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Ameyaw Says

The Real Big Brother All Stars

As viewers across Africa enjoy the thrills and excitement of season 5 of Big Brother Africa, dubbed Big Brother All Stars, very little is known about what happened behind the scenes in the days leading to the show. While the selected housemates were confined from the public eye until the big reveal, a group of […]

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As viewers across Africa enjoy the thrills and excitement of season 5 of Big Brother Africa, dubbed Big Brother All Stars, very little is known about what happened behind the scenes in the days leading to the show. While the selected housemates were confined from the public eye until the big reveal, a group of journalists from the participating countries, excluding South Africa (which had a separate treatment) were invited by Multichoice Africa to experience the Big Brother phenomenon at first hand. 
This group is what I would refer to as the Real Big Brother All Stars (no apologies to Desperate Housewives and The Real Housewives) not just because they stayed in the Big Brother House before the actual housemates arrived but also because of the celebrity treatment they received during their stay in the house. Of course with yours truly representing the Ghanaian press, we could only be treated as celebrities. Just kidding!
I arrived at the OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg a little earlier than scheduled and after clearing myself with immigration, I made my way to the arrival hall to meet my contact person. After pacing around the hall for a while and familiarizing myself with the unfamiliar winter of Johannesburg, I started getting worried that I may have been left in the cold or something had gone wrong. I turned on my phone to check whether any last-minute communications had been sent regarding my pick up time. Soon I realized that the seamless roaming advertised by MTN in Ghana concerning using the service in other countries with MTN wasn’t as seamless as the adverts seemed to suggest. I discovered that I couldn’t recharge with South African recharge vouchers; and as a pay-as-you-go customer I wasn’t going to be able to use my internet services. As for the rates I don’t even want to talk about it.
Out of desperation, I was going to change some of the little US dollars that I had carried along so I could buy a new SIM-card and save myself from the phone hustle. Just before heading to the forex centre, I turned around to check one more time to see if I would find someone holding a placard with my name on it. Yes, finally I saw a gentleman holding a piece of white paper with Ameyah Debrah written on it. By the way, what’s with all these foreigners always spelling my name as Ameyah instead of Ameyaw? I have googled that name a number of times and have come to realize that it is a popular Hispanic name. Anyway I soon found out that my chaperon was Charles Lamprecht, and later found out that he is one of the most punctual people in all of Johannesburg.
I was the first to arrive in South Africa out of the group and by 5.30 am, I had arrived at the Garden Court Sandton saying hello to my new bedroom. I immediately jumped into my bed to get some proper sleep. Well the proper sleep never came because in less than 2 hours later, I heard the hotel cleaners shouting ‘…house keeping! House keeping!’ I guess no one told them I had just arrived. I went back to sleep for a few minutes and got up to have my first shower in the cold weather that I was still getting familiar with. I had breakfast and soon remembered that Mr. Lamprecht had hinted me that we would have a tight schedule during our stay in Johannesburg. So I decided to go to the Mall in Sandton City to get some warmer clothes and do some other shopping.
A bad Start
After buying a few items and exploring the sheer magnificence of the mall, (I still doubt that I saw all the shops in that huge edifice), I realized that I was late for my pick up time from the hotel when I saw the clock at ABSA Bank, wherehaving fun at Sandton City I was changing some currency. Instead of adding two hours to my Ghana time, I relied on the automatic Johannesburg time setting on my Nokia phone, which for some reason was an hour late. I rushed back to the hotel, after getting lost a number of times and asking for direction to the hotel. There is no telling, I was late and I had missed the bus that was scheduled to pick me up.

Smacking myself for my unimpressive start, I went to my room pondering on how to redeem myself. After about an hour, the phone rang and when I answered, I heard the voice of the bus driver, Daniel. He had brought a third batch of journalist from the airport and was about to take them to the destination I missed a few hours back.
I immediately rushed into to bus with my camera ready to snap away when we arrive at our destination like the tourist I was. I soon introduced myself to the others: Renee (Kenya), Isaac (Botswana), Edson (Mozambique) and Jonathan (Zambia). Daniel the driver explained that he was taking us to the Big Brother House and we were really thrilled to see the house for ourselves. As we drove through the beautiful city, we had more conversations so we could know ourselves better. Within some few minutes we arrived at the studio with the Big Brother House extension. We were then met by Odette Bagley, Publicity Executive, Multichoice Africa.

