Monday, 26 March 2012

I don't interview well

I attended an interview today. It wasn't for a job. It was for a magazine which compiles a list of the UK's top 100 Black university students. I'm not one for these awards normally, except y'kno it is nice to know someone notices your hard work and at the mo, the way things are going I could really do with positive energy. I have a few friends who have been recognised in previous editions of the magazine and I've found the aim of being featured has kept me on my toes in terms of not settling into solely academic work. 

Problem is - as you may have guessed from the post title - I do not interview well, for a number of reasons. First, interviews require you to big yourself up. Basically the summary of your whole interview experience should be "I'm amazing because... I've done this, that, this, that and the other whilst also doing ABC, HIJ, LMNOP and inspiring little Jack XYZ to become this, oh and did I mention the Queen is now my best friend, following me saving one of her corgies during a conference in which I found world peace." That's not me. I've had many a person introduce me to many another person and say I've done great things in my life and then second person would ask for an elaboration on the appraisal and I would respond jokingly "I've paid them to say that, really, I'm not that impressive, I've not done much". Selling yourself short and being modest is separated by the thinnest and blurriest of lines. I think I often find myself on the side of the former. But the sole purpose of an interview is to ditch the modesty and convince someone that you're better than what you are. Hurdle number 1, ran into.

Second hurdle, when is an interview formal and when is it informal? I was worried about the interview today. I was preparing myself for a panel of people, each picking out things from my application form and asking more about it - choosing what they found interesting (or even what they didn't find interesting but wanted to ask me about to determine why I thought it would be interesting) and really establishing who I am in the context of what I've already told them. Then I met these guys downstairs on my way up and told them I was a bit nervous as to the atmosphere of the interview. They reassured me, "it's not bad, it's just a conversation about who you are." Phew! crack a few jokes, add in a few accomplishments = give you a nice well rounded opinion of Charlene Bello. Alas, no panel (just a single interviewer) - ok, probably better. I can build a rapport with my interviewer. 
"Think personality, think personality, think personality. Oh crap the interviewer has a stern face and didn't find that little joke thing funny, ok pull it back. Second question, do I try to make the interviewer chuckle? No. just impress her with your experience. Hmmm ok, she's noting everything but she doesn't look impressed, ok informal failed, formal looks to be failing, back to informal? Will that work?" 

In an interview I'm thinking just as much about the interviewer's face (posture, how many times they look at me, if they smile) as I am about my answers. I'm guessing that's standard with everyone, but I dunno, with me, it becomes a distraction. These two combined can spell disaster, as I believed it did today. I might not be able to articulate why I'd make a good leader in the future, but I'm pretty sure I will be no matter what.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Cost of SHS

I have just returned home from an .amazing first and last (sadly) Harvard World Model United Nations. I was tasked with representing St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the SOCHUM committee debating the topic of Primary Education Development in developing nations. It was very fitting that just before leaving I watched Nana Akufo Addo's interview on HARDtalk exploring his promise of free Secondary Education. My co-delegate and I both felt that we shouldn't limit the debate to Primary Education either, that it should be a discussion about Secondary Education as well. In the new technological age, a country who provides and ensures only primary education is a country who is content with remaining an agricultural/raw material economy. Having returned I'm catching up with fall out from Nana Akufo Addo's HARDtalk interview.

Frankly put, the NPP are shirking a concrete answer. They are, and it is a shame because I think that they are right to promise it, I think they have the moral high for promoting it before the NDC and I think they are the only party capable of bringing it to fruition. So why shirk answers? If you have not completed the costings, then there are ways of admitting that without admitting defeat. I can think of a million possible responses to journalists on this topic which might not gain the NPP extra points, but it would at least deduct points from the NDC. This is politics, what you do say, what you dont say and what you lead someone to imagine you've said all matter. Perhaps, unlike myself, Ghana's politicians have not got much experience worming their way out of detentions for absent homeworks and missing PE kits. They'll need to get the practice in quickfast, because Nana Akufo Addo struggled with Stephen Sackur and he's not yet at Paxman level! Mr. Boakye Agyarko left much to be desired on PM Express and his co-guests weren't even Alis or Foremans of the boxing ring that is Ghanaian politics.

