Thursday, April 28, 2016

Today's Accomplishment

Today I found a journal to send a revised copy of the paper I gave in Jerusalem. I finally found one that did not require extensive stylistic and reference revisions. So that was my big accomplishment for today. Every step closer I come to getting another publication is another tiny movement towards further promotion. I should probably be seeing about getting revised versions of all the rejected manuscripts I still have sitting around so I can move this process along a little faster.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Middle Day

I never get as much done as I hope to in any given day. But, I do make sure to do a little bit each day. Today, I got the process to get my rent subsidy underway. I also wrote another reference letter. Finally, I finished writing a draft of a proposal for an MA sandwich program and sent it to the person who will take over as HOD in August. So I got three things accomplished. I also got to the bank to get money which always seems to take forever. However, I failed to definitively find a journal for my last conference paper. All of them are going to require significant stylistic revisions particularly regarding the citations. I hate having to redo citations. Moving from footnotes to in text citation takes forever and I don't know why so very few journals use either footnotes or end notes anymore. We have to teach our students here that the international standard for historical writing is footnotes in Chicago Style. Yet, a huge number of journals in Russian and Soviet history require in text citations in Harvard Style. The only one that uses end notes instead of in text citations is The Russian Review. So I am probably going to have to go and redo the citations on the paper before submitting it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ruby Tuesday

Today the first productive thing I did was drop of laundry at the laundromat. Then I made it to the office to fill out more endless letters of recommendation. I still have students who graduated in 2011 and took the first class I ever taught here coming to ask for reference letters. It seems most of my former students want to become lawyers although given the complete lack of enforcement of law here I am not sure how that will work.

Most of the day I spent working on a book chapter on the Soviet mass campaigns of arrest and expulsion of ethnic Chinese from the Soviet Far East during 1936-1938. I didn't get lunch until after three in the afternoon as a result. I had a chicken shawarma. Like all other food here it was Africanized meaning made spicy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Munchy Monday

Today I got up and had a hearty breakfast of three bananas, a bowl of ramen noodles flavored with ketchup, soy sauce, and hot sauce, and a couple slices of bread with ketchup washed down with tea. I then took the tro tro to Madina and transferred to one going to Legon. I walked the rest of the way from Bush Canteen to my office. Once at my office I had a number of students show asking for one of two things. Either they still hadn't gotten their mid-term exam back or in two cases they wanted me to write them letters of reference for a history department scholarship that is due next week. I got both of the letters done today, but one I didn't get printed off until late because by the time the former student got to my office it was lunch time.

At lunch I first attempted to go to the housing office in the hopes I could catch them before they went to lunch. This attempt failed. I arrived at an empty office. I then ate some jollof rice and sausage and called my wife before making a second attempt. This attempt was much more successful and I found out what I need to do at least as a first step to renew my housing subsidy for next academic year. Then I walked over to the All Needs Market and purchased some beverages and an ice cream. It is both good and bad that the campus is so huge. It is good in that all the walking got me off the high blood pressure medicine and is probably lowering my cholesterol. It is bad in that it takes an incredible amount of time. Some days I walk upward of five kilometers at work.

After arriving back at the office I wrote out by hand the final exam questions for my European History class. The exam will be on May 9th. Then I did the same for half of the questions for my Aspects of World History, 1945 to Present. That exam is May 18th. I may finish them tonight. But, I got interrupted by the food lady bringing ground nut soup, tilapia, and rice. In retrospect given the size of breakfast and the fact I had both a mid-afternoon and early evening meal it is probably good that I had to walk down to housing and back twice today. Otherwise I might start looking like a moving fufu.

Friday, April 22, 2016

End of Classes for the Semester

Today and yesterday I finished teaching my last classes of the semester. Today I had a class at city campus in Accra and yesterday I had a class at the main campus in Legon or as we call it "the village." So now there are a couple of weeks until my final exams. I have one on May 9th and one on May 18th.

Some Good News

Yesterday, I know I am again behind, I got some good news. I have only ever had one PhD student in any of my classes. An African-American woman took my graduate course on race and ethnicity before leaving UG due to a number of factors. She is extremely talented academically and an excellent writer. After leaving UG to return to the US she spent some time looking for a new PhD program. I wrote six recommendation letters for programs for her plus one for a scholarship. It turns out she got into her first choice school and got the scholarship which covers three years of tuition and living expenses. So even if nobody in the US ever takes me seriously as an academic I hold out the hope that some of my students will be accorded that respect.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Yesterday I couldn't post this because the power went out again. So I am posting it today. But, the events all refer to Wednesday. At 9:30 am I oversaw our last departmental seminar of the semester. We had a guest lecturer from Winneba talk about pedagogy today. This provoked a lively discussion among the National Service Personnel in the audience, most of whom had been students just a year ago. This was followed by another emergency meeting in which I got stuck being seminar coordinator for next year. In fact they named me seminar coordinator for life. But, I did get rid of my seat on academic board after two years finally.

