaian news that I do not like. As the title of this post would suggest it is the prevalence of homophobia in Ghana. I will make my position clear because I think it's important that no one misinterprets any ambiguities. I am a Christian (by birth some may say) and I follow the Bible as closely as I can.That is to say that I know we are not all perfect but we can try to be. I have not yet read a scripture that deals with homosexuality directly but I think the interpretations and sentiment that runs through the Bible makes it pretty clear. So with that, I'm not homophobic, I have gay, bisexual and lesbian friends and I don't ever judge their life choices. Their sexual orientation is their decision

It frustrates me that our country's leaders doesn't have their priorities in order. The most important thing for Ghana and indeed for most African countries, is development. Our pastors, headteachers and politicians should be preaching about anti-corruption values, innovation and respect. They shouldn't be asking people to expose other people's private lives or call the police on mere suspicions of things that do not concern them. There are many other evils in our country that seem to be slipping through the mosquito net.

And I will be terribly honest. I'm not asking for Ghanaian society to be any more accepting of homosexuality than it is today. It is not acceptable in our culture, nor in the religions to which we subscribe. But Ghanaians had perfected the art of living side by side with those with whom you disagreed. There is a common goal which is the country's development and we should work towards that despite other problems. I worry that this flurry of debate around homosexuality in the country will bring unnecessary attention to a country that so far no one has any problems with.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Future Female Leaders?

We often hear about the glass ceiling affecting women in the work place. Some say it's been smashed, others proclaim it still exists.

And then we hear about alleged institutional racism - a hindrance to ethnics in the workplace trying to achieve their due recognition. 

Being a BLACK FEMALE, none of this makes me excited about entering the world of work. In fact, I will do just about anything to put off the inevitable and that includes travelling for 5 years. (Currently on the cards, but not if my mum has anything to do with it). Being President of my uni's ACS in my second year opened me up to a lot of inspirational avenues. There are now a million organisations of black empowerment, a gazillion awards to be given each year and even more people behind those awards and organisations profiting from the desire of MNCs to diversify by handpicking the country's best ethnic students. So that covers, one thing - the black part of me. 

The problem is that in all these awards and recognition (which I do not at all slate), the majority of the elites are male. Given the UK (and definitely London) gang problem, there has been more discourse on providing youths with male role models. Problem-children are often said to come from a single-mother home and I guess for the media and the elites, they've had too much female connection that doesn't seem to be working. That being said, what about the women? I think more than anything young people want to see that against the odds, whatever those odds may be and for whatever reason (be it race or gender) one has succeeded. Women in general are doing fairly well in comparison to maybe when I was born and clearly ethnic minorities are doing much better too. 143 of the 650 members of parliament are women, 27 of the 650 MPs are BME but only 9 of 650 MPs are BME Women. 

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was probably my first female role model after the women in my family. But where are the opportunities for a replication of her success here in Britain. It's funny how we're all searching for the first British Obama - David Lammy this! Chuka Umunna that! - when this country has proudly paraded a female as its leader for 11 of its toughest years post-WW2. When we think first black prime minister why aren't females included in the leadership race?

Until things change, I'm going to live in a secluded hut somewhere in the heart of Africa away from GPS, the internet and half-hearted social change.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What the SAU don't say about reverse culture shock.

So I begun my first day of 3rd Year on Thursday.. before then, the last time I was sat in a lecture theatre for the purpose of learning was in Singapore. When it comes to uni vs uni.. if I'm gonna have reverse culture shock it would have been then. But actually I settled into the teaching style and length (Manchester teach for half the time as Singapore) quite easily. I quickly got into the habit of visiting the library (probably more the influence of NUS students than UoM) and the layout of campus and Oxford Road is tattooed into my DNA. Reverse culture shock isn't the noticeable things about the two cultures, like them driving on the other side of the road (not true in the case of Singapore) or different humidity, or food, or languages and customs. No. Reverse culture shock is simply the reverse of being shocked by culture. total apathy. Everyone asks you the same questions: where did you travel to? did you enjoy it? and then you want to tell them a funny story.. you've even been careful to explain context and everything so as to make sure they don't get the whole it's-funny-if -you-were-there feeling. This happens 10, 20, 100 times over and then that funny story that underpinned your whole evaluation of study abroad as the best decision you've ever made, is no longer funny. It's just some foreign bloke (or bird) in an even foreigner land doing standard things that you found funny at the time because you were high in the ecstasy of you being 7000 miles from home. Reverse Culture Shock, is when you avoid mentioning you were away and all talk of it. Or you bring it up yourself EARLY IN CONVERSATION SO AS TO SUMMARISE AND MOVE ON, because even you are beginning to be envious of the person you were 6 months ago. You're thinking "shut up already, you're not there now are you?! and even if you go back, your 485 friends from 86 different countries won't be, so stick it on your CV and move on!!!"

Reverse Culture Shock isn't acclimatising back to your first culture.. it's becoming bored of the fantasy you lived for 6 months - 1 year of your life.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

One Track Everything

The most common reason put forward for Africa's stagnation is its inability to diversify, in its teaching, in its economy and where it derives revenue from. Take Nigeria for example (who's football away shirt I'm currently wearing). Oil accounts for 70% of its exports and 90% of its revenue. That means that 30% of it's exports account for less that 10% of the nation's finances. If there was a EUREKA moment that managed to replace oil with something else much cheaper than oil and more readily available, Nigeria would be a nobody country. And forget those who claim that Nigeria being as big as it is, is essential to the continent... no one is indispensable.

This is the story for many countries in the continent and across many sectors.. what's got me talking about it today? Well, Ghana has a Rugby Association but it's not part of the IRB because it doesn't have the financial stability to warrant being part of the IRB. This has been the case for years, whilst the government has thrown cash at the Ghana Black Stars football team for missing penalties and failing to meet expectations. Our Black Stars players have held the country to ransom because they haven't received bonuses, when they haven't won anything to be bonused (i'm aware this is not a word) with. They've been promised and delivered to cars, cash, parties and honours galore that anyone would have thought football was all the British brought and all the natives knew.