Some of the Real Big Brother All Stars take a pose in the garden

Welcome the Real Big Brother All Stars
Odette welcomed us and explained that in order for us to have a real feel of the Big Brother experience, M-net had decided to let us stay in the Big Brother House as housemates for a day. She said if any of us didn’t feel comfortable, we could go back to the hotel, but none of us was ready to let go of this once in a lifetime experience. We had to surrender our watches, phones, and cameras before heading into the house as the Big Brother Africa ‘Press mates’. We grabbed our survival kits comprising a towel, a toothbrush, a toothpaste, shower gel, and a pack of mints and made our way into the compound, but not until we were properly marked and attached with microphones.

The gates were shut behind us but we couldn’t be bothered as we took in the beautiful sight of the house. A nice garden with a cool pool and Jacuzzi, and a cozy little porch, what more could we ask for?
We made our way inside to find three more of our colleagues: Natasha (Namibia), Nigel (Uganda) and Issa (Tanzania) having lunch. What a good time to arrive, huh? They were little reluctant to let us in because they jokingly didn’t want us to have any of their food but once we got in they willingly shared their food with us. I took a quick tour of the house and surely could see myself living in there; I just loved the décor and spaces. I went through the building observing all the cameras and microphones which seemed to be everywhere. It was amazing how we bonded quickly after a few conversations. It took me a while to get the individual names or their countries right but I made slow progress with that.
Bring it on Biggie!
Soon I heard the voice of Big Brother for the firs time (although it was a female) asking us to come to the store room. In order to have my first Big Brother feel, I joined Renee and to our surprise found out that there was more food and drinks in the store room for us. We went straight into the chicken and chips as we continued to know each other in terms of our careers some more. As we continued to savour in the experience, it was soon time for us to have our diary session for the day. I enjoyed my diary session although it was weird talking to someone who could see me but I couldn’t see. And why does Big Brother ask questions at such lengthy intervals? I was like, I’m still hear, ask me the next question and let me get out of here!
Not long after the dairy sessions, Big Brother called for one of us to come back into the diary room. Nigel went in and came back with a box full off opaque eyeglasses with funny eyes paintings on them. Big Brother asked us to move to the garden area and put on our glasses. Basically we were blindfolded as we waited for the next instruction from ‘Biggie’. Soon we were joined by some ‘outsiders’ who asked us to hold hands as they safely transported us out of the house into a bus. We were driven to an unknown destination and when we got there, we were assisted to get out of the bus and finally the blindfolds came off.
We had arrived at the ‘arena’ and it was time for our task for the day. Staring straight at us was a chain of props for us to use in 6 different challenges. One by one we conducted the challenges after reading the instructions attached to each set of props. We first got behind a line and tried to have all of our right foots touch the ground at the same time, but we weren’t so successful so moved to the next challenge where we ran around the arena rolling a ball in bamboo pipes without dropping the ball. Next, we had to lift a stick with our index fingers chest-high and bring it back to rest.
Next, we were asked to get on a wooden platform and make sure we all fitted into a small square area and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Big Brother. We were successful again and moved to the next challenge which asked all 8 press mates to pass through a six –sided open cube in unique directions; very challenging but we came out tops. Next, we got unto a magic carpet and turned it upside down without any of us falling off the carpet. How? Well, as a team of big brains we worked together and made it possible.
Finally we were handed a huge pen supported by 8 prongs, one per press mate and together we had to write on a piece of paper ‘The press mates love you big brother’. We nailed it and got back to the first task which we failed earlier; this time we had it right!
Rewards, Surprises and Bliss!
After we completed all the tasks successfully, we headed back to the house the same way we had come out earlier. When we got back we realized that the flames were up in a fireplace in the garden. Most of us converged around the flame for some warmth and more conversations. As we relaxed taking in our victory Big Brother announced that we had completed our task successfully and for our reward there would be plenty of drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and food.
When the alcohol finally arrived, there was a lot of bliss and a silent competition to find out who could take in the most. By the time the day came to a close, we all knew the champion could only be Jonathan (Zambia). Although I am not an alcohol person, I took a bottle of beer and a glass of some interesting concoction. As the fun continued into night, the gates opened for four more people to enter the house. This time it was Robert (Zimbabwe), Deborah, Bekala (Ethiopia) and a beautiful chick from Angola that I never got her name right. The familiarization continued with the new press mates and soon Big Brother delivered in some more food; lots of chips and a variety of grilled chicken.
The fun continued and even at a point, a marriage proposal was made to one of the press mates. But we weren’t in Vegas so we knew it was only going to remain a big joke. Since we had no idea of the time, sleep only came as result of tiredness – and surely most of us were tired especially those that had come straight into the house from the airport. After more drinks and discussions, everyone eventually went to bed.
Good morning Big Brother! Goodbye Big Brother!
After struggling through the night to sleep because the lights were on for most of the time, I woke up to find most of my colleagues up and of course with a few of them battling with a hangover. I was glad that we didn’t have to get out in the cold for morning aerobics as we later found out that it was scheduled to happen. I got off the bed and headed straight to the bathroom to brush me teeth and freshen up for the day.