I then finished up grading my mid-terms for European history, ate some waakye provided free by the head of department, and took a walk. After that I called my wife and spoke to my five year old daughter. Her Russian has gotten really good. It is her second language. Her first language is Kyrgyz which I don't speak very much of at all. She even threw in some English phrases for my benefit. She asked about her grandparents a lot.

The rest of the afternoon I spent doing minor tasks that took way too long. One was writing a reference letter for a former student applying for funding for graduate studies. The letter itself did not take long to write. However, getting the printer to work took a long time. I had to reinstall the HP printer program because I updated to Windows 10 a while ago.

The second task I still have not finished. I am searching for a suitable journal to send a revised version of the paper I presented in Jerusalem. I originally sent it to The Russian Review but they rejected it on the basis that they had just published an article by me on ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II which is fair enough. So far I haven't decided on where to resend the manuscript. Any suggestions are greatly welcomed and should be included in the comments.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday again

Today I had my last 7:30 am class of the semester. It had three parts. In the first part I went over the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the second part I went over what would be covered on the final exam. Finally, in the third part we discussed what the students liked about the class and their suggestions for improving the class in the future. They evidently really liked hearing about the 20th century from a living fossil that grew up during the Cold War. Their suggestions included more visual aids and slower speaking due to my thick American accent. Overall the class went well this semester. African students seem a lot more capable of learning than American ones from everything I can see on the Internet.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Just another Monday in Africa

Today I got off to a slow start again. I managed to get to the university a little before 11 am. Before I left somebody from the Adenta Municipal Assembly left a property tax notice. The flat owners owe 168 GH in taxes. I called my land lady and told her and she said to drop it by her old office. She retired from working at the university recently. Then I got a taxi to work since I was ferrying laundry to the laundromat. The university security guards don't let taxis drop passengers off by the main gate anymore so I had to walk a lot more than I anticipated.

After getting to work and dropping off laundry which has recently increased in price from 10 GH to 15 GH I checked my e-mail. I had one rejection from a journal. I need to figure someplace to resend that particular piece. I then called the immigration officer at International House and asked if he was in his office. He was. So I took my passport, a bunch of forms, and $300 US to get my work and residency permit renewed. Shortly after returning to my office the power went out as it does almost every Monday.

Lacking electricity I ate a quick lunch of jollof and cabbage, called my wife in Kygyzstan, and then walked down to a small store to buy some beverages. Then I kept walking down Danquah in the heat until I got to the Kwame Nkrumah Complex and went in to steal cool air from the Institute of African Studies. They have generators and unlimited amounts of diesel to run them unlike the history department which has nothing.

After a while I felt okay enough to make it across the field to JQB and browse in the bookstore. Prices for everything except labor have gotten really high recently. Most of the books were running between 80 and 200 GH which is equivalent to $20-$50. Since prices for everything keep skyrocketing while wages and salaries for the vast majority of the population including university lecturers remain absolutely stagnant the standard of living is dropping fast in Ghana. The middle class is evaporating much faster here than in the US.

Finally, I decided there were no books in the store worth the prices being demanded so I walked back to the history department. On the way I discovered that electricity had returned. It was only out for a couple of hours which is a big improvement from the 24 lights out followed by only 12 hours of power we had for a couple of years here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


To answer derRach's question I am currently working on a couple of projects. The one that is undoubtedly of most interest to him is a book manuscript on the history of Russian Germans in the USSR with an emphasis on Central Asia. It has been coming along slowly for a number of reasons including the fact that books count very little for promotion here. A book currently only equals three peer reviewed journal articles. I also have a couple of shorter pieces on ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan currently being considered for publication.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


It is on days like this that I wish there was still a place that served real coffee somewhere near campus. The Maxmart across the road used to have a nice cafe that served good Turkish coffee. But, now the only thing in close proximity is that awful Nescafe.

Saturday Morning

Okay this marks the finish of a week of posts on my everyday life. It did not elicit much interest so I am not sure if I am going to continue it. Life in poor countries is generally either boring or terrifying. There is very little good excitement or romantic adventure. So I am okay with the boring. But, I don't think it really makes interesting reading material for other people.

Today I went to the Mighty Jesus Supermarket to buy some stuff and found my balcony filled with the kids from across the way selling fruits and vegetables. I ended up buying two bunches of bananas and five pineapples for 30 GH to get rid of them. I successfully argued for not buying the coco yam leaves because I did not know how to cook them.

