Did you know that the Lonely Planet listed Accra as the number 2…worst city in the world to live? I tell this to Greg who has lived or visited an enormous number of places with his wife and two daughters. He was not surprised. This confirms his decision to only remain in Ghana for two years in comparison to his six in Japan, four in Romania and three in Tasmania. Nevertheless I am going to miss the adversity. Sounds strange? Common knowledge; challenging situations bring us closer together and form strong bonds, unachievable in lives filled with creature comforts where our everyday needs are an afterthought. Am I happy I am leaving? Yes. And yet…

In February we went to a beach side hotel about 100 km from here. It takes us 7 hours to get there. (Amy told this story but here is my slant on it).

10 AM– Allegra, Amy and I pack our bags and go outside to find a taxi. Sarah stays in Accra for a basketball tournament. We find a taxi. “You know where Kaneshi market is?” “Yes boss.” “How much?” “Ten cedis.” I give him my best frown letting him know I am not green. I’ll pay you five? He feigns amazement. You pay me eight. I say no thanks and give him a dismissive wave, looking down the road for the next taxi. He pulls over and we haggle finally agreeing on six. Some of the harder expats don’t even negotiate. They get in the cab and pay what they think is appropriate when they arrive at their destination. Methinks this is disrespectful so I like to agree up front. We get in and begin the first leg of our journey. Taxi drivers all take a slightly different route to get there depending on the time of day and day of the week. This day takes us over rutted dirt roads and we pass over the railroad tracks where there is an old man and perhaps his grandson, manning a gate. The taxi driver pays 10 peswas (7 cents) and gets a receipt, a crumpled piece of paper saying “Thank you for supporting the community improvement project”. My guess is that this self-created authority is another entrepreneurial survival tactic, for there is clearly no improvement to the community here. The gate goes up and we navigate a bewildering number of streets and turns pushing our way across intersections where everyone uses their horns to vie for right-of-way.

10:45– We arrive at the bustling marketplace 5 km from our house. There are street stalls filled with underwear, deodorant, handkerchiefs, dusting cloths, a variety of street food; banku, fufu, meat pies, and the omnipresent cheap plastic toys from China. Baskets and buckets atop heads are filled with water sachets, gum, pants, plantain chips. We alight from the taxi next to a modern air-conditioned bus where throngs are queuing up. Across the street is the state run bus where you can buy a ticket for 7.50 cedis that departs according to a schedule. This was our choice of transport the first time we left Accra in November but now we play things fast and loose. This bus is private enterprise. They charge 7 cedis ($4.75) and leave when they are full. It is all luck of the draw. We just miss the last full bus. Good news; we get our choice of seats. Bad news; we wait. But the adventure of the trip is in getting there. While the bus fills, a total of 13 kaiyiyo (ladies selling sundry items), some with babies strapped to their backs climb aboard selling Tigo phone credits, water, food, shampoo, cigars and cologne. Once the bus fills, they depart.

11:00– We are underway. The TV screens are blaring bad Nigerian soap operas for a few minutes until the preacher begins his sermon. There is none of this on the government run bus. I think this is how the private groups charge 50 peswas less. They have the preachers make up the difference who attempt to collect it from those riders who are in need of soul saving. I am sitting next to a Ghanaian woman showing a lot of cleavage, not a problem for me at all. She is in her late twenties and very nicely dressed. Women here are quite liberated compared to the rest of Africa. Amy and Allegra are snuggled in the seats across the aisle. Allegra listens to her iPod while Amy is already snoozing away.  I am so envious of her narcoleptic proclivities.

2:00– We pull into a rest stop. A bunch of men and women make their way to the “bathroom”; a series of cinderblock stalls with a narrow gutter. Amy can’t aim her pee in there so she has an open-air experience.

2:30– Back on the bus. We arrive in Takoradi at 3:40 and sit in traffic for nearly an hour. My relaxed demeanor has fully succumbed to frustration as I begin hurling invectives mostly in the direction of Amy. In all fairness if someone else was sitting close by they would have been the unlucky victim…

4:30– We get off the bus and are accosted by aggressive taxi drivers. I tell them to back off. I find one that looks reasonable. We negotiate the price until neither of us is satisfied; that is when you know it is about right. We drive along blacktop for half an hour. We see the sign to Fanta’s Folly, which is 12 km down a dirt road. I don’t think the driver knew this.  Finally the road gets so bad that I feel sorry for the poor guy’s car. Amy and I agree, much to Allegra’s chagrin, that we walk the remaining distance (1 km). We pass by a dozen locals playing football on a grass soccer pitch. They don’t seem too interested in us although a bunch of Obroni walking along a dirt path past small villages is a bit weird.

5:30 pm– We have arrived. The ocean is calm and beautiful. And to think we are 100 km from Accra and it took 7 hours to get here. It is ALL about the journey. One thing is for sure; this one has stretched me into uncomfortable and useful places. That sums up my year here in Ghana.

Advertisements