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Benedicta
“I love the infrastructure and especially the fact that almost everyone rides a bike. Living here got me encouraged to learn cycling and swimming that I'm so proud of.”

I was born in a small town called Prestea but grew up in Cape Coast Ghana. Cape Coast is well known for its castle, a European-built fortress that served as a trading post for European nations and as the seat of British colonial administration for the Gold Coast colony. Sadly it represents the largest and darkest forced human migration in history, that is slaves sent from Africa to America and Europe in the 16th century.  Being an ex-colony of Britain, it has English as its official language, but it has more than 50 indigenous spoken languages and I speak Fanti.

I remember my childhood very beautifully surrounded by my parents, 4 brothers, and my sister. Following my parents' footsteps, both teachers, I also became a teacher. My father taught in an all-boys Catholic secondary school so we had the privilege to live on the campus. It was a very nice community that cared for each other. We had a backyard garden and loved to help our parents work in it on weekends. After my primary school education, I was enrolled in an all-girls secondary school, I then attended an all-girls teacher training college and graduated as an elementary school teacher. After teaching for about nine years, I gained admission into Cape Coast University to do a 3-year bachelor of education course, then I moved to the Netherlands.

On a trip to visit my brother in London, I reconnected with an old family friend who lived in Holland. He studied at TU Delft and worked as an engineer. Who would have guessed that years later I would be marrying him?

That is the reason why I emigrated from my country directly to the city of Almere. Unlike in Ghana, the houses here looked much smaller from the outside, but it wasn’t so, It only depicted the efficient use of space here in the Netherlands. Apart from the cold weather and the constant rains here, the language has been and is the most difficult experience for me. There’s this saying: If you go to Rome, do what the Romans do. So when I arrived in this country I took the Dutch classes at the ROC seriously and even continued after the birth of my first child. However, this language has been a barrier for me in getting a job because I don’t have control over it.

Of course, I also miss my family, my customs, the sunshine, and the way of life in Ghana. Over there neighbors are all concerned about each other, and if a child misbehaves, it is normal for a neighbor or relative to correct or punish him or her. I don’t see that happening here. I have two teenage children, and they feel more Dutch than Ghanaians. During sports competitions, where Ghana and the Netherlands are included, they are always for the orange team. When my children were in elementary school, I helped a lot at school and I have always been active in both their school and extracurricular activities. I am very proud of them, their performances at school, and their general behavior.

I’ve lived in Almere since 2003, in the Danswijk neighborhood. I’ve realized that more and more people from different countries have also come to live here. I like this city very much, the center is quite modern with its green areas. I love the infrastructure and especially the fact that almost everyone rides a bike. Living here got me encouraged to learn cycling and swimming that I'm so proud of. The people are very friendly and I enjoy living here. What I like most about the city are the special bus and bicycle lanes. I've seen Almere grow all these years. There are so many activities that bring people together, and that reminds me a bit of the family feeling in Ghana. Some of the interesting activities are bowling, shopping at the City Mall, watersports at Haddock, climbing at Kemphaan, picnicking at the Esplanade, visiting the zoo, the mud run and so many others. I love to go for walks along the lakes. It gives me such a refreshing feeling. I also come across so many bridges and beautiful landscapes when I go cycling with my neighbor. I cannot wait to see what the Floriade brings to Almere in 2022.

You can tell a lot about our culture by our cuisine. We Ghanaians love to prepare dishes that include rice, maize, plantain, cassava, beans, fish, beans, etc. We also prepare different kinds of stews and soups such as palm soup, light soup, and pindasoep. Jollof rice, which is a typical rice dish served with chicken, meat, or salad is my children’s favorite, but I also prepare other international dishes such as spaghetti carbonara, paella, baby potatoes with chicken schnitzel, tortillas with chicken salad, etc. When I came here, I always had to go shopping in Amsterdam, but now, I can find all the ingredients to prepare my Ghanaian dishes here in Almere. 

Something that characterizes me and is part of my cultural identity is my dressing. I love to wear my cotton dresses with colorful prints that characterize me as a cheerful African citizen. I wear them to church, visits, or special parties. They are mostly sewn by my seamstress in Ghana, and my mother sends them to me. My motto is: "Learning well, can get you anywhere and any level you want to, but never forget to be respectful and God-loving”. The most important gift I received from my parents that I also want to give to my children is to love and believe in God. My children are everything to me. We play games, we go cycling and swimming. I have a few friends and no family, but when I'm home with my children, I have enough. 

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Authors

Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
Fotostudio website: www.101studio.nl