Although we had been assured that the cameras in the shower area was not going to be on during our stay, showering was not an option for me because according to our itinerary, we would leave the house in the morning for our hotel. About three of the guys however decided to have a shower perhaps to make their Big Brother experience complete.
Most of us grabbed some cereals and had some coffee or tea for breakfast. But for those who wanted some fried eggs to go with their breakfast, the unavailability of salt in the house became an issue. The salt became a part of the list of things that Biggie got a lot of complaints about for not providing; the other items being drinking water and cigarettes for a few of the press mate.
Soon we heard Big Brother’s voice again, this time telling us that our stay in the house would come to an end in some few minutes. We grabbed our belongings and headed out of the house as Biggie counted down to our exit. As we stepped out it was clear in the faces of many that we would cherish the experience throughout our stay in South Africa. We took off our microphones and said hello to freedom and the outside world as we headed back to our hotel.
The Real Big Brother All Stars out and about Joburg!
When I got to the hotel, I had some breakfast and a proper shower away from the prying eyes of Big Brother, and relaxed a bit before joining the rest of the group for our next adventure. We got on the bus and headed straight to Mulitchoice Africa offices where we met the adorable Sandy Singh. She welcomed us to the home of television magic and we took a remarkable tour around the facility, with the extremely knowledgeable Angus.
Angus walked us through the M-net Studios, SuperSport Studios, editing suites and all the technical stuff that goes on to make sure that DStv viewers get the best television viewing all across Africa. Of course, being the stars that we are, we occupied the seats of SuperSport studios and had mock-sport presentations only for our cameras. We were joined by two more reporters, Dickson (Kenya) and another gentleman from Zambia (yes I can’t remember yet another name!) for the tour. We ended our visit to Multichoice Africa with a scrumptious treat for lunch and an interaction with Sandy Singh and Odette.
We headed back to our hotel and after the driver, Thabo dropped the group off Renee, Nigel, Issa and I asked him to take us to the Sandton City Mall for some shopping. When we got out of the bus we walked through the Nelson Mandela Square taking some pix before making our way into the shops. We split up and I went along with Nigel to buy some few items. As the clock winded down, I knew too well that being late again for the bus wouldn’t be good for me so with about 30 minutes to our pick up time, we rushed back to the hotel in a Mercedes Benz cab that charged as an outrageous sum of 100 rands for a very short distance. Anyway, we bargained with the driver, (a lady) to beat down the price to 70 rands. When I got back I found out Renee paid 50 rands for the same distance, hmmm!!!!