Over the past few years I've had to read of our athletics team paying for their own entry into the All Africa Games and other international sporting competitions. They train at the expense of their own pocket - when they could so easily transfer to other countries - all because they are proud of their country. It is a damn shame that their country isn't as proud of them. Yes, football boosts tourism, in that it makes people aware that there is a country in West Africa where the people are happy and amicable and smile when they're losing. And yes, the more money we pump into football the more Essiens and Muntaris and Ayews we shall find and the more Kevin Prince Boatengs, and Emmanuel Frimpongs we will attract. And perhaps that will influence a flow of Africans (by birth and by heritage) to keep ties with their home country and help it develop (although this is clutching at straws); but what about the others.

When we are focused solely on oil, cocoa, gold or football, or even doctors and nursing, aren't we neglecting those who have no interest in those areas. We're letting the next Zuckerberg, Kobe Bryant, Shah Rukh Khan or even Lee Kuan Yew (minus the whole, staying for a long time) slip through the net. If we don't leave room for options because we don't finance those who want to change their 419 habits into becoming computer scientists, or designers, or rugby players, or teachers (who in my view are abused by the inadequate implementation of the single-spine salary system) then we are left with very few happy, rich and talented people and far too many poor, under-appreciated, depressed and under-skilled strugglers.

Sometimes there isn't a problem being a jack of all trades, as a country you may be a jack of all trades because good governance FAIR GOVERNANCE allows little Kwesi or little Abena to become the Master of One.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bobby on the beat

Things like this make me love London and it is police action like this that will heal London communities not heavy court sentences, or mass distribution of ASBOs. Enjoy!

South Africa: the Japan of Africa?

I'm not one for fashion, I don't care what someone tells me everyone else is wearing. I loathe seeing drones and drones of girls wearing the same brand like they're all sponsored.

Case in Point.

That being said I've always appreciated the Japanese way. The quirkiness and almost ubiquitous individuality of the Japanese fashion sense is a breath of fresh air. Having seen a video article on the launch of 46664 the fashion line associated with Nelson Mandela, I've come to realise that South Africans in their outlandish no-holds-barred   expressions are the Japanese of Africa.  Appreciate it with me and if you don't agree let me know:

Although I'm not sure how I feel about the commercialisation of the prison number.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Eeeek! My apologies!

My apologies, this blog has gotten quite dry and whilst I only have 1 follower I can only assume that they followed in order to get information on Singapore. Since I am no longer there and experiencing the wonderful idea that is Study Abroad this blog may have become irrelevant.

I attempted to move it on to a commentary of African cultures and politics but I've not kept up. sorry. I won't outline, so much, how the next few months will play out cos frankly, I don't want to disappoint you. All I can say is against all my better judgement and principles this blog will once again become primarily self-centred. More of How-I-get-through-life blog rather than an instructional You-should-do-this style. You might not notice a difference because at the end of the day they both rely on me experiencing something first and then reeling off the benefits and mistakes to you.. I'm just hoping that if I can make this more of an online journal (though not strictly daily) I might destroy the temptation to join twitter and you never know I might just get this blog a couple more followers. (to my follower - thank you, for sticking through even though I'm not sure if you've forgotten I'm here).

The next post shall be that new chapter - a journey perhaps, of blogging the successful way. ;-)

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Disappointment of Top Model of Colour

I went to the regional heats of the Top Model of Colour at the TigerTiger Club in Piccadilly on Sunday. I can only return from it questioning why I thought it would ever be a productive use of my time. I could think of a million other things that I would do instead, such as, research political topics to blog about, or clean my room in time for my sister's Canadian guest to occupy it this week, or oh, I dunno watch paint dry.

I guess by now you're wondering what was so bad about it that I must open this post so negatively. I just want to clarify that I have nothing against the models, even though it's not a profession I would ever consider, or attempt to save if the power were in my hands (if say we got hit with the Great Depression again, that is). The contestants all deserve a round of applause, they tried really hard.

The problem was the lack of organisation and frankly put, discipline from all those involved. There was no sign of a run through prior to the start of evening. The models were signaled to come down too slowly dragging out the whole catwalk process. The presenter didn't know who or where she was. She introduced former winners but had to ask them who they were on stage and no, not in that sort of introduce yourself to the audience way of asking. It genuinely was more of those, I don't know who you are and you could just be a random person taking the spotlight sort of way. Surely you should introduce people to each other beforehand so that they are familiar on stage. I don't appreciate awkward silences, or even worse the awkward umms and errs that she used to fill the awkward silences.

To add insult to injury the presenter at one moment thought she had somehow become Tyra Banks. She asked a model why she had chosen to apply to America's Next Top Model. really? You are the constant face of TMC this evening and you don't even know the company you represent. Disappointing.

The other thing that got to me was the judging process. The judges asked too many stupid questions that I can only assume they acquired from seasons upon seasons of ANTM (so the presenter isn't alone in that sense). I don't think even they had enough of a grasp of the industry themselves to judge whether the answers given were genuine and educated or pure blagged bull. I - being a master of blagging - could tell that a lot of the answers were blagged. Many of the models got through without answering questions or without providing quality answers when they did and I don't think the judges took this into consideration when deciding. That made the playing field completely uneven and that's definitely not fair.

Worse than that... the creme de la creme of things that really annoyed me... the lack of discipline in the selection process. All but one of the male contestants were chosen to go to the next round. In proportion you could say the same thing happened in the girls category. I believe we started with 20 girls or thereabouts and the end of the night left about 17 standing. I DID NOT JUST TURN UP TO SEE ONLY THREE GIRLS LEAVE THE COMPETITION?! Did I? It was completely dragged out.

