This past December, like many other descendants of the African diaspora hoping to end 2019 with a bang, I went to Accra, Ghana for what the country deemed---in arguably the most successful tourism marketing plan to date---the "Year of the Return". Anchored by the Afrochella festival as well as newcomer, Afronation, the return to Ghana was anticipated to be an opportunity to connect with our roots, party, unwind, and enjoy great food and culture. After securing my *whispers* very affordable flight in November, I was ready. Or so I thought.
Unlike most trips, coordinating all the moving parts in Ghana took a bit more advanced planning, patience, and research than I was used to. But after getting everything in place, I was so excited!
This was being heralded as the place to be for the holidays, where everybody and they mama (or Beyonce's mama) were expected. And Accra delivered! During my three weeks in Ghana, I partied in the jungle in Aburi, crossed the seven bridges in Kukum, visited the Elmina and Cape Coast slave dungeons, ate a traditional Fulani mat dinner, saw the dopest fire-breather performance at Polo Beach Club, ate at the famous Buka restaurant, danced the night away at Bloom Bar, and connected with amazing friends both old and new.
I also encountered a lot of things that, if avoided, would have enhanced my trip that much more. Here are 10 things to keep in mind to optimize your experience if attending "Beyond the Return" this December:
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Follow All Medical Precautions, Both Required And Recommended
One of the consequences of my late travel arrangements were the limited remaining options in finding a yellow fever provider within my budget. After finally settling on an office, I paid my whopping $265, and received my yellow fever card and malaria prescription. But to my dismay, when I landed in Ghana, border control could care less about my little yellow fever card and didn't even open it. I must have been so disappointed that I actually lost it and haven't seen it since. Welp. Funny enough though, during my departure, border control insisted on seeing it. But for the gift of gab, I'd likely still be there trying to convince them why I didn't need to receive another shot just to fly home. But I digress.
While experiences varied, most opted to receive the yellow fever shot in the States, despite its availability at the airport for the affordable price of *drumroll* $20.
Did I know that? No. But now you do. You're welcome. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide where you're most comfortable getting the shot, but once you do, keep your card handy.
After filling your recommended malaria prescription, do yourself a favor and actually take them. I avoided them initially after hearing horror stories of people having nightmares and stomach pain, but, take them. You don't want to end up like me in a pharmacy on your way to a friend's fashion show feenin' for malaria pills like Halle Berry in Jungle Fever because a mosquito bit you in Kukum and the "cold" you thought you had sounds more like malaria, according to WebMD. Luckily, the pharmacists in Ghana are fantastic and wonderfully patient. They promptly tested me for it and luckily, it turned out I didn't have malaria---just a bad cold. But I could have had it. Take your pills.
Don't Nickel-And-Dime Your Accommodations
The Kempinski Hotel, a great option for a stay in Ghana.
Image via kempinski.com
As Americans when we think of budget hotels, we think of a no-frills, no-fuss Holiday Inn which at the very least are clean and at best are quite nice. (The Holiday Inn in New Orleans even has a rooftop pool). Even budget or boutique hotels in Europe deliver quality with the occasional luxury surprise. During my layover in Portugal, for example, I stayed at the most amazing boutique hotel for $52 and was wonderfully surprised by how nice it was.
But in Ghana, budget hotels, aka those under $75 a night, take on a different meaning. For brevity's sake I'll spare you the stressful details. Let's just say some of my very worst days were spent making special requests for running water, dealing with hotel managers who didn't understand that it isn't OK for the electricity to disconnect every hour, or canceling confirmed reservations.
Save yourself the hassle. Spring for the nice hotel.
Listen, I get it, traveling can be expensive, especially if you're staying somewhere for an extended period of time. If you can't quite afford the Kempinski, Alisa Hotel is a great affordable choice, but don't nickel-and-dime your experience. It'll cost you more in the end.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Pack Your Patience
As a born-and-bred New Yorker, most would assume that I'm used to a fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, and they're right. New Yorkers tend to move at lightning speed, always running for the train or to work and keeping up with our busy lives. As a New Yorker who also drives, I'm equally accustomed to insane traffic, but Ghana was on a whole other level. I can't count how many times I had to just get out of my Uber and walk the remainder of the way. Not a patient person?
I strongly suggest staying very close to where most of your events and activities will take place to avoid getting stuck.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Consider A Tour Company
As you're planning your trip, you'll quickly see that there are literally hundreds of tour companies ready to take you on every excursion and curate your trip for you.
