Sunday, August 21, 2011

Embrace Web 2.0

Not f'd (FSF)
Well, I have never been a big fan of Facebook and the likes. But I have to admit: it is a good tool to build up your network again.

Yesterday I registered for LinkedIn and Xing, it was a lot of fun to rediscover old friends and classmates with whom I had lost touch. It will never beat having a drink on a hot day and chat away during a free afternoon, one real friend will always better than a thousand virtual ones, but I really had fun trying to reconnect with so many loose ends. In that way I also got the word out that I am back in the country and, well, 'hirable'.

For the real headhunters, I placed my CV on and IT-JobBank.

The past two weeks, I have also kept a close watch on the job offers at Elance and Guru. Most are small projects, but it is a good way to earn some small cash.

Now all I have to do is come up with a catching name, create myself a nice, attractive website, and the project hunt can start!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Most Interesting Job Interview Ever (2)

Well, it happened again and very interesting it was.

I had another interview today. The appointment was made somewhere last week by headhunters' bureau X. They said that this company was 'interested in my profile', but didn't give me any details about the job or which particular section of my CV that they were interested in. As the company is placed relatively far from my residence, it would take me at least 90 minutes to get there. All this considered made me kind of skeptic towards the whole interview, but I decided to go anyway.

The office was nice, clean and not too 'square'. It looked like a modernly renovated house and people were amicable towards each other.

When I presented myself, I was brought to the right manager (let's call him Georges) and noticed that the said guy was aware of my coming, but not of my CV. So again, I asked myself, why did bureau X send me all the way out here? I counted the hours that I had waisted in the public transport and thought of the betters things that I could have done in the meantime at home or in the sun (it was actually nice weather).

"So, you have been running a hotel in West-Africa?", Georges started. It flattered me that he obviously approved of my sense of adventure. Formalities were done and the interview could start. Georges started by explaining what the company did, that they run a consultancy for small sized offices that need advice on how to do their IT infrastructure, among that was also a helpdesk that was using the typical ticketing service and ...

Amidst his explanation, all of a sudden he stopped. He put down his papers, I imagine even almost hearing a sigh. He leaned a bit forward on his desk and shared with me: "This must all sound so boring if you have been working abroad for two years, doesn't it?"

At first I honestly did not know how to react and out of habit pulled my poker face, but it was already clear to both of us that there would be no win-win situation in this job interview. "Maybe you have short termed projects where I could be of service?", I tried, but Georges shook his head.

Instead, we just started to have a relaxed chat and tried to see what could interest me. He even really tore a piece of paper from his notebook and wrote down which buzzwords are currently 'hot'. It started to remind me of Eric from the last interesting job interview, as he also started to motivate me to become a self-employed freelancer. "Just make yourself a profile on LinkedIn, that is where the magic is happening these days. We now don't even email people any more, we screen them straight through their online profile. Don't forget to study the new Cloud-hype, it is extremely interesting, and check the Windows Azure-platform!"

Even though I saw the other offices empty (the weekend had started), we were still having a nice conversation, apparently Georges didn't mind to make some overtime. We pulled up Google Maps and looked at the satellite picture of the lodge.

When the talk drew to a close, Georges gave me a card and told me "make sure you refer to me when you make your profile on LinkedIn". We shook hands and off I went.

I had spent more than 3 hours in the train for a conversation of merely 45 minutes, but still it was worth it. The whole way back home, I had a huge smile on my face and looked forward to actually start to work for myself.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Test your might!

Bjarne Stroustrup, father to C++
Picture taken from Wikipedia

Ah, today was interesting. As it was the Xth interview for this particular job, the company wanted to test my 1337 5k1775 in C++. Can't blame them, but I was a bit shocked about the simplicity of the programming questions. I nailed it and I am proud of it.

Share a celebration drink with me?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Early rise

Tomorrow I will start working at the local news stand. Pretty nice, I am happy with it: a part time job just around the corner and the salary is big enough to pay all the bills.
The only 'problem' is that I will have to start working at 5AM, that is not my normal rhythm :-)

So to not shock my body too much, I rose this morning at 6AM, did some sports and had breakfast around 9.

