Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Are You Superstitious?


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Too Many Ads and Sponsors

It's been a long time since I've posted to my blog. Many years ago I used to wonder how people could neglect their blog and allowed it to turn into a ghost town. I guess now I know how that happens. Things change over time. The biggest change for me over the years has been changing my focus from a blog to a YouTube channel. Since I'm too lazy to write anything else, here is my most recent video about sponsors and ads we frequently see online.

Feel free to subscribe to my channel if you enjoyed this.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Driving Adventures Update

In my last post, I shared some interactions I've had with the police over the years here in Ghana. I was hoping not to add to it so soon, but a few days ago I had another encounter. While driving through town, my wife and I stopped at a red light at a busy intersection (the one mentioned in my prior post where officers walk around your car to check to see you have insurance and registration stickers.) My wife hates going that way due to this, but I reminded her that we are not breaking any laws and we had current stickers on the car so we have nothing to worry about. 

When we came to the red light I could see the same officer who had pulled us over in the past from my rear view mirror. He was several cars behind us walking through the stopped vehicles. He walked right up to us and tapped on the window and motioned for us to roll it down. I did so and he said our proof of insurance was not scanning. This bothered me since he had not even tried to check it and had just walked up to us and made this statement. I pointed to the insurance sticker on the windshield that showed it was still in force until the end of next month. He insisted it was not scanning which means it must be counterfeit. He opened the back door and got in our car and told us to drive to the nearby police station. I could not believe this was happening again. 

When the light turned greed he told me to turn left at the busy intersection. I was not in the left turn lane or even the one next to it, but was in the third lane over and he told me to just turn on my signal and go left. I told him I was absolutely not going to turn left across two lanes of traffic in an intersection and ended up going straight for about half a mile before I could turn around and double back to the police station. When we got there he told me to come in. 

He then explained to me that there are many fake insurance stickers provided by third parties and they are not valid and it is against the law to use them. I told him this was a valid sticker purchased from a real insurance company. He kept insisting if it were, it should scan in his database when he enters the license plate. This still shocked me since he had still not even attempted to input any data into his phone. His co workers in the police station were just smiling and laughing. After a few moments of silence he quietly slid over a slip of paper to me that had scribbled the number 200 on. I told him I was not going to pay it. 

I realized that he did not remember me from our previous encounter so I reminded him that over a year ago he had pulled me over when our car had a recently lapsed insurance sticker on it. At that time he told me it would be 600 cedis or we would have to go to court where it would be more expensive. I told him I only had 240 which he immediately took and said I could go. I didn't have a problem paying a "fine" at that time since the insurance had in fact lapsed on that occasion.

I told him I was not going to pay any bribe today since I had not broken any law and had an active insurance on the vehicle. He kept saying we had counterfeit third party insurance which was against the law but I knew he was just trying to intimidate us. I told him we have been living in Ghana for over 6 years and we are not naive tourists. I told him I was pulled over two weeks ago by different police officer and they had no problem with my insurance then. I told him I'm sick of police trying to extort money from me because I am a foreigner. After several minutes he just handed me license back with an almost embarrassed look on his face and said we could go. 

I was later able to access the online insurance database he talked about. When I input our license plate, it showed an active policy was in force for the vehicle which shows that he was just lying the whole time, but I already knew that. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

My Driving Adventures In Ghana

Recently while driving, I made a right turn at a red light after coming to a complete stop and making sure no vehicle was coming in my lane. As I turned the corner I was immediately stopped by a police officer standing nearby. He pulled over several vehicles including the ones I had just followed but signaled for them to move along when he saw me. He came up to my window and in disbelief and disgust repeatedly yelled “Why?” I said “why what?” and he quickly signaled for his partner to hop in my back seat and accompany me to the police station. As I was driving there I remembered that turning right on a red light is against the law in Ghana. I learned this before but had forgotten since I’d recently returned from driving in the US for several months. Interestingly, when I am stopped here at a red light with my right turn signal on, many times the cars behind me will honk wanting to know why I’m not going so it makes me wonder if that rule is actually enforced. Apparently it is.

