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Counting my blessings… and subtracting failure

Blessed and highly favored

It’s a hard thing to do- turning failure on its head. It demands great skill mentally and often phsically too. At some point however, we have to stop and realise… There are blessings to be counted.

I’m quite surprised about my speedy recovery from the ‘unsuccessful pass’ rate (that’s a ‘fail’ from the exam board) granted to me earlier this term. Technically I should still be suffering from failure symptoms by dwelling in self-pity, spiralling into depression and convincing myself I’m no good. Afterall, if the 19 year olds who were ‘claiming’ to write their essays while still high on drugs and alcohol could pass the 1st year, why couldn’t I?

I’ll confess counting my blessings is not an exercise I often par part take in. I’m my own worst critic and at times, my own enemy. Who would see the blessing in failing a year at university? Another year which will bring me closer to 30 and still be in a class full of 19 year olds. But like my aunt says ‘education has no age boundary’. So what? I ‘unsuccessfully passed’ the year- the world hasn’t stopped and the ground hasn’t swallowed me and spat me out. Guess I have to move on.

And that’s exactly what I did. With a little motivation… (Who am I kidding?!) A lot of motivation, I picked myself up and searched for the next available opportunity.

They say when one door closes, another one opens. I could have allowed myself to be shut in a dark room without switching on the lights to find a window or indeed another door open.

I woke up this morning thinking how blessed I am. This time tomorrow I’ll be on a flight to Brazil with endless opportunities awaiting me that no lecture room can offer. A new langauge to learn, culture to experience and friendships to be made (try failing me on that unit Mr Exam Board!) Don’t ask me where this new found positivity is coming from. I have a feeling my yoga sessions have something to do with it. ‘Be concious of every breath…’ ‘Thank your body for it’s hard work…’ are amongst some of the calming words the instructors use. So mind is in a good place… and my beach body is in progress!

No hard feels towards the tutor that ‘unsuccessfully passed’ me or the exam board that agreed… I would however recommend they give yoga a try. It can ease a lot of tension. Namaste.

Eat, Pray, Love… And Samba!

Twice this month I’ve been referred to Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel about ‘One woman’s Search for Everything’ after mentioning my trip to Brazil.

So I bought the book- Eat Pray Love on Amazon and it’s arrived in the tick of time as it’ll make a good ‘beach read’ for my Brazil trip. Less than a week to go…

I’m not sure if my quest is in search of everything… But certainly eat, pray, love and samba are amongst the basics I hope to do with ease during my time in South America.




Sugar, spice and all things nice… A few of my favourite foods!

I love food. In fact I love good food!

Here are a few of my favourites on my travels…

My first Calzone in Milano!!

In Torino… I think my T-shirt liked it too!

Praia Street food- fried eel. Amazing!!

The pork shack! Chilling out with the locals. Praia, Cape Verde

Senegalese ceebujen (rice and fish). You won’t find this place in any travel guide! Sal, Cape Verde

Flavours of Brazil… Guarana soft drink and Acarajé from Salvador, Bahia

Soul Food at Sylvia’s, Harlem NY… Every bite was good!

Mauricio making Pisco Sour the Chilean way! London, UK

Tasty hummus and falafel in Jaffa, designer donuts on display in Tel Aviv, Israel

Flavours of the Middle East. Jerusalem, Israel

A dish usually served with meat or chicken. Palestine

Cajun shrimp and chicken gumbo v. Jamaican black bean shrimp. Jamaican black shrimp won hands down!! And still room for dessert! Cheesecake Factory, San Diego

Simple chicken soup… Simply delicious I got the recipe! San Diego, USA

Neapolitan pizza… Made in Napoli!

beautiful achee fruit waiting to ripen, bite size fried dumplings and biting into an almond fruit fresh off the tree. Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Anyone for seconds?

Inspire people …

Inspire people to discover for them what is essential to live a happy life.

My Inspirations. Gerry Haag on his legacy

A case of the backpack… or suitcase?

Backpack the globe!… is by backpack big enough?…

Personally, I’m a suitcase kinda girl. Just had to get that out of the way. Any experienced traveller would shamefully cringe after such a confession, but I have to be honest!