My plans for today are to practice some more Norwegian (I am visiting Megumi during the first two weeks of September) and to 'undust' my mind by coding some C++ for a little private project. It has been a while since I have written a full application, by practicing I will get to know what knowledge has been lost over the years and work on my weak points.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Picture taken from Health Life
Last night, Tessy came home after midnight. She was a bit tipsy from having a drink earlier that evening and started dancing around the living room, giggling. All of a sudden she looked me in the eyes and said: "You know what I really want now? A smoke."

Djz, I tried to leave smoking behind after leaving Ghana, but she was right. I wanted a smoke too.

Only problem: none of us had cigarettes, so we started walking. The neighbourhood where we are living has no night shops, but luckily there was a vending machine in one of the bars around the train station.

Apparently, you need an 'age coin' nowadays. I had no idea what it meant, but it took a while before I understood why the vending machine wasn't excepting the money.

Returning home, we just took a beer from the fridge, went back to our porch and said on the doorstep. We chatted, drank and smoked up to 3 am, it felt like old times.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Last night I dreamed that my wallet was stolen, all my money was gone (including the credit card). All I found back was the leather pouch, empty except for my identity card. Even after waking up I still felt a bit of the panic wash over me.

It is not far from reality, when I think of it. My savings are down to 100 euro, not even enough for half of the rent of the room I am currently staying in. Luckily, I have patient housemates that are aware of my current (financial) situation and I have taken a part time job at a local news stand. For one week, I can help stack the store, early in the morning when the newspapers arrive. The rest of the day I can use to look for a job that fits me a bit better.

I am happy that I now at least have some income.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Most Interesting Job Interview Ever

Taken from English Preperation
Now that Megumi has gone to Norway, I focused on the job hunt again.

Still, I don't feel completely comfortable going back to a desk job after being a hotel manager for the past two years. My personal preference at the moment go to short term projects or part time jobs, I want to have some time apart from the daytime job to be able to start on my own.

Today I had two interviews, both in Brussels. The one of this morning went very fluently, I felt some kind of connection with the candidate employer, but still my worry (which I mentioned above) was nagging at the back of my head.

So when I went to the second interview, for a different company, I was still a bit cross about that feeling. While the interviewer was explaining the several options at his place, I politely interrupted him and inquired whether they weren't maybe in need of a freelancer.

The interviewer, let's call him Eric, gathered his papers together and put it at the side of the desk, crossed his arms and looked me straight in the eyes, explaining me that they were really looking for a long term commitment. So I told him that I didn't feel that need.

Eric understood my interruption and instead of cutting the meeting short, we had a more open talk now. He told me about his own experiences as a freelancer and pointed out to me that my CV needed some updating if I wanted to look in that direction.

He actually really motivated me to start a business on my own 'as IT is booming at the moment, make yourself a profile on recruiting websites like Monster and, and then wait until you have an interesting deal. After closing the deal, contact Unizo to get your BTW number (VAT registration), it is done in only 15 minutes and will cost 180 euro, after that you are a freelancer. It is that simple. But update your CV and put more focus on the concrete projects that you have completed instead of giving vague job descriptions.'

After that we stood up and shook hands. The last thing Eric said was 'I'm sure you never had a job interview like that before.'

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Megumi to Norway

This early morning, I brought Megumi to the airport of Charleroi. She visited Belgium for the past three days but will be in Oslo by now, getting used to her new place for the coming two years.

Ah, I regret she only had such a short time to spend with me, but it was a really lovely weekend. We visited some old friends together and enjoyed the sun shine a bit. Good times :-)

Luckily, I found a ticket for myself to visit her during the first weeks of September, only 30 euro up and down, not bad at all.

Take care, hime-chan!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Interim offices and job interviews

This week, I have been mostly visiting several interim offices in the city that I am living and have been invited for several job interviews.

During my last weeks in Ghana, I had created a profile on several Belgian job hunting websites (Stepstone, Monster, Vacature, ...). I would recommend everybody to do that, especially if you have a technical profile like me.

I wouldn't call the response 'massive', but I have been invited on a daily basis to one or two interviews at several companies and organisations, even though this is 'holiday season'.

My problem is that I am not yet sure if I really want to do that, working in ICT again, I mean. I will need a bit of time to orientate myself and to get to know what I actually want, but the several invitations give me some 'interview experience' again and brings me in touch with several business cultures.

