To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ The Boys Of The Band. Nkoranza (Name Changed). Interview With Akosua Asantewaah

BosmanCoverShe’s called Akosua Asantewaah, a solid, good-humored woman of about forty years old. Some time ago her husband took his colleagues, all civil servants, as well as his own family by surprise by going to Accra for shopping and … calling his wife the next morning from New York! Her husband Dominique has worked as an accounting assistant for over fifteen years. He is known and well liked in town. His wife kept silent but rumors were quickly spreading that he had indeed left Ghana. ‘He went to New York, with the people from the band!’ people whispered to each other and congratulated him on his luck.

Akosua Asantewaah, stout earthly and always where her business is, has three children and sells second hand clothes on the street. I ask her about the rumors and this is what she tells me: Oh yes, he left! How long ago? I don’t know exactly, it will be a year or more ago already. It was no surprise to me, I knew that he was planning something with his friends, but of course he never told me in so many words. I felt it however and I was proud of him when he called me from New York that morning and when he said: ‘I’m here, I’m in America!’ I called my children together and told them: your father is a hero, he has made it to America! They danced! We made fufu that day which you know is the food we like the best and we had a party. The neighbors came. I won’t forget that day!

He whispered over the phone as if somebody could still overhear him and send him back! Beforehand, yes, he told me that he wanted to go away to earn money for us, but no details. I didn’t ask him. Then when he called from New York I knew he had made it. He sounded so happy. But I asked him ‘Why did you not greet me before you left?’ He laughed and I laughed too. Of course he had to seize the opportunity and go at once so there was no chance for saying good bye. He has a very good friend, a musician. Often this friend gives concerts overseas. One time when things were really hot my husband did something very good for him and his friend said: ‘One day I’ll pay you back, I’ll help you.’ So I knew that he was waiting for help to get out of Ghana.

When this musician was invited to perform in New York he took Dominique with him as one of the band members. No problem with the visa at all. When they all left for the plane my husband joined and it all went smooth, he said. That’s how he came to New York!

Now I am alone with my children but people always stop to greet me and it seems they are proud of us, so I am happy. We just pray every day that he may reach his goal and try not to worry too much. Or drink too much! We all pray that one day he comes back safely. And rich of course! I am more worried for him then for myself and my kids. He does not have it very easy. But he calls me as often as he can. Almost every week and when the children were sick he called every day. Read more

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ Peace Of Mind Or Success? I Want It Both. Interview with Kojo Apiah Kubi (Brian Osanhene Duako in Chicago)

BosmanCoverIn Ghana they call me Kojo, Kojo Apiah Kubi. Back in the States I use the name Brian Duako, which is the name in my passport and also Brian is easy for Americans to pronounce. But now I’m back in Ghana and my mum says ‘Kojo, you are home’. My family and friends make me feel so good, it’s so sweet to be Kojo again!

I‘m 35 years old and I was born in the village of Tanfiano near Nkoranza. After school I attached to an artist in order to develop my drawing skills which I possessed since early childhood. If people ask me who I am I say I am an artist. As a small kid in the village I would make drawings from anything I saw, houses, trees, faces, a village road. I lived in this small mud-house in Tanfiano and made drawings on all the walls included the ceiling and my parents said: ‘you have talent!’ I started developing that talent.
People were amazed at how well I would copy the scenes on paper. ‘Kojo, good for you!’ They would say. I did secondary technical education in Sunyani and then started my own art studio over there. For five to six years I worked happily and independently in my studio and by then I had my own apprentices who attached to me.

Then I got the chance to go to Chicago because my sister lives there and she helped me get the visa. Once there I went straight to school to work on my Bachelors in graphic designing. I got there when I was 26 and now have been eight years in Chicago. I like that city, it suits my taste. It was easy for me with the visa and I got married there and that way I also received a residence permit and now I am a USA citizen and a family-man with two kids. I had to combine study with work and so I drove a taxi to finance my studies and help support my family. Nowadays I alternate times of studies at the university with time spent working. I work full time in graphic designing and screen making and I drive the taxi when I want to make some extra bucks. Last time, 4 years ago, I came with my wife and boy. Now I also have a baby girl, eight months old, so my family stayed home this time.