There are many pros and cons to having either method of storage, and I believe its how you travel not what you travel with, that makes a fulfilling trip.

Pros of The suitcase

The beloved suitcase. They come in all shapes and sizes… and they have wheels!! So the ground takes most of the weight not my back and shoulders.

  • Can fit more in- I know they say it’s better to travel light… but it means there’s room for a pair of heels!!
  • Keeps your souvenirs safe- I wrap my cloths around any fragile or delicate souvenirs as padding
  • Different compartment makes better organisation
  • They have wheels… enough said!

Of course the down side is it’s easy to over fill your suitcase, not to mention misjudge the weight! And there’s nothing worse than dragging a suitcase through cobbled streets in a foreign country- alerting the whole village know you’re the new tourist in town.

The backpack. I’m told it shouldn’t equal back-pain but I’m yet to discover that.

  • Gives more freedom for ‘up and go’ style of travelling
  • Makes you a more conscious traveller packing necessities due to limited space
  • Take on hiking trips

I usually have the best of both if on long haul flights by travelling with a suitcase and having a backpack as hand luggage. Despite my general dislike for backpacks… Well, I have no other choice but to still own one!


Marrakech weekender… Done and dusted!


enjoying good street food. Creps!

enjoying good street food. Creps!


with my sister… she enjoyed our short trip 🙂


view of Atlas mountains in the distance


preparing for a busy day… the sqaure in the morning

Finally. What was to be part of my Afro-Euro summer; Spain, Italy, Ethiopia and Morocco, the latter was postponed as my travel companion, Rosa, who’s first priority is to be a mother, had to cancel last-minute. My sister kindly offered to take her place and we decided to postpone the date until after Ramadan and the height of tourist season.

Marrakech. The trip that almost didn’t happen. Despite being at the airport in more than enough time to even have a bite to eat, contemplate about ‘to-buy or not-to-buy’ the Ray Bans in duty free (which I didn’t), a minute later than we arrived at the boarding gate, we would have missed the flight!..

I’ve never come so close to missing a flight (and not actually missing it)! I could see myself on Airline (Easyjet TV series) when the passengers are rushing towards the gate and receive a stern ‘The gate is closed. You’re late!’

But it didn’t happen. Instead ‘Are you the lady with the bag?’

So, the lady with the bag i.e who’d checked in a bag, saved us. And the lady was my mate Natalie who travelled with us. Once on the plane and relaxed into our seats, we all seemed to have a silent agreement that we don’t bring up the near-miss of our flight again. And we won’t!

So now in Marrakech. The airport was the first point of excitement with unique decor we knew we weren’t near Heathrow.

I booked an affordable Riad which, had I been travelling with just my sister, I would have had no doubts about its comfort and practical location. However, Natalie likes her comforts, and though I’m not one to be easily persuaded, I can’t help but think maybe I should have splashed out a bit more for the ‘all-inclusive holiday’ on this occasion.

I love markets and getting a good bargain… But after a few hours in the souks, seeing repeats of the same items for sale, knowing you’re still being ripped off despite experienced bargaining skills, and being rudely approached and spoken to… I was done with the whole ‘market’ experience after the first day. For me it was quite draining and took the fun out of shopping.

And the food. I’m a foodian. But unfortunately the food didn’t cut it for me. I think it went down hill from when I asked for falafel and hummus! Instead of telling me they don’t serve falafel and hummus every restaurant insisted that they had some! In the end I lived off omelette and fries two things I don’t intend to eat for a very long time!

‘Oh not another tajine!’ Was an expression I over heard a lady on the plane back home say to her partner.I couldn’t help a silent giggle to myself of acknowledgement when I heard this. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t try a tajine but boy was it shoved in my face so many times.! I don’t eat meat or chicken and their veg dishes didn’t look too appealing. Going into the New Town for lunch or dinner would have been a better option.

On the bright side, I had an interesting experience travelling with my sister and Natalie. And my sister enjoyed it.

Nat’s still in Marrakech as she booked a hotel for after we left. 5* hotel I should mention. With buffet breakfast and buffet dinner!