We arrived at the police station a few minutes later and the commanding officer was watching World cup commentary very loudly on TV. After a few minutes of me straining to hear what he was saying, he lowered the volume and drew a diagram of the intersection and told me that even if the lane was clear and I had stopped, I was not allowed to proceed until the light turns green. He was much calmer than the original officer who flagged me down. He said I would need to go to court on Monday to discuss it with a judge. This surprised me since usually when we get pulled over, the officer tells us we did something wrong and that we will have to pay a fine OR go to court. They are usually looking for a bribe to dismiss it and let you on your way, but nobody brought up payment at all and that shocked me. I asked the officer how much a ticket for an infraction of turning right on a red light would be and he said the court would decide depending on the severity. It could be 600 cedis up to 1,200 but there was no way he could determine it. I thought that was odd that they didn’t have a set fine for traffic infractions.  He took my Ghanaian drivers license and issued me a hand written ticket which indicated I was arrested on it. He said to come back Monday at 9:00 am for court. I asked where the court is and he said nearby and to just come to the police station first.

Before I proceed, here is some background to our prior experiences with police in Ghana over the last 5 years:

Many officers have been polite and friendly when we go by a check point or are pulled over, but those instances are usually the exception. Over the years we have been pulled over for the following reasons:

-Just to be asked where we are going on many occasions

-Because the police want to know where we are from

-We've been told our car was too dirty and that was an infraction

-We've been stopped and asked what food we have because the officer was hungry

-During Covid we were pulled over for not wearing masks while driving with the windows up on the freeway

-We've been stopped and the officer asked if we would take him back to the US with us

- Most of the time we are asked if we have “something small for the boys” or “what can you do for me?” This means they want some money to proceed. We don't pay bribes when this happens. If we talk with them long enough and they see we are not intimidated tourists new to the area, they eventually let us go.

Years ago I was pulled over for running a road block at night. The road block consisted of a vehicle parked on the side of a dark road and someone with a flashlight standing in a nearby front yard.  A few minutes later I saw lights flashing as a jeep full of officers with machine guns quickly raced after us and pulled me over and angrily wanted to know why I would run through their road block. I responded I saw nothing in the road but someone walking on the roadside with a flashlight. He informed me he was going to have to take me to jail. I said “ok" and I think my calm response shocked him. When he realized we had been living in Ghana for several years and were not new he got frustrated and just asked what I was going to do for him. I pretended I didn’t know what he was getting at. He finally said the batteries in their flashlights were finished and he needed new ones and asked what I was going to do. When I told him I only had a few cedis he was insulted and walked off angrily and got in his jeep and then quickly pulled over the next car that drove past us on the road.

Once while waiting in traffic at an intersection, an officer walked up and down the line of cars checking their insurance and registration stickers. One of ours had recently expired unknown to us so an officer jumped in the back and told us to drive to the nearby police station. The boss at the station said the infraction of expired insurance was going to be over 800 cedis or go to court. I don’t usually pay bribes but I realized the insurance had lapsed so I didn’t have a problem paying a fine but didn’t want to prolong the process and go to court. I told him I only had 240 cedis and he ended up taking it and sent me on my way with no receipt or paperwork. I’m sure he documented the transaction and forwarded the money to the appropriate places.

If I do break a traffic law I am willing to pay the fine as long as it is a standard fee and not an outrageous adjusted amount just because they think I am a naive, rich American. I just get a kick out of the police choosing to get angry and lecture me about dangerous driving when on a daily basis I see the following things on the roads in Ghana:

People parking on narrow roads and obstructing traffic flow to visit shops on the side of the street.

Traffic lights at busy intersections that have burnt out bulbs and have not worked for months before being repaired.

People driving on the wrong side of the road playing chicken in an attempt to avoid the potholes on their side of the road.

Drivers running through red lights through intersections.

Cutting in front of other drivers who have the right of way.

Excessive and obnoxious honking.

Trucks packed well over capacity that are leaning over and ready to topple. I’ve seen the fallen ones blocking traffic many times too.

Motorcycles cutting between both lanes of traffic when it is not safe to pass. Several months ago one driver scratched up the side of our car doing so then proceeded to yell at my wife as if it was her fault.

Motorcycle drivers holding a cell phone up to their face while driving with just one hand.

Driving with broken headlights at night (last night I counted 11 vehicles without lights over a 2 mile stretch of road)

After living in this driving environment for 5 years I am just surprised when the police choose to get upset over small things because I'm a foreigner and treat me like I'm guilty of vehicular manslaughter when they turn a blind eye to so many moving violations all day.

Anyway, I returned to the police station Monday morning. The commanding officer showed up shortly after and said “I didn’t think you would come, so I gave your file to an associate. He will be here later today. Come back at 3:00.” I made another trip later in the day just to be told that I could either pay a fee at the police station, or go to court later which would be much more expensive. There it was, the bribe finally showed its head but it took several days instead of the usual immediate traffic stop. I ended up paying 300 cedis which was equivalent to about $25 dollars. I had broken a traffic law and I felt that was a reasonable fine. When I asked for a receipt they were surprised and laughed and said the original hand written ticket they issued was the receipt even though it contained no documentation of me paying anything. I was just glad to get my driver’s license back from them and leave.

