7 Days in Ghana
My time in Accra and Tamale was nothing short of magic. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I was meant to be there at that time, with this specific set of people. I was asked to come to Ghana for a video shoot for PurePersona by Nana to speak on-camera about my experience as an Afro Latina entrepreneur, my hopes for African Diasporan women globally and how purpose functions as the foundation of my life perspective. The result of my trip evolved into so much more than just one photoshoot or one conversation with my brilliant contemporary, Nana Konamah. Being around such consistently driven and talented creatives was an affirmation of the power of global community. By inviting my perspective along with that of two other female entrepreneurs, Nana made what could have been a singular narrative about the African Diaspora into an inclusive, communal conversation that will affect thousands of people. I cannot wait to share her brand campaign with you when it’s ready for the world to see!
It was my first time visiting Ghana and I only spent a week there, so my perspective is a limited introduction to the country. Below are a list of random things I want to share with you about traveling to and experiencing Ghana. As Chani says, take what you need and leave what does not serve you.
PEOPLE | It's true, Ghanaians are nice. For the most part, they go out of their way to help and ensure you are well. After my 6 hour hair braiding appointment (an entire experience on its own), I was the last one out the hair salon. One employee offered to call me an Uber and two employees stayed behind to ensure I got in the Uber safely before they closed up shop. Similarly, the Uber driver who drove me to the hair shop was just as hospitable and offered to speak with the shop owner to find the accurate address for the hair salon as it was, by no surprise, not the address listed on google maps.
I had the good fortune of being in the company of brilliant Ghanaian architects, designers, CIO's, mothers, content creators and political socialites. With this diverse group of individuals, I truly got an inside view into how involved Ghanaians are in their culture and politics. Being only sixty one years independent, this country is vibrant and dedicated to creating it's own reality and future. I am sure Ghana has its hardships and flaws, but my first impression was an overwhelming sense that Ghanaians are well aware of their cultural brilliance and are committed to contributing the best to their country.
EATING PLANT BASED | Most places I visited in Ghana had menu's that could be adapted to a plant based, dairy free diet. The staples of fish, rice and stewed vegetables were a life-saver, but what took me over the edge was Kelewele, a popular local dish made of fried sweet plantain seasoned with spices and ginger. I thought I loved my latino platanos maduros, but the spices took my obsession with sweet plantain to the next level! It was a major boost that my incredible host, Nana adheres to a strictly plant-based diet and knows all the best spots to eat in Accra. Nana's dedication to wellness left a major impact on me. Simply witnessing her intelligent food choices made me more aware of the effect refined sugars, flours and low vibrational foods had on my body. Follow her Instagram to glean how she incorporates wellness into her diet and how she maintains her highest state of being through mindful daily choices.
Hands-down, my favorite place we ate was Azmera. The food was local and well seasoned, the options were plenty and the staff was super attentive. I highly recommend dining there at least once. There is something on the menu for every eater.
Second up is Jamestown Cafe. We arrived just as the city lights went out on the block and were treated to a candle-lit dinner under a canopy of repurposed fabric. It was one of those serendipitous, movie-like, once-in-a-lifetime chance encounters. The owner, Joe Osae Addo, is just as much a part of the place as the beautiful and nuanced design of the exposed tile interior. Joe is an architect trained in Europe who worked in LA and NY and is now based in Accra once again. He is invested in creating spaces of innovation and advancement in Accra through social activism and community organization. One conversation with him left me considering the deep impact space plays in community building. The international crowd here is lively and the food is delicious. Come for the atmosphere and stay for edifying conversation. They offer tours of the neighborhood as well!
SAFARI | My first safari was with the best group of creatives a gal could ask for. We stayed at the popular Zaina Lodge. It took abut three hours driving from the airport to arrive at the lodge, but once we did, it was so worth it. The upscale tents we stayed in and the views they afforded were absolutely phenomenal. The night we arrived, the driver ran to tell us there was an elephant mere feet away from our van. We walked under a moonlit sky in search of this elephant and once we arrived we could barely make out his pale figure in the dark of the night, but hearing him was enough to inspire a sense of wonder and awe of the power of nature. Being that close to such a powerful and peaceful beast took my breath away.
