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Ameyaw Says

Luton by bus or Accra by ‘Trotro’?

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I know this may be a weird title but as you read on, I’m sure you would come to appreciate why I chose to give such a heading to cap my recent experience in the UK.  I could have given it a heading to reflect how cold the weather was but that would be rather predictable, and by now I am certain that readers know I am anything but predictable. If waking up one day in sunny Accra to decide to go to the cold winters of UK the following morning with no adequate preparations isn’t impulsive, then nothing is!

My first Virgin experience!

Ever since meeting Olympic medalist and Chairman of the Laureus Sports, Edwin Moses some years back, I have developed an interest in the Laureus World Sports Awards and nurtured a desire to cover the awards. But in spite of getting accreditation to cover the last two editions, I was never able to do so. When I decided within a short period to cover this year’s awards in London, Virgin Atlantic became the airline of choice as a result of a growing relationship with the airline in Ghana.

After writing severally about the various services that Virgin Atlantic offers both in the upper class and economy class, I was dying to experience it for myself and I must say I wasn’t disappointed. Onboard my Friday morning flight to Heathrow I knew my first experience with Virgin was going be good once I received my menu from the cabin crew. This was the first time any airline had offered me a menu to choose from in an economy class. Also, I was in premium economy class which means I had some much needed extra leg-room for my very long legs.  Back to food: for starters, I had the Welcome Cocktail, a tasty fusion of fruit juices served with or without vodka (hmm I went vodka just to calm my nerves). I stayed away from the beers, wines and spirits though. Then came the garden salad with shaved Parmesan cheese; needless to say, my palate was now ready for anything!

For my choice of a main meal with fresh bread, I opted for chicken thigh escalope with tomato stew, jollof rice and sautéed spinach and carrot. I enjoyed my meal I couldn’t help but wonder how the roasted chicken thigh served with barbeque sauce, potatoes and vegetable salona, or the beef massaman curry with white rice and mixed vegetables would have tasted. Yes call me Oliver Twist, I wanted them all.  Although the serving portions were small for a 6.4 ft African like me, together they filled my 6-pack belly just fine.  After a pause for the chicken thigh and jollof rice to digest, it was time for something sweet, vanilla mousse with sponge cake and strawberry.

With a delighted tummy, it was now time for some entertainment and virgin media/ entertainment gave me a wide array of some of the latest film releases, TV programmes and music to choose from. As a sucker for comedy my first option was ‘What’s Your Number’ and surely, I had a good laugh. After one movie I listened to some Rihanna and struggled to sleep till the afternoon tea before landing arrived. Normally afternoon tea in Ghana would be strange to me but I knew I was heading for the cold in London so it sounded only natural to play along. I still don’t do coffee so I had some tea with cheese and tomato sandwich, and a chocolate cake to seal the deal.  Before landing I also received some wine gums and mints to keep the mouth fresh and to conceal all the tasty food I enjoyed.

Cold welcome to London

Once we landed, the coldness of London winter stared me right in the face but luckily I came a bit prepared with some of my old warm clothes, even including a bubble jacket. In fact, I even had my winter gloves, though I wasn’t proud wearing them. They were smelly as I had turned them into gloves for my very ‘camp’ workouts back home, in my room.

The coldness of London almost got even colder for a moment when I was detained by immigrations because my passport was expiring in a few weeks time. I had to answer several question about why I was in the UK and when I was going back. I popped my colour and boldly replied, “I am I UK for 9 days to cover the Laureus World Sports Awards”. I surely made it seem like I was an important personality but the official wasn’t still not buying my bluff. She asked me to sit down for a while and then went into the office to find out if I could stay in the UK. She came back, asked for my return ticket and I showed it to her. Needless to say, she knew I had no cause to overstay in that cold weather.

With immigration out of the way I had to find my way to Luton where I would be staying with my friend and publisher of Ghanacelebrites.com, Chris. Got myself into the Underground train service to King’s Cross and connected with another train to Luton. If you guys read ghanacelebrities.com, then by now you would probably know that Chris is a bit loony, so I was surprised that he made me wait for him in the cold at the station for some few minutes before he came to pick me up. Needless to say I was happy when he showed up, and I quickly rushed into the warm car and headed to his apartment.  Although I was very tired I couldn’t sleep immediately as we chatted about our favourite and not so favourite Ghanaian celebrities. We ordered some pizza and drinks – a true welcome to ‘Aburokyire’.

I had an even colder welcome to the UK the following morning when I woke up to see that it was snowing as forecasted the previous day. But there was an eventful moment coming up soon that would make some people on the internet very happy. As Chris got ready to leave for work I was making a video of the level of snow in the car park and I thought it would even be better footage to capture Chris shoveling into snow to pave way for him to move his car. Unfortunately for Chris and a fortunate Kodak moment for me, he slipped on the ice and needless to say, the video because the first image I shared online. I uploaded the video unto YouTube and with the amazing internet speed it felt effortless – hmm how I wished my internet was that good back home!

