A Tro Tro Story

“Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LaPaz, LaPaz, LaPaz.” “Haatso.” “Accra, Accra, Accra.” LaPaz.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!”  “LaPaz, LaPaz, LaPaz.” “Haatso.” “Accra, Accra, Accra.” LaPaz.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!”  

“Obruni, where are you going?”

“Haatso down.”

“No.”

😦

“LaPaz, LaPaz, LaPaz.” “Accra! Accra!” LaPaz.” “Circ! Circ!”  “Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!” “Accra!  Accra! Accra!”  “Haatso.”

 Someone said Haatso!  🙂

“Haatso down?”

“No.  Go over there.” 

😦

“Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!” “Accra! Accra! Accra!”  “LaPaz! LaPaz! LaPaz!” “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

….oh my goodness…. :S

 “Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LaPaz, LaPaz, LaPaz.” “Accra.” LaPaz.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

“Obruni, where are you going?”

“Haatso down.  Carpentry.”

“No.” and he gives me the universal dismissal signal as he starts shouting once more “Accra! Accra! Accra!”

“I am also going there,” says a tall, dark and handsome stranger standing to my left.

“Haatso down?”

“Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LePasse, LePasse, LePasse.” “Haatso.” “Accra.” LePasse.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LePasse!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

“Yes.”

“Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LePasse, LePasse, LePasse.” “Haatso.” “Accra.” LePasse.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LePasse!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

“May I wait with you?”

“Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LePasse, LePasse, LePasse.” “Haatso.” “Accra.” LePasse.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LePasse!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

“Yes.”

“Thank you.  Meda ase.”

He talks to me about how he travels to Haatso and some of the options and since I cannot hear him well above all the clamour, I pay attention, try to catch a few words, nod and smile.

His 6 foot plus height makes it easy for him to see beyond the surrounding commotion.  His native ear makes it easier for him to listen for what he needs to hear through the incessant shouting. 

“Accra, Accra, Accra.”  “LaPaz, LaPaz, LaPaz.” “Haatso.” “Accra.” LaPaz.” “Circ, Circ.”  “Accra!” “LaPaz!” “ Circ!”  “Accra!  Accra! Accra!” 

His ears perk up and he signals to me, “Come” and so, I follow.

Weaving through the throng of people is challenging when you are wearing a loaded back pack.  It is so crowded.  My new friend stops and I catch up and stand beside him.  We are now at the back of the crowd…so to speak.  It is hot and I hope my sunscreen is working as it drips into my eyes.

Within minutes, my new friend is on the move again and I am happy he is over six feet tall and wearing a bright yellow golf shirt.  I lose him momentarily as he dodges between Tro Tros and instinctively he seems to notice because I catch a glance of him again.  He has stopped and is looking behind for me.  I think I am easy to spot! LOL! 🙂

He waits for me at the Tro Tro door and offers for me to enter first, again I thank him and take one of the seats.  He pops in beside me and since Tro Tros only depart when they are full we are barely seated when  the Tro Tro jerks ahead and departs.  It is before the rush hour…although I think at the Tro Tro junctions it is always rush hour!  🙂  The very kind folks I am working with at Pamoja Ghana have suggested that I leave early so that it is easier for me to travel back to the hotel and today I am thankful for their suggestion.  They are taking good care of me, God Bless them. 

Each Tro Tro has a mate.  The mate is the one who does all the shouting at the junctions to let people know where the Tro Tro is going.  He also calls the route out to folks standing by the side of the road along the way in case they are awaiting the Tro Tro.  He has the seat beside the sliding door and pops in and out , in and out and back in, oftentimes swinging from or hanging onto the door frame or the frame of the open window. 

You pay the mate.  He asks you where you are going and will collect the appropriate fee.  For me, it is 35 pesawas from Adenta to Medina and 40 pesawas from Medina to Haatso Carpentry Shop.  So, 75 pesawas total or about 50 cents.  Affordable public transportation.  Hot, yes, but affordable so used by many.

Our mate starts collecting fares and I have my fare ready.  As I go to pass my coins, my new friend says, “I already pay for you.” 

I look at him and offer him my coins.  “I have money, I can pay.  Please take this.”

“No, it’s good.  I pay for you.”

“Medaase.”

“You are welcome.”

Only moments later, my friends says something to the mate which I do not understand.  The Tro Tro stops and my friend is on the move “I will alight.”  And so as he gets up, I thank him again.  “Medaase.  God bless you.”   He smiles at me.