Secondary Education is crucial if Ghana is to develop above and beyond its present record. The incentive of free SHS is still necessary to convince parents to choose that path for their children. I hope that both parties would now fight over who can offer Free SHS and more, rather than who will offer Free SHS and who will oppose it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Hello Vancouver!

And we're back to travelling! if only for a little while.

Reason I'm here? I'm attending the Harvard World Model United Nations. I lead a team of 7 - 6 girls, 1 boy - and at writing we've been here for 54 and a half  hours.

The plane ride to Vancouver was ok, I guess but I've flown with better (Qatar Airways applaud yourself). Then we had to register Sunday morning and attend the Opening Ceremony in the evening. I've found that Vancouver is cold. Cold like Manchester but somewhat better than Manchester with its San Francisco type layout. The fact that I've compared it to San Francisco might show that I've watched too many an American film.

One little food suggestion for the foodies out there, Red Robin Restaurant - order the Shrimp and Chips but ask for Boutine instead of Bottomless Steak Chips. Boutine is Chips and Cheese in Gravy. Quite English (minus the cheese) considering it was suggested by our waiter, Reed, who was jibing at me and a mate for basically flying 4725 miles for what is essentially fish and chips.

And another little tip before I leave, don't get ill or injured in Canada. They operate a pay now get treated later system in their hospitals, nothing like our NHS in the UK and not something a British citizen would expect in a Commonwealth country which still has our Queen as Head of State. I half expected a more welcoming system but alas that was not the case, it has me wondering what the Commonwealth is actually there for. And if you're wondering it costs CAD$765 (£510) to be seen in A&E CAD$100-150 (£66 - £100) to see a doctor in a Walk-In Centre, GP type setting. They don't charge the insurance company for you, they expect you to do all the claiming back and I would say it was the first time I had seen Canadians at their least helpful.

Today is Day 2 of Committee Sessions. I only managed to do the first half of Day 1 due to getting a bit ill so now I'm off to read as much as I can on the UN and SVG's stances on Primary Education Development to catch up; maybe something exciting will happen today and I can update it here. I'm due to go to Whistler tonight so we'll see.

Friday, 9 March 2012

A belated Happy International Women's Day

A belated Happy International Women's Day tous le monde!
Yesterday I spent it at Google's London offices. We had a big Hangout with women in their Accra, Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala and Johannesburg offices. There was an opening remark from Professor Angela Ofori-Atta and some closing remarks from Ory Okolloh. Altogether a great experience culminating with a live interview on citizentv in Kenya.

Sadly, I'm not sure the participants or the tv show could hear my remarks as they were often met "ok..." No actual reference to my comments. Ah well, hopefully next time I have a better opportunity and come a bit more correct with my opinions too.

We were also the only students in a big hangout of practitioners. We're on the early side of the timeline with much more to learn. It was worth it, a great learning curve for me. IWD is all about building women up and I'm female, I feel built up so therefore I guess it's achieved it's goal.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Happy Independence Ghana

55 years of independence for Ghana.

Nana Akufo-Addo said on HARDtalk with Stephen Sackur, that the Ghanaian independence project was really the African independence project, which is why the Ghana democracy project holds such significance every leap year.

God know the prayers of Ghanaians everywhere for the country, but today instead of highlighting our faults (like we do 364 other days in the year) let's just celebrate the good things happening in the country.

Happy Independence Day Warrior King.

Monday, 5 March 2012

A political place for the UK's ACSs

I sometimes worry that I'm a complainer not a doer, I would hate for that to become my modus operandi. So I comfort myself with the knowledge that thousands of thoughts and solutions could pass through my head on any given day, its not at all possible to act on all of these thoughts. You may be able to articulate them - like in a blog or something - but be content with knowing that you can't do everything.