Time to look crisp for Laureus sports awards!

The weekend in Luton was full of Doner kebabs and Chinese food, and also a trip to L.U Barbers, a Ghanaian owned barbering shop so I could get a nice haircut and look normal for the Laureus Sports Awards in London on Monday.  It was nice meeting the group of Ghanaian barbers and having conversations about Ghana together, of course from different perspectives. It seemed that Woyome and his judgment debt scandal was what everyone had on his mind back then. But what I had on my mind was how I would look after a haircut from barbers that seemed to have more Caucasian and Asian clients. Thankfully, I came out looking good and ready to face the awards.

On Monday, I got on the bus and headed straight to London late afternoon to have enough time to finalize my accreditation for the awards in the evening. I got to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Uniquely situated in the shadow of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye, and finalized my registration. I then had some launch and went into the press centre to catch up with some work as well as interact with some of the pressmen from other parts of the world.

Soon it was time to get ready for the red carpet event of the awards ceremony. With a transparent tunnel stretching from the car park into the hall for the awards, I knew I was in for an impressive event and I wasn’t disappointed. The pen in the tunnel was segmented into zones for the various media houses from all over the world to cover the red carpet. It was amazing seeing some sporting legends such as Arsene Wenger, Rudd Gullit, Edwin van der Sar, Boris Becker, Alex Fergusson, Lennox Lewis as well as actors Thandie Newton and Clive Owen a few centimeters away from me.

As I witnessed the over 2-hour red carpet event, I wondered if I would ever experience a red carpet of that magnitude in Ghana. Everything was well coordinated; there were even special assistants to take the warm clothes off the stars the moment they arrived so they would look ready and good for the red carpet. The clothes were well labeled with the names of the owners and then sent to into the main hall, where the ceremony was holding, and then placed on the allocated seats for the various guests, while they walked the red carpet for photos and interviews.

After the red carpet, those of us who did not have accreditation into the main hall had to move to the conference centre to watch the ceremony on live screens. And after winners were announced, they were brought to the press room for interviews and photos. I enjoyed my dinner while watching the ceremony on the screens and I was particularly happy there were two awards for Africa. The winners on the night were:

Sportsman  of the year- Tennis Player Novak Djokovic

Sportswoman  of the year – Long-Distance Runner Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya)

Best Sportsperson with a Disability – Runner Oscar Pistorius (South Africa)

Action Sportsperson of the year – Surfer Kelly Slater

Team  of the year- FC Barcelona

Comeback of the Year – Golfer Darren Clarke

Breakthrough of the Year – Golfer Rory Mcilroy

Lifetime Achievement Award – Sir Bobby Charlton

After the ceremony I stayed in London and linked up with British-Nigerian singer/composer/producer Jiff The General and ended up crashing-in at the apartment of his friend for the night. Whew!

Now time for fun and humiliations in Luton

With my main agenda for coming to the UK over and done with, I could now look forward to having some fun back in Luton, of course only as far as the weather would allow me. With Chris having his off days from work, he was available to drive me through town and I saw a bit more of Luton. We went to the Luton City Centre often to places like the mall and cineworld cinema where we watched Adam Sandler’s comedy flick, ‘Jack and Jill’.

We also went to PC World, where I met my first mortification. Pretending to be a ‘big boy’ with my visa card I thought I could shop like a superstar for the absolute necessities.  So knowing how we both needed good photos for our websites Chris and I decided to buy a Canon EOS 1000D and Sony NEX 5 on my card. After the salesman had made us a good offer on SD cards and failed in a desperate attempt to get us to also buy cases for ‘our cameras’ we proceeded to his desk to make payments.  He took my visa card, swiped it into his computer and returned it to me saying the transaction couldn’t go through. We tried again and the result wasn’t any different. The machine I didn’t say that I don’t have sufficient funds so the salesman suggested that perhaps I had exceeded my daily allowance on my card.  But I knew that couldn’t be the case since it was the first time I was using the card on my arrival to the UK. He suggested that we should try billing just one camera to see if it would go through and it returned the same result.  Now completely ashamed, I told him to hold on to ‘our cameras’ while we dashed out to call my bank in Ghana to sort out the issue.

I called the bank and found out I had a daily allowance of only 500ghc and I had to increase the ceiling at the bank before leaving Ghana. With all my shopping ideas hanging in the balance, I tried frantically to get the bank to increase the ceiling for me, to forestall any future embarrassments. I was told to hold on for a confirmation call in a few minutes. The few minutes seemed like hours as I wanted to go back to PC World to redeem my image.  Of course by now Chris was making silly jokes about how broke I am back in Ghana and I needed to put him to shame as well. As we laughed at the whole incident and in particular the way a rep from Sony snapped a photo of me buying the Sony NEX 5 for his website, I got a call from my bank saying that ceiling had been increased and it would take effect the following day.