At the same time, I have registered myself with the several interim offices. Up to now, they have been a bit disappointing. I mostly got mismatches (a company that needed a person with knowledge of physically installing fiber optic cable, is not a good vacancy for me) or nothing at all. Maybe they are not a good place for an informatician.

But still, I feel like I have been a good citizen this week and made some kind of 'progress'. I am curious what offers I might get.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The bank doesn't like long hair (2)

Earlier this week, I got myself a haircut. Not because I really wanted it, but purely because people were discriminating me for wearing it long, and I have to find a way to get a good job while I am here.

To test it, I came back to the same banking office I was almost a week ago and requested again for the balance of my savings account. Surprise surprise, this time it was not a problem at all and (more shockingly) they didn't even request for my ID card.

But okay, I am happy that I am 'part of society' again but sad that people are so superficial.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Another family reunion! It's probably not interesting to you guys, but to me it means a lot. My father had moved to Holland some 6 years back. I haven't seen him since last Christmas so I am spending the weekend at his place now.

He hasn't changed a bit, still worried about my future. I respect him for that, but he should relax a bit more. I am happy for all the good conversations and the warm meals. Thanks Dad.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today is Friday, I was happy to get a phone call from Bossie, my old roommate. He has been so kind to follow up with all my correspondence and all the necessary paper work while I was abroad.

It will be a nice day of catching up and he will also hand me my new identity card. Woohoo, now I am a person again according to the Belgian state :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family visit

Today is the national holiday of Belgium. For the first time in almost 10 months, I will meet my brother and his fiancée again, spending a day at the seaside and visiting family. It promises to be a nice day, I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The bank doesn't like long hair

Taken from Ronalfly
I have been in Ghana for over two years. Here in Belgium, I have a savings account, but because of the long time that has passed since I had set foot inside their office, and simply because I didn't have internet banking or any statement, I had no idea how much money was still inside.

Still, as you might be aware, money is an important aspect of this society. No money means no shelter, no clothing, no food unless friends or family can provide it for you. Simply put, I just needed to know how much I have to have an honest idea of my possibilities.

So the first thing that I do when I arrived, after going to my new place and greeting my good ol' housemates, is going to the bank. I was nicely showered, dressed casual and ready to pop the question.

Upon entering the bank, I walk confidently to the reception and politely state my name, adding: "I have a savings account with you and I would like to know how much is in there."

The clerk turns his eyes to me with a bit of a dirty look, and asks "how come you want to know such a thing all of a sudden?"

This must have been the strangest reaction I have ever had in a bank. Hello, it is my account, so it is my money and I just want to know how much is left.
Of course I understand that this person is not aware of my travelling, that I have just come home from two year of West-African sun and not really have an idea of what to do with my future. This knowledge is very important to me.

Then it dawned on me. He was looking at my hair. I forgot that my hair was still long. It was clean though, I had taken a shower and I am totally refreshed.

I had no idea that such a superficial fact would bring such negative behaviour to people, I was really shocked. That moment, I decided that I will definitely need a hair cut to get a proper job, better not to leave anything to chance. Ridiculous.

It is only after insulting me, that the clerk asked for my ID.

Shit, in Belgium you need your Id with you all the time, I am not used to that anymore. Ok, this was very naive of me, to come to the bank, claiming an account by only stating your name and not bringing your identity card. That the bank doesn't allow me to access my account without any identification, I agree with that completely.
So I smile sheepishly to the bank clerk, explain him the situation and turn to come back another day.

At that moment, the clerk's prejudice is probably confirmed, I must have been a long haired no-good who wanted to steal money from a good citizen's account. Well done Mr. Clerk, keep the scruffy looking people from soiling your carpet.

Link: Another blog entry on discrimination towards long haired men (by Ronalfy)


But there I was. Around 4 PM we landed in Brussels Airport and it felt good to be back home. The airport hadn't changed much so I was fast to collect my luggage and move to the train station.

When we were flying over Spain, I noticed that they had perfect weather. Very sunny and just a small cotton cloud here or there. But Brussels: grey. Grey as Gandalf, unbelievable.

Not very motivating, knowing that I came from Ghana in the full raining season and over there still the weather was more pleasant than this. But it just couldn't break the happiness I felt inside.

Finally, home.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This is it, I'm off to Belgium!

