Wednesday, 11 June 2014

''It is hard to just meet people and make friends because everyone thinks you can help them come to America''-Meet Exchange student Derek Deneri

On our very first interview on the new segment LivINGhana I talk to  Derek Deneri, an American exchange student in Ghana. He is from New Jersey and decided to spend one semester at the university of Ghana because  he was always curious about experiencing African Culture.

His top picks were Ghana and South Africa but chose the former because he felt he would get a more authentic african experience in Ghana.

Enjoy the interview!

TAC: Hi, Derek. Great meeting you
DD: Great meeting you too!

TAC: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
DD: Well, I come from New Jersey and I am a 3rd year college student. My school encourages us to go on study abroad programs and because African Studies is my minor in college, I decided to come live in Africa for a semester.
TAC: Oh Great. So why Ghana?
DD: Well, the top choice for me was between Ghana and South Africa but I wanted a country that would give me opportunity to experience the unadulterated African culture and I felt Ghana was my best bet

TAC: So how has the experience been?
DD: Well, for starters it is a lot different. But then again I had an idea of what to expect so I was mentally prepared and as such a lot of things did not shock me. 
TAC: What do you find different about living in Ghana
DD: The biggest difference for me has been the food and having to deal with people's reaction to my sexuality. I am a vegan and it's been difficult trying to live on a vegan diet in Ghana as most foods are accompanied by meat. Also it has been very hard not being open about my sexuality(I am gay) because people are not receptive towards gays.

TAC: Can you tell me more about your bad experiences with regards to people's reaction to your sexuality?
DD: There was this time I went to the club with my friend. We were dancing together and you know hanging out and having a good time. When we came out there were a group of guys who started to heckle us. They told us to give them money otherwise they would report us to the Police. At the end we had to pay them off to ensure our safety. It was a scary and sad experience for me. I was sad because I realised other gay Ghanaian men would have to deal with this their entire life. At least for me this would not be my reality.

TAC: Wow that was not right. I am really sorry that you had to go through that. However have you been able to make new friends?
DD: Yes. I have met a lot of people. It is just that sometimes it is hard to make genuine friends because whenever you meet new people, a few minutes into the conversation and they would be asking for your help to get a Visa or and american girlfriend or a job
TAC: That is funny
DD: Yeah it happens all the time. Like I have no idea of the American visa process and I don't own a business back in America to be giving out jobs.

TAC: So do you get hit on by girls
DD: All the time. Actually we were told that if anyone asks to be our girlfriend we should just tell them that we are married back home. The thing is some girls will tell you they don't mind and that we could keep them as the Ghanaian wife. It's always hilarious when I get such approaches
TAC: Which kind of girls approach you with this proposal
DD: You know, its mostly when we go out, maybe the girls serving or some of the girls around flirt a lot and tell us to marry them. Hahaha...

TAC: What do you miss most about your life in America
DD: The internet!!!! Getting fast internet is a big deal here. We do have free wifi in our hostel but it is slow. I can't watch a video without experiencing buffering and that can be very frustrating. I also miss my family and my boyfriend and I miss that I can easily make vegan dishes. Also there isn't much to do around here for fun. Sometimes I just want a nice place to hangout that is gay friendly but it is hard to find a place like that.

TAC: WHat will you miss about Ghana when you leave?
DD: I will miss that I can buy anything in traffic. I could literally do all my shopping without having to get out of the car. Also I have tried some of the local food and I do love it. I tried 'Koose' which is a great snack.
I would also miss the culture and the experience of living in a different country.

TAC: Thank you for talking to me and I do hope that you continue to enjoy your stay in Ghana
DD: Thank you!

This is a new segment and I hope to add more interviews eventually. If there are any questions you would like me to ask kindly drop in the comment section.


  1. Change the background of your blog, it hurts the eyes, be consistent or lose followers, delete your twitter account if you don't need it, anyone can jump on it and run it, and I bet you know what that means. Hope all is well and by the way, who is Georgina mensa bonsu?

  2. Well the thing about having fun is finding the right spots. Anything is possible anywhere but expecting to find a gay friendly bar in west Africa is like looking for a specific red ball in a sea of red balls. I agree that it can be a tad bit annoying being vegan in Africa especially with the allowances. But surprisingly its not that difficult. I made a particular Nigerian meal for a vegan friend and all I had to do was remove meat products. So at the end of the day it really isn't that hard to be vegan in Africa. So as to choosing Ghana over SA, good choice!!!