Now evident that I couldn’t buy my camera, we decided to go back to PC World to buy Chris’ Canon camera on his card. We explained the situation to the salesman, not because we needed to but just so he wouldn’t refer to us as some broke boys from Africa once we had left. We paid for the camera and went home with some of our pride redeemed. Chris was quick to try out his camera only to reveal his lack of technological savvy. Of course, I showed him how to fix the lens and all, and he was happy to test shoot.

Getting lost on the bus and missing Accra ‘Trotro’

So now, back to why I chose such a heading for this article. With Chris being off from work and taking me round town, I had not used much public transport within Luton, and with my experience with a ‘Black Cab’ in London, any kind of taxi was not was not a choice of transportation for me anymore.  However with Chris back to work and my days in Luton drawing closer to an end, I had to do some shopping for Ghana. This meant I had to find my way to the mall. I am terrible with direction so although I had been to the mall severally, I couldn’t find my bearings there and so had to call on Chris for direction and the schedules for the bus to the city centre.

Fortunately there was a bus stop in front of the apartment so I didn’t have to walk that long in the cold to wait for the next bus.  Once on the bus I paid my fair to the city centre and thank goodness, I didn’t miss it since it’s a popular stop. I wished the story would be the same on my way back. I got off the bus and went straight into the mall to buy some items for myself, friends and family back home.  After shopping, I grabbed a quick bite from an Indian restaurant before heading back to the bus station to find a bus back to the apartment.

I got on the bus and paid for the fair to street where the apartment was located but sadly the bus made a stop on my street and passed without me noticing. I started getting worried because I knew I had to get off a few blocks from L.U Barbers and we had already gone pass it. When it became clear that I was in an unfamiliar territory I called Chris to say that ‘it appeared I was lost’. The stupid boy laughed his head off when I told him I was near the Luton Hospital. He asked me to get off at that bus stop and head back in the opposite direction so I got off the bus.

 

As I waited for minutes without any bus in sight I contemplated grabbing a taxi even if it was metered because I was getting very cold, and I was looking like a refugee with my luggage. Finally a bus showed up.  I told the bus conductor the name of my street and pointed it out to him to alert me when we got there because I had already missed my stopped. As it turned out, it was the same bus that was making a return journey and so the driver could make me out. He told me not to worry and true to his word he took me to my stop this time around.

When I got home I quickly dashed into the bathroom for a warm shower. As I bathed, I said to myself that this would never happen in a ‘trotro’ back home in Accra.  In Accra, at every bus stop, the ‘ trotro mate’ (bus conductor) would scream out the name of the location to make sure if anyone would get off the bus.  Even in London, the buses make an announcement before the next stop and at each bus stop so why was it different in Luton? Yes, I guess I’m looking for an excuse for my daftness. In fact to show that I am not daft, I went to the mall the following day for more shopping and made my way home this time around.

Bye Bye Luton, hello Homerton!

If you are wondering why I had to go shopping in Luton when I knew I was going to stay in London for a few days before heading back to Accra, the answer is simple; I enjoy convenience and Chris had offered to drive me to London from Luton. So I didn’t have to think about carrying my heavy bags onto a train to London.

We grabbed some chicken and chips with some drinks for our joyride and keyed in the Homerton address of my friend, Ohene Darko into the TomTom Navigator and off we went to London.  After a few wrong turns we located Ohene’s apartment.  Ohene, a gospel musician that I did some publicity for a while back, assisted me to carry my bags inside after Chris had left. As it was my first time meeting Ohene, we spent some time catching up on Ghana and his music before I went to bed.

The following morning, I set off to Brixton to meet a family for some stuff to take back home to my uncle – typically African!  When I got back I ate some food and had some rest because I wanted to go to Dalston Street Market with Ohene later in the day.  When I woke up, I freshened up and got on the train with Ohene to go check out the popular Dalston Market and also to meet with another friend to collect more stuff for family back in Ghana.

At Dalston Market, I looked around just to check out some Ghanaian market and I was particularly excited to see Moni Matters music store, where Ghanaian music was buzzing out of the speakers and also on sale just like you would find it in Kantamanto or any music distribution outlet in Ghana.  I checked out the collection and I must say it was impressive. From the market, we went to McDonalds to grab something to eat and also wait for my friend to bring the items I was going to send to Ghana for her. After the tasty treat and the meeting I left with Ohene to see his music studio in Hackney.

At the studio, I met with Ohene’s collaborator, OT who is also a musician, producer, graphic designer and the man responsible for Ohene’s music videos including ‘Nsesa Beba’.  As Ohene worked on some songs he was producing, we talked about the music scene back home in Ghana as well as other matter. Soon I had to head the studios of Hot Digital Radio in Leyton for an interview with Teddy Abrokwa. It had been ages since I last saw Teddy, a good friend of my older brother.