Because of the civil war going on in Libya, of course no way that I could get an Afriqiyah flight. Too bad, their service has been good enough for me and the price is more than reasonable.

Second option: Royal Air Maroc.
Service? Below average in my opinion.

It is nice that the ticket was rather 'good market' and that I was allowed to take two suitcases along, but the friendliness of the staff was purely below standards.

While checking in at the Kotoka Airport, I noticed that crew members were using a digital camera to take snapshots of everybody's passport. It looked highly unprofessional and even (dare I say it?) privacy-invading.
I don't fool myself, I know that airlines need a lot of passenger's information for 'security's sake'. But using a stupid, cheap photo camera to take a picture of the private information written in my passport? Are you people dumb? What happens to the information, do you just send it by email over the internet? Do you make sure that nobody can steal the camera or makes a copy of the memory card?

Where I was standing, in front of me where two simple stewards (not even part of the checkin crew), taking passports from everybody, flipping the booklet open, getting a stupid Aldi-camera out of their pocket, making a snaphot of the crucial information and moving on to the next passenger.
When it was my turn and I questioned them on the stupidity of this precaution, all I heard was: "other airlines have sophisticated machines to do it at the check in bay, but we don't. We really need your information on the camera or else we can't allow you on board."

I was shocked.
So it was taking my chance in crappy security or... no fly.

But there is more...

Once boarded the plane, we were all sitting three by three, noticing that only have of the plane was being used. Rows and rows of empty seats were behind us. I was sitting between two nice, but big, fellows, and struggling for some breathing space, I moved to one of the empty rows only to be stopped by one of the flight attendants with a strong: "No, these seats are not commercialised".

After take off, it was clear that the crew preferred to use those empty rows for themselves. It was 5AM and they apparently deserved a nap. Great opportunity for yours truly to claim one of the rows as his own bed.

Changing planes in Casablanca was not a big deal. Only, there was no water for sale (or even for free) in the whole airport. Plenty of alcohol in the duty free shops, but no water and the restaurant would not open until noon time.

Once aboard the connecting flight to good old Brussels (woohoo!), it was lunch time. And here is my final complaint: Why would a steward ask me 'chicken or fish', if she would give me fish anyway, disregarding what I would answer?

So, here we go:
S    - "Chicken or Fish?"
me - "Chicken please"
Steward hands me the package.
I check the package and notice that it has the symbol of a fish on top.
me - "Excuse me, is this fish?"
S    - "Yes, the chicken is finished."
me - "I am allergic to fish."
S    - "Sorry, the chicken is finished."

I look at my neighbour, a friendly Moroccan lady who helped me practice my French, and she shrugged her shoulders in a gesture of 'they are always like that'.

So I had a bit of pasta and a dry bread roll for lunch.

Oh, and no movie whatsoever during the whole flight, only that stupid blue screen filled with some statistics of the temperature outside and the distance to the destination, and you can't even turn it off when you are tired of it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To Norway, or not to Norway?

Megumi has decided to move to Norway for a scholarship. I have two options now, or I follow her and try to mingle into Norwegian society, or I can stick to the original plan, move to Belgium and have peace with the fact that we won't see each other often for the next two years.

It took me quite a while of doubting, but in the end I choose for the original plan. My savings are almost finished and in my position, the chances are simply higher to find a job in Belgium than in Norway. Crap, I hate reality. Why couldn't she get admitted to a Belgian university?

Well anyway, it gives me the opportunity of visiting Oslo, and I will probably find some cheap flights during the holidays.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Going back home

Illustration taken from
The Special Parent
Well, I made it. After two years of staying in Ghana, it is finally time to go back home.

Did I miss Belgium? Yes, not only because I wanted to be close to family and loved ones again, or being able to speak my mother tongue, but mostly because I had the feeling that I sometimes was sticking out like a sore thumb.

In general, Ghanaian people are very nice and I made a lot of friends over the years. But there really are situations that I just can't grasp. Or, even worse, the opposite, that people don't understand my reaction or ignore me.

Hearing "yes, but you are white" as an explanation for being treated differently than the rest, is very confronting. I never liked this situation (there for the illustration: "the nail that sticks out, gets hammered down").

Therefore I hope that I will finally be relieved of this discrimination and find peace at home again.
Also, training people all this time made me hungry for a technical job again, I hope to find something to my satisfaction back in Europe.

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