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Sometimes, things turn out to be more fun when unplanned…my 2017 BET Experience & more

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So by now, you all know that I achieved my dream of attending the BET Awards for the first time this year…and yes watch out, the Grammys and Oscars could be next! But the real story is how I finally made the decision to attend the BET Awards, the uncertainties and the many adventures in between. If you think you saw it all on social media, then think again and buckle your seat belts!!!

When I returned from Cannes in May, I went for a US visa and thought it would be great to do the BET Awards since it was happening in June. I immediately started looking into the process of getting media accreditation in order to make it possible. I visited the official website for BET but unlike the Cannes Film Festival, which clearly had information on media applications, there was nothing like that for the BET Awards.

Although I had a Ghanaian contact at BET, I knew she had left the network so I didn’t even go to her to find things out (I later found out that she could have been of help if I had asked). I then emailed my contact at Viacom International Media Networks (who worked on my accreditation for the MTV Europe Music Awards I attended in Rotterdam last year), only to get an automated response saying she had left the company. The automated message also included the email address for two people who were now handling communications/PR for Viacom.

I emailed them but never got an answer. My anxiety started to mount as I continued to find out means to get accreditation for the awards. I contacted another friend who does publicity in Hollywood and she sent me a link with which I could apply for accreditation. It was right before the deadline so I managed to squeeze in my application on time. In fact, another friend sent me a different link and I applied as well.

After these applications, I now started waiting to hear from BET whether my request was accepted. Of course as one of Africa’s leading bloggers in the entertainment sector I was almost convinced that my request would be accepted. But after waiting and waiting, that appeared to be a mirage and maybe just maybe I had rated myself a little more than I’m worth…hahaha!!! With each passing day to the event, I got frustrated when I wasn’t hearing anything. The only other option that could guarantee me attending the BET Awards was to buy a VIP ticket package.

But with VIP packages going for around $1,100 to $2500 and $4500, that was really not an option for me. In fact I started an online campaign for my readers and social media community to contribute towards my dreams of attending the awards. Days passed without a single donation. In fact at some stage I even joked (not lied) on social media that I had received donations from two people, just to encourage other people to donate. Well, that didn’t get any positive results. The event date inched closer and the frustration grew further, as I had to plan my travels adequately.

I decided to get cheap tickets for 3-days of BET Experience- Staples Center concerts, so that incase I got my passes last minute while in Los Angeles, then I wouldn’t have wasted too much money on tickets anyway (in fact I was planning to resell those tickets if I finally got my accreditation from BET). The BET Experience concerts were starting from Thursday to Saturday ahead of the awards on Sunday.

On the Sunday night ahead of it all, I decided to leave Ghana on Tuesday to arrive in L.A on Wednesday so I could rest a day before the concerts. The last minute planning meant my flight was rather expensive. I went ahead to book my flight from Accra to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to New York so that I could tour the US a bit after the awards.

Hello, City of Angels!!!

As fate would have it, I arrived in L.A after a 10 hour flight from Amsterdam and checked into the Los Angeles Vacation Rooms, a ‘hotel’ I booked based on proximity to the Staples Center, Venue for the BET Experience concerts (stay tuned for my terrible experience with that hotel in my upcoming ‘that type of hotel’ series on my stay in America.)

 

 

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Soon, it was already Thursday and time for the first night of the concerts. During the day however, I visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame for my experience of Hollywood. I enjoyed it although I felt stupid after tipping some action figures and cartoon characters too much to have photos with them. I soon learnt how to ‘walk the streets of Hollywood’… literally!

In the evening, I made my way to the Staples Center and found my way to my seat inside the auditorium. I booked the same seat for 3 nights. Although it was far from the stage it was right on top of the stage so I could see the performance pretty well…at least whenever the artists decided to stay on stage instead of running through the crowd.

I got some good videos to share on social media, and in fact when a friend saw that I was indeed at the awards, he made $100 donation for my troubles…hurray!!! Performing on the night were Kid Cudi, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T, Desiigner, Playboi Carti and more!!!

 

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On Friday, some friends of mine came from Iowa as well to attend the Friday show, so I moved from my hotel to join them a new one, close to airport. Although the new hotel was farther from the Staples Center, it was very close to the airport and ideal for my 6am flight to New York, on Monday.