While on air, we talked about Ghana’s entertainment scene, my work and more.  The Ghana Black Stars had also lost out on the third position slot in the 2012 AFCON to Mali that night so that was also a point for discussion in the studios. I certainly had fun and after the show, the producer, Daniel Swizzlebeats Cobbina drove me back to Ohene’s apartment. Surely my last night in UK had been eventful.

Time to go back home

So soon it was time to head back to Ghana and I packed all my stuff ahead of my evening flight.  It had been a cold short stay and I couldn’t meet as many of the people I wanted to meet, nonetheless I had enjoyed it. I seemed ready to go back home but I still didn’t have my camera following the shameful incident at the Luton PC World. I was determined to get a camera before going home so Ohene suggested that we go and check out the newly built Westfield Stratford shopping centre to see if I would get my camera.

We got on the train to Stratford and it was interesting to note that Ohene had not yet been to Stratford in spite of living just a few minutes away for so long.  So our visit to Stratford was as much of an excursion for me as it was for him. From the little information I gathered, the Startford Mall was build for the 2012 Olympic Games and so I wasn’t too shocked at the beauty and magnificence of the edifice, because I know London wants to make a grand statement with the Olympics and I hope that statement would be reflected also in the tally of medals.

Surprisingly, one of the first shops I saw was Black by PC World and I wasted no time to go in to search for my Sony NEX 5. Sadly, although the camera was on display it was out of stock in the shop and the only way I could get it was to order it from another branch and pick up the following day. However since I was leaving for Ghana in a few hours it wasn’t going to be possible.  So I had to go for my second option of a Canon EOS 1100D. This time there was a rep from Canon in the shop who snapped a photo of me with my new camera for their website. By the way I haven’t seen the photo yet so if you come by the photo on any Canon website send me the link.

With my camera issue now sorted, I went through the mall for some window shopping before heading back to Homerton to get ready for the airport. Had my last warm shower in the cold and dressed up to brace the cold from Homerton to Heathrow. Ohene whipped up his special vegetable salad with some French bread for us to eat before we left for the train station. Ohene helped out with my luggage till the final change in circuit to Heathrow Airport.  I immediately proceeded to check in when I arrived at the airport and made my way to the boarding gate once check-in was complete.

As I sat waiting for the boarding call I was just anticipating what my return affair with Virgin Atlantic was going to be like.  Well, I found out it wasn’t any less of an experience than my flight to the UK was. As usual I started with some cocktail and this time, I thought to make travelling at night and arriving in the morning less stressful I could do some gin and juice. Then I started the meal with Tomato and Cucumber with seasonal salad leaves, and packed it with Cape Malay Chicken curry with sweet potatoes and rice. Also on the menu was Braised beef cobbler with mashed and green beans; and African sweet chicken curry with mixed rice.   For dessert, I had Gu Chocolate and orange mousse served with tea.

My entertainment came complete with the humorous Jonny English Reborn and The Adventures of Tintin, both movies I was waiting to see at some point. I tried to sleep a bit but as usual with little luck. How at all do people manage to sleep in an airplane? Before landing, breakfast came in the form of fresh fruits, cinnamon Danish pastry, yoghurt drink and tea.

When we landed I felt the sharp change in weather almost immediately and as I went through the immigration I started sweating. Clearly I was back home in Ghana, home sweet home. Nothing said welcome back home like going through customs, feeling like you owed them a favour instead of going through standard checks. Any way I was back home and that was all that mattered.

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Ameyaw Says

My super hectic first travel since COVID-19, and how United Airlines made it a little better!

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Ameyaw Debrah and family

When I decided to visit the US for family and a little work, I tried a number of flight options on various booking platforms but finally settled on what Fareboom had to offer.  It was my first time using the platform, based on the recommendation of my wife. New to the platform, I felt frustrated by the initial process, where my flight had been booked but was yet to be confirmed. And then when everything was about to be finalized, days before the takeoff, I had a call from Fareboom that I had to use my Facebook account to verify my transaction. Well I did just that, and surprisingly everything fell into place from there.

 

I did a multiple city booking on United Airlines from Accra-Washington-Atlanta for the first leg and then Atlanta-Newark for the second leg. The final leg was Newark-Washington-Accra. I also had a flight to Seattle in between my stay, but since I was going to do that with my son, I didn’t add it to my initial booking in order not to complicate things.

 

This was my first international travel since my last one in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So, I wanted it to be as smooth as possible. Since my flight was on United Airlines, I downloaded the United mobile app, which offered great information throughout the various stages of my flight. In fact due to the convenience and effectiveness of the app, I started collecting my travel miles; the first time ever in my history of travelling around the world!  I booked my COVID-19 test with Leding Medical Lab at GHC250 and went to the Kotoka International Airport for actual test on my preferred date.  When the results were emailed to me, I then uploaded it on the United app and printed a copy also for the airport.