After the departure of the fruit vendors I ate a pineapple, some bananas and two slices of bread washed down with a bottle of liquid yogurt, a can of Malta, and a glass of banana and strawberry juice. Then I decided to go to campus just to get away from my flat.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday morning

This morning I took a while to get out of my flat. I decided to have cold pizza for breakfast before coming to campus. I purchased two from the food lady at work yesterday. There is still one in my refrigerator. After I got to the office I graded 18 mid-terms for my class at city campus which is in an hour and a half. Now I just have one more class of mid-terms to finish grading. I have gotten so I can do these things pretty fast. Most students get in the B and B+ range. Those few that stick out as exceptional get an A. Unfortunately, there is no longer a grade of A- here. Then there are those that stick out as showing little or no reading of the assignments. They get lower grades. But, fortunately I haven't had any truly bad essays yet this semester. Most students get most of the basic information down.


Today we had a departmental meeting this morning. It  had one big surprise which I can't go into here. We also were assigned our classes for next year. I have six classes next year related in large part to the surprise alluded to above. I have a section of Early Modern European History at main campus (the village) and one at city campus in Accra. I also have Aspects of World History, 1914-1945 at both campuses. Finally, I have History of Europe 1789-1945 for distance learning. On top of these five undergraduate courses I also have a graduate course on the history of race and ethnicity again after a year long break. Fortunately, I have taught all three of these classes multiple times before so the preparation time will be limited.

This afternoon I finished up the last lecture for History of Europe, 1789-1945 for this semester. I covered World War II today. I started on 23 August 1939 with the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact and went up to 9 May 1945 with the defeat of Nazi Germany. Next week I will finish up my lectures in my two class sections on Aspects of World History, 1945 to Present Day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Today I chaired the penultimate seminar of the semester. Today the three first year MPhil students presented short introductions to their research. This year in addition to two Ghanaian students we have a post-graduate student from Slovenia. I was a little worried about time because there were three presenters. But, they managed to stay within the 90 minutes allocated weekly to the seminar.

I returned to the archives today. I found out that the faculty of science used to have a couple of big boats. It sold the last one that I know about in 1984 after somebody stole 80% of its engine parts and the entire gear box.

The food lady came around today with fried tilapia, banku, and pepper. I like the taste of this dish and I have gotten used to the fact that you can't do anything else while eating it because your right hand becomes covered in sticky banku, but I wish all fish could be like shark and be boneless.


Today I had to get up early to teach my 7:30 am class on the Cold War and return their mid-term exams. I covered the late Cold War period with an emphasis on the Soviet war in Afghanistan today. Next week is the last lecture where we cover the end of the Cold War the the break up of the USSR into its component republics. When I got back to the office the department head had a free meal of jollof rice, chicken, and fried plantains for me. It was an unexpected gift. But, it was mighty tasty.

Most of the afternoon I spent at the library going through university archives as part of a departmental project. I came across over 100 documents on how the university administration denied any funds for hiring new staff or promoting old members in the faculty of the sciences from 1966 to 1973. In 1968 the dean began a concerted effort to have this situation reviewed and funding provided for promotion and new hires. Only after they began to lose all of their science faculty and technicians to other institutions due to the lack of promotion at Legon did the administration finally relent and agree to provide funding to give raises. That was in 1972. The following year they funded the hiring of new people in the faculty of sciences for the first time in eight years. The sixties and seventies are  often portrayed as a golden age for higher education in the US. But, in Ghana they certainly were not.

I then returned to the office and wasted time talking to national service people and graduate students for about an hour. After that I noticed the food lady outside and picked up some ground nut soup, chicken, and rice. Interestingly enough I eat a lot more rice in Africa than I did when I lived in Asia. There I ate a lot more bread than I eat here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Monday

Today I got off to a slow start. I didn't get out of my flat until after 10 am. I skipped the tro tro because I found a taxi willing to take me to campus for 15 GH. Once I got to campus I went and got a haircut and beard trim. My barber operates out of a section of converted shipping container behind the Legon campus in a small bazaar called "Bush Canteen." After getting my hair and beard shorn from the Karl Marx look to the Vladimir Lenin look I went and got some passport photos taken. You can never have too many of these photos since all kinds of official forms require them.

For a change we had electricity at work today so I was able to get some work done even though I got off to a late start. After checking my e-mail I went across the street and had a big plate of jollof. Then I came back to the office and graded all of the mid-term exams for my class on the Cold War. In total there were 51 tests. Midway through grading them the food lady came by to sell me a bunch of coconut cookies and a meal of rice with chicken and tomato sauce and carrots. It didn't include any utensils so I had to eat it African style with my right hand.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

One Sunday in my life

Well it seems my three readers think I should write more on everyday life here in Ghana. Although to be perfectly honest life in poor countries is not very exciting despite being romanticized in the US and Europe. You are limited in what you can do when you don't have electricity for instance.