This post is uneasy ground for me. I was President of my university's African Caribbean Society in the first semester of the 2010/2011 year. This is at the University of Manchester, the largest university with the largest student union in the country. I had heard rumours before enrolling here, that Manchester is where the protests happen, it's where the student movements begin and in first year a few events happened that had me believing that. Yet, in my last semester at this establishment I've come to realise you need one or a combination of these three things in order to start a student movement here: (1) an Israel-Palestine contention; (2) an LGBTQ contention and (3) alcohol. If you want someone to protest on behalf of Palestinians being denied from an Israeli gay bar where drinks are 99p (the Israeli currency equivalent), then Manchester is DEFINITELY your uni and we will have a good ol' knees up with borderline anti-semetic/islamophobic general privileged middle class none-of-this-actually-has-an-effect-on-my-life banter (and banners).

But if you want someone to campaign against the university holding a stake in an oil company like Royal Dutch Shell who are responsible for the impoverishing and destabilising of the Niger Delta both directly and indirectly - you won't even find the tumbleweed interested in showing up. I read first about this in our university newspaper - in that sense you could say the union have taken notice but in a passive "we're watching you" type way that will not worry or alarm any of the decision makers in the uni. I wonder however, if all the African Caribbean Societies in the country started getting louder on the issues that so greatly affect their families and cultures they exist to promote, could they make a difference. It won't be easy it never is, but I hear stories of the Africa Centre in London and how it was the hub for Africans here in the UK in their crusade to support independence movements and then again raising awareness of the atrocities of the Biafran War and then again in giving geographical coherence to the British anti-apartheid movement against South Africa. I hear that it has lost it's significance as a place of assembly for diaspora to campaign on issues affecting the homeland - but what is the difference between Africa in the 1960s and Africa today?

It was always my aim as President of UoM ACS to add political significance to the society's existence. I didn't succeed in doing so, but I deem it so necessary right now, that in conjuction with organisations like Operation Black Vote, and See Africa Differently and all the other things going on that ACSs, being of African descent (partly) and being radical students (in that all students have the potential to be radical when needs be) begin to dictate to the UK's policy. We can start with our universities. It's a new generation, people.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

I am frustrated by the bias.

I watch Joy News via their YouTube channel.

Wow. I've never seen politics so heavily biased. I don't live in Ghana so perhaps I've missed the memo as to the agenda of Joy News, but they are extremely left-wing. In fact I don't think I can even say Left-wing. Ghana's political spectrum, given that it is undoubtedly a two-party system, is not yet formed. There is just NDC or NPP, but neither party (even less so the NDC than NPP) can place their ideology (if they have one), firmly in a place on the left-wing/right-wing spectrum.

I hope Ghanaians will be able to see through the illogical and frankly unfair and and dangerous rhetoric being promoted by the Joy News channel. I don't mind Joy News being pro-NDC, everyone must stick their standard somewhere; but whilst my family naturally support the NPP, I constantly criticise both parties equally. Both have faults. A true broadcaster looking out for the benefit of the country, whilst leaning to one side, will ensure or at least attempt to be as neutral as possible or provide at least once in an hour show some sense of challenge to the words of the government's representatives.

When Mills gained power, I said to my family, I hope Ghanaians inside and out, will give him a chance. When rumours spread that Kufuor and Kofi Annan had to make Nana Akufo Addo leave the result as it had been declared, I was disappointed at the prospect of Ghana's democracy being undermined by a poor loser; but just as Akufo Addo was on the verge of becoming a poor loser, President Mills in his fourth and final year of this term, is becoming - and allowing his party to become - bad winners. There is sportsmanship in winning and losing and neither side should forget that.

The media, if it will not be independent, should be fair. The structure and content of shows as I have seen on Joy News, will not help to put an end to the "politics of insults". If the older generation of Ghanaian journalists are too stuck in their ways to be fair and be unbiased (and this is to be professional in their field) then perhaps they should step aside to allow the younger generation to think for themselves, and take over the industry in the interest of the nation's democracy.