My wife is very interested in what you do here with the handicapped children. She works at the Howard community with handicapped persons and one day when the kids have grown she wants to come help you as a volunteer! She reads your website and is really interested.
Right now we don’t know how to organize it, the kids have to grow somewhat, but we will come! My wife’s mum is from Ghana and her dad is from America. The first time I came with my wife, 4 years ago, the experience was bittersweet. First of all I was of course so happy to meet my mother and the family but also it was a confrontation that was too hard. Now we are used to things different in USA and in Ghana it is not the same. I try to adjust. For example I cannot drink the water anymore without getting sick, that kind of thing. Ghanaian food however I love and thank God it never makes me ill. Read more

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ It Is Love For One Another That Makes Us Continue. Interview With Kojo Sampson

BosmanCoverI am Kojo Sampson. Three years ago, in 2002, I traveled to Libya and returned last year. I am a plumber but in Libya I did different work. I worked with German people at a gas-company near Tripoli. That is a factory that sees to the transport of piped gas. The pipe is government property but the contract has been given to a German firm. I planned from the beginning to find work there and succeeded in doing so. That helped me for the conditions of living are better with the Germans as compared to the Libyans. So relatively I had it easier. But I was away from my Ghanaian friends in Tripoli and I missed them. Therefore I did not also know how bad they had it. I thought I had it bad the way I was treated and at a certain stage I wanted to run to Italy for I could no longer stand the humiliations. Only later did I hear that those Ghanaians who work contracts in Tripoli suffered much worse from the local people. I had hoped to receive money from my family but they disappointed me and so I had no money to make the trip to Italy.

I started thinking about going to Libya after completing school. This was because I needed money to establish my own business. I have no helpers in life and so I had made plans to help myself.
I started to save money I earned here and there with the single aim of paying for my trip to Libya. The business that was in my mind was opening a store in Nkoranza where I would offer combined plumbing works and the placing of tile-floors and bathrooms. That was what I had in mind since I completed school where I learned these skills. I attended the Technical Training Institute at Abetifi in the Kwahu Mountains and specialized in plumbing and tiles setting. I also decided that I wanted to be my own boss.

I went to Libya and worked hard in order to come back with enough money to establish my own store. I am back now and as you know I am in business and it is growing and doing well. I have become known in Nkoranza already!
At that time it took me two million Cedis to go to Libya, which equals 200 dollars. I took the route through Agadez in Niger and from there I went to Tripoli where I have spent two years making money.

The journey was rough. I did not like it. I will not advise anybody to go to Libya because the trip is too dangerous for any human being. I would not have done it if I knew then what I know now. The road is bad. The cars are not maintained in fact they are terribly overloaded. A pickup from Agadez to Druku is filled with 27 Ghanaians in the back, while there is place for only 10. If you make it during that trip, there is another pickup waiting for you to drive you through the desert to Libya. Same situation, overloaded with again 27 people and the car is old.
They treat you like cattle. The pickup shakes and there you are with two hundred percent overload. You take turns and sit in the back or hang over the edge of the pickup. On the way between Agadez and Druku I fell off. The car goes at night and we all get sleepy. They drive at night because of the police patrols during the day and also the sun gets too hot. So we travel late evening till early morning and during the day you can’t sleep either because you have to protect your money and your belongings. One night I fell asleep, however much I struggled to keep my eyes open. Everybody pushes all the time and I fell, I did not even notice it till I hit the ground. Because we are all Ghanaians, Nkoranza people, we look out for one another. If not you die. They saw me falling off the car and knocked hard on the back window of the cabin to make the driver stop and pick me up. If no one would notice it or if they are strangers then you lay there and you are lost in the desert. So it is important to travel with your own people. Read more

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ I Saw Dead People Covered In Dust. Interview With Mr. Darko

I am Mr. Darko, 37 years old and I am married with two children. I’m from here in Nkoranza and I work as a car electrical mechanic in town. I will tell you about the experiences I had on my way to Libya. About three years ago I went to Libya. I started from Ghana, passed Burkina Faso and went on to Niger and then straight into Libya. That’s what I thought, but it happened otherwise.
From here to Burkina the road is acceptable but once in Niger the going is rough. From Burkina you get to Niamey which is the capital of Niger. There are many Ghanaians there waiting for their chance to get transport into Libya. In Niamey you wait until about thirty people have assembled, then you all get into an Urvan minibus. These buses take you to Agadez. Ghanaians wait for each other till they have the money to hire the car together. We Ghanaians, we like to travel together.

