Wi-Fi, what Wi-Fi?

One of the realities I’ve faced on the Challenges Worldwide programme is that Wi-Fi connectivity is one of our most valuable luxuries at home that we consider a commodity. Before I came, I wasn’t expecting Wi-Fi in every host home, business or cafe, but I was expecting to find a hotspot or two to work remotely from in the city. That is not the reality in Accra.

There are a few businesses with Mi-Fi, a device that comfortably allows 2-3 people to connect to the internet before the connection starts to drop. But as it’s limited, when we’re on enterprise visits we’re not invited to join a Guest network, and most people hotspot off their mobile phones when using laptops at home or in the workplace.

Mobile-HotSpot

Mobile phone contracts aren’t common, so when you hotspot you are using either credit or a bundle allowance. In Accra Vodafone X offers a 4G package that I can just about stretch out over a month, but I am much more conscious of how I use data now it truly feels like a luxury.

How does it impact work and home life?

  • Online market research quickly gets expensive, so although we still use the internet, a lot of volunteers have conducted face to face user testing, site visits and phoned around for competitor analysis and lead generation

  • Sharing documents is risky business as we’re plugging USBs into a number of different devices. Luckily most have been virus-free, but Avast has flagged a few nasties it’s protected my laptop from

  • Streaming services are off limits. I thought I might struggle to get the most up to date series on Netflix. On arrival I realised Netflix was not an option unless I wanted to dig deep into my savings to chill

  • I’ve found myself writing lists before I hotspot. Thoroughly thinking through what you need mitigates the risk of going off on a tangent and wasting data

  • You need to keep on top of your bundle because if you run out, it cuts out!

Here are a few tips on how to stretch your mobile allowance:

  • Android phones use less data than iPhones, so if you have a choice, use Android abroad

  • Make sure your phone isn’t automatically updating apps; manually update the most important

  • Turn mobile data off for background apps. Unless you’re using it, don’t let it use your data

  • Switch off location services

  • Close unwanted browsers

  • Keep your phone on low battery mode to reduce the number of times apps and emails are refreshed

  • Limit Facebook browsing (or stop altogether)

  • Avoid Facetime and use WhatsApp video or calls as they seem to drain less data

  • Make sure you’re not autosaving files from messages

  • Likewise, switch off auto-play for videos on social apps

  • USBs are still the best way to share files and media without using data. Just be wary about transferring PII and what might come with the file share

  • Take TV/movies with you and leave the newest shows for when you get home

xo

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Accra food guide

I’ve been introduced and reintroduced to some amazing local food. When I was younger my mum used to make a lot of African dishes, but I hadn’t had any in a while, and I’m loving all of the snacks and meals. We’ve explored a few market stalls, been fed in the host home and it’s worth noting that a variety of snacks are available from a trotro (local bus) when you’re stuck in traffic.

I’ll update as I go along, but here is everything I’d recommend so far (just remember Ghanaian food portions are quadruple our carb intake so at least ask for a half portion; around 4 Cedis worth):

  1. Fried plantain; boiled plantain I’m not a fan of, but fried plantain is awesome. Cut into large slices or chunks is the usual accompaniment style, but I’ve also had it chopped into small chunks and fried to a crisp which worked really well in a salad instead of croutons
  2. Garri; ground cassava used to carb up less carby meals or thicken stews. More recently I’ve also tried garri soakings (garri + water + sugar + peanuts) which they have as a drink/snack
  3. Redred; rice, beans, fried plantain and general goodness. A great veggie option that is usually served with garri
  4. Waakye (pronounced wah-chi); rice and beans. Often served with meat or a boiled egg, waakyi also comes with a spicy sauce. The boiled egg may sound random, but it’s quite a common alternative to meat with food for a hit of protein here. If you like your food spicy, you can also choose to add shito like a local (translates to pepper – a spicy fish sauce)
  5. Jollof rice; rice cooked in a stew rather than water or stock. It’s a game changer and is usually served with meat and sauce
  6. Tiger nuts; I can only describe these as milky pistachio nuts. After having a Google I learned it is a superfood that also goes by the name yellow nutsedge
  7. Fresh coconut; the only coconut I had ever tried was from a trail mix before coming, so it was really nice to have it fresh. The coconut water is an amazing nutrient boost if you’re dehydrated and tastes much nicer than the carton stuff I’d tried in the UK
  8. Kontomire stew; spinach and eggs in a sauce. I didn’t actually realise it was egg at first but I was a big fan. They put scrambled egg in a lot of spicy stew dishes and it works surprisingly well
  9. Rice balls; cooked rice compacted into a plastic bag/ball shape. I really liked the soft texture, but I didn’t realise quite how much compact rice I was eating until I stopped. Major food baby warning
  10. Peanut soup; teamed with your choice of meat and served with a rice ball
  11. Goat meat; I can only describe this as a beef joint texture with an odd taste. We had it with the peanut soup early on. I’d recommend trying it but it’ll be Marmite
  12. Tom Brown; their version of porridge which is powdered corn mixed with water. It is basically a brown paste that they serve with sugar. Don’t be shy to add a teaspoon or two as I wasn’t a fan until I sweetened it up
  13. Milo; hot chocolate branded as an energy drink. Often drank at breakfast as a meal supplement (one hell of a marketing ploy)
  14. Yams; a carby alternative for rice that is similar to potato. Most of the time it’s boiled but I’ve also seen roasted and fried options
  15. Corn on the cob; I know this is available in the UK, but it’s different here. Yes you can get your bog standard soft corn, but they have a variety available on the streets that is BBQ’d and it turns into a kind of popcorn/cooked corn on a stick. The corn is hard and often dipped in salt water before serving
  16. Plantain chips; their version of unsalted vegetable crisps are available either light or dark in colour. The dark version (coco) is made from riper plantain which makes it much sweeter

