Monday, May 26, 2014

Recounting 1 Night in London

The first time I was in London was in 2003. Aside it being a long time, I was quite young. I hadn't started partying more seriously. I am beginning to not party more seriously though, the clubbing thing is a phase that is passing. But on February 22nd, I was excited to be in Jand! Long don! Babylon system! Home of serious African partying! 
I picked what to wear very carefully. I was keen to meet as many people I knew or didn't know in the few hours I'd be in London.
Given that I wasn't roaming on any telecommunication network - would you try it if you used Airtel - wi-fi was my way to get the internet and communicate. Thank heavens for airports like London Heathrow that offer free wi-fi.
I checked the Premier League fixtures before I left Belfast for London. My favorite club +Manchester United would be playing +Crystal Palace FC in London at the time I was around. Because I am crazy like that, I was going to find a ticket to go watch this game of football live! It couldn't be that difficult, could it?
This is when I finally realised that I was in the same country as I was in 2003. A different part, but the same country - United Kingdom. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Pounds Sterling in Northern Ireland would be different from that of England.
The way I walked freely into England struck me. But that's the thing? It's the same country. I can't stress this enough.
The Ghanaian Londoners welcome me. I was beside myself with joy. I've been following their work for ages. +Adwoa Agyemang and co. +hephzia tagoe too has been doing her thing.
Made a new friend at Heathrow. She allowed me to use her Mac to post my #233moments post and tweet.
London is home to many Ghanaians. For many Ghanaians, London is a home away from home. You can find many things that make you feel at home there. A real melting pot. My cousin gave me jollof rice with shito and beef. Edizban a! Dzidzi!
It'd been a really tough for all Manchester United fans. I can't even bring myself to write about David Moyes. I hope I don't have to. Well, we won this one. I wasn't at the stadium but I was much much closer than I normally am.
This was the weekend after Facebook had bought Whatsapp. And then Whatsapp went down for a few hours and the world went ballistic. Especially people on Facebook? Oh, was that the idea?
I looked for wi-fi everywhere I went. On my way to meet +Yaw Mante, I stopped by a Starbucks Coffee spot in Canary Wharf to see if I'd get free-wifi. This is after I'd seen a bunch of people carrying beer and alcoholic drinks on a train. It'd been a while since I saw that. Anyway, O2 was offering free wi-fi here. I had to verify my connection with a phone number, a local one that is. I asked a black bystander to help me. He obliged. So I tweeted the above :-)
I didn't have enough battery power and I was communicating with the world based on free wi-fi. Thank you London. This is worth repeating.
Turns out Yaw and his South African friend love Kizomba too. They love a lot of wine too. Had a good little house party before we hit up ShoreDitch. I didn't get free wi-fi there and before I could search for it more seriously, my phone died. People dey booze for London papa! I saw a fight between one black guy and two white guys, full assault. It was crazy! Multiple police cars arrived at the scene to pata the fight.
I'd be back for a longer time and would club more seriously. Oh wait, I said something different in the first paragraph eh? I'd party a bit, just a lil bit :-)

The day I made the flight I was missing

I woke up on February 22nd, in Belfast, ready to prepare for my flight to London to spend a day en route to Accra.
(I thought) the flight was at 1:20. It was at 12 rather. But I realised this at Crap! 1 hour to the flight? Checkin counter closing 30 minutes prior to the flight. Aish! I had my +Airbnb host call me a taxi. I briefly met Miro and another guest of Mary's.

I needed to make the flight. I tried to check in online with British Airways but it wasn't working. Does checkin close 30 or 60 minutes to departure? The +British Airways website seemed to say 50 or 20. I funally headed to airport around 11:20 hoping to get there in 10 minutes after Mary gave me a glass of orange juice. I picked the 20 minutes option and told taxi driver I had to get there by 11:40.

While in the car, I realised I didn't have enough pounds sterlings as we passed the famous H&W cranes. "Do you take Euros?" "No, sorry". The driver got worried. "Do you take cards?" "Yeah. It's not swipe". "Does that mean it's not chip as well?" I put my Visa debit card from +GT BANK PLC in, and entered my pin to YES Pay. "Please wait", it read. I pressed OK when prompted. It took a long time (like forever) to finalize payment. Sigh. Done. Visa, it takes you everywhere. Thank you GT Bank.

I arrived at the airport at just around 11:35. Checkin was closed. I begged. "I don't have no bags. I really have to make this flight". One checkin counter lady told the other, "Okay, he has no bags to check in". The airline attendant made a call to see if I could get on. I prayed in my head. The answer was the affirmative. "Thank you!"