We all got on the bus and headed to the popular restaurant, Moyo’s at Zoo Lake for dinner. See, I told you we were real superstars! There was plenty to eat and drink and we truly had a blast. More and more I felt the admiration for the Ghana Black Stars from all of Africa. The more interactions we had over dinner, the more I noticed that Ghana’s exploits at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa indeed made the continent proud. Through out my stay with the group, those who couldn’t pronounce my name chose to call me Asamoah (Asamoah Gyan of course), Ghana or Kwame Nkrumah. After the dinner and felicitations, we went back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep!
Oh no, not again! I’m late for Soweto
Did I say a good night’s sleep? Well apparently I enjoyed the sleep a little too much and I still don’t know what happened. At about 11.20 am I heard my phone ring and when I answered it was Charles Lamprecht on the phone because the rest of the group was waiting for me in the bus. I rushed into the bathroom to wash my face without even brushing my teeth and dashed out in the next available jacket and jeans trousers. I got on the bus with a shamed-face and apologized to Odette and the rest of the group for the delay and it was away to Soweto we went. At this point, I noted that we had been joined by the last group of reporters, Prince and Florence from Nigeria.
We arrived at Mandela House, 8115 Orlando West for a lovely tour of the house where former South African President, Nelson Mandela and his family lived from 1946 into the 1990s. I signed the visitor’s book and as we headed out with such profoundness, I saw the most interesting ice cream seller I had ever seen across the street. He had the catchiest song for his ice cream and was singing and dancing to draw attention to his chest of ice cream. Only goodness knows how much I wanted one of those caramel bars but it was too cold for ice cream, I thought.
The group agreed to have McDonald’s for lunch so our bosom driver, Thabo headed to Mickey D’s. On our way we stopped by the Soccer City Stadium which hosted the opening and closing games of the just ended FIFA World Cup in South Africa. We weren’t allowed into the stadium but observed the magnanimity of the stadium from outside the ticketing area and of course took some pix.
We headed back to McDonald’s for lunch. I got myself some Big Mac and Coke and said to myself, when is this coming to Ghana? After lunch we went back to our hotel to catch some rest before our next activity. Of course, the first thing I did when I got to my hotel room was to have a shower and brush my teeth.
Nice meeting you Sean Paul but we have to go cook dinner!
As part of the Big Brother experience, we had to cook for ourselves but since we couldn’t do that while in the Big Brother House, M-net arranged for us to do it in style but not until we had interacted with Jamaican dancehall superstar and special guest performer for the Big Brother All Stars launch, Sean Paul. So went to the Sandton Southern Sun Hotel a short press conference.
It was interesting to see Sean Paul in his new hairstyle and of course we asked him about the new look. As usual, he was such a spot, answering all our questions no matter how weird. Sean even had a surprise for us when he asked Robert if indeed reggae star Sizzla had moved to Zimbabwe. It was a fun press conference but we had to let him go catch some rest; he had just flown into Johannesburg from performing in Morocco and he needed to be fit for the big show the following evening.
We had our Kodak moments with the dancehall star and it was away to cooking school to cook dinner. We met head chef, Minnette who gave us an introductory lesson on how to cook generally. She had measured out ingredients and printed out recipes to several dishes for our three course dinner. We were put in several groups of two to each prepare a special meal or dessert for dinner. I was paired with the hot chick from Angola (and I still can’t remember her name) to prepare the spring rolls. Well, being the gourmet chef that I am, spring rolls was just too easy to cook.
After about three hours all the grilling, baking, frying and cooking was over and the sweet smell of food was in the air. Minnette and her assistants set the table for our royal feast, and truly the dishes were scrumptious. We munched away and washed it down with some few drinks. Of course I had to grab a piece of Minnette’s cheesecake for dessert. After dinner, we thanked Minnette for hosting us so incredibly and then headed back to our hotel to catch some rest ahead of the main event the following day.
The imposters are here!
On Sunday, the day of the Big Brother All Stars launch, there wasn’t much activity for us so we had our morning and afternoon to ourselves. Those who had not had the chance to go shopping and even those who did previously used the period to do some shopping. I was in my room throughout catching some rest and getting in touch with family and friends back home (did somebody say Facebook? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong.)
At about 5pm our bus arrived to pick us up to the Big Brother House location where we enjoyed some more VIP treatment with officials from Multichoice Africa and their guests. After some rounds of cocktails and some finger licking snacks, we made our way into the studio where the live launch took place.
We watched on as one by one, the Big Brother All Stars housemates were announced and introduced to the audience. They may have arrived in limousines and all but they still can’t beat us. As I watched the housemates grabbing the attention, it was clear that they didn’t know the Real Big Brother All Stars had been in and out of the house already. When the housemates entered the Big Brother House I could see the expression, ‘we were there first’ written on the faces of my colleagues. And yes, we were there first, slept in those beds first, used those showers first, ate and drank in there first! We ended the night in true celebrity style when we partied with Sean Paul at the after party in Zouk Nightclub, while the so-called housemates only met Sean Paul on stage and for a brief moment in the house.
The following day, we all headed out to our various countries depending on our flight schedules. One day in the Big Brother House, partying like rock stars, no prize money but lots of amazing and priceless memories to take back home; we are the Real Big Brother All Stars!

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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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A post shared by Ameyaw Debrah (@ameyaw112)

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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