Although I had still not heard from BET regarding my accreditation to officially attend the main BET Awards on Sunday, I had some little hope on Friday evening, when I was invited by a friend to be her guest to the welcome party for BET International award nominees at the Grammys Museum. I was hoping to get a last minute BET Awards ticket from BET International arm of the network. So I passed through party before heading to the Staples Center for Friday’s concert. It was an opportunity to see the Ghanaians who had also come for the event. I met Becca but Stonebwoy couldn’t make it because he had a rehearsal that took some steam away from him earlier. After sticking around for a bit I headed off to the Staples Center.

My friends were already the Staples Center, so when I got there I called to inform them I had arrived. We had tickets for different zones so it wasn’t going to be possible for us to be seated together. In fact they were in a cool exclusive zone a bit closer to the stage but from across. They managed to sneak me in there to join them (ha-ha did I mention one of them was a Ghanaian?) Performers on the night included DJ Khaled & Friends, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko, Jidenna, Khalid, THEY, H.E.R and more.

 

 

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On Saturday, my day got off to a busy start when I received a WhatsApp message from Becca that I should join her as a guest to the BET International presentation for award winners (yes the infamous ceremony that is pre-recorded to announce winners for Africa and Europe.) Becca told me she put me on the guest list so I could attend the early afternoon event. I got into an Uber and headed to the Microsoft Theatre for the event. When I got there, I asked for the guest list but the security was not aware of such a list. I told them I had come for the award presentation and I was handed a wristband to join a bunch of seat fillers for the ceremony

Stonebwoy after the BET Award for Best International Act: Africa was announced[/caption] After the recording was done, I headed out of the venue where I received another tag for BETX Live! (106 & Park Live) event but since I had to go interview Koshie Mills on the set of ‘Diaspora Dialogues’, I headed out for that. The interview started late and I realized I could have done a bit of the BETX Live! (106 & Park Live) before heading that way.

 

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After the interview, I was tired so I went to the hotel to rest and wait for my friends to get in touch with me so I join them to Venice Beach, as planned the previous night. I was so tired that I dozed off while waiting for their call. In fact the only thing that woke me up was the chiming of the hotel fire alarm. When the alarm went off, I immediately joined the other hotel guests to make a quick exit as per instructions. But we soon found out it was only a false alarm.

I called my friends after I saw their missed call to find out where they were. Looking at the distance of Venice beach, I dressed up and took my ticket so I would head to the Staples Center for the Saturday concert, right from the beach. Again I hopped onto Uber and made my way to the beach (but not after two previous cars cancelled my trip after because I had pinned in the wrong location).

Thinking, I was going to Labadi beach back home in Ghana, I went through the central entrance for the Venice Beach. To my surprise it was a huge stretch and finding my friends took longer than expected so I had to jump into another Uber to head towards Staples Center, without seeing them. I made my way to the concert and it turned out to be really fun!!! Yes I had fun, even after finding out that the two Uber drivers that cancelled my ride earlier in the day had reported me as a ‘no show’ and I had been billed $5 each. Performers on the night included A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, Migos, Young Thug, Lil Yachty and more!

 

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After the Saturday concert, my BET Experience was officially over as Sunday came and I still didn’t have a ticket to the BET Awards. I tried some last minute lobbying on social media trying to catch the attention of all the BET Networks from Africa to International to USA, but there was no luck.

BET Experience ..its a wrap

In fact when I got an email from a lady who had sent me photos from the previous night, I felt that my work and presence in L.A had been felt to the extent that ‘they’ found me to send photos for me to post. I was so disparate that I replied that email asking that if she could help me with a ticket… no I didn’t get a reply either! In fact, when by 5pm I had heard nothing regarding BET Award ticket, I gave up and went downstairs to find something to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. After treating myself to some good food, I returned to the room to rest. Just before I could sleep, I decided to check my WhatsApp messages, and there was one from Becca saying that she had a ticket for me and had been trying to reach me.

I immediately replied her to find out if it wasn’t too late to meet her, and how I could meet her for the ticket since red carpet was almost over. Becca told me to meet her or her assistant at the gates to the Microsoft Theatre. I quickly ironed something to wear, dressed up and ordered an Uber immediately. The first driver after getting so close cancelled the trip on me, yes what a time to experience more Uber drama. I instantly requested for another one and waited for it to arrive, as the clock ticked away. After anxiously waiting longer than the estimated time of arrival, the driver finally showed up.