Tokenism ran through the contest in a way that I would only be able to take offence to, if I were a member of the token ethnicity. There was a Persian girl who I would not say wasn't pretty, but she wasn't the prettiest Persian girl I've met. I wouldn't choose her to represent Persian or Arabic ladies in a major modelling contract. And same goes for the Oriental girl who flopped in her questions. She seemed so clueless about a lot but managed to get in to the list of those progressing to the next round. Many of the girls with the best sense of style failed to make it. And the 17th girl to make it was actually chosen because she had her entire social circle in the club. The judges had not chosen her initially but clearly the CEO's agenda was to keep the audience happy. After all they'd be the ones to buy out the bar and give him a good relationship with management. (I guess his was solidifying his contact list which is good business initiative). I grew bored and disappointed as the night progressed. Maybe because it didn't feel like a progression at all really. What could possibly be the difference between the previous rounds or the one to follow?

What this shows me is that they have no real understanding of organisation. The organisers haven't planned out the stages or duration of each stage properly. They should know that at Stage 1 there will be 100 people. Stage 2 - 50, Stage 3 - 25 and so on. And you must stick to that. Nothing frustrates me more than indecisive people. The judges weren't pressured to make an educated decision on the contestants in front of them because they were given the leeway to invite everyone back. It is a very important skill to learn - decision. Successful people make decisions. They take risks and they learn and work from the consequences. It is a farce and frankly a money scam that tickets could be £15 and all we see is a very drawn out method to remove 5 contestants out of 30 from a competition.

It's a shame, I could rant for forever about things like this because we always get upset when we don't see people within our community portrayed well, but having witnessed first hand a brand that claims to be a leading agency for ethnic models in Europe operate so unprofessionally, I now know that we cannot expect more than that. We will forever remain mediocre if we all take mediocrity to be the supposed gold standard.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Credit where it's due. Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings is helping again.

Nana Agyeman-Rawlings has embarked on a thank you tour to talk to the people who asked her to challenge the President and consequently author the demise of her political career. It has taken a while for her to do so, but I think it's good that she's brought a close to this chapter.

Expanded in this video:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tapping Wealth

Ghana's making movements and I'm so proud of them.

What am I talking about? Well, Tullow Oil sold many of their shares last month at a rate of GHC 31 (£12.59/$20.51) per share. They sold 3.5 million shares and raised almost GHC 110 million.

This is good news. I'm not sure how most oil companies fair in other countries and with other grades of oil but floating the company on the Ghana Stock Exchange gives Ghanaians a way of owning and benefitting from the oil find in another way than the often publisiced second-hand benefits (hotels, landlords, small local businesses). I'm just gutted that I wasn't aware of the offer because I've been awaiting the opportunity for years (buying shares at 19 years old FTW). It'll have to be at 20-years old if they don't put the last batch up before mid-August =[.

As with most things to do with Ghana I do have my reservations. A vast majority of the shares were bought up by large organisations who have the financial capacity to buy a significant percentage of the shares on offer, but as I grew up, I recall my father buying, tracking and selling shares- as ordinary as he is. My concern is that the ordinary Ghanaian didn't get the opportunity to buy into the shares. They first of all lack the finances to do so - my cousin earns just GHC 60 (£24/$39) a month and he has a family to support. How many months would it take for him to raise the money for just one share - and not neglect his duties as a father and husband?

And even if he could find a way by utilising the best of the African family structure, he doesn't have a  bank account. In fact many Ghanaians lack a bank account given the prevalence of the informal economy, irregular cash in hand work. So how does one go about transferring his/her money to the necessary parties in order to secure a share in Tullow Oil. The other negative of the informal transaction system, is when it's gone it's untraceable - false agents can decieve you and run away with you money and your so called investment may as well have been burnt away in the fires of Agbloboshie. Did the government think about these obstacles affecting the ordinary Ghanaian? Have they done enough to make sure that this oil find isn't another crank to widen the income gap? I don't think they have.

Ghana is about to see a number of other booms. I strongly believe there will be a property boom and tourism boom, given the number of returning Ghanaians (and those of heritage) as well as those here for the oil money. The National Mens Senior Football team will of course do much for our tourism if they continue to provide dramatic football a la their performance in South Africa last year, but is this government ready to make the ordinary Ghanaian benefit directly from these changes. I haven't seen evidence that will affirm this.

If you have ideas as to how Ghana can develop, or maybe you have an opinion on what they are lacking, then comment below. Let me know what your thinking, let's spark discussion and begin to change things.

Know the signs.

I don't know if anyone would appreciate this post since it isn't directly related to study abroad or Singapore. Also if you still have questions feel free to ask, I'm in the process of compiling The Ultimate Helpful Blogpost containing advice not just from me, but also my exchange friends.

Ok so, "know what signs?" I hear you ask. The Adinkra symbols. Adinkra symbols are native to the Akan people in Ghana where my mother is from. The problem is that whilst there are over 60 symbols, people only recognise the one. It's a fairly big one - Gye Nyame - literally translated "take God" it actually means "it takes God/without God". Ghanaians are really religious people hence why this symbol is real important. It's on everything, tattoos, tshirts, mugs, traditional cloth, logos... you name it! One thing it is not on is Kristen Wiig's neck in the movie "Bridesmaids". I would love for someone - connected to the film - to confirm for me my suspicions, but my sister and I think that the necklace around Kristen's neck is an Adinkra, meaning friendship and interdependence. 

