Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bus Trip from Aboso to Accra

*This is an account of a trip that I took from Aboso in the Western Region of Ghana to Accra in the summer of 2006. The entry was written in the bus, and I thought I'd post it here because it fits with the spirit of this blog. Enjoy!

I sat in the bus and made ready for a long journey*. The bus filled up slowly. All around me, other vans getting ready to begin their own journeys. Women were busy selling epitsi, ɛmo dokon, abodoo, ɔfam, nkatsekek etc. Like connecting dots, It hit me that it wasn’t that there were no desserts in Ghana; It was simply that our desserts had never made the transition from the small villages to the big cities. Some friends of mine in Accra had never enjoyed epitsi. The villagers did not have money to expand their baking businesses and so they sold these delicious filling treats only to those in their communities or who like me on this day were passing through. For a moment only, I imagined supermarkets filled with rows and rows of beautifully packaged and well marketed epitsi. I dreamed of a day when I would come home to dinner with epitsi in a box. I wondered what it was about the box that would make the epitsi better. Why wouldn’t I buy epitsi as it was now for my Accra born friends? I wasn’t quite sure that they would appreciate it in its current skin. I feared that they would judge it by its cover and I was afraid that the epitsi would not be given fighting chance. How could we talk about going green, and then not want to eat food from leaves?

When the van filled up, a fairly attractive man who I judged to be in his late twenties or early thirties stood up and articulated in flawless fanti, tarkwa fanti (which is closer to Takoradi fanti and slightly different from Cape-Coast fanti), "enuanom na adɔfo, wɔmma yentu hɛn ho nyhɛ ewuradze ne nsa". (tr:brothers and sisters, let us commit ourselves into the hands of God). I shut my eyes, a smile formed on my face. Some things never change. After the prayer, calm fell over me. Somehow I felt that even though the van seemed really old (the kind that every Ghanaian knows causes tetanus.lol) and I didn’t have much leg room, that it was going to be a pleasant and a safe journey. I was used to salesmen praying in vans at the start of journeys and then going on to sell their medicines which they often claimed could cure everything from common cold to diabetes. What I did not anticipate was that this man was going to serve us a fully cooked and digested sermon. After the first five minutes, I started to fidget. I wanted some quiet. I had even brought a book with me to read. All around, people seemed to be paying rapt attention. Why was no one else bothered by this? Had the driver even sought our consent before allowing this man to disturb our peace? I dared not speak up. I knew that when it came to matters of God, Ghanaians were fairly predictable. If I voiced any discontent with the present goings-on, I would be seen to be strange and I may even be branded as the devil. I seethed in silence. Finally, the preacher said something about how no one paid him to do the work of God, and since a brother had to eat, he was asking that people be generous and give him something. I knew it! This was a business. It made you wonder how much of the sermon was motivated by the expected monetary gain at the end of it, and how much was God- inspired. Perhaps if people were blessed by it then it didn’t matter? It appears my fellow travelers were very impressed by our preacher man. Needless to say, the hat, which he passed around did not return to him empty. One thing consoled me. Since he was done, at least we could enjoy some quiet for the rest of the journey. We had now reached Bonsa. Much of the journey still lay ahead. Alas I rejoiced too soon, for before this man got off at the next village, he introduced a salesman, selling medicines. Oh no! Now I was really pissed at the driver. How much was he making from all this? The salesman reeked of kalabule. He had the typical Ashanti flair for convincing people to buy things they did not need. He recounted stories of people who had been cured by his medicines and who had later contacted him for more. To win more favor, he even said that he never charged a price for his medicines and that he took whatever people thought the medicine was worth to them. He reminded me of a popular Ghanaian lotto advert that has aired on tv for many years in which they ask “Why is the lotto doctor not rich?” If his medicines were so great and so widely used, why wasn’t he rich? Why was he marketing to a few people on the bus? I feared for those who were going to upset their systems with this man’s concoctions. The van rocked from side to side, and my innards shook. I looked forward to being back in Accra. The journey was getting tiresome really quickly.