Oh by the way I was using Uber Pool because the distance to the Microsoft Theatre was far from my hotel. So I shared the cost of my trip with two people who were already in the car when it arrived. As we made our way into town, I started conversing with the driver, whom I found out was Nigerian. I explained that I was late for the BET Awards and he said he would try to use the best route to beat traffic, and wow what intense traffic we were surprised with on a Sunday!!! Although the driver wasn’t sure whether my destination would be first as he was being directed by his Uber GPS, he tried to make the journey fast for everyone.

Fortunately the driver had access to the Express Lane, which cut down the traffic and distance tremendously. Luckily too, I was the first passenger to be dropped off in the pool. When I got to my destination, I dashed off to the gate I was supposed to meet Becca’s assistant for the ticket, well at least I thought so! I called her on WhatsApp to tell her I had arrived and she tried to make her way out to bring me the ticket but was told if she got out, she wouldn’t be allowed back in. And in her desperation to find a way out, we also found out that I was at the wrong gate after I took a shot of where I was standing and a photo of myself to send to her.

Her battery was low and my Internet kept tripping so we struggled to stay in touch…yes more drama! Well after wasting another 10 minutes or so, I found my way to the right entrance and saw her from afar. She then gave the ticker to one of the security to bring to me. When we entered, we were not allowed to enter the auditorium immediately because the show was ongoing.

We had to stand outside and wait till it was time for a commercial break. Finally we made our way inside and I was more than excited. Of course I missed the first one-hour or so of the show, so I missed out on some of the performances including Bruno Mars, Future, Migos, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Big Sean, Mary J. Blige, French Montana, Kendrick Lamar and others. But I enjoyed the show especially the exciting performance from iconic groups such as Xcape and New Edition. I also got to see DJ Khaled, Tamar Braxton, Lil Wayne and Maxwell.

I also received a Platinum VIP tag that allowed me almost anywhere, including all the exclusive celebrity parties after the show. This tag came as part of the $4,500 VIP package and I intended to use it fully, at least catch some celebs for a few selfies. Sadly, after hanging around and charging my phone for about an hour, I couldn’t catch word on where the big parties were being held…yes they were that exclusive.

I was disappointed that the tag was going to be wasted and in fact I gave it out to someone to use. But there was some good news for me after all; the CEO of Zylofon Media has given Becca some money to give to me to take care of some of the expenses I made for my trip. God bless his heart!!! Anyway I ended up going to the BET Awards/ BET Experience after party but after some minutes, I could feel the tiredness so I grabbed an Uber and headed to my hotel to sleep a bit for my 6am flight to New York

Hello Brooklyn!!!

I woke up early in the morning and got ready for my 6am flight. Since I was in an airport hotel, I just got my stuff in the shuttle and headed to Delta terminal for my flight. After a rather hectic queue through immigration, I made my way to the gate only to realize that the flight had been delayed for some few minutes, which later turned into an hour. We finally boarded the plane for the 5-hour flight to New York.

Well, after a little napping here and there, we finally arrived in New York. I probably should have taken a train from the airport to Brooklyn but I was too tired to start looking around for the train station. So, I picked an Uber as usual. It was a long drive to my hotel. Once I arrived, I quickly checked in to my room and headed out for some food. I found a Thai restaurant and immediately ordered for some spicy pork fried rice.

It was so nice that I ordered the shrimp version to take to my room. When I got back to the room, I was faced with what had been my dilemma throughout my stay in the USA; the time difference and how to work effectively so that my blog didn’t stay inactive for too long, and timely enough for reader back home to enjoy. I did some work before sleeping and somewhere in between, I finished my shrimp fried rice also before going to bed!

Thai Pork fried rice at Mee Thai restaurant[/caption] Originally I was supposed to stay in Brooklyn for some 3 days but changed plans to add Virginia to my US trip. I therefore basically had only after my arrival in Brooklyn to explore New York. I got in touch with some friends who were available to meet and show me around the fun places in town. We visited Times Square in Manhattan to catch up, look around and have lunch before I went back to my hotel to rest a bit since one of my friends had offered to take out clubbing later in the day.

I joined my friend to go to a rather cool club called Up & Down, where we saw Ivorian footballer Salomon Kalou also clubbing with his friends. He was pleasantly surprised when we recognized him and said hello, since most of the Americans didn’t know who he was. We partied till very late in the morning. I then went to my hotel to have some rest before my flight to Virginia.