But, it is something I can write about. Today I got up early and went to church. The English language service of the Presbyterian church I attend starts at 7:00 am. It is supposed to be finished by 8:30 am but almost always runs late, especially on days like today when we take Holy Communion. So I got up at 6:00 am and managed to get out the door by 6:30 am and walked to church. Ghanaians tend to get up very early in the morning. At 5:30 am there is a shoe repair man banging on his tool box in the courtyard of our apartment complex. So by 6:30 am on Sunday there are lots of people already wondering about. I got to church ten minutes early today.

The churches in Ghana are the one thing that seem to work well because Ghanaians actually do believe in them. Everybody outside the 20% Muslim minority from the north is a member of a church and all of them even mainstream denominations like the Presbyterians would be considered a fundamentalist and evangelical church by US standards. That of course doesn't stop the much larger Pentecostal denomination or the Jehovahs' Witnesses from trying to convert you. But, I do find it annoying to have to tell people almost daily that I already found Jesus and accepted him as my savior. Are there not heathens in Osu or Cantonments that need converting?

After church I had some ramen noodles. I buy Indomie which is an Indonesian brand that is popular here and fortified with some vitamins and other nutrients. They are manufactured for the West African market in a factory in Nigeria because Ghana produces almost nothing. I flavored them with hot sauce, soy sauce, and ketchup. All also imported. Then I did some reading.

On Sunday afternoons my cleaning lady comes. I pay her 200 GH ($50) a month and she comes once a week for about three to four hours to clean up my flat. On an hourly basis I pay her almost as much as I make which I think is fair. I obviously can't afford to pay much more. Usually, like today, I take a nap on the couch in the living room while she cleans.

After Eve finished cleaning my flat I went to the Mighty Jesus Supermarket around the corner and purchased a can of Coke, a can of Malta, and a bottle of sobolo. I then went to the phone credit vendor and purchased 50 GH of MTN credit. I got a bonus of 2 GH credit today. I then called my wife in Kyrgyzstan which used up about 15 GH. Then I walked home.

The rest of the day included another nap and finally finishing up the latest Jo Nesbo novel I have been reading. Sundays might be my most laid back day of the week since other than going to church I generally don't do much other than sleep and eat. I can also stay up late since I have no classes scheduled on Mondays this semester.

Annual Reader Survey

If I have any readers left now might be a good time for you to express your opinion of what I should do to bring this blog back to life. Or is it a hopeless cause?

First Steps

I am thinking about trying to revive this blog from its current nearly comatose condition. I am not exactly sure what I could do to attract any readers. But, obviously the first step in reanimating the blog is to start putting up some posts.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Random Economic Thoughts

Today I went to the new supermarket in Adenta, Shop and Save. Western style grocery stores are still a rarity in Ghana. Until the opening a couple weeks ago of the Shop and Save the nearest supermarket to me was in the Accra Mall half way between the university and the airport. It seems like it took forever to build the new supermarket. But, now that it is done there is another small piece of modernity in the Greater Accra area.

After I came home I finished reading Mira Kamdar's Planet India. In the last thirty years India has made incredible strides in modernization. Indian manufactured goods like cars, trucks, and tractors are everywhere here in Ghana. I don't think I have ever seen one of the few cars or trucks actually built in Ghana. The skyrocket in Indian production of goods not only for their domestic use but export has been nothing short of amazing. If you told me in the 1980s that India would be a major exporter of cars and trucks I would not have believed you. I think one of the big differences between India and Ghana that allows the former to be much more economically successful is attitude. Indians believe in their products and they themselves buy them. Most Ghanaians seem to believe that imports are by definition better than local products and refuse to buy things made in Ghana. If not even Ghanaians will buy Ghanaian manufactured goods how can anybody expect foreigners to buy them? They will just say "not even Ghanaians think their products are any good." India doesn't have that mindset.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Russian Review Article Link

It appears that you can get an electronic copy of my article "The Persecution of Ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II", The Russian Review, 75 (April 2016): 284-303 at this link provided by the publisher. I am not sure if everybody can get access to the Wiley site or not. It may only be available through institutional access. Let me know if it works or not for you in the comments. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could access an electronic version of the publication at all this early. Feel free to leave any commentary, criticism, or questions about the article in the comments below.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Random Musings

I know that updates on this blog have been really infrequent this year. Other than announcing new publications I feel I am running out of things I can write in the blog format. I suppose I would have been more motivated to write more entries if I ever got any comments. But, those largely ceased about a decade ago. I feel I should probably write something about my brief trip to Jerusalem last month where I participated in an academic conference. However, I was there for such a short period of time I really did not get to see much other than the campus of Hebrew University. I need to go back so I can see some of the actual city.