Usually I would caution visitors against booking tour companies to save a few coins, but in Ghana, a trusted tour company may actually enhance your trip.
Some of my favorite experiences were planned by a tour guide. My friend had used him several times before and not only was he well informed about the estimated travel time and where to go to get the best/safest food on the route, he even knew the manager of the Cape Coast castle who let us in at closing because we were stuck in traffic.
I also really enjoyed some local events planned by TasteMakers including the most beautiful Fulani Christmas dinner hosted at Olma Colonial Suites. The food was delicious, we learned about the Fulani culture and the vibes were perfect. I enjoyed it so much, I ventured to my second Tastemakers event later that week, the Cookout. After being there for an hour I lovingly renamed it Grits in Ghana (Don't try me. My trademark is pending) and deservedly so. The DJ executed dope NYE vibes, the drinks were strong and free, and the space was perfect. In the future, I'd confidently attend any other events they plan. But do your research. Read reviews. Find a company that you trust, think about where you want to go and consider whether a company would enhance your experience.
Choose Your Concert Wisely
So part of the draw to visit Ghana during the holiday season is the festival experience, specifically Afrochella. Known for the opportunity for the flyest and most daring to show up and show out in their best African garb, people come from everywhere to perch up as royalty and be among the lit. However, as a budding festival, Afrochella may need some more time to find their footing, as the actual concert experience was lacking.
Most of the night, in lieu of actual performances, there were DJ sets and well into the early morning hours, a sprinkle of performances from virtually unknown artists. I was really disappointed, after declining friends' invitations to attend Afronation, which by most accounts turned out to be the better concert, bringing out Burna Boy and other fan favorites. I also heard good things about the Detty Rave concert, but unfortunately missed it because of my cold.
Ultimately, even though Afrochella is the original event and may still be worth a visit for vibes, consider your other options.
Prepare For Long Commutes
One of the biggest surprises for me when I got to Ghana was how far away most of the special sites were. Not only was Cape Coast a three-hour ride away, most of the nice beaches (aside from Labadi Beach) including Bojo Beach were at least 90 minutes away from the City Center. The same was true for Aburi Gardens and Aqua Safari, which are definitely must-see destinations. Some places are so far, I highly suggest preparing for a full day trip to each destination and possibly even staying overnight to avoid the traffic. If you opt out of staying overnight, pack on your patience because although traffic in the A.M is bearable, you may not be so chill about it after a day's worth of activity.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
While credit cards are accepted, cash rules everything out in Ghana. From bargaining for souvenirs to getting into parties or a certain Members Only Club (I see you, Front & Back), having Ghana cedis on hand, will definitely yield better results.
Indulge In Local Cuisine But Be Careful
So, in my veiled non-medical medical advice above, I may have left out one of the reasons I got sick during the trip. When I first arrived, I was so excited I opened my mouth while brushing my teeth and ingested some water a la Charlotte in Sex and the City 2. Now, that may not have been the only reason I experienced "the runaways" but many cautioned me against ice in my drinks and indulging in sauces. I didn't listen. You do better.
Decide Between Uber Vs. Private Drivers
Contrary to what most people have heard about Africa---Ghana specifically---it is a well-developed country and they do have Uber. However, be prepared for smaller cars and cash payments. In order for your Uber app to even work in Ghana, you'll need to update your settings to cash payments and use a local Sim card. Bolt is another option which usually offers an introductory promotion for reduced rides.
You can choose to hire a private driver if you need a larger vehicle or if you just want to have someone at your beck and call. Just be sure to estimate the price of rides in advance and get some referrals from friends in travel groups who have gone to Ghana.
Know Your Intentions For Visiting
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Most important when traveling to Ghana is knowing why you're going. Most people visit during the holidays to mix and mingle with celebrities, attend the flyest parties, and meet their African prince and princess. If that's you, do you. Live it up. However, if you're visiting to truly immerse yourself in the culture, opt for more of those experiences and be intentional in seeking them out. One of my intentions in visiting Ghana was to volunteer and impact the youth, so I was so excited to volunteer for Afrochella Reads, an opportunity to visit and spend time with Ghanaian orphans during their school day. It was truly one of the top highlights of my trip.
Volunteering not your thing? Take a cooking class and learn how to compete in the jollof wars. Visit the Shea Butter Museum and discover the source of the ultimate ash warrior, the gift of shea butter. Whatever your interests are, Ghana has so much to offer. The opportunities for enriching experiences are numerous. Once you strip away the glitzy appeal, the rooftops, and the mystique about Ghana, remember that there is a rich culture and local experiences that are way more valuable than rubbing elbows with Boris and Nicole. Focus on being present and make the most of your return.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com.