I had to hurry through security. The lady at the security check point checked my bag like never seen before on TV. She was taking out all my stuff. She was checking the material for the bag for dangerous chemicals or nuclear gases or some shit like that. It took forever. I was shockprised. But hey... the waiting was making me relax actually. Because I was late for my flight. I told her "You wont be the reason I miss my flight". This is where a small airport is very useful. Belfast. Fast. Bell. I got to the gate very quickly.

The lady who I met at the gate said she didn't call for me because she couldn't pronounce my name. I thanked her and every pretty much British Airways person I met. The guys at the plane door said they were waiting for two guys after me who'd been held up in security. Really? How could anyone be later than me?

I put my bags up with the help of a black flight attendant. I then settled in my seat having pulled out the book to read. Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. I was born late. December 31st, the latest day of the year. In the evening too. I tend to live on the edge. It's exciting, but I always make it. :-)

I finally met young and black people in Belfast in ... the club

If someone asked me the top 5 European countries to visit, I would not have added Northern Ireland. Oh, but wait, Northern Ireland is not really a country, it is part of the UK. But it's still not England. And from being there earlier this year, it doesn't have many black people walking around. Except in the clubs :-) Aww, yeah. Well, mostly.
Why shouldn't I say so? I am a young person. I shouldn't say so? I'm a black person. I live in Ghana.
Ghanaian music should have really traveled. We've not done a great job with this. Music for tourism is fine, music for export is finer, it brings tourism.
I am very serious about this. Azonto should become as popular as salsa. Don't put this at the doorsteps of the government. Learn how to dance it, show it everywhere you go. Like your passport.
Okay. I know he wasn't obliged to say hi to me but I was really trying to strike a conversation. I mean, just for a minute. Sorry, am a racist for expecting a black man I said hi to in a place where there are like no black men to say hi back and hold a conversation for at least 2.33 minutes?
I chose to wear the +GhanaThink Foundation lacoste as +Seyram Freddy Ahiabor suggested I do so. Don't have my +Party Crew t-shirt yet.
Nasir is from Dubai. He'd come to Belfast 7 years ago and stayed, gotten married and all. He was a lot of fun. He was doing beat boy dances and all. He tethered the connection from his iPhone and I got some wi-fi to tweet and check Facebook. By the way, most people use iPhones in Belfast.
Oh, so this is where all the black people in Belfast have been hiding. We are in the clubs, we like to have fun. I saw a number of fine young ladies too. When I tweeted, a Beyonce song was playing. But the highlight of the night was when the deejay played Fuse ODG's Million Pound Girl (Badder than Bad). I was like, "that's my jam, that's my jam, that's my jam!" I got my #azonto moves on and took over the dance floor. "Show dem, show dem, show dem, Ato, show dem". They were all watching me. Make the circle beega, bigger :-) The DJ played some other popular Naija songs - Alingo, Gobe, Skelewu, etc.
Okay, I had forgotten that not all clubs close whenever they want to or the last person goes home. Just like in the US, it's law for (most) clubs, bars and lounges to stop selling alcohol at 2am. Since, people in the places need alcohol to aid their having fun, when the alcohol is finished, the partying is over. Many a time, the fooling, fussing and fighting also starts. It's comical sometimes. They should come to Ghana, or elsewhere in Africa, we know how to have a good time.

Young and black people in Belfast are mostly in the clubs? I ask because surely, young and black people in Belfast cannot mostly be in the clubs. I want to know where else. It's time to learn that. 

The beauty of Google Hangouts On Air & YouTube

I've been an avid Google+ user for a long time now. Oh, that's an understatement. Or actually an overstatement based on you who ask. Either way, one great feature I love about Google+ is Google Hangouts. You can have a video conference for up to 10 people. You can broadcast that video conference on YouTube at the same time. Google Hangouts on Air everybody. This weekend, the +Diaspora Camp had one for its #AfricaDayAgric chat and it went extremely well.

Its success is due to proper preparation and knowledge of the product. First, we had to create the +Diaspora Camp Google+ page and then link it to YouTube. +Ali Bukari Maiga has become a Google guru and effortlessly set this YouTube channel up. He's done so for countless +GhanaThink Foundation Google+ accounts now. He's also live streamed many events now - from +Barcamp Tema to +Springboard Road Show Foundation to +Global Shapers Accra's Accra Discourse.

+Jemila Abdulai has had the experience of moderating many Google hangouts and her experience made this +Diaspora Camp Africa Chat on Agric run very smoothly. She moderated the chat really well with great poise too. +Jemila Abdulai  is very comfortable in front of the camera, having a history of many vlogs at +Circumspect. You can see her previous Google Hangout videos as well there.