It is called Ese Ne Tekrema - literally translated "the teeth and the tongue". Obviously the teeth and tongue cannot perform their functions well without the presence and effectiveness of each other and from that we understand that humans too need each other in order to meet their full potential. In other words "no man is an island". It is not as many have suggested, the Gye Nyame symbol. In fact, the Ese Ne Tekrema is a very fitting symbol for the message conveyed in the movie. The movie talks of the the strength of friendship and the need for the two ladies to remain good friends. Anyone with a good knowledge of the Adinkra culture will be able to identify this. I would love it if people widened their horizons and educated themselves further to give justice to the culture to which they subscribe.

So now you know.

Starving Hunger

There is a new initiative which is this time not run by Bono or Bob Geldof so I think I can throw my weight behind it more. It is the 1 billion hungry campaign: : 

I'm supporting it because I want us to put an end to hunger (if that doesn't sound too naive), I want us to try to starve hunger, if that makes sense, so that the factors that fuel it - corruption, displacement, poverty and all the rest - are addressed and eradicated.

If you go to the website you will see that they hope to get 1 billion in support of them and are far shy at only 3 million so if all of China could sign up tomorrow that'll be much appreciated, thanks.

I won't push it down anyone's throat because I find that people easily grow from being aware of things to  actually becoming immune to it. If you stumble across something and take your own time to read about it, I find people are much more likely to sympathise.

Join if you can, if you care.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Good Evening VietNam

btw I am aware that the phrase is "Good Morning Vietnam" but I'm using a play on words to indicate my leaving and probably never going back.

The Vietnam trip was errmm.. well I would say a disaster but it was salvaged some what at a major cost.

When I initially thought of writing this blog everything was gonna be negative or a bit of a complaint, like the fact that alot of people in the international airport don't speak English. (I just thought, if a country will trade largely in US dollars - the US being an English speaking country- that they would have a basic level of proficiency in the language of trade. In fact you lose more money in Vietnam if you use Vietnamese Dong.) But then I thought it won't be balanced or particularly fair to Vietnam so instead, here are the things I liked about Ho Chi Minh City, interrupted by a few Dos and Don'ts.

Independence/Reunification Palace
Some people call it Independence Palace others, call it Reunification Palace. On maps (i.e.Google) it's called Reunification Palace but regardless of name it's one and the same. Do you're own research, its better when you feel you can connect with the story behind it.

Take a camera, you'll want to take many photos of this 1970s throwback. I've seen houses that my Grandfather built in Ghana in the 1970s, and walking into the Palace in HCMC, I can see the similarities. The Palace really is the epitomy of 1970s architecture and interior design. Even the rooms that are decorated and set up to look like they are from a time long before the establishment of the Palace, have a 1970s atmosphere.

You can't walk into any of the rooms (but one on the second floor) which kinda sucks but is expected, but you can still get some good photos.

Ben Thanh Market
Go here if you want to get souvenirs or Vietnamese coffee. It's got a bit of a whiff but they say that after you endure a smell for a couple minutes you can't smell it anymore, so when you get there take a deep breath, soak in the whiff and it won't bother you for the rest of the time.

These market people are hardcore grafters! Real hustlers. Do not attempt to barter with them if you're not afraid to screw them in price because, frankly, if you don't, they will.

Notre Dame/ Central Post Office
The Notre Dame is just another church. I liked it but I don't understand the actual attraction people have to churches apart from as a place of worship. I would've been happy to burst out into praise and song but I don't think the other tourists would have appreciated it.

Whats great about the Notre Dame is that you can appreciate it from every angle and it has this sort of central feel. It is right opposite the Central Post Office which sports a beautiful portrait of Ho Chi Minh high up at the end of the grand hall. The Post Office has two souvenir shops with all you'll need gift wise.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Home Sweet Home.

I'm home now.. and although I haven't put up posts about Cambodia or Vietnam in full, I will when I've resettled in the UK.

I'm happy to be with my family but I'm missing Singapore big time.. it's just a big contrast in every single way! Needless to say I would rather be out there than here.

Xie Xie Singapore. I will be back :)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Asian Art

So I took my friend to get herself her first tattoo.

She did it in a well respected tattoo parlour (Ink by Finch) in Singapore to, y'kno, avoid getting that Hep B etc. It's Thai writing meaning "There's always a reason"

If you are going to be in South East Asia DO NOT get a tattoo done at some party island in Thailand or random shop in Cambodia, Vietnam or Philippines. Just jump down to Singapore where you know rules are followed and things are clean. And if you cba to jump down to sg, then you cba to get a tattoo in South East Asia. You're also probably thinking impulsively and will end up regretting it for the rest of your life or convincing yourself that you aren't regretting it... for the rest of your life.

Yes it's all cool and yes there are many Maori descendants across South East Asia willing to do bamboo or needle tattoo but just be sensible. My little advice to you.

All Plane Journeys Should Be Like This. Lah.

Please play this YouTube video and have the music playing as you read =] :

I would like to share with you the best plane journey I've had. It would be my Phnom Penh to Singapore flight with JetStar. It was just really great. No babies but rather a couple dozen school kids from Bedok Secondary. They were on some school holiday trip thing for 5 days (to Cambodia?!!? I've clearly been attending the wrong schools!)

I won't lie when I first realised they would be on my plane I dreaded it. I thought they would be loud and unruly but they were rather the opposite. JetStar were nice enough to play "Hey Soul Sister" (sadly not the glee version) through the system and well, popular song + bunch of school kids = one thing - a big fat singalong... so there we all are sitting in the plane waiting for it to taxi to the runway and almost every passenger including myself, my Dutch friend and the Catalan woman from Barcelona sitting next to me were singing along.. especially at the "Hey-ey Hey-ey-ey-ey" part. I thought there was going to be a genuine T-mobile moment. Honestly. At that moment I was a bit gutted that I didn't have a phone with a good camera (like a BB, HTC or iPhone), it was truly a magical moment. 