 

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I managed to sleep a little before heading to Penn Station New York to catch a train to the Newark Airport. Oh I forgot to tell you I had on me some bottles of shito and a load of dry fish to give to family in the USA…typical yeah? I remember when I arrived in Los Angeles and the customs guy asked me what type of fish I had with me. ‘Is it Ethiopian fish?’, he asked. I told him it was dried fish from Ghana and then he jokingly said, “Oh ok Ghanaian fish, it might smell but it is allowed.” Anyway I made my way to the airport with my luggage, checked in, boarded and made my way to Washington Dulles Airport.

Hello DMV area!!

I arrived in Virginia and made my way to the hotel, which was again not too far from the airport. The Aloft Hotel is an easy-styled one that didn’t come with a full restaurant so I called the reception to find out a cool place I could have dinner, after checking in.

I then requested for an Uber and made my way to yet another Thai restaurant, this time in the One Loudoun Plaza. After a good meal I returned to the hotel to rest my tired bones. The following day, I went to Manassas to visit my aunt and give her some items I brought from Ghana. And well, she gave me my much-needed fix of fufu and chicken soup before I left her place.

A friend came to pick me up from my auntie’s place to take me to Alexandria, where we hanged out with his older brother – also a friend. I have been in contact with the brothers, Kwame and Oral for many years and this was the first time meeting them in person so we had quite a good conversation before I went back to my hotel to rest. The next day, Friday, was all about Washington DC.

At the National Museum of African American History

Those of you who are good with geography would know that DC, Maryland and Virginia (the DMV area) and quite close together, separated by a river. So it took me under an hour to get into Washington DC. While in DC, I visited the Museum of African American history and culture, which was designed by British Ghanaian architect, David Adjaye and associates.

I also visited the White House, which was disappointingly smaller than I imagined it.

After the walkabouts, I got a late lunch at Georgia Brown’s where I tried jambalaya for the first time. I always thought it was a Jamaican dish perhaps because I first saw it being prepared by a Jamaican, on one of the cooking channels, many years ago. In fact in my mind it was Jamaican jollof (…yeah why not if Jamaicans were largely shipped from West Africa?) So I was surprised to find out it was a dish of Louisiana origin with Spanish and French influence. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

I later linked  up again with Kwame in Arlington where I joined his friends to the National Harbor for some more sightseeing. We concluded the day by passing through Apiioo, a Ghanaian Restaurant in Washington DC before I returned to my hotel.

The tough finish!!!

On Saturday, my last day in Virginia I planned to meet up my auntie in Manassas again to go shopping, and also to see my cousin since she was at work when I visited the first time. My aunt needed to go get some stuff in Fairfax, so we drove that direction before coming back to Manassas to start with our shopping. My cousin, who had rushed out of her work during lunchtime, came to meet me briefly at the Manassas Mall and returned to work.

Soon, the time for heading to the airport was nearing so we took all the stuff we bought to my aunt’s home to pack them. After packing the bags, we made our way into the car narrowly before it started raining heavily. The time was winding down quick as we made our way to the airport but we made it just in time to check in and go through security. After all the rush to the airport, I found out my flight had been delayed by an hour due to bad weather.

My whole day was wasted at the airport as the delay moved from a one-hour delay to two hours, and then three hours, until eventually some four hours later we started boarding. Anyway while we waited I had some scrumptious fried boneless tilapia that made me question everything I knew about one of Ghana’s favorite fishes.

When we boarded the United flight, for the first time in my travel history, my carry-on luggage was not allowed into the flight because according to them, it was bigger than the allowed size. I was told to put my bag in the slot of a stand by the boarding gate to determine whether it met the standard size allowed. Trust me, looking at that slot, only a foolscap notebook can fit in it (ok I’m exaggerating a little bit).

To cut a long story short, my bag was tagged and I was asked to leave it outside of the plane. I was fuming with so much anger, especially when I got on the plane and found bags that were bigger than mine in the overhead lockers. In fact my backpack couldn’t fit in any of the lockers near my seats. As I tried to adjust the bags so mine would fit in a locker, a cabin crewmember casually said to me that I should put my bag in the leg space in front of me. That got me so pissed; I wasn’t going to relax my long legs properly through the flight because people had too many big bags on the plane, and yet mine was left outside.

Also I thought I had heard one of the crew members explain to me at the door that I should pick up my bag from ‘lost and found’ when we arrive. So I just couldn’t hide my anger. After paying for every single bag I carried on the flight, (yes there is nothing free on United), I couldn’t believe I had to go through so much stress with the only free allowance the airline gives. I started attacking United airline on twitter before the plane took off. And while in the air, I couldn’t stop thinking of how to attack them further when I landed.