There are also a few things I wouldn’t recommend, but it’s all about personal taste so I’ll leave those for you to discover yourselves.

xo

Should probably wrap this up!

So my Holland chapter is completely closed now hence the lack of blogging. Long story short the Dutch business is closing and I have been lucky enough to come out of the closure with an exciting new job opportunity back in the UK!

I met some of the nicest people I have ever come across, explored a number of beautiful Dutch cities and fell in love with Holland. It may have been short, but it was sweet – now onto the next adventure 😊

 

xo

Maastricht

Gradblog_MaastrichtLast weekend a couple of our fellow BGL graduates, Meg and Helen, came to visit for a trip away to Maastricht with some of our Dutch colleagues (the South of Holland). The whole of Holland just seems to be particularly beautiful and Maastricht was not an exception.

On Friday we arrived after a long train ride down and visited the Christmas market, drank gluhwein (mulled wine) and checked in to our hotel. It cost 50 Euros for the train ticket, hotel and breakfast which I thought was a great bargain! In the eve we went to a Tapas Restaurant ‘Los Amigos’. After ordering the sharing selection for 8 people I got to try almost everything on the menu and it was the best tapas I’ve ever eaten; the dates wrapped in bacon were a particular favourite.

Then on Saturday we woke up early(ish) and took a bus to Valkenburg with the intention of visiting the underground Christmas markets in the caves. Unfortunately the queues looked close to an hour long and we didn’t think anything in the cave would be worth the wait. So we stuck to the outdoor stalls instead, drank more gluhwein and then headed back to Haarlem for dinner time.

Back in Haarlem we had been holding out for Meg’s visit to finally visit the famous Thai restaurant Erawan that she had been recommending since we moved to Holland. The selection of restaurants in Haarlem is just amazing and the food did not disappoint so I will definitely visit again if I get the chance.

Sunday was all about relaxing, drinking luxury hot chocolate from The Chocolate Company and introducing the girls to The Secret Life of 4,5 and 6 year olds. It’s a documentary series on All4 where they have recorded and analysed a ‘day in the life of’ a few groups of children and it’s fascinating and hilarious to see how they interact with each other at the different life stages. I’m not going to go into detail but if you get a chance at least watch an episode of the 4 year olds and you will not be disappointed.

After Meg and Helen had left Ellie and I went out to wander the shops and found that Haarlem actually had a pretty awesome Christmas market on for the weekend that we missed. The stalls stretched across most of the centre ring of canals and there were hundreds of people getting into the festive spirit! This was too many people for our liking so we stuck to the side streets, did a bit of shopping and then went home to watch Love Actually. It’s almost Christmas!!

xo

Advice, reviews and tours of Dam

Graduate_Blog_December2016Work has been a bit of a whirlwind this week and I’ve been focusing on additional learning. For those of you that are interested in Marketing there are some great online courses on Udemy, Future Learn and Google (Analytics & Adwords) to help improve your knowledge and to add to your CV. For those of you that aren’t interested in Marketing, Future Learn still has some great stuff if you filter by category for every topic you can think of, and I’ve even branched out to look at some coding on w3school and code.org. Why am I telling you this? It’s interesting! I’ve completed an SEO for beginner’s course and the Google Analytics Academy Ecommerce Analytics course in 2 days. I know how difficult it is to get a graduate job, and if you are still struggling, being able to reference this information in your CV, a cover letter or an interview might help you get hired – so I thought I’d share.