Featured Image via Amanda Gayle
- African-Americans resettle in Africa | Africa Renewal ›
- How to Plan Your Trip to Afrochella Festival in Accra, Ghana ... ›
- Visit Ghana: The Official Tourism Website of Ghana Tourism ›
- Ghana NYE 2020 - Beyond The Return in Accra, Ghana ›
- Ghana 2020 - Beyond the Return: Accra - Cape Coast ... - Tripadvisor ›
- How To Spark A Global Movement: Ghana's 'Year Of Return ... ›
- Year of Return: What You Need To Know To Plan Your Ghana Travel ›
- Ghana 2020 NYE - Beyond The Return Tickets, Sun, Dec 27, 2020 ... ›
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image courtesy
Porsha Williams And Simon Guobadia’s Marriage Has Ended: Here’s A Look Into Their Relationship Timeline
Porsha Williams and Simon Guobadia have called it quits.
After a 15-month-long marriage commenced with two elaborate wedding ceremonies, PEOPLEexclusively reports that the former Real Housewives of Atlanta star has filed for divorce from the Nigerian businessman on Thursday.
With online rumors around Guobadia's citizenship status coinciding with the announcement of their separation, a source informed PEOPLE that the divorce is "unrelated to recent allegations involving Simon's past" and is an “ongoing matter.”
In November 2022, the ex-lovebirds tied the knot in Atlanta during a show-stopping, 350-guest Nigerian traditional native law, with a traditional American wedding to follow.
Ahead of their wedding, Williams told PEOPLEexclusively, “I am ridiculously excited. I am just so ready. I'm not even nervous. I know I'm marrying the love of my life, and it's going to solidify our relationship and our family bond. I'm calm and excited."
Although their relationship has come to a sudden conclusion, their whirlwind romance was one to watch; or in this case, look back on. Here’s a breakdown of the moments that made Williams and Guobadia’s relationship one to remember.
2020 - Porsha and Simon's First Encounter
Porsha Williams and Simon Guobadia first crossed paths in 2020 on the set of Season 13 of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Guobadia was then married to friend of the show, Falynn Pina.
May 2021 - Their Surprise Engagement
In May 2021, Porsha Williams surprised fans by announcing her engagement to Simon Guobadia shortly after he reportedly declared his divorce from Falynn Pina. Williams shared on Instagram that their relationship started a month earlier, and Guobadia had initiated divorce proceedings in January 2021, which had been resolved.
Williams took to Instagram to dispel rumors around the overlap in Guobadia’s prior relationship.
“Our relationship began a month ago—yes we are crazy in love,” she wrote in the caption. “I know it’s fast but we are living life each day to its fullest. I choose happiness every morning and every night. Tuning out all negative energy and only focused on positive wishes.”
November 2021 - Porsha Clears Up Rumors Around Their Relationship Timeline
On an episode of Watch What Happens Live, Andy Cohen looked to “nail down some dates” in connection to alleged overlaps with Porsha, Simon, and his ex-wife. She shared that she reached out to Guobadia to express her sympathy for his divorce, having experienced the weight of divorce herself.
“I actually told him, ‘I’m sorry for your divorce,’ and all of that because I know what that feels like,” Williams shared. “I know what it feels like to go through betrayal and hurt.”
She continued, "A little birdie had told me that [Falynn] was pregnant, so I knew what he was about to go through." Porsha noted that his ex-wife’s pregnancy announcement prompted her to offer support to Simon, which opened a door for their connection to deepen and eventually fall in love.
November 2022 - Williams and Guobadia Tie the Knot
The couple spared no expense for their not one, but two wedding ceremonies. On Nov. 26 and Nov. 27, the two celebrated their love in front of 350 wedding guests at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The first ceremony celebrated Guobadia's Edo culture, while the following day featured a star-studded American wedding. Williams told PEOPLE that the double-wedding was a "true fashion extravaganza," as a nod to her numerous outfit changes.
November 2023 - A Diamond-Studded Declaration
To celebrate their one-year anniversary, the couple exchanged extravagant dazzling diamond rings — a stunning emerald cut for her and a stylish band for him.
February 2024 - The Two File for Divorce
Williams filed for divorce from Guobadia on Thursday, Feb. 22 2024, after nearly a half of marriage. While the cause of their divorce is still unknown, sources close to Williams confirmed that the divorce is an “ongoing matter.”
Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images