“Everyone pays about 300,000 cedis which is 30 dollars to the driver. The driver is not from Ghana, he is from Niger. You take off and although the distance is not too long the road is so bad that it takes you three to four days to get to Agadez. This town is the second capital of Niger and lays at the edge of the desert. The military police stops you many times and each time you have to pay up. When they see Ghanaians in the bus they say: ‘stop, out, pay.’ If you don’t pay they will throw you out of the car. You waste a lot of money on that stretch alone. Every time they stop you, you pay 5 dollars, this is on top of the 30 dollars which you already had to pay to hire the car.  Every time the police halts the car they take our passports and documents and we don’t get them back till after paying the bribe.
So after three days and much money you get to Agadez. After Agadez it is all desert, there is no more road.  There is a trail which the drivers know but they miss it sometimes when there is a desert storm.

Whenever we stop we sleep beside the car. Really to be honest you cannot sleep. We don’t feel sleepy for while you sleep anything can happen. People will grab your food and your money if you are not alert. So it is not sensible to sleep, so we don’t sleep. It is also very cold the more you get into the desert so you could not even sleep if you wanted to.

There are Toyota land-cruisers and heavy trucks in Agadez; these are the only cars that can drive through the desert. With 30 other people I got into a Toyota Land-cruiser to start the journey through the desert. If you are less lucky you get into a large truck which takes two hundred people at the time! You stand like sardines in these large trucks and the sun burns you and the desert wind fills your eyes and your mouth and even inside your ears with sand. Whatever type of car it is, it is overloaded and still, some people force themselves to get inside by sitting on the edges or by just jumping and clinging to the car.

Once in the desert
Once in the desert everybody is allowed a 7 gallons container with water to drink, and some small gari to eat, nothing else. The water-containers are tied to the car and hang outside, side by side. Everybody strictly keeps to his own water else there is murder. This water has to last you. When there is a stop you take your tin cup and put some gari in it and then add water and then you eat. Everybody loses weight but we Ghanaians are strong and we don’t care. In fact we can do anything, anything at all. Read more

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ No Other Treats Than Daily Fresh Insults. Interview With Yaw Charles From Nkoranza

BosmanCoverIt was a few years ago that I went from Nkoranza to Libya to look for work. This was because I had no job and nothing to do in Ghana.
During the two years in which I stayed in Libya I lived in Tripoli. I did contract work, mostly mason jobs and welding jobs. I was there with my brother Sampson, but Sampson got into a company while I worked on daily or weekly basis or whatever longer contract work was available. Life is better if you work with a company in Libya. Because Sampson worked with a company outside Tripoli far away from the capital we did not meet much of one another during our time in Libya. After our journey together all the way up to Libya we lost contact, although we Ghanaians all know from each other where we are and how we live and so on.
The desert trek was all right for me. I don’t mind whatever happens to me as long as I am alive and can fetch some money. So yes I got work to do and I saved money and decided to go to Italy.

Mosaratta is the place in Libya where you get boats to Italy. Just when we were preparing to get into the boats and take off over the sea towards Italy the police came to cut us! They put us in prison for four months and then they simply sent us back by plane to Ghana. Libyan people are not good. They are so arrogant that for example they don’t let us, black people, into their houses. They do not talk to us.

In prison they treated us very badly. They kept beating us every single day and we got nothing to eat. We received no other treats except daily fresh insults. During these four months in prison we did not even get a bath! No soap, no water, no towel, nothing, except beatings. Actually they enjoy disgracing us. Cruel people they are. Now I am back and have nothing to do except some little farming work.