And as if it couldn't get better, I managed to make progress on the Nollywood movie I'm writing, have a 15 minute nap, wake up to the sight of Singapore at night (currently, my favourite view in the whole world), and  have the schoolkids applaud the pilot upon safe landing. I mean who does that anymore?! No one, and that's the shame of it. Why don't we break into song on planes? Why are we so serious when we take our seats - so focused on falling asleep as soon as possible? And WHYYYY don't we applaud pilots anymore?!?! Or say a tiny little thank you prayer to God when we land? So much could go wrong with every journey. We all know who to blame when it does, but do we know who to thank when it doesn't?

Monday, 30 May 2011

Rambo Cambo

Here is a really quick summary of Cambodia in video form... you can still read further down below my actual written post:

Monday, 23 May 2011

the life of a travelling student in websites

So as this experience is coming to an end I doubt it could change so much in the next 2 and a half weeks. I thought I'd paint a picture of what my life has been about by listing alphabetically the most viewed websites. By that I mean if I type in just one letter what website is Google Chrome going to guess I want to go to.

A -
B -
C -
D -
E -
F -
G -
H -
I -
J -
K -
L -
M -
N -
O - (any random popup link from watching pirate websites)
Q - the only letter without an association
R - (any random popup link from watching pirate websites)
S -
T -
U -
V -
W -
X - (any random popup link from watching pirate websites)
Y -
Z -

I reckon from this you could write my life as a fictional story and still be quite true to form. The internet... what a marvelous thing eh?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday 22nd May 2011

so jokes today. So I realised last night that my student visa was to expire today and that I needed to leave the country and come back with a visit stamp.. so then today we went to JB to do just that. I told them I had lost my card so that they wouldn't take it in from me, then they were all like "ok we have to refer you" and then I was like "Oh wow, here it is" and so then they were like "ok stay here whilst we cancel the referal" and then finally they let me go.... yayyy JB! that was easy and fun and a couple hours and we're due to return. So on the return we fill in the white card (as departure lady instructed because our cards were expired) then arrival lady was like "dude, where's your card?" and I was like "here, but I don't need to show you that because I've got this white card" and she said that was exactly the problem - that I had filled in the white card when I departed as a temporary citizen on the student card... and I was like "well then pretend I haven't handed you the white card" and she clearly said  "no." so I said "well all my friends have done the same, so...." so Ede, Edem and I all get taken up to this room with 4 visible cameras and 2 security doors on the 8th floor and they question us.. blah blah blah they eventually let us go, then we went to the biggest Horseracing event in the calendar (even the President was there) but I didn't bet cos I could just hear mum reading me scriptures and praying for my soul, but my friend betted and I was gonna bet on his horse with him and in the end he won $73 so I could've won $73 if it weren't for mum.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

VietnamJUMP 2011 4th Entry

So it all worked out in the end albeit it that the extra costs and additional stress sort of railroaded all my other plans. So no Hong Kong for me this time around.
Scratch that.
That was a premature blog post.
VietnamJUMP didn't happen for me.
Life is such.
And no, Hong Kong didn't happen either but, I will be doing Cambodia- with friends and that is all that matters.

So fourth and final entry.

Sometimes things don't work out how you planned but the intentions are still appreciated.
You just have to pick yourself up, and move on. Everything can be an adventure if you want it to be.

Monday, 9 May 2011

VietnamJUMP 2011 3rd Entry

So as I speak, the team are embarking on a 6 hour journey from Ho Chi Minh City to the highlands of Dak Nong. I was was supposed to be on that coach. I was also supposed to be on the flight that would get them to Vietnam but my indecision messed everything up for me. I didn't want to commit to anything until I knew exactly what my entire holiday was going to look like and in the end I ordered my visa too late that it didnt arrive in time for my flight.

I did call to speed up the process and offered to pay the extra to make the 'normal' service an 'urgent' service, but the lady told me that my letter had already been sent. That wasn't the case and so I guess on both sides there was a bit of failure. The lesson is that I shouldn't have delayed because the only thing I'm in control of is the time I do stuff, and I should have left enough time for miscommunication to take place, or for general failures by the company.

I was told by so many people that it takes a matter of hours, but I shouldn't have risked it. Just so you know. People will tell you that the visa approval letter takes at the very most 2 days, I would say to be certain, the latest you should order is 1 week. No later than that unless you are doing a spontaneous trip. Also, go through the embassy not a company, because then you'll have someone of actual responsibility to be held accountable.

All this being said, everyone I know going to Vietnam this summer has encountered some problems either missing their flight or visa issues or something along those lines. Literally everyone, so maybe it's not our fault, maybe fate doesn't want us to go or something. I don't feel bad cos at least my problem was bureaucratic, some people just woke up late for their flight!

p.s. just realised I don't know exactly where the school is that we're teaching at, I couldn't jump in a taxi or bus and ask to be taken anywhere, cos I don't know a definitive address. So I guess this is the third and final entry for VietnamJUMP 2011, unless I get a miracle phone call from someone. :(

GE: Singaporean History

You might not know what 'GE' stands for. In Singapore it doesn't stand for General Electric. It stands for General Election.. a fun time in the Singaporean calendar. I reckon it's had more discussion than all cultural festivals put together.

I was more than lucky to be in Singapore as a Politics student at a time, when politics couldn't be more important. And was even better was that most criticism of the ruling PAP was concerning the prison break of a crippled Indonesian terrorist - which I was actually here for back in 2008. I've just been very lucky when I've come to Singapore that big things happen.

But anyways, the election. Why am I writing about it? well because, the ruling party lost a Group Representation Constituency. And why is this important? Well cos that's 6 seats, gone just like that. The PAP still got 81 of 87 seats, which is clearly a landslide but never in the history of Singapore has the ruling party lost more than 4 seats (that happened in the 80s and is still spoken of as glory days for Singaporean politics). And on top of that nationally they had their worst percentage share since independence.