The next morning we set out early to shoot video and photo on a safari. We got caught in the rain for 80% of the journey but made the absolute most of it. To see behind the scenes of our Safari, visit our Instagram Stories. For now, enjoy some of these shots I took:
SHEA BUTTER | Honestly, I missed most of the instructions and steps that go into making shea butter because I was so focused on working and photographing Nana behind the scenes of her video shoot, but I can say that visiting a shea butter village should be high on your list of things to do when visiting Ghana. When you go, make sure to support the local economy and livelihood of these skilled trades men and women by purchasing shea butter directly from the source. Also, for my 4c natural hair folks, adding shea butter to your hair routine is a good idea! Add it to wet hair to lock in moisture fantastically.
UBER vs. TAXI | Depending on your destination, I suggest hopping in a local taxi rather than ordering an Uber. I waited twenty minutes for an Uber that was only "five minutes away". Google maps technology in Ghana is still developing, so I found that typically Uber drivers will text you to ask you where you are going. What? As a complete newbie to Ghana, this lack of knowledge was super inconvenient.
Nana's pro tip: select cash form of payment on the app rather than credit card- many drivers like the immediacy of cash and prefer cash paying passengers.
With taxi drivers on the other hand, you explain where you need to go by pointing to a map and they are ready to take you there without hesitation. Plus, many taxis are decked out with colorful interiors, so it makes for a fashionably pimped out ride, which I'm always down for.
NIGHT LIFE | As an avid lover of Afro Beats music, truly there is nothing that compares to listening to Afro Beats in Africa, particularly in Ghana. On my first night out, I had a spiritual moment of awe where I looked all around me and the music was flowing, people were dancing and the scene matched the music in a way that made complete sense. The old lady in traditional head wrap selling fried fish on the street corner, the brotha's dressed dapperly taking photos with vintage cameras against a maroon backdrop, the business casual crowd with collars unbuttoned, beer in hand ready for a great night, the international crowd of Ghanaian diasporans laughing and communing in joy - no one was off beat. It felt like I'd stepped into some alternate universe where blackness was supreme and we were utterly unbothered glorious in our natural state. In that moment all made sense in the world. That said, you must live this for yourself. Here's where I went, though there are plenty more places to visit!
Republic - Skip the poplar hibiscus frozen drink and order the passion fruit drank instead for a stronger kick. Of course, stay for the live music and karaoke
Twist Nightclub - Expect western songs along with plenty of Afro Beats music and an upscale crowd.
LONG ASS FLIGHTS | When returning from Ghana to New York, I literally had to triple check what time zone I was in. So much so, that I nearly missed my connecting flight in London because I thought I was still on Accra time. Traveling backwards in time can take a toll on your mind and the last thing anyone traveling long distances needs is an upset stomach or agitated sleeping pattern to add to the confusion and discomfort. Below are my top three tips for a more comfortable experience when traveling long distance:
For those of us with dietary restrictions, order meals ahead of time - ideally when you book your ticket to fly. As a plant based eater, I ran into some roadblocks with a mainly dairy and meat based menu on British Airways. Next time I'll order my vegan meal in advanced and pack a bunch of snacks for the journey.
Hydrate! My skin and mouth tend to become dehydrated when aboard a flight. I always pack an empty Swell bottle to ensure I’ve got enough water on me at all times, but before the flight had even taken off, I was done with the water in my bottle! I kept asking for water until eventually the flight attendants handed me over a huge bottle.
Pack essential oils + carrier oils. My go-to essential oils are lavender to relax, tea tree to disinfect and citronella as insect repellent. I carry a small bottle of either jojoba or coconut oil to keep my hands and face moisturized. Just dab some water on your skin before applying oil to seal in that good ol' moisture!
In a week's time, I certainly didn't see very much of Ghana, but I got a strong sense of it's people and landscape. I'll be back in a creative capacity and look forward to taking you along with me on the ride. Are you traveling to Ghana soon and want to know something in particular? Ask below and I'll do what I can to help. Have you been to Ghana and have places you recommend to visit? Comment below!