Soon we got to Mankoadze, and the smell of fish permeated our nostrils. We stopped briefly in Apam. What struck me about Apam was how small it was. I had grown up thinking that Apam and Winneba were towns. From what I was now seeing with my new grown up eyes, these were villages. As we passed one village, I saw a young boy selling a dead animal by the road. He was holding it by the tail, and I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about such matters to determine whether it was a rat or a mouse. Such sights were familiar to me and yet it suddenly seemed so strange. The road was good, that is, until we got past Gomoa Adam, when we had to divert to a dirt road because it was clear- though no sign announced it-that the road was under construction. The contruction was being done by a German company. There was a white contractor or engineer or some sort, wearing a yellow engineers hat, and there were the boys, toiling away in the sun. We traveled on. The road had now become bumpy and I struggled to keep up with my thoughts and writing. One sight gave me hope. Behind a run down school building, I saw a few barefooted boys playing football. They seemed to be having such a jolly good time. At first I was down-spirited when I noticed that they were playing ball with an eaten orange but my mood improved as I watched them enjoying themselves. The less educated of my readers who may be wondering how one can play ball with an eaten orange should be assured that this is possible. Ghanaians have a special way of preparing oranges to be eaten. They peel the green or orange rind of the orange with a sharp knife to reveal the white, smooth sub layer. Then they make a transverse section of the orange just about a centimeter from the top. The orange is the squeezed from the sides to expel the juice, spitting out whatever seeds may come with it. When the juice has been sucked dry, some people turn the orange inside out to reveal and eat its innards. Others give it up by throwing it away and some little boys play ball with this. Such a sight was comforting to me on so many levels. I think that while one part of my brain wished to see these boys playing real football on a lush green turf, another part of me found comfort in this familiar sight of my childhood and almost hoped that such things would remain so my children and their children could partake in such joy. These boys were happy, football or none. We got to an especially bad part of the road, and the rocking of the bus, and the shaking of my intestines, jolted me out of my reverie. We had gotten to another diversion and all I could do was to console myself with the thought that in the next year or two, these roads would be completed and travel from Aboso to Accra would be free of road trouble.


  1. This your blog is very distracting. I would just like to take a moment to defend my hometown. Winneba is indeed a town, not a village, with a university to boot. Now Apam, I will agree that is a village. My father always likes to remind friends from Apam teasingly that they have one road (which leads them to Winneba) and no bank. See, that's a village, lol.

  2. Esi, as an Apaanyi, I resent your calling Apam a small town. :-) Her! Growing up, I had a piano teacher who would always say, "AP, Abr0foa! AP, the biggest small city in the world." Don't even ask me what that is supposed to mean. I am guessing it was some sort of expression of pride in this great town.

    Also, did you know that the first FM station in the Central Region was in Apam, even before Cape Coast? Funny how most kids today can't even imagine a time when all we had was Radio 2 in Accra. Now you can't take a step without being inundated with Peace oo, or Joy or whatever else is the new hip radio station.

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. As someone who wants to move back home soon and also wonders if I will be able to fit in after being away for so long, it is good to read of your experiences.

    I must say d3 wo mfantse nts3r3wii ama maaf3r. If you can't read that, then my point is made.

  3. It funny that I didn't read Aya's comment before I made mine. Hey Aya, hw3 wo ho yei ati.

    You know you are doing something right by the number of haters you have. LOL.

  4. haha, Aya that's hilarious. no bank? Even Aboso has a bank called Fiaseman rural bank. lol. And big old Winneba(ahem) had no bank! oh villagers! I'm guessing they do now.

    Well, may i add that when I was schooling in that village high school in cape-coast back in the late 90s, Apam always had the best long-distance runners.We the so called elite schools could not compete:) Gey hey, holyco, mansite, dɛm all be sankwas!

    On the other hand, Winneba has the world-famous youth choir. Their track team on the other hand was no match for lil ole gey hey.

    Oh, and isn't it funny how every fanti claims to be from cape-coast, winneba, saltpond, apam or anomabo? One wonders who come from all the small small villages:) Okay, ya'll need to come out! I'll begin. Me i'm from Moree.It's right before you enter cape-coast proper.

  5. TweetyJill, tell me, do you really believe that Apam is a city? I didn't know about the FM station o, but i have to admit that it is an interesting fun fact.

    I'm sure you will fit in. I'm finding more and more things to love about being here. We have a 3 day weekend coming up, which may actually end up being a 4-day weekend if they give us Monday off too. I'm moving to the beach!

  6. Hehe, you just dissed the most effective distribution channel in the country--the long distance trotro! And yeah, I admire the Ashanti dude--'pay me what you think it's worth'. Now isn't there something about an efficient price being the one which the buyer is willing to pay ? :)

    And I think you're right about 'Cape Coast'--it's a market town and so technically no one comes from there but from one of the surrounding villages. Go Moree (ok, isn't it really 'Mowuré' in the same way Bombay is really 'Mumbai'?)! But don't we all like abrɔfosɛm?

  7. Hmm, PK, talking about abrɔfosɛm, there is a certain first name in my family. The name is Nyankoms. About 2 of my cousins are called that, but I never figured out where they got the name from. This week, i remembered to ask my dad whether it is an english name or a fanti name. His response? It is the brɔfolised version of nyankontɔn (rainbow) in the same way that Maameous is my dad's version of Maame. How i laughed! When nyankontɔn becomes nyankoms, you know we're in trouble:)

    ps: I really did not know that Moree is Mowuré o. I'm learning things. I'd pick Mowuré over Moree anyday though.

  8. Ah Esi! I think what you saw was really just Apam junction! My hometown (Apaa) is really a town-the capital of the Gomoa settlement. "AP, AbrOfO mbA". This reminds me of an essay I wrote in JSS 1 about my hometown. I had my mother teach the history of our people for that homework assignment.I even have parts of it memorized because of the ridiculous amount of time I spent on the essay. :-)

    - Elfriede

  9. Elf, b0 h0 bio. I actually forgot about Apaa being the capital of Gomoa.