The PAP said that it is a clear sign that they need to listen to youth voters.. and well, yeh, this is true.  They should have known this before the election really. I mean I've only been here 4 months or so and even I realised that the students and young people in Singapore aren't as impressed with the ruling party as their parents and grandparents - probably because they've been born after the struggle, and are just experiencing the benfits as the status quo - but either way their mindset is different and if you just look at the reception that opposition leaders got at the Singapore Forum on Politics, it was clear that there would be some sort of swing to the opposition.

Makes me think though, I know Singapore is a small state, but the youth vote and opinions of younger people in this country could really make a difference to the ruling party's approach to state-society relations. Only last winter, in the UK, we had several marches and protests against policies that would worsen the lives of students (and indirectly, their families) in order to appease some bankers who gambled the country's money away. We failed to even make an impression on the party who claimed to stand for us. Is there any type of protest vote in the UK that will make the coalition sit up and take note?

Thursday, 5 May 2011


if the word AlumNUS is copyrighted please don't sue me.

So I'm now an alumnus of the National University of Singapore and it's such a humbling feeling. I feel like part of a family, not just the family that is PGP Exchange Students 2011, but the general NUS family. Actually, I lie. I just really like the idea of having more privileges than a normal undergrad. I think that's why I'm so eager to be a Manchester alumnus too.. just so I can feel more special than the majority. I'm weirdly egotistical like that.

So anyways, we were all first told that we were now Alumnus at the Farwell Party. We recieved a little NUS Passport Holder a bag some other stuff, and then they sent our Alumnus card in the post. So now I've got that! But I decided that I won't consider myself as an alumnus until my final exam. That came yesterday! The exam itself probably didn't go too well, but to heck with it!

Anyways I'm just happy I've done this now. I've met some great people from all over the place USA, Canada, the Basque Country, South Korea, the Maldives, Iran, Turkey. It's been great and I'm really grateful to the Univeristy of Manchester for providing the opportunity and to my friends who helped me write my application in Grosvenor Place GC Kitchen last year! If you have the opportunity, take it. I'm about to embark on 3 weeks travelling... the most fulfilling year of my life in my opinion. :D

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Ok so exams here are no different here than they are back in Manchester expect that the students sitting the exams are probabaly tonnes more prepared. They work like the intersect.. for those who don't understand I will kindly ask you to watch the American TV show Chuck.  It's a good show, part of my regular watching list.

But anyways yes. The Singaporean student has this crazy ability to store more information than a camel holds water. Then they spurt it all out as if it were their own opinion, although if you know better and you read the same stuff as them you'd realise that word for word they're reciting someone else's work. I noticed that long ago.  And yes I am a bit jealous of the skill. But anyways this all means that come exams there's a thundercloud of knowledge waiting to storm down on that page and storm down they do!!! 

You know when you're in an exam room and you're sitting your exam (GCSE, A-level, 1st/2nd/3rd year uni) happily trying to recall what it is you were reading between thrashing your best mate at FIFA 11 or whilst you were on the phone making plans for the long summer ahead, and then someone puts their hand up for a second answer book but you've only reached page 3 of 10? You know the sense of confusion (what could you possibly have written?), envy, (why haven't I written the same amount?) and anger (you do realise you writing that much makes me look even worse for having not written that much? - because when you're in exam mode quantity and not quality always seems to matter) you get? Yeh, take that and imagine that it isn't just the one or two teachers pets that are doing it but everyone. Enough to make it the status quo. Yeh, that's examining in Singapore, meanwhile you just got a little giddy cos you've turned the page to write your conclusion... woooo page 4 of 10 FTW!!! 

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead.

Ok so I don't know how much this really has to do with the study abroad experience and I know for certain anyone following this, with the intention of coming out to Singapore (or anywhere else in this part of the world) next year, won't have this experience. Today I suddenly felt much closer to the world than I have the past four months of being in Singapore (maybe because every time I travel and go without internet something happens). But yeh so Monday morning in Singapore my facebook newsfeed is alight with news of Osama bin Laden being dead. In fact the post that made me look into this was my Manchester course-mate's status: OSAMA! HE DEAD!

First question: why are so many people awake at this time in the UK?
Second question: has BBC confirmed this yet?

I'll never get an answer to the 1st but the second was affirmative. So damn... it's true. I always thought he was dead ages ago but they just didn't know where. I stick by that - just because I can.

But that just leaves for debate on what this means for our agenda in Afghanistan y'kno. Because although terrorism is a "new" threat and is actually quite non-hierarchical and sporadic, there was always the sense that it was personified in  OBL and that there was kinda a 'kill the Queen Bee, take the hive' sort of mentality to the whole operation. Now he's dead, there's not only a power vacuum for Al-Qaeda but there's also a villain vacuum for  the Western nations (and their associates- here in Singapore terrorism is an official threat).

Where do we go from here? Will we see the rise (through Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organisation) a new super villain? Can anyone match 20 years committed by OBL to "the cause"? Will Islamic fundamentalism maintain an active branch? None of us know how far Islamic terrorist were following the cause or the man... we won't really know whether most will chicken out at the idea of the Queen Bee being dead. And many countries have shaped their domestic and foreign policies to protect against such terrorism, if not for themselves (because they'll never be a genuine target for terrorists) then for bigger states like America with whom they hold strong alliance and upon whom they rely, economically. It just seems that if OBL's death shakes Al-Qaeda foundations enough to create major cracks and weaken it significantly, then the civil liberties that have been taken away from us in so many countries should be restored. This of course will never happen, but it should. (Of course if he's been dead for ages like I suggest then this is all bull because clearly Al-Qaeda can survive without their gaffer). And in the foreign policy aspect, I read and learn all the time about how the West withdrew from so many regions and countries when the Cold War ended and it seemed the Commies were no longer a threat. The US has imposed itself in a lot of places in the name of the WoT. I expect now they will withdraw (not immediately mind you), and this will rock the boat in many countries.