 

On the day of departure, I went to the airport about three hours ahead of my flight just to allow enough room for any eventualities due to the new travelling protocols. The process was pretty simple since I was well prepared for it. I saw the manager for United while checking in, and she offered to change my seat to one with more legroom. I had met her the previous week at the opening of the Adinkra Lounge at the airport.

 

I quickly made my way to the security check, after staying in a rather long queue. Pleasantly we were not required to take off our shoes this time, making the process a little less stressful or annoying.

 

When I boarded the flight, there wasn’t anything majorly different, apart from having to wear a nose mask all through the flight. I was given wipes to clean my hands and sitting area; and I also noticed there were hand sanitizers by the doors to the lavatories. I was a little tired so ate dinner and slept; or at least tried to sleep.

 

Hello America

 

We arrived in Washington Dulles International Airport early in the morning, where I had almost a 4-hour layover till my flight to Atlanta. Since it was my first port of entry in the US, I had to collect my luggage at reconnect after going through immigration checks. For some strange reason, even though I had only $10,000 on me, I was asked to go fill some documents to declare that I had such an amount on me. It was my first time ever travelling with that amount, and I thought I only had to declare when my money exceeds $10,000.

 

Once all that was sorted out, I called my aunt in Virginia so I could go and meet her to give her some stuff and then rush back to the airport for my flight to Atlanta. I got into an Uber using the airport Wi-Fi to go meet my aunt. After giving her the items, I freshened up a little and we started chatting about a lot of family matters. Before we knew it, I was already getting late for my flight so I got into a car and rushed back to the airport.

 

Fortunately I got back just in time to recheck my luggage in, and board the flight to Atlanta. I arrived in Atlanta and looked around to buy a SIM card like I normally do when I travel but sadly I couldn’t find any telecom company around.  After asking around frantically, I picked an Uber to my motel, Motel 6. This trip, I knew I was going to spend a lot of money in a short space so I decided to stay in motels to beat down the cost a little bit.

 

I stayed in Atlanta for 2 nights, did a feature for Ameyaw TV, met up with some friends and partied just a little bit and then moved to Newark, New Jersey.

 

In Newark, I checked into another Motel 6 for two nights. I was not impressed with my room compared to the pretty decent accommodation I got in Atlanta. It was dingy room; stained with the smell of smoke even though I told them I didn’t want a room for smoking at check in. by the time I checked out my clothes in my luggage all smelt like smoke.

 

I woke up the first morning with strange rashes all over my eyelids. My eyelids were stiff and had some burning sensations when I touched them. I applied a little shea butter and other creams on the lids, and in the next couple of days they would heal eventually.

I check out of the motel after two nights and picked up my son, Nathan to go visit my wife in Seattle.

 

First Time Flying with Nathan

 

I have always wondered how parents of very young children manage it when they fly together.  I’ve also noticed over the years that it is usually more fun and easier when kids travel with both parents, or with at least another older family member instead of just one parent. Since Nathan was born, I hadn’t travelled with him by air yet, and so I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately I was doing it all alone.

 

He was surprisingly well behaved when we got to the airport. We queued up patiently and went through the security checks brilliantly with his nose mask on, all the time. He even took off his shoes during the security check, even though he wasn’t required to do so, due to his age.

 

But the troubles started when we headed towards our boarding gate. He wanted to have anything he saw in the shops, from snacks to drinks, including alcohol. Most of the time, he wouldn’t even wait for me to pay for the items and would attempt to open them up. I got some snacks, water and candies just to calm him throughout the journey.

 

We sat and waited a bit for boarding to start but Nathan didn’t spare me! He was all over the place and simply uncontrollable. He started crying and throwing tantrums when I refused to buy everything he wanted.

 

Finally we got onboard and got seated. Fortunately, we were alone in our row. Nathan was quiet and well behaved before take off but started misbehaving shortly after. He would open the trays in front of him; and kick the seats here and there. I calmed him down a bit when I handed him some Haribos and snacks. Occasionally he would even throw some of the snacks into the general cabin. Goodness knows how uncomfortable I felt. In fact, I wanted to smack him a bit but of course I couldn’t, I was in America!

 

Thankfully he fell asleep and I got some respite for the almost 6-hour flight. I also tried to get a little rest as well. When he woke up he soon started with his tantrums and before the flight ended, I experienced one of the things I dreaded most  about traveling with kids.  Yes, Nathan urinated on himself without telling me he wanted to Pee and his pants were wet. Even worse, I had forgotten to pick an extra pair in his carryon bag. I took him to the lavatory and changed his underwear and got back to the seat.

 

Soon he got cranky and started crying about his tummy, and each time I gave him some water to cool him down. When we started to descend, he started crying about his ears because the pressure was building up in there. I tried to comfort him by hugging and covering his ear. Soon, I sensed that he had pooped, when I started smelling it. I held him closely so he would be still for the landing.