As he lands on the road, the mate calls “away”, and we are off again.  I wave and my friend waves back.  He has put me safe on my way.  He has used what little money he has to pay my way.  I may never see him again in this city of 3 million people.  And, for the first time since arriving in Accra I have a tears in my eyes.

Advertisements

Haatso to Adenta: the drive to work

Some random pictures from the drive to work,  Haatso to Adenta in Greater Accra, Ghana.

This first picture says a lot about Accra.  The name of the shop on the right is “thy will be done”.  Many of the shops have names with religious meaning.  Ghanaians are very strong in their faith and they live their faith every day.  In the upper right in the distance, is a poly tank – used to hold water.  On the left, is a typical store you will find along the road, some specialize (Shoes, bags, clothes, furniture, etc.) while others appear more like the typical corner store we would be familiar with, albeit smaller.

Here is a furniture store….all beds appear to be king sized!

 

The University of Ghana is a substantial property and includes a botanical garden which I have yet to visit but pass each day as I travel to and from Adenta for work.  I think it is so cool the way this building is built…the design makes it appear as if it is collapsing.  My plan is to visit the gardens before I leave.

The hardest thing about the trip to work is the traffic.  Here is the traffic one morning at Riss Junction (which is on the Accra – Adenta Road…and if you read my blog regularly you know that is not the real name of the road. LOL!).  All of the pictures are from the same junction, different directions.

Yes, the road is under construction, and to keep traffic off the new road they lay down nail strips.  In sections where there are no nail strips, the traffic will travel.  One morning we drove on this new road, following a grader as it dodged oncoming traffic. Not sure I would want to hold the flags.

The vans you see in the pictures are the Tro Tros.  More about Tro Tros will come in a later post.  There are also sellers at every Junction and whereever there is traffic congestion.  You can buy anything from the comfort of your car.  The most interesting thing we have seen so far is the Ab Exerciser!

Lanes?  Yah, no…well sort of.  Potholes, plenty.  My friends at Landmard Geographic Solutions would be kept extremely busy plotting all the potholes in Accra…another reason traffic flows so slowly.

For those who have left me comments about my blog, I thank you.  I am truly pleased that you are enjoying it. 

Some of you have asked about providing financial support.  I thank you!  There will more to come on that at a later time. Stay tuned!

 

 

Aburi Botanical Gardens, Ghana

More pictures from Aburi Botanical Gardens in Ghana.  Well worth the trip.  Enjoy!

This tree was very cool.  What to do with a tree that is dead…

 

All that remained of the tree was carved!

 

 

And, the following is not really a tree…

It is actually a parasite weed that travels on animals or in the wind and when it catches in a tree (usually at the junction of two branches) it starts to grow around a branch, and will strangle that branch.  It continues to grow to the ground and will root, stealing nutrition and water from the host tree.  It eventually grows around the host tree and strangles it slowly (over a period of years).  The dead parts of the host tree is then eaten by termites.  this results in a hollow tree and when you walk in side, the hollow is the size of the original host tree that is no more.

Aburi Botanical Gardens, just north of Accra…another reason to visit Ghana.

 

Today I feel like Mickey Mouse

Children stare up at me wide eyed.   I smile and wave at them.  Their eyes sparkle as joy sweeps across their faces and they burst into a huge smile and wave enthusiastically.  Some call out to me… Obruni!

A pair of boys, sitting in the dirt under the stall where you can buy street food, play.  They spot during my walk at lunch and start waving and calling to me so that I see them.  I stop, crouch down with a hand on one knee, wave and give them big smiles.  As I walk past their cart, they lose sight of me behind the table cloth hanging down the front of the stall and I believe they think I am gone since the waving and giggling stops.  Moments later, as my legs appear on the other side of the cloth they start calling to me again, laughing and waving.  I turn, crouch down again and wave to them,  They are so happy, two little boys playing in the dirt. 

Continuing on my way, I meet a colleague who is out to buy some bananas for her lunch. I turn and walk with her, which of course means passing by the two little boys again, and this time I beat them to the greeting as I lean down and wave and smile at them.  And then they see me.  They are so very happy and wave enthusiastically still calling my name.  My friend says, ” You know they are there.”  “Yes, I have passed by here already and they greeted me.”  We laugh together. 

