African American in Africa: Latoya in Ghana
Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, love and a fearless spirit for travel brought Latoya Brown to the shores of Accra, Ghana. Take a dip into her reflections of life in the Black Star of west Africa and find out why she says nothing should hold you back from a move to the great continent.
Hi! Where in africa do you live?
When did you first visit the African continent and what were your first impressions?
I first visited over three years ago. I decided to create my own west Africa tour and took the "bus" system from Cape Verde to Ghana. This is not for the faint at heart as there really is no bus system. The trip had to be pieced together with a lot of finesse, patience, and a little French. I loved Cape Verde the most and my Spanish speaking helped as they speak Portuguese.
Senegal was really nice and filled with many open and helpful people who invited me into their homes and played lovely live music. We ate as if I were a part of the family.
I think overall I was disappointed in Guinea and don't ever want to return there. Cote d'Ivoire was okay but had too many military check points as they’re getting back on their feet and recovering from the election violence.
Finally I came to Ghana and could tell why it's called the Black Star of West Africa. However I have to say that overall I was disappointed. I wanted to come to a place where even if it's not the best in the world at least the people were self-sufficient and not waiting on someone to come and help them. I know that mentality has come about because of the years of colonialism, but I was keeping hope alive.
How long have you been living in Ghana and how long do you plan to stay there?
This is my second time in Ghana and all together it will be two years, though not consecutively.
How did you end up in Ghana?
I ended up moving here for a relationship.
What you are you doing professionally there?
Professionally, I work online in digital marketing. I own a business called FlyPosting Digital in which I assist businesses with their online social media marketing efforts. My goal is to help businesses in Africa attract tourists. FlyPosting has worked with large tourism companies, along with online education, dating and relationship websites.
Right now a lot of my efforts are focused on my YouTube channel and business, International Wives of African Men. The goal is to show the real life challenges and triumphs of being in a multicultural relationship with an African man. I want to show the happy moments and what it means to have a healthy marriage and relationship. I also highlight how women are often used for Green Cards and visas to their home country.
Would you say Ghana has a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities?
Yes, there is opportunity in Ghana. Transportation is one area to invest in because despite the many tro tros (buses), there is always a large group of people waiting to get home in the evenings.
Another need is anything to assist with the problem of inconsistent electrical services. More affordable solar power sources would be a great investment.
Also, given the growing population of expats and travelers, more entertainment venues are needed throughout Ghana as they are currently concentrated in only a few areas.
ON EVERYDAY LIFE
What's life like in Ghana for you?
Life in Ghana is slow. I often joke and say this is where you retire. If you have a broken hip or back problems, don't expect to do a lot.
How were you welcomed as an African American? Or as an American in general?
I’ve felt welcomed. No one really notices I’m a foreigner until I speak. After that, they are still friendly and smiling. I'm still working on my Twi and once I learn more I think I'll be able to transition and sound like a local. Right now I am learning all of the bad words. Ha!
What are your favorite Ghanaian memories so far?
My favorite memories so far have come from sightseeing. Visiting the slave castles are always moving experiences. I’m still piecing those visits together because they have such an impact on you.
Another favorite of mine is visiting Boti Falls. It really made me recognize that life is bigger than myself. Overall, I simply love to be on the go.
Easiest things to adjust to?
It's been easy to adjust to being in the majority instead of the minority as African Americans are in the U.S. Also, my improved quality of life was easy to adjust to. Financially we are comfortable so I am not frazzled or worrying about bills as I was while in the States.
Most difficult things to adjust to?
The lights here constantly go out so that's been a challenging thing to adjust to.
Also, my children's schooling previously included extensive tennis and Chinese language studies. However, once I moved to Ghana I had to look online and even in other countries for more extracurricular activities for them. My daughter has had to play tennis with men due to the lack of girls development in sports in Ghana. However, my son is learning to play polo and is getting comfortable with horses!
What is your social life like in Ghana?
My social circle in Ghana is comprised of a small group of people. I love attending cultural nights and seeing the live bands that play reggae. I live very close to the beach and there's always a gathering there.
The locals don't seem to get me probably because I don't attend church all the time like they do. So that seems to pose a challenge in how they feel they can relate to me.