When we landed I couldn’t wait to quickly get off, so I could take him to the washroom to change him. Before getting out, most of the passengers kept praising Nathan for being well behaved and in my mind I was like what!!!!!? Anyway, I quickly dashed out and made my way into the family washroom to clean him up properly.

 

We made our way to baggage claim and there was even more tantrums from Nathan as we waited to collect our luggage from Alaska. When we got our bag, we headed out to look for my wife.  We were excited to see her, and after all the hugs and kisses we hit the road to drive for some few hours to Whidbey Island.

 

After days of family bonding and some small rest, we headed back to New Jersey. On the return flight, I was ready for all of Nathan’s tantrums. This time, I packed extra cloths in his carryon, just in case!  Well, the tantrums came in full dose and this time Nathan didn’t even sleep on the flight.

 

Thankfully, we made it to Newark around 11pm.  And, although I had said I would stay in motels to save money, I booked the Double Tree by Hilton hotel for the rest of my stay. So after collecting our luggage we ordered an Uber to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.  I took Nathan to his grandmother the following day.

 

Time to go home… angels and demons!

 

I used the rest of my stay to do some shopping, visit friends and family and also do interviews before leaving. I booked for a COVID test  ($139) in New Jersey on the recommendation of the United app. According to the airline I wouldn’t need this test if I stayed in the US for less than one week.

 

I was initially worried when I got to the lab and found out that my booking was not in their system, but I was re-registered and the test was conducted. In less than 24 hours I received my results via email and I uploaded it to the United Airlines website. I also paid $50 online for another test that would be conducted on arrival in Ghana.

 

My trip to the US had been short but full of expenses, and a lot of moving around so I was tired and couldn’t wait to get back home. On my last day before my flight home, I visited Rahway and observed a car show that took place there. When I posted the video on Facebook, a young man who runs a foundation that supports families of Ghanaian police officers, left a comment that he was close by and wanted to come meet me. I told him I was in Newark and I was leaving town the next day. He offered to come visit me early in the morning. My team covered the launch of his foundation in Ghana so I was familiar with his name and thought it would be great to see him before I left town.

 

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He called me in the morning, just before I checked out of my hotel, that he had arrived. So I went downstairs to meet him. The plan was for him to drop me off at my mother-in-law’s. So he parked and waited for me to finish everything and complete check out. But looking at the bags I had on me, we thought it would be better if he took me to the airport, instead of my mother-in-law. That way he could help me with my luggage. So we passed by my mother-in-law’s place for me to eat and say my farewell to her and Nathan, and then went straight to the airport.

 

When we got to the airport I noticed that I had left my backpack with my passport at my mother-in-law’s place. So we drove back to pick it up before heading back to the airport. At the airport, one of my bags was overweight when we weighed them, so I had to move some items from it into my other bag to balance things off. I then had to pay $200 extra for my iMac, which I bought for my video editors.  All this while, ‘my angel’ was waiting to make sure I had checked in all my bags. He gave me his credit card to pay for the extra $200 and also gave me $200 cash to keep. I was lost for words but I knew he was godsend.  Finally, I was able to check everything in, so I came out to say a final farewell to him, and I couldn’t thank him enough.

 

I eventually made my way to my flight to Washington Dulles, but not without some little incidence. The crew wanted to collect my carry-on luggage and check it in, for me to pick up when I arrive in Accra but I said no. I wanted to take it into the cabin and put it in the overhead locker because I had some delicate stuff in there and I wasn’t willing to offload them. So took my bag inside and luckily there was space in the locker for it, phew!

 

There was a little delay so when we arrived in Washington, there was a bit of a rush for most passengers who had connecting flights to catch. I had a little over 40 minutes before boarding time, so I took my time and had a long walk to the gate for our flight. Shortly it was time for boarding and I joined the queue for my zone.

 

When it got to my turn the flight manager looked at me and said ‘Mr Debrah how are you doing?’ I smiled and answered I was well. Unfortunately I couldn’t board immediately because I needed to show the results of my COVID test, as well as receipt for the one to be taken on arrival in Ghana.  So I joined another line to get everything validated before my boarding pass was stamped for me to get on the flight.

 

I went back to the flight manager who now allowed me to continue into the plane. I was just hoping that the lockers wouldn’t be full by the time I got to my seat; you know how traveling back home with Ghanaians can be.

 

Luckily I found space in the overhead locker opposite my seat. So I tucked in my luggage and took my seat quietly. I sat down quietly and waited for the flight to fill up so we can set off.  When the plane was almost ready to fly, I saw the same flight manager from earlier walking towards me. He asked me to collect my luggage and move in front with him, so I did just that.

 

Yes, he took me to the business class cabin and gave me a seat there. He introduced me to the purser and the rest of the crew for the business cabin, as a top blogger from Ghana, who was doing a lot of great work for the country. Wow, I was so happy because I really need some good rest.  I sat down and soon noticed that I had left my phones and passport in the pocket in front of my original seat in the economy cabin. I quickly rushed back there to pick it up and made my way into my new seat.