Travel Therapy- Just what the doctor ordered!

Prescription for Mental Health

I came across these staggering figures on the net (mentalhealth.org.uk).

The facts and figures around Mental Health in the UK are alarming.

  • 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
  • Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population

Mental health is often a taboo in societies therefore rarely spoken about let alone acknowledged. To think anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK. The two conditions I’ve learnt to manage in the past few years, thanks to my love for travelling. I’d argue that sometimes a short break is what many mental health sufferers need, not anti-depressants as often ordered by doctors.

You don’t need scientific proof to know stepping out of a troubled situation be it; work, family problems, relationships etc, and taking a break/ holiday equals becoming a newly revived you. That’s my equation and it often works.

Living in an over populated city such as London really does play its toll. But it’s the sacrifice I’ll always make because despite our ‘love-hate’ relationship- I love London. It’s such an international hub (and I have to admit, sometimes I miss the ‘noise’ and the fast pace of the city when I’m away). It’ll always be home, but getting away will always be my therapy… Just what the doctor (should have) ordered!

Route ECOWAS… West is best


It saddens me that many Africans think the ‘west’ is the land of opportunity. And it’s not just Africans. I only need to turn on my TV and the vast immigration programmes such as Passport Control, UK Boarder Force etc show us the extreme means people take to enter the western world.

Indeed there are many opportunities that the ‘west’ offers, but I don’t understand why many highly qualified people would choose to do demeaning jobs in the ‘west’, when they they could be using their skills towards something greater in their own home land.  For West Africans, whether most know it or not, they have a posible Western Empire of their own to be proud of- and it’s closer to home. ECOWAS– the Economic Community of West African States.

One of my objectives in wanting to become a travel journalist is to specialise in Africa and the African diaspora (anywhere outside Africa where there are Afro-descendant communities such as Brazil for example). Since 2010 I’ve travelled to 3 African countries besides Ghana (Cape Verde, Togo and Ethiopia), two of which are member states of ECOWAS (Cape Verde and Togo). West can indeed be best. Right in ‘west Africa’.  As much as I would encourage young people of the ECOWAS to seek opportunites within west Africa and not be so caught up in the ‘hype’ of the west,  I understand the many obstacles such as high costs of transportation and corruption at the boarders, that stand in the way of doing this.

In Lagos, 2006

Having a drink at a local bar!

It’s expensive to fly within ECOWAS. This was a bit of a surprise for me, as I discovered naively in 2009 when I went to a travel agent in Accra seeking a ‘cheap ticket’ to Lagos. Unlike Europe where ‘low cost airlines’ makes travelling within the continent affordable, there’s almost no such thing in West Africa. Fights are for those who can afford it and unfortunately that isn’t the average person.

I propose ECOWAS airways- An affordable, efficient and convenient way for local people to travel. Give ‘Easyjet’ a run for their money! Any takers?…

Another option is to take a coach/mini bus. And kudos to the coach companies. There are a range comfortable coaches and mini buses with AC. And they are affordable. There was one occasion in Accra when I was going to visit a friend in Kumasi. I had no idea about these luxury comfortable coaches. After just 5 minutes sitting in the tro-tro waiting for the run-down vehicle to fill up, I decided there was no way I could sit in it for hours through pot-holes and what not. I almost called off my mission to Kumasi when someone told me the other side of the park is where the ‘big buses’ are. And there they were, the coaches. I travelled in comfort (minus the preacher on the bus for the first hour)!

In march I travelled with my friend Kwame to Togo via motorbike! Kwame left his highly paid job in France, to fulfill a childhood dream of travelling around west Africa… on a motorbike! I admire his spirit to and enthusiasm to discover the continent of his father (his father is Ghanaian). He drove down to Ghana when I arrived and proposed we travel to Togo on his motor. I was up for the challenge!

When in Rome… Travelling around Lome on the motorbike- its the norm!

I’m actually quite embarrassed about the reception we received when we arrived at the Ghana/Togo border. With no clear immigration stop point, we were ordered vigorously off the bike. We showed our documentation. I hold a Ghanaian passport so no visa is required. Kwame had received his Togolese visa the previous day so it should have been smooth sailing. Of course it wasn’t.