I am waiting for money and then I will try my luck again. I have a friend in Italy who may send me the money to go back to Libya. I am waiting. Now I am weeding the farm while I wait for my chance to go.
I am not married. I will get settled with a woman when I return from there with money. I cannot disgrace a woman by staying with her without money or marrying her in order to just go away again.
The Libyans disgrace us but I can stand it for it is the money that I need.
Next time I go however I will do it differently. I will not try to go to Italy. I will return to Ghana as soon as I have gathered enough money and then I will settle, take a woman and start a business.

Next time I will get into a company the way my friend did. Now I know how to go about it. It is a matter of paying the man who leaves the post. The deal is among Ghanaians of course for we look after our own. I will wait in Tripoli till a friend at the company goes to Italy and then I will get his position. It is all a matter of being in the know and paying. To get the job you pay the man who is leaving, that is all. I will go and stay for two years and then return. And then I will settle with my woman and we will live happily and get children and all that.

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ I Want To Get A Life But I Can’t Because I Am Waiting. Interview With Richard Kwasi Ntim

BosmanCoverI am a native of Nkoranza, Richard is the name, 42 years old. In 1987, at the age of twenty, I decided to leave Ghana. Always I have had the urge to travel; for the sake of traveling, exploring new environments and meeting new people, not specifically to work or doing anything special. I had already visited three West-African countries before I went to Libya. Traveling is my habit. I was in Mali, Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire, just casual visits. I am an O-level student and completed secondary school here in Nkoranza.

So it was in 1987 that I went to Libya. I worked there at a company in Tripoli. Those days it was difficult to get a visa into Libya so I went by road. We passed through Agadez, then to Tamanrasset and on to Gat, which is a town in southern Libya. To get there you have to walk for three days. We walked with a group of Africans, eighty in all, from three cars. There were ten Ghanaians among us and many other West-Africans. Difficult! But interesting because I met other people and shared my experiences and before I knew it we had crossed the desert and were there. You have to be strong else you get sick or mad. Some people died along the roadside and we had to call there relatives to inform them of their misfortune. But I and the majority made it.

Then on from Gat to Tripoli. Not so easy but I was lucky for I had means to board a plane and flew to Tripoli. There I worked for a year. I had a job at a construction company. After a year I decided to leave for the environment in Libya is not conducive to peaceful living. Fortunately I got a visa at the Dutch embassy in Libya and went to Holland. It was hard to get the travel documents and they asked many questions at the embassy but I impressed them and they issued the visa and I took a trip from Tripoli to Amsterdam. Malta airlines, with a two-day stop in Malta. In 1988 I arrived in Holland. I knew nobody there so what I did is I stayed for a few days in a boardinghouse in Amsterdam; later I got to know a man from Ghana who introduced me to other Ghanaians and the house where those from Nkoranza live. I moved in and it was nice for we all knew each other from Nkoranza from before; we were all born and bred in Nkoranza and as you know it is a small town. I lived with a person in one room, the apartment contained four people, in the center of Amsterdam near the Wibautstraat. Another guy from France came to join us. The rent was not to bad, 450 guilders for all of us, so we shared the rent and the light bill and so on. Manageable, a good place. My room mate was illegal and I too. I lived there for two years up to the 90’s. At that time it was easy to find jobs. Work two hours here, then three hours there, then two hours cleaning a hotel in the evening and so on. Nowadays finding that kind of work is difficult in Holland but in the eighties it was easily available. Later I worked with ‘Carpetland’ which is a big company with branches in many towns. I worked with a job manager whose name I still know, Willem I think. They were good people at Carpetland and I traveled a lot for them.

One person helped me to get papers and so I used them. They were not my own paper as I had none so we shared them and I would pay for using the papers. So then what? Two years in Amsterdam, Carpetland. I had to process my own papers one way or another for I used those of others. So I decided to get a Dutch woman, she was from Surinam. We were going to marry but just then I received a permit for one year so we did not have to marry. The woman had to work and I also worked and stayed at my place with the Nkoranza people. We did not live together. It was friendship and we met each weekend, I worked and in the weekends I stayed with my girlfriend. I was twenty-five and she was over forty. No children with her she was too old but here in Ghana I have two children from before I left. Read more

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