 

The purser had promised me an awesome cocktail so when the dinner service started, he brought me juices and spirits to for cocktail alongside the beef and potatoes I requested. I was really tired and needed sleep so after watching the new Mortal Kombat I leveled my seat into a flatbed and dozed off. Damn, the perks of business class!!

I woke up in the morning and ate breakfast, just before we landed in Accra.  When we got to Accra, we were the only major flight in, so it was smooth going through the COVID protocols at the airport, and being in business class meant I was amongst the first in the queue. However I found out I was also supposed to fill a health declaration form online. Since my details were not in the system when they checked for the declaration, I had to enter them using a tablet provided at the airport. On completion, I joined the queue and moved from one cubicle to the other until I got to where the actual COVID test took place. I then proceeded to go through the immigration checks.

 

I then moved to baggage claim to pick up my bags from the carousel. My iMac was the last to arrive since it was a box marked as fragile. When I got it, I moved on to pick my COVID test results and proceeded to the exit. Then came the experience from hell that ruined my fun business class highlight. Yes, I caught the prying eyes of customs, and apparently I had to pay duties on my iMac. I didn’t argue, I just wanted to just finish everything and go home to get some proper rest!

 

The customs officers asked me if I had an invoice for the computer and I said no, but I told them the price so they could use that for their calculations. When they gave me a seat I should have known I was in for a long wait. After about 30 minutes of nothing happening, some officers immerged looking to ascertain the weight of the iMac. Then it became a matter of whether they should weigh it with the box around it or not.

 

I was so infuriated because it felt like they didn’t know what they were doing. I soon started complaining that I was being delayed unduly. After over an hour I was given some forms to go and pay to the cashier. When I got there, there was nobody there. So I went back to complain and they found the cashier. When it was time to pay, I wanted to use my debit card but I was told they couldn’t accept it because my bank isn’t Ecobank.  Really? I had to go outside to find an ATM to withdraw almost GHc3,000.

Well I did and finally I was cleared to take my iMac home. Phew!

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Ameyaw Says

No matter your age, there is an online game for everyone

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My wife recently spoke to me about getting some video games for our three-year old son to play on his tablet. She had seen how the children of her colleagues play various games on their smartphones and tablets, so enthusiastically. Nathan is used to playing a lot of education videos and games on his tablets but my wife felt it was perhaps time to try something new like Candy Crush Saga or Temple Run although these games are recommended for age 10 plus.

 

I have also observed keenly, how video games excite children, so I agreed it would be a great option for Nathan as well. I still remember my earliest encounters with video games. I always wanted to have a video game for myself but my parents denied me during my primary school days. My father said it would distract me from my studies.  So, I usually played the likes of Super Mario Bros and Sonic the Hedgehog in school on my friends’ Nitendo Gameboy. The Iconic Tetris console was of course a favorite for me too, back in the day.

 

I remember when our neighbors got an Atari video game console; I was always in their living room at any opportunity I got to play Pacman and other games (I don’t even remember them now, but I think it included Contra). Then, finally my cousins visited Ghana from the USA with a Sega Genesis in the 1990s. This introduced me to games like Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.

 

Then in the 2000’s I got my first computer so started installing programs that allowed me to play a variety of games on the desktop. When I got my first laptop in my university days, it was the era of the Internet and so I explored a number of games online. But after the university, I had not played a video or computer game until recently when I was looking for options for Nathan.

 

I came across plays.org, which brought back a lot of the good old memories I have with video games. It stocks a number of free browser-based online games. There are hundreds of free games across various genres including arcade classics, cartoon games, comic games, education, solitaire, sports games, pinball and more. All games are unblocked free HTML games which you can play directly in your web browser with no app downloads.

 

One thing I have noticed is how computer games have now turned into intriguing storylines, filled with extraordinary graphics, inspiring characters, and elements of realistic approach towards gameplay setting, and overall production design.  But when I really looked through the options onsite, I knew deep within me that the true essence of computer games has never changed.

 

I tried my hands on Break the Worm, which is a players’ favorite on the website. This is a classic ‘beat em up’ game where Finn is trapped in a nightmare on a quest through 3 worlds, to defeat a worm. He gains unique magical powers in each world. The game is easy to play and there is a full guide on how to play it even before you start, from how to hit and block punches to how to swerve the worms and other adversaries that come your way. My favorite is using the special moves to kill them faster or easier.

I am not one for reading guidelines so I went straight into it punching may way through it all, and discovering new tricks as I went along.  I kicked off with level one, ‘Ice Kingdom’. Here, the opposition was largely easy to defeat worms, and some robot-like machines. I fairly aced it in a matter of time, with no failure. Just as most combat games, I was able to pick up items that boosted my lost energy due to the hits I received, as well as extra lifelines along the line.

quick tips pop on screen on how to play the game

quick tips pop on screen on how to play the game

Level two, ‘Dad’s Dungeon’, was slightly more difficult but after some few failures I managed to ace it and moved on to the third level,  ‘Candy Kingdom’. As sweet as the name sounds, I haven’t been able to complete the level yet, although I tried over ten times on my first day.

