National Run to the Border Day!

Running to the Ghanaian border

Its Sunday morning in Lomé, and I’m going for a run to work off the French wines from the night before. I’ve stretched, I’ve power up my running GPS, and its time to go.

Through the back streets I jog, slowly working up my speed, when I see a crew of people running by. “Where are they going?” I think, when I see a second group run by. Know I need to know, I run to join them.

When I reach Boulevard de la Republique, the one paved street in Lomé, I am shocked to find myself in the midst of a sea of runners. It’s Togo’s National Run to the Border Day!!

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Living the Beach Party Lifestyle in Lome

Togo beach party time

When you think of Africa, do you think of picturesque palm-tree lined beaches? If you do not, you should. Though with an African twist.

There are beautiful beaches here, some of the best in the world. But you have to be careful what to expect. Despite the guidebook hype, I learned first-hand that Nungwe ain’t much really. Yet I’ve always loved a Labadi Pleasure Beach Sunday. At the same time, none said much about Togo, but it has a rocking beach.

The entire capitol city of Lomé faces a palm-lined boulevard with a sandy beach and deep blue sea beyond. The sound of traffic is quieted by crashing beach break waves and the thump of reggae from the many beach bars.

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Togo Bound with Efex Executive

Let’s go! Togo is calling!

A person not know to me might ask why I would leave Accra, Ghana at some very early hour, for a four-hour journey to another African country, just to experience it for a weekend. In asking me “Why?” they would be met with a blank stare and the quick response of “Because its there, and I can!”

See, three years ago, when I was in Ghana last, I learned that Lome, the capitol of Togo, was just a short bus ride away. And Togo is a country I’ve never been too, and honestly, not really heard of before. Have you ever heard of Togo?

Intrigued by a country I didn’t know about, I was all set to visit it in 2005 when, to my dismay, there was a coup the weekend I wanted to go. It seems that President Gnassingbe Eyadema had the misfortune of dying the week before, and his son was in the midst of taking over.

From then on, with a visit denied, I promised myself that the next time I was in Ghana, I would go to Togo. I am in Accra, Ghana now, and Togo again calls.

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Dry Cleaning Adventures in Africa

Morton Dry Cleaning

When I could not get though to confirm my next appointment, I decided it was time to dry clean my pants. After two weeks in Africa, these dress pants had become, well, not so clean, and so I headed back to Asylum Down, the neighbourhood where I was staying in Accra.

The day before, I had asked around at Busy Internet, and heard of a reputable dry cleaner, Morton Dry Cleaning. Yet on Friday, when I asked to go there, the taxi driver didn’t know where the dry cleaner was – he didn’t even know what dry cleaning is! He kept offering to have his wife wash my pants, so when I got to Asylum Down, I started walking, looking for Morton’s by asking people as I went.

It turns out that few Ghanaians know about dry cleaning.

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Omatek Smartbook: Local 4P Computing Innovation

Earlier this month, I had the luxury of inspecting a new Omatek Smartbook at the Ministry of Education in Ghana. The Smartbook is a low-cost laptop aimed at the education market, and with one look, you’l know its an XO laptop derivative:

It also happens to be one of the many
4P Computers that are coming out of the developing world. Not content to leave the 4PC market to Asus, these local computer manufactures are making their own low-cost, highly-portable, power-efficient, and performance-relative computers for local and regional markets.

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African Go Slow Gifts

Wait till you see the video

While trapped in an African Go Slow, you have the opportunity to see many things. Besides the colorful scenery of cars stuck in traffic, there are waves of street hawkers trying to sell all manner of consumer goods.

Everything from drinks and snacks to bathroom fixtures and even condoms and porn. But I’ve never seen this odd little thing I bought in an Accra Go Slow:

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Running For Barack Obama Across Africa

All of Africa loves Obama

Now you could imagine that the US presidential race is of interest to Africans. Maybe more than Americans, Africans look to our democratic process as hope and validation of the possible – benevolent leadership that is responsive to its electorate.

And it’s no secret that Africans loved Bill Clinton. As President, he put Africa on the political map and was deeply concerned with the continent. Bush on the other hand has mixed reviews.

Yes, he seems to push for more US government support, like President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment ever by any nation for an international health initiative, yet wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do nothing to ender Africa’s Muslims.

The candidacy of Barack Obama is a whole other scene.

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Africans Don’t Know What Time Is

No speed visible here

I am sitting in yet another “go slow” amazed that Ghanaian businessmen can waste so much time. When I was told we were going to the freight forwarder’s office, I groaned, knowing the traffic jam that surrounds his office.

When I complained that it would take us at least an hour each way, he countered with the correct but inaccurate, “What’s the problem? It is two kilometers from here.” While that is the true distance, the complete gridlock on those two kilometers will waste most our day.

And yet here we sit, inching along at 1 kilometer an hour, my life flashing before my eyes. The big boss man, he is stoic, looking out the window lost in thought, or at least calm. His complete disregard for time is not unique.

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Coughing and Choking in Kaduna

Gonna kill all of us

When I travel, I like to start my day with a morning run. Not only does this let me sightsee at speed, I enjoy watching different cities wake up while I plan out my schedule for the day. I usually go for a 5 kilometer run, wandering where I please to be guided home by my Garmin Forerunner 205.

This morning, in Kaduna, I was almost guided to my grave thanks to the many suicidal scooters in Nigeria. But not how you might expect. I was never in danger of being hit, or even side-swiped by a scooter.

No, I was brought to my knees in a fit of couching and hacking by the clouds of scooter exhaust that filled the air and my lungs with toxic blue carbon monoxide.

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I’m Scared of Nigerian Scooter Drivers

Nigerian death on two wheels

Do you want to get crazy? I mean really insane? Living life on the edge, with glory or death a millisecond apart? Then forget hang gliding, BASE jumping, or any other “extreme” sport you can think of. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the death-defying act of riding a scooter in Nigeria.

And this act of utter bravery stupidity has nothing to do with the cheap-ass Chinese scooters that the Nigerians buy by the crate, no the risk comes with the suicidal Nigerian drivers themselves who have no sense of road rules, basic safety, or even common sense.

Let’s just take a look at some scooter fools in Kafanchan:

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