And what for my poor Muammar Gaddafi who claimed so fervently that Al-Qaeda were infiltrating his people and drugging them up. No doubt with OBL dead, the possibility of Al-Qaeda downsizing and all the agents heading back to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan for the memorial service, Gaddafi can now sleep soundly in the knowledge that it's definitely only real Libyans now, who are fighting against him... oh with a little help from our friends NATO (No Average Terrorist Organisation)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Happy Easter.

So the fact that Singapore imports a lot can sometimes be problem. Especially if you're like me and are accustomed to some nice cheap (preferably Cadbury's) chocolate. I've seen prices for an ordinary 50p chocolate hovering around the S$1.95 - S$2.75 (96p- £1.36). Crazy prices which kinda meant I started my Lent here early.

I didn't actually do Lent this year mainly because I hadn't had anything to give up. Chocolate etc was already excluded from my diet. But of course there are some traditions I won't give up. That is... Easter eggs. Well that was until I was told that Egg Easter Eggs here are expensive. That hurt. No Easter Egg for me.

Lesson learned: have your parents send you a package of chocolate and Easter Eggs if it really matters to you. :) they won't mind if they miss you enough.

But of course the point of Easter isn't the chocolate egg but rather the message and event that started it all off. If you are Christian, when you get out here you'll probably want a church to go to. If you're Catholic then there are many churches for you to go to and if your methodist you shouldn't struggle to much to find one. Literally google it and you will find something. If you are none of the above the I would suggest City Harvest Church. If you attend NTU there's one in Jurong West. If you go to NUS or SMU then I would say go to the Suntec City venue. For those who will stay in PGP just catch the bus 10 form behind PGP on Pasir Panjang and it'll take you all the way.

It's a nice church, it's quick so you'll still get tonnes of study time. Many people attend and so you can make church friends. It's non-denominational too.

That's what I did and I ended up having a lovely Easter. I hope all of you enjoyed the cheap chocolate. =] Happy belated Easter.

Having Visitors.

It is not a good idea to have visitors at such crucial time in your academic experience, unless you are on a pass/fail system or just don't care much about your performance...

I had my cousin and her friend come only 2 weeks before my first exam well, not actually first exam, I've had a midterm before this. But this is the first one of the exam season.

Having them over was fun though! I took them to Langkawi. We stayed at Langgura Baron in Pentai Cenang which I recommend since it's the best room I've stayed in in South East Asia, so far. 140MYR a night, isn't too bad when you translate it to pound sterling and that's for 4 people to a room. A really good price.

There was a water festival whilst we were there so we missed out on having the quiet beach we were expecting. (if a quiet beach matters to you then don't go to Langkawi around the 15th/16th April).

Minus the beach we went to the biggest Aquarium in Asia - Underwater World Langkawi. I stress that it's the biggest in Asia, that doesn't mean to say it's a significantly big Aquarium, and to be honest, when you can go snorkelling and be with the fish direct, why see them behind a glass window? I guess that's why I didn't think it was so big because in the end... the ocean is bigger.

Back in Singapore I made them walk from Little India to Arab Street, before the rain cut the touring short (but that didn't stop us... we took advantage of one of Singapore's 270-odd shopping malls). I had them walk  the circumference of Marina Bay before seeing the Merlion up-close and then struggle to get to Chinatown where were managed to have a shopkeeper drop his price for a package for my DSLR from S$164 to S$80 without even offering a counter price. No haggling. Just silence. I wasn't even trying to hustle, I was just contemplating whether I should actually by it then and there or not. Another shopkeeper did the same with a wide angle lens $150 to S$50 and I had spent less than 3 minutes in that shop. I do love Chinatown.. just a tad.

Took them to the Night Safari (missed the end show - boo hoo) and discovered Junction 8 (in Bishan) which has the potential to be my new favourite place. But now the cousins are gone and the essays and revision remain top of my task list....

So I guess what I'm really saying is it is not a good idea to have visitors if you have waited until such a crucial time to have your academic experience.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Choosing your university accomodation.

There isn't much choice so the title is just a tad bit deceiving.

NUS put most students in either Prince George's Park (aka PGP) or Commonwealth. Commonwealth is usually reserved for the older of the exchange students whilst PGP normally has those, fresh-in-uni students, although of course there are a few of each kind of student in the opposite halls... if that makes sense?

Chances are, unless you are going to Singapore for a year you won't be put into any of the halls that most local students are at. Bad and Good. 
BAD: you might never make a Singaporean friend.
GOOD: you will make friends from everywhere else in the world!

If like me you are put in PGP (chances are from the reviews you would have heard from other exchange students, it's the only place you applied to) then you will be given a choice between 3 types of room. A, B or C. 
Type A: En-suite + Air-con + fan
Type B: washbasin + a fan + shared toilets/bathroom.
Type C: a fan + shared toilets/bathroom.

Type C

When we were making our decisions, we were told the only feasible place to live in was a Type A room, cos Singapore can get hot and studying in that kind of heat is murder! Not so true. I'm pretty satisfied with my fan, really. And everyone I've spoken to who lives in a Type A has had some sort of problem. Not to say that Types B and C don't get problems, but, the more gadgets in your room, your personal space, the more disrupted your life can get when they start to play up.

I made the decision for the Type A, based on the air-con. Don't do that. Make a decision, based on whether you want to share shower-rooms or not, and when you've decided... just pray all goes well for you tenure out here. You don't want workmen traipsing through your room all the time because the aircon pipe running above your en-suite is leaking and soaking you every time  you go to brush your teeth.