As well as geeking out online, I had Becky over to visit this weekend just gone! We started our activities with dinner at the Jopenkerk in Haarlem (which loosely translates to the Booby-church). The Jopenkerk has an amazing interior as they brew the Jopen beer in-house at the former church and I was very surprised at how good the food was! Highly recommend it to anyone that does visit Haarlem.

Then on Saturday we woke up early, and after telling Becky not to drink too much Friday eve, I was the one with a hangover…feeling a little bit worse for wear I manned up and we headed into Amsterdam to visit Anne Frank’s house though as Becky had requested it on the agenda! That was my third and final visit as after an hour long queue in the cold I can safely say I think I have covered every aspect of the museum.

Our next stop was The Pancake Bakery (Pannenkoekenhuis) and I had a child’s portion Nutella and Banana pancake for breakfast/lunch. There was nothing child sized about this portion though and after 3/4 I was well and truly stuffed!

After food we went straight to the Centraal Station to hop on a Canal Tour. For 9 euros they took us around the city for an hour and we spied all of the Amsterdam Light Festival features we wanted to revisit once it was dark. It was a cheaper tour so not the most amazing route but it did what it said on the tin/board and I felt I got my money’s worth.

The Light Festival itself was less a festival, and more a display of LED art sculptures in the canals. It was interesting and colourful to walk around but I think I could’ve done with an official tour to fully appreciate the pieces to their full extent.

That was Saturday and on Sunday we went back to Dam having decided we wanted to do the Heineken Experience! I took Becky for a whistle-stop tour beforehand, mimicking the route I have taken on walking tours to show her the Weigh House, The Old Church, Dam Square and we even popped into the Erotic Museum (because Dam). It was an overpriced version of The Sex Museum and a little crappier/tackier so I probably wouldn’t recommend but these things are always good for a giggle if you’re playing tourist.

Then we went on to the Heineken Brewery and for 16 euros the tour included 2.5 drinks, a canal taxi back to the edge of the centre and a free Heineken glass (which will be wrapped up and given to someone for Christmas)! We were taught about the history, the ingredients, how the beer is made, bottled and even went on a mini-ride as ‘a day in the life of a Heineken beer’. As a Marketer I really appreciate a good brand and as a tourist I really enjoyed the beer and the fact that there is a PS4, Fifa, a Rugby simulator and other games for guests to experience. Basically it was awesome, so go.

xo

Cold Arms, CIM and a fabulous cookie pizza

Last weekend I had Friday and Monday off to revise and treated myself to Mumford and Sons in between. They played Cold Arms so my relationship with Mumf is complete and then spent the rest of my time chilling with George in Barnsley/preparing for the big CIM exam! We went to our beloved spoons and played top trumps which I really enjoyed because we rarely do normal couple stuff (that’s our normal). Plus spoons is ridiculously cheap compared to Haarlem so we splashed out on dinner and George lost his Five Guys virginity. It was magical.

Tuesday morning I felt prepared and ready, but come 5pm post the three hour exam, my CIM fate is no more clear ha. Ethical Marketing is officially my new arch nemesis and I never want to see a framework ever again. I’m going to try and forget about it until March when the results come out as there’s not a lot I can do now…I can cross that bridge when it comes to it.Back in Peterborough I met with Ellie and Alex (who I used to live with) for dinner at Wildwood after the exam. It was really nice to catch up but I wasn’t amazed by the food. As a result we had to travel across town to get a cookie pizza and this soon made me completely forget about Ethical Marketing and remember to instead focus on how amazing desserts are.

Also it’s December now so I got a Marvel advent calendar and can have chocolate for breakfast EVERYDAY 💪🏼 

xo

So many treats


Last week I invested a lot of time in CIM, and when you have lots of CIM to do it must be balanced with treats…

Those treats included watching first dates, a couple of documentaries, face timing the fam and shopping on my lunch break. I bought a new outfit, a hotdog from the market, a pork burger that came pre-wrapped in bacon and a Berliner (that’s the giant donut I got as a well done for the revision I was yet to start). I love being in walking distance of the shops but I don’t think weekends alone are cost effective for my bank balance.

You may be wondering why I included the documentaries in the “treats” section but I am rather enjoying them right now. I watched Culture High and am now pro-marijuana selling (not buying) as I think we could make a hell of a lot of tax on it! And then I watched “Dear Zachary” – a super sad video but if you have time definitely worth a watch.

Not much to report whilst CIM deadlines are looming but the countdown to Halloween has begun as George will be visiting to explore a bit more 😁😁!

xo