Watch the full video here.

I was on a Google Hangout for +Social Media Week Lagos as a 55Forward Ambassador, this was run by +Raquel Wilson-Sow. Learn about 5 great Google Hangout Apps via Social Media Week. There are many great apps for Hangouts. I love the Lower Third features which gives a great journalistic feel to everything. Being able to view Google Drive documents while on a Hangout with folks has always been my first love.

Google Hangouts (and Google+) for that matter is always improving and changing so stay tuned as much as possible. I hope to see more Africans, especially digital natives and media organizations adopt it more. +Citi97.3FM continues to do a good job with this and +BloggingGhana too. Looking forward to more happy days in Africa with Google Hangouts.

Reviving DiasporaCamp with an #AfricaDayAgric online panel discussion

The +GhanaThink Foundation was born through the activity of Ghanaians in the Diaspora. Since the +Barcamp Ghana movement took off in earnest in Ghana, most of GhanaThink's engagement has been in Ghana. The very second Barcamp done by our group was Barcamp Diaspora in DC in July 2009. +Diaspora Camp DC followed in July 2010 and that has been the last one. We're seeking to reignite Diaspora based activity. Yesterday's +Diaspora Camp Africa Day Google Hangout about Agriculture and Youth is a step. It proved to be quite successful too.

The #AfricaDayAgric chat was organized to celebrate Africa Day which falls on May 25, the day the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity) was born in 1963. The theme for this AU celebration is around Agriculture as 2014 has been declared the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. This Google Hangout on Air (broadcast on Youtube) was the first of the new online engagement series aimed at encouraging conversations and collaboration between African youth home and abroad.

The panelists (some of which were on a Google Hangout for the first time) were various thought leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals in the agriculture industry. The panel discussion was streamed live on YouTube. You can watch the full broadcast here. The panel discussion, moderated by +Jemila Abdulai & +Kirstie Kwarteng, went very well. You can see some of the social media posts captured via this Storify story. I've highlighted the participating panelists below.

+Worlali Senyo is a trained agriculturist, development researcher and consultant with over 7 years experience. He's currently the Director of Business Development at Farmerline. I've known Worlali for about 4 years now and he's also a member of GhanaThink's +Barcamp Accra team. The Farmerline co-founder, +Alloysius Attah, was also a panelist. Farmerline is a mobile venture offering improved information access and communication pathways to over 2000 small-scale farmers and agricultural stakeholders. The +Barcamp Kumasi member and KNUST graduate has won many (social) entrepreneur awards and spoken extensively.

Representing +Esoko was +David Aduama, their Communications Officer. David is a trained journalist from the Ghana Institute of Journalism who also has a great interest in technology, writing and reading. Esoko is an agricultural profiling and messaging service. It is a response to the explosive growth of cellular services in Africa. Dr. Joy Odimegwu Ifunanya aka +Alegria Okeke shared her insights and knowledge on the panel as well. She's with the Department of Pharmacognosy at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She was the sole female panelist and the only one not from Ghana. We'd be sure to have more non-Ghanaian representation at the next Diaspora Camp Online Chat.

While checking yet another email about the Yale African Scholars program coming to Ghana, I found an email from +Acheampong Atta-Boateng. I realised he was a graduate student at the Yale Forestry School and his research was really relevant to our agriculture discussion. Acheampong is also a KNUST graduate.  +Sidney Rockson, a fellow Odadee, is a Biochemist by profession and an entrepreneur. He's the CEO of Cedirock group of companies, of which Plus Distributions is his first business. This business has provided many places and events with Blue Skies Juice, like +Barcamp Tema. They've also started the production of fresh yoghurt.

I've known +Edison Gbenga for a couple of years now and I remember when AgriPro was born at +Startup Weekend Accra 2012. AgriPro spearheads agricultural excellence in Africa by providing access to markets, seed financing, technology and knowledge in best farm practices and encouraging young people to embrace agriculture. Edison has also organized the first Green market in Ghana. Today, AgriPro was a partner for the first Ghana Youth Agrifair which was organized mainly by GCEEI, lead by a fellow +Global Shapers Accra member +John Armah.

Kudos to the team that put all of this together. Kirstie, Jemila, +yorm ackuaku+Gameli Adzaho+kweku amoah+hephzia tagoe, +Teresa Lemaire and +Richard Gonp-Maehca+Thelma Boamah+Henry Barnor. Looking forward to next online chat.

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