Living here has given me greater empathy for minority groups who claim they are profiled by the police back in the US. In the mean time, I'll just keep trying to blend in better and not stick out, but that can be a challenge. Until next time.


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Taking the Good

I wrote this post back in mid 2000 during the peak of riots, civil unrest, and uncertainty, but never published it. Since I can't seem to produce any new content these days for his blog, I am sharing this new, yet old post that has never been seen.

Recent trends in society have made judging and labeling people a very popular sport. Labels are now quickly bestowed upon people with opposing viewpoints. This has recently been highlighted by many founding fathers of this country being labeled as hateful, racist men. Some people want to destroy any evidence of their lives and that includes the many contributions they have made to society. I think we need to look at the bigger picture. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water!

I've been let down many times in my life by having someone I thought was a role model fall from grace. Below is a list of people who I previously looked up to (some I still do) for a variety of reasons and was saddened when I learned of their failures, secret lives, or other aspects of their life that hurt others or negatively impacted the world.

OJ Simpson- Since I was a kid I admired his athletic skills and accomplishments. I felt he was a charismatic, nice guy and liked seeing him in movies after his retirement from the NFL. He was a rags to riches role model for so many people. It sucked to see him fall.

Bill Cosby- For decades he was a clean comic with universal appeal. He was so relatable and fun. He entertained and set an example for so many people. It was sad to learn about how many women he had hurt.

King David- I love the story of this young man standing up to Goliath and the Philistine army with such faith. With one brave act he became a military hero and saved his people. Then he got sloppy.

There are many lesser examples who have done less serious things to fall from grace but I still appreciate and enjoy their accomplishments and contributions.

I might add my disappointment in the many actors and musicians who I really enjoyed and looked up to but they needlessly ended their own lives prematurely through drug abuse and destructive behavior. 

There are many talented actors I admire for their skill and love to see perform in films. This doesn't mean I have to agree with their beliefs or political statements. Tom Cruise is probably my favorite actor but I don't share his beliefs in Scientology. I appreciate the acting skills of Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, Tim Robbins, and Leonardo DiCaprio but I don't share their same political views on certain subjects.

There have been many talented late night TV hosts and comedians who have made me laugh over time but I don't agree with their politics or hypocrisy. Many people in the entertainment world are Atheists. I believe in God but I can still listen to, learn from, and appreciate the contributions of those who don't.

I appreciate the fact that Trump is not intimidated by the media. He has improved the economy (especially economic conditions for minorities). I believe he loves his country and is looking out for Americans first and foremost. At the same time I am so turned off by his egotistical behavior, provocative tweets, and immature name calling. 

I thing Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time and was my childhood hero but after watching The Last Dance documentary, I was slightly put off by his intense, obsessive, competitive nature which spills over into other areas of life like gambling. I enjoyed seeing him win games and push his team, but it's frequently not pretty behind the scenes when you live at that level of intensity and expect teammates to live up to the same standard.

I loved Magic Johnson and the 80's Showtime Lakers but I don't like the fact that the Lakers were so promiscuous, careless, and essentially a travelling brothel. 

Karl Malone was one of my favorite basketball players. I admire his work ethic and power but he fathered a child with a teenager and then denied responsibility or support. I don't think the NBA or the Jazz will be ripping down his statue in front of the arena any time soon.

Lebron is my favorite player today and the main reason I have followed the NBA for years. I respect him for his all around game and what he has made of himself, but I don't necessarily agree with many his political or social statements.

All of these talented people have influenced society and contributed many good things. Many of them have a dark side or negative contributions too. Just like all of us. Some of the examples I gave are extreme and others not that big of a deal. I think all of us can relate to doing good things and then there are moments of our lives we would prefer to forget or erase. 

I understand that people are passionate about their beliefs as we see today with the zealous social justice warriors who want to topple statues, attack whatever they disagree with and rename everything and do away with any history that is not palatable to their country. The boycotting and cancel culture expects perfection but nobody is free from controversy.

I will stand up for what I believe is right, but at the same time I will appreciate, applaud, and enjoy all the good I see in the world, even if it came from someone with an imperfect past. I will continue to be amazed at LeBron's basketball skills, I  will probably still laugh when I hear a classic Cosby joke, and I will definitely continue to appreciate the contributions of our founding fathers and the Constitution they established.