After work, I start on my way to catching the Tro Tro, and as I pass by a parked and most likely broken down vehicle on our lane, two children call to me….Obruni!  I smile and wave and they return the smile and wave and wave and wave.  I am well past them and they call to me again and I turn and wave.  As I near the end of the road and start to turn, I hear the shouts again as the little boys call out to me for the final time knowing that I will soon be out of their site and so we exchange our final greeting of the day.

After a tiring Tro Tro ride back to the hotel, I turn onto the side street towards the hotel entrance, and wave at the children in the corner stall.  These children greet my friends and I every time we return and they are there and so we always greet them.  Today I pause as I wave and the oldest girl skips towards me.  Not to be out done, the littlest one, still waddling in diapers and unable to speak English (as far as I can tell) runs over at full speed, which of course is waddling full speed.  The mother in me checks both ways for traffic and we all know that there is little traffic on this side street so everyone is safe.  I smile at the older girl and ask how she is today.  She is good.  “What is your name.”  “My name is Giften.”  “Nice to meet you Giften, my name is Maureen.”  She smiles at me as I say hello to the little one, who is too young to talk to me but none-the-less intrigued with my presence.  We all smile at each other for a moment until the little one scurries back to the market stall and Giften turns to continue her skipping along a dirt path that cuts through the rubble. And so I bid her a good day before continuing on my way.

Today, the children made my day.  I wonder if this is how Mickey Mouse feels.

REFLECT in action

Hi,

REFLECT practitioners worldwide are doing great work on sustainable development through various initiatives.  For example, Pamoja Ghana recently completed a project that educated women in Ghana about their right to vote.

The following link will take you to other examples of initiatives related to women’s rights and the first story involved the organization I am currently volunteering with through Leave for Change, Pamoja Ghana, …very interesting,

http://www.reflect-action.org/womensrights

Knowledge and education can change the world.

Maureen

Aburi Botanical Gardens, Ghana

It took me over two hours to get there by Tro Tro and was worth it.

Even though it ended up that none of my friends could join me on the adventure, I went anyway.  The first Tro Tro ride was easy, once it was determined by some local men that I was in fact standing in the wrong spot.  As they approached to queue with me, they asked where I was going and pointed me to a spot on the other side of the corner.  As they were doing so, a Tro Tro arrived and so they yelled at the driver and mate to wait for me, which they did.  Thanking the men, I scurried off and paid the 40 pesawas (about $.30CDN) to take the Tro Tro to Madina. 

Madina, well, that’s a different story…

Madina is what I would call a major junction and yet my instincts tell me as I type this that I ain’t seen nothing yet!  Madina is a hub-of-sorts and also the location for a market which I was hoping to explore on my return trip from Aburi. 

The Tro-Tro stopped in Madina (which I had recognized in my Friday travels from work) and I started looking for landmarks of which the most obvious for me in Madina is the huge billboard that was overhead as I came from work, and walked past to catch a Tro Tro to the hotel on Friday.  I asked a few people how to get to the Aburi Tro Tro  and they all pointed me in the same direction.  I found the parking spot for the Aburi bound Tro Tros and after chatting with some people who wanted to shake my hand, I was shown the queu.  It was a long queue.  As soon as Obruni arrived in the queue, it seemed as if all the market vendors were continuous and focusing on me.  I did buy some more bottled water – the sun was burning hot when it appeared – and I was happy to have brought my big floppy sun hat…even if it was the only sun hat for miles. 

I was in the queue for about one hour.  It did not move fast and some people were getting impatient…the delay obviously unusual and as a queue friend mentioned, no one knew why it was so slow, Tro Tros were not coming.  At one point, the woman behind me went to leave and said to me, “I will come” to which I replied, “Yes” thinking that she wanted me to hold her spot.  A few minutes later a man was calling to me, “Obruni, come, I have a car for you.”  “To Aburi?”  “Yes.”  “How much?” …an important question to know what he meant by ‘car’.  “1 cedi, 20 Pesawas.”  Another woman beside me, hearing all of this and the confusion in my voice said, “Tro Tro”  to which the man replied, “Yes, Tro Tro, quickly we must go, come with me.”  Not wanting to go alone, I asked, “May I bring my friends?”  “How many?” I turned to look at the women who had just helped me and she said to him, “one”.  He was clearly not convinced she was my friend but said, “Yes, one is good.” and so she and I followed him to take the last two seats in a departing Tro Tro.