You may laugh at a friend's roof; but do not laugh at his sleeping accommodation - Kenyan proverb

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Ghana vs England

So I knew this day was coming for quite a while now. And I don't mean that philosophically, the date was announced in January so I've had ample time to get prepared. What did I need? face paint, football shirt, friends and a bar.

In the end what did I have? A football shirt and the friends.

So we ended up watching the match off a website using my laptop, which isn't big... something went wrong between the laptop, HDMI cord, and TV which kinda spoiled everything, but ah well, a bunch students huddled 'round a laptop? Pretty standard I would say.

It was great cos we had South Asians present, some Americans, a Kenyan, and Nigerian among us. I won't lie... some negative energy against Ghana was building but it was all just banter! It would've been nice to have seen the match in a bar cos I really love the Singaporean bar atmosphere on match days but no biggie.

In the end, the score was 1-1, my reputation is intact and I got some really nice exchange student bonding at 3am on a Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

... and the truth shall set you free.

I have just come back from possibly the best lecture ever!

The man himself, Hussein Mutalib.
It was for my Government and Politics of Singapore module which is taught by Professor Hussein Mutalib, legendary figure in the academic understanding of Singaporean politics. Normally, though I do dread these lectures. Firstly, because it is my one and only reason for waking up on a Wednesday morning. Second, it's at 12-2pm - smack bang in the middle of the day, not early so I can still make plans, not late for a longer lie-in or to run other errands. And the third reason is that my dear professor often begins, ends and entwines into the lecture how great a figure he is in the wider Singaporean political conscience. I hear rumours that he is the most published non-journalist in Singapore - he definitely provides enough evidence to that effect.

So what made today much different I hear you ask? Prof. Mutalib has built a name for himself over the past 20 years and it's this reputation that makes most political parties respect him (whether or not they like him). He called on them to attend a forum and to address the students of NUS and they showed. Each of the four major parties sent their top leaders, with exception of the ruling PAP who did not send the Prime Minister, but he will be addressing another Forum in April at the uni.

This guy raised concerns over the MM's comments about Islam being unaccommodating and preventing the full integration into society of the Malay/Muslim communities. A very important point, I think.

The room was completely packed, not a spare seat to go and many of us were left either sitting in the stairways or standing at the back. It was great listening to the politicians really strive to educate the students and persuade us to side with them. It wasn't a hustings, nor a rally. With the exception of Kenneth Jayeratnam  all the discussants seemed to be just holding a conversation with the people. Giving their opinions as they thought it. KJ's opening speech just seemed to be almost a manifesto or official response to government policies which dragged on and on, until I could pay attention no more. It's not his fault, he's 'cambridge trained'. I've listened to many global politicians, many of whom are 'oxbridge trained' and one thing you notice is that they lack personality and a personableness that will get them elected. They don't engage with the people, they rarely read the atmosphere of a room, rather, they often think that if you can spill the facts and the facts are correct and the responses are (subjectively) correct - then that must equal full support. I hope KJ and politicians like him realise, that's not the case. Being on paper the MVP won't guarantee you a place on the team.

Left - Right: the Presenter, Sylvia Lim NCMP for WP; Michael Palmer MP for PAP; Kenneth Jayeratnam for the Reform Party and Chee Soon Juan on behalf of SDP (unable to contest elections because he is bankrupt).
And then there was Sylvia Lim NCMP for the Worker's Party. I get the sense that she likes to play within the rules and if they don't ever change she wouldn't be too fussed. I don't know if this is the position of the WP but Sylvia Lim, did seem quite reserved and calculated with what she did say - much to the approval of the PAP representative Michael Palmer. He, put across a great show on behalf of the PAP. He's got the personality and of course, has mastered the art of answering every question with exactly the same answer so as to not land himself or the government in trouble. I expect to see him in the much talked about 'next generation' post-election.
Chee Soon Juan receiving the token of appreciation. Every panelist received one.

Chee Soon Juan did not disappoint. We expected him to come out and say things like he saw them. We expected that to be entirely anti-PAP. We expected him to paint the PAP as distanced from the actual situation and he did. He's a former lecturer himself, so he knows how to engage the audience and he definitely engaged me. I agreed with a lot that he said but mainly because he was appealing to our beliefs in norms and values rather than practicalities.

I won't say I have a favourite because it's not that easy. Singapore is not a Western nation and as much as the "Asian Values" argument has been thrown out of the window of late, we must accept that people over here do place different value on different things. I also believe whilst I'm here on the student visa I'm not supposed to be in any way politically active - which means steering clear of rallies etc. which is fine by me.

The press were there... in my
lecture... to cover the event. How often does
that happen?!
The cameraman was there for Channel NewsAsia..
I sure do hope I'm on TV!! :D
One thing that did come to mind, is how much is the Singaporean public lying to themselves about what they want? So many polls and surveys have been cited which claim that Singaporeans want more transparency, more open government, more opposition. But as Paul Kigame (President of Rwanda) said yesterday on BBC Africa Have Your Say: "the numbers do not lie". Singaporeans vote for the PAP in overwhelming amounts. Democracy - whilst it cannot be measured by elections alone - cannot be measured by the internal thoughts of the population unless said population manifest those thoughts on paper, power cannot be transferred (nor policies revised) based on what we think the population may possibly want and value. They must take a leap of faith with the opposition if they want opposition. And they don't seem ready for that yet. They may never be.

I don't know... this is just my observation from listening and partaking in two and a half months of lectures and tutorials. I can't see the negatives of Singaporean society because I am only an outsider looking in. I can't vote and neither do I care. It just seems that the general population blame the strength of the government or the inadequacies of the opposition without looking at the role they personally have to play in the further democratisation of their country. NUS is really great for understanding this kind of stuff.  I'm just really lucky to be here in election year. It brings my course alive just as it did last year when it was British election year.
Every student likes getting free stuff. Free food and drink and book, just for turning up to a lecture.. NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL HIGHER EDUCATION!