For prospective traveling Ghanaian football fans, please watch Frontline

One of the longest queues in Ghana is the one that forms daily at the US Embassy.  (The embassy prohibits taking photos around its premises.)  Many Ghanaians show up to apply for visas to visit the US. Though the office opens at 8am, I’m sure Ghanaians begin lining up much earlier.  Many Ghanaians are dressed in their Sunday best hoping that the impression they make will make a difference in their application.  For many Ghanaians, the US remains the “land of opportunity.”

As an American observer, I often think that obtaining a visa to the US must be one of the most difficult things for the average Ghanaian.  The State Department officials wearily listen to all the reasons why the Ghanaian in front of them must be the one from their company to visit the US.  

It seems the State Department has something to worry about.  After the World Cup in Brazil this summer, 200 Ghanaian football fans visiting Brazil requested asylum as “Muslims fleeing inter-religious conflicts in their home country.”  As Sammy Darko of the BBC article notes, “[Ghana] has no recorded religious conflict.” Nonetheless, the Brazilian government still must weigh their applications — thus, giving many of these football fans time to disappear into the Brazilian landscape.  Unsurprisingly, recently the Canadian government rejected another contingent of Ghanaian football fans’ applications for visas to watch the Ghanaian Black Princesses — the female football squad — play in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

For prospective Ghanaian football fans, I suggest you do a little more research on the economic prospects of the countries you want to escape into.  Without the proper training and legal work status, the US/Canada/Brazil can pose a challenging place to make a living.  Heck, even with legal work status, the US can be a daunting place to work.

Two American Families

Last night I watched Frontline’s “Two American Families.” The 83-minute piece follows a white and a black family’s life from 1992 to 2012.  The purpose was to observe how the economy had changed for the middle class in the traditional manufacturing town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Both couples had, at least, three children and both couples had no more than a high school education.  

Prior to 1992, the three parents who worked all were employed at the Briggs and Stratton plant in Milwaukee; however, after the plant closed, getting by became a great challenge.  

I encourage anyone interested in moving to America to watch the show.  Heck, I encourage anyone interested in getting married to watch.

For those who cannot, I’ll provide a summary.  Basically, all the parents could not find constant work during the twenty years and witnessed their hourly salaries drop by half.  It seemed that both families were making a combined income of less than $40,000.  (In America, incomes are quoted annually on a pre-tax basis.  For the uninitiated, the net income after taxes, rent, and living expenses on $40K is practically zero.)  One of the wives had to go to work to help support the family.  

Many of the children did not have the supervision they needed.  For some children, it led to teenage pregnancy which resulted in dropping out of high school.  This suggested that these children would also endure difficult lives. For other children, some were able to go to college or join the military. This offered some hope for the next generation.

Watching the show, I was moved by the extent to which the parents tried every which way to survive.  It seemed clear that neither family had much savings and were basically living paycheck to paycheck.  

Looking back, many of the lessons were clear:

  • Having a “useful” university degree — preferrably in science or engineering — seems essential for getting ahead
  • Children need a strong father figure in their lives to stay on a good path
  • Two incomes seem necessary for raising a family
  • Life will throw setbacks at you — be prepared

And raised a couple of questions:

  • If Milwaukee was difficult, could they have moved to a better metropolitan area?
  • Was it possible for either of these parents to have obtained their GED (high school equivalency) or a more useful skill set?

Again, I encourage anyone thinking about raising a family in the US to watch this documentary.  It offers an idea of how difficult living in America can be.

Related: Hardest Places to Live in America

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