Can you share a few details on the cost of living in your community?
Rent: about $125 per month
Groceries: about $100 per month This is with the majority of our shopping being done at local markets. However, that expense has gone up to $300 because I’ve been craving pizzas and sandwiches and the big buffets that can be had at the luxury hotels.
Lights: about $20 per month
Internet: $100 per month
Water: about $25 per month and that's because of the difficult trek it takes to get to our house. There is no paved road and it's a steep hill for the water truck to climb. If our home was easier to get to it would be cheaper.
Can you share a few reflections about your life as a mother in Ghana?
As a mother I am more relaxed in Ghana and abroad in general. In Ghana, things are a lot slower which allows my family to better plan what we want to do and how we want to go about doing it. I also don’t have to worry about the kids going down the street and possibly not returning due to the policeman. I see a slow increase in my children’s overall self-esteem from being among people who look like them.
As I mentioned before our quality of life has improved. I am now able to better afford my daughter's tennis and language learning. She just returned from living in China for a year studying their language and attending a tennis academy. I could not afford that while living in Florida.
Also, since we've been traveling extensively for the past three years I've homeschooled/unschooled my children. It's much different seeing places with your own eyes than reading about them in a book.
Did you always dream of living abroad?
I did not always dream of living abroad. It just sort of happened. I quit a job I had after assessing the ladies I worked with who constantly gossiped and did not seem happy. They would brag about having one entire week of vacation to themselves or how they were going to garden in their yards. I thought to myself, is this my future? I quit about one month later and moved to Mexico. Once I started traveling I became confident about dropping down into a city of a different country and not knowing anyone. Now I’m comfortable knowing I will meet who I need to meet along the way.
Best advice for someone who wants to move to an Africa nation?
Move. I'm one that is very tired of this topic. I have had my stint of being in Facebook groups and they all seem full of it. Why do you need someone to hold your hand to live on this earth? You're much better off abroad than where you are if you're in the U.S. anyway, so get to making it happen if you're serious. At the very least it could be a fun and adventurous trip. Even if you find that living abroad is not for you, you won't die and the earth won't stop if you fail. You simply pick up and do something else. Of course, I know many people are not ok with living in that way, so they plan forever and their energy goes into planning and slow or no movement. You must do it in order to find out. If you're not serious, then keep claiming mama Africa and being an armchair revolutionary with the posts on Facebook. We'll click "like".
Do you think enough African Americans visit the continent?What would you say to encourage more of them to visit?
African Americans do visit but I they may not share and shout about it as much, which is why this website is so important. Really, it seems to be a criticism of nothing in particular that keeps circulating. Those who want to come make it happen. Perhaps those who do visit are turned off from the overall look of where they go? I'm not certain. I can say that when I've visited some African countries which left me thoroughly disappointed.
I'd encourage African Americans to simply choose a country and visit - and it doesn't have to be a long trip. There are so many tour companies in place already that you can choose from. You could also plan your own vacation using sites like TripAdvisor.
How long do you plan to stay in Ghana?
I'm not certain. I'm in a relationship with a Ghanaian so we shall see. However, my children are excited to be here, so I cannot disappoint them.
What has living in Ghana taught you?
Living in Ghana has taught me that the world is not made up of perfect sidewalks with perfect green landscaping and that you can still live a better quality of life without all of that.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I know we want to say that these are third world countries, however, third world does not mean that you do not clean up. And, as long as the big belly presidents have been in power and position I'd hope that the locals would take more ownership and mold their own areas. For example, in Ghana, many areas do not have roads, but big nice houses. I’ve wondered why don’t the people building the big five bedroom homes use some of their money to include paving the street in front of their house. If each of those homeowners did that that would improve the look of many communities. But I do understand that I'm not Ghanaian and don’t know what people’s reasonings necessarily are. Overall, no one is going to come and save us so I have the mindset that we should work to improve things for ourselves.
Is there somewhere we can follow your experience?
I share a lot on my YouTube channel, International Wives of African Men. My channel discusses the experience of dating and being married to African men.
Latoya has been extremely patient with the delay in posting this piece, so we wish to extend her a very special thank you for her rich reflections! Be sure to visit her fantastic Youtube channel now!