First they said Kwame’s visa wasn’t valid and he’d have to get a new one- $200. There was no way we were spending that amount for a visa! And to tell the truth, neither of us had the kind of money on us anyway. They saw him as an ‘obroni’ (a white person) which often means ‘money’ to them. I spoke in my most Ghanaianised accent to eliminate any traces of my British accent coming through. There was one point where the ‘boss’ looked directly at me when I stopped talking. He reached for my passport and flicked through. My only grueling, thank goodness, was him asking what I did and what I was studying. Thankfully after much persuasion we were free to pass the border. I felt for Kwame. He went through that unnecessary questioning because they only saw him as european. What about his birth right from his father?

Of course, the corruption didn’t stop there. Once in Togo, another immigration officer wanted me to pay. Me? Succumb to his corruption? Kwame spoke to him in French saying I’m a student and had to do a ‘begging’ gesture before I was given the ‘brush off’ gesture as though an annoying fly.

They didn’t get me going into Togo but coming out was another story, and this time I was on my own. The immigration officer took my passport, flicked through and demanded some money. It wasn’t a lot but I’m sure the look of shock expressed on my face didn’t make matters ease.  Of course I refused to pay and ranted on about Ghana being part of ECOWAS etc. The officer refused to stamp my passport unless I paid and proceeded to put my passport in his pocket while he saw to other passengers.

Shocked and frustrated, I tried to hold back any tears as I weighed up my choices. Another officer took pity on me and  calmly explained; ‘Where is Mr ECOWAS? Does he pay us?… My dear if you want to go to Ghana, just pay him the money.’  I opened my purse and handed the man the money. They had won. corruption had won. Ok, so it was about $2 dollars, but it’s the principle.

Corruption is brewing at the boarders and something should to be done about this.

Miss ECOWAS Ghana Peace message 2010

MEG 2010: Peace Message

Kaimo Lutterodt‘World Peace…’ What does it really mean? It is a cliché often stigmatized with beauty pageants. I believe peace starts from the home, and more specifically- within ourselves.To many of us Ghana is the cradle of Democracy in Africa and a rather peaceful and stable country, but if we scratch below the surface we will realize that this is not always the case. Here in Accra we hear of the blood feuds in northern Ghana and think of them as something of no concern to us. We hear of the senseless deaths of young people and we just file the information in the back of our mind as if it was news from a far away land, unrelated to our reality, but they indeed are our reality.The victims of these so called incidents are sons and brothers of Ghanaian women. Like us they are people who idolize Nkrumah and cheer the Black Stars. What is happening in that far away land could very easily be happening here, in the middle of Accra. In order to maintain the stability, in order to keep considering Ghana the cradle of African democracy, we must aim to minimize these conflicts before they spread further.This is where Miss ECOWAS Ghana plays an active role. We need to be more dedicated to peace building and development, particularly with the youth. We need to work more to empower young women so they can stand for themselves. We need to work more towards creating awareness against the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

We need to emphasize the importance of education. Whatever a young person’s aspirations- be it a doctor or footballer- without education the future is limited. It is only through education that we can eradicate ignorance and direct young people away from violence.

The youth are the next generation to build Africa. They are the ones who should learn from the mistakes of elders yet pass on their wisdom, generate fresh ideas and have the energy and motivation to make changes. So much can be done in Ghana to help venerable youths have an equal opportunity. For instance companies could introduce apprentice schemes giving young people more options to work and learn.

Young people should be urged to play active roles in community life by becoming familiar with their local Assembly person or even stand for assembly to voice their concerns. We must be taught to understand each other’s differences; differences which make us unique, however no less the same as Africans. They should not be the cause of conflicts; rather we must listen to each other and at least, ‘agree to disagree’.

I strongly believe in the values advocated by the Miss ECOWAS Ghana pageant. We must establish peace within ourselves, our homes and communities.  Development is a process. It will not happen overnight, but if we start today we can all expect a better future.

By: Kai Lutterodt [Best Peace Message for 2010]


I won best ‘Peace Speech’… Hopefully it will become a reality and not just talk!