I haven’t given up yet on ‘Candy Kingdom’ because thankfully, I get the option to continue from where I left off anytime I go on plays.org and choose Break the Worm.  So I will try it again when I have some more time on my hand.

According to details on the website, beating the game unlocks a second harder version of the game called Nightmare Mode. I will surely keep trying to see what the nightmare mode has waiting for me.

 

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Ameyaw Says

Where are they now? Big Brother Africa Season 1 housemates

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When the Big Brother reality TV phenomenon took over the world, Africa was not spared. Thanks to M-net and Endemol, my family caught the bug early in 2001 with Big Brother South Africa. With larger than life characters, as well as a prying and eloquent host, Mark Pilgrim, we witnessed two seasons of fun, unpredictable television. A crazy Ferdi won season one while another crazy housemate, Richard, won the second season. (more…)

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Ameyaw Says

Celebrating my 40th birthday with orphaned children and abused women

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I want to thank everyone for the amazing well-wishes, prayers and gifts that characterised  my 40th birthday celebrations. You inspire me to excel more each year!

One of my biggest highlights was on Monday, when I visited orphaned children and abused women at the Potters Village Home, in Dodowa.

I first heard about the home when Ameyaw TV was invited to cover a donation earlier in the year. I was touched to make a similar donation when I watched our video from that event.

Watch the donation to the Potters Village Home below

The Potters Village is a charitable organization established to provide care and support to women and children who suffer domestic violence and abuse. To donate to The Potters Village, visit https://thepottersvillage.org/ or call +233243573386

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Ameyaw Says

“Every artist needs a Bullet” – Wendy Shay praises her manager

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Wendy Shay has heaped praises on her manager, Bullet for being the best in the industry. (more…)

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Ameyaw Says

Is it time to scrap ‘Artist of the Year’ from the Ghana Music Awards?

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As a keen follower of the Ghana Music Award for over two decades, I have observed how increasingly it has become difficult to award the ‘Artist of The Year’ over the period.

 

Today, I ask whether that category is even necessary? What is the true measure for the artist of the year – be it for a genre or the ultimate? As the current scheme stands, and looking at how winners have been chosen over the years, I doubt there are indeed any standards for scoring and judging the ultimate ‘artist of the year’.

 

An obvious standard for measuring an outstanding artist would first be the body of work. I know the Ghana Music Awards over the years has also considered the level of artistry and the performances of the artist as a key indicator or measure for choosing the artist of the year, which I find pretentious and even contentious because we each look for different things in a performance.

 

So by logic, in choosing an artist of the year, the number of hit songs (good or bad), album or EP ratings, and public ratings would be good indicators. By this logic, Diana Hamilton wouldn’t be the strongest suit for Artist of the Year for the 2021 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards. For the year in review, I honestly only knew of her smash hit song, ‘Adom’. If she had an album, I don’t know of it. She was not nominated for an album or an EP this year; she came into the competition with one strong song, and an obvious backing of ‘industry people’.  Looking at the nominees in the category this year, the others had more than just these attributes!

 

Over the years, we have come to accept the Ghana Music Award scheme as being a judgment of the Board, the Public and the Academy. While I love it for this unique outlook, it comes with its inherent challenges also. And I feel that to preserve the integrity of the awards, some changes need to happen. This includes scrapping off the Artist of the Year category. We have seen the scheme adapt and make changes over the years including new categories, new definitions and more. In fact this year saw the introduction of Afropop/Afrobeats Artist of the Year and EP of the year, to reflect the growing changes in the industry.

 

I think it is about time to build the various genres of the scheme and make them competitive enough for the artists that win each genre to be the top award for each genre, example, Highlife Artist of the Year or Hip-hop artist of the year. For instance for the Grammys, the top awards in the “General Field” are four awards which are not restricted by music genre. These include The Album of the Year, The Record of the Year (which is the Vodafone most popular song of the year in Ghana, and not so much its equivalent), The Song of the Year (which is a songwriter award unlike in Ghana) and The Best New Artist.

 

The ‘Artist of the Year’ unnecessarily makes the awards overly competitive for the musicians, and frankly, it has been proven enough that the Ghana Music Awards scheme does not have what it takes (in terms of the standards I mentioned earlier) to adjudge the ultimate artist of the year in Ghana. For instance, by logic, looking at the nominations this year, Diana Hamilton was the only gospel artist in the ‘artist of the year’ category, which meant that by default she had already been adjudged ‘gospel artist of the year’. Yet, the ‘gospel artist of the year’ is supposed to be a combined judgment of voting by The Board, The Academy and The Public.

 

It’s time to clean up!

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