When the plane landed, I got my phone ready trying to capture some bags that were bigger than mine but yet allowed on the flight. I took some photos as we landed and headed the carousel, to pick my luggage. When I saw my carry-on on the carousel and not in ‘lost and found’ like I had imagined, I cooled off a bit, and started to regret for ranting on Twitter. I got into an Uber and made my way to the hotel I booked in Newark, New Jersey. It was a bit close to the airport also.

During check-in, I was asked to present my ID and that was when it hit me that in my anger and attempts to snap photos of hand luggage on the flight, I had left my passport in the seat pocket in front of me. I don’t even want to talk about the things that started to run through my mind at this stage. I immediately requested for an Uber and rushed to the airport to find my passport.

 

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We called United from the hotel before leaving but they weren’t very helpful, we had to go through a rather impersonalized call center before reaching a not so useful agent who told me to fill out a lost and found application online…. really?

When I got to the airport I got lost a few times trying to find the right terminal. After asking around, I was directed to the correct terminal and I hopped into an airport taxi there. I started sending Direct Messages to United on Twitter, yes the same account that I was blasting some few hours earlier. I explained the situation, told them the seat I was in, and gave them some more flight details.

After about an hour of waiting and moving from on desk to the other, my passport was finally returned. Phew… what a relief. I could now go back to my hotel to sleep and rest a bit before my flight to Ghana on Sunday evening.

After sleeping for some few hours, I woke up and headed to New York for some last minute shopping before my flight to Ghana. I checked out of the hotel and left my bags with the concierge so that when I returned, I could go straight to the airport, and of course not pay extra for over-staying. I took a hotel cab to Penn Station, and boarded a train to New York. One of the reasons for going back to shopping was so that I could go to TopMan, which seems to be the only shop that has my trouser length and waist size.

Sadly, there was only one pant that I could get in my size, so I left New York with disappointment, and feeling I had wasted the time I could have used for something else. From New York I had to meet ‘family’ in Madison station, New Jersey because I had promised to stop over to at least eat some ‘ampesi’ or rice with Kontomire sauce before leaving to Ghana.

I got on a train in that direction but little did I know that the trip was rather long, and would eat into my time to prepare for the airport. I started to fret, more minutes passed, and the time for my flight worryingly ticked closer. I finally got to meet her but there was only time for small pleasantries. I ordered an Uber to pick me from the Madison Station to my hotel and I left for the hotel with a basket of ‘ampesi’ and rice with Kontomire stew.

Yes I ate in the Uber while heading to the hotel, and I could only imagine what the driver was thing…. “These Africans…shaking my head,” I guess! We made it to the hotel in some good time and I immediately requested for another Uber to come for me to the airport, while I went to collect my luggage from the concierge and also leave the basket with the rest of the food I couldn’t eat.

The attendant was a Nigerian, so seemed to easily understand when I told him someone would come later for the basket…ha-ha!!! I got my bags into the second Uber, which was driven by a fantastic Moroccan woman, and dashed off to the airport. We seemed to be making some good time on the road until we run into serious traffic. Soon, what should have been a 14-minute drive away from the JFK Airport ended up being over one hour!!!

I didn’t give up hope even with a little over an hour to take off. I had checked in online in order to make it less stressful when I finally get to the airport. Soon we got to the end of the crazy traffic, only to realize the hold up was due to an accident when saw a car catching flames. I speedily made my way to terminal 4 for Delta, and used the porter service outside for quicker results.

After checking in, I was told I had 30 minutes more left till boarding. I swiftly run towards the gate and into a long queue through security. I explained to the people in front of me that my flight was soon boarding and they nicely let me move ahead of them each time I asked. I did that bit by bit until I finally made it through security and immigration. I then dashed straight to my boarding gate where other passengers had already started queuing.

I realized that my pass didn’t have a seat allocated on it yet, so I went to the desk to check. I was told to wait a little bit for the system to allocate a seat to me. I was asked to monitor the screens in the waiting area for my details to show once ready. I went to the waiting area and after some minutes, nothing popped up on the screens, and even if it did I didn’t understand to messages well enough to know it. So I went back to the desk and this time around, I got the boarding pass with me seat number on it. I then breathed easily and made my way to the plane.

I arrived safely in Amsterdam, where I took a KLM flight to Ghana after waiting and working at the airport for some six or so hours. When I got home to Ghana I went straight to the kitchen to eat some jollof rice for all my troubles

 

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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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