I have read and been told that Ghanaians are extremely polite and queue for Tro Tros and personally, I do not think it is appropriate to cut in line and so as I realized what was happening I felt I was caught in a quandry.   The men at the front of the line were unhappy they would have to wait for the next Tro Tro while at the same time the mate was explaining something to them and seemed unaffected by their complaining as he took my hand and pulled me past the men.  “My friend” did not hesitate as I had;  she jumped right in.  Once we were seated, she turned to me and thanked me. 

A light hand touched my shoulder and as I turned, I saw the woman who had been in line behind me in the queue.  She was smiling and as I realized what had happened I thanked her.  She had sent the mate for Obruni who was melting in the hot sun.  Midase! 🙂

I reached into my back pack and found the Canada flag bouncy ball and held it out to her and asked if she would like it for her little boy.  She took it with a big smile and while the little one seemed confused, he thanked me.  Another drink of water and we were on our way. 

Located in the hills north of Accra, the drive To Aburi offers a breathtaking view of the Greater Accra region, even on a Tro Tro…the only difficulty was getting a picture of the view…oh well.  On Saturday, all you could see was the city as far as the clouds would allow.  I learned on this drive, where the stones came from that are used for the fancy siding work on some buildings – they were from this mountain.

Approaching Aburi town, I notice two women walking along in beautiful traditional dress in red and black which can only mean one thing.  There is a funeral in town.  All of the residents of the town were in black or red or a combination.  When there is a funeral in Ghana all of those who know the person or their family celebrate the life together over the weekend.  The town was busy.

‘My friend’ walked me a little ways to point me in the right direction and I proceeded up the hill towards the entry to the Botanical Garden.  It was a nice town with children playing hopscotch in the sand at the edge of the road while girls filled buckets of water (at what appeared to be the town’s poly-tank well) and struggled to balance the large buckets on their head to continue on their way.  It amazes me that they can carry such weight and I marvel at the posture it must take.

The gate attendant at the garden’s was very friendly and we chatted a bit.  He asked and as I explained that I would be working in Adenta, he asked where.  As I told him, I added, “so I will be working in Adenta and mostly right now I am lost, but everyone is very helpful” and he laughed.  I am certain he knew I spoke the truth!

The Palm trees lining the entry to Aburi Botanical Gardens were planted in 1900 and so are 111 years old.  In this picture you can get a sense of their enormity as you look at the woman walking along the path.   

For 1 cedi (about $.67 CDN) I took a guided tour of the gardens.  Our guide was extermely informative and shared his knowledge with the small group and answered all of our questions.  The garden is mostly comprised of trees and non-flowering plants and is beautiful none the less.  The gardens were a refreshing break from the heat of Accra.  With the elevation and trees, the shade was nice and cooling.  All I needed was another application of bug spray.

Lessons in Literacy

Pamoja Ghana, or Ghana REFLECT Practitioners Network, focuses on literacy and works with the most disadvantaged populations who are often in rural areas.  Over this weekend, I have been reading about the practice of REFLECT and must say that I find it eye opening to consider the concepts presented in the REFLECT material and some of the assumptions, beliefs and cultural norms that I associate with literacy. 

What does literacy mean to you?  Consider your definition.  When you think of literacy, do you think of reading and writing skills, perhaps even numeracy skills, or the broader concept of effective communication skills for everyday matters?  Is reading and writing more valued than other forms of literacy in your culture?

How do power relationships play a role in literacy?  Where power positions exist (and they do) how are all voices heard effectively and equally, particularly the voices of the disadvantaged, or those for whom the written word in documents/signs/etc. is in a language that is not their mother tongue?

Think about the concept of power as it relates to literacy.  What do you associate with power that is also associated with literacy?  Consider two different tool sets : pencil and paper or pen and portfolio….which one would you associate with a more powerful position?  The follow-up question of course is, why do we make that association?

How is literacy different than schooling?  How do adult learners who are exploring literacy feel about being being associated with “going back to school” as compared to ‘learning new skills’ and how do we empower adult learners to avoid the stigmas of illiteracy and give themselves their own power as they explore literacy?

My reading so far….and there is more to read….is enlightening for me and allows me to begin to question some of the assumptions, beliefs, and norms of the culture from which I come. 

I find it all very interesting.