Monday, May 04, 2009
If you work on Wall Street, NY, NY., you probably take the subway to work. Every once in a while, something interesting might catch your attention. Same deal. If you work in Accra, but live in Ashale-Botwe, you probably take tro tro to work, as I did this morning. The only difference is you can have conversations in tro-tro. Conversations that can lift your mood and give you a spring in your step.
I left home this morning at about 7 pm. The clouds had gathered. Strong winds were blowing the red loose dust on Peace Be Street where I live into my eyes. Someone asked me if I wasn't going to take an umbrella. I chuckled. I don't own an umbrella :) I bought one for my mother but did not buy one for myself. It's not so strange. I mean I got to work in one piece, unsoaked. Who wants to carry an extra piece of luggage? Plus I was well prepared. Today I wore jeans, a shirt rolled at the sleeves and my red converse shoes to work. My hair is loced. No sweat. I could run if I needed to.
So when I got to my junction, I hopped onto the first tro-tro that was going to Madina. Charge? 25 pesewas. sweet! But by the time I got to Madina, it was raining heavily. Not the kind of drizzle people in London, Germany and the US call rain. I mean real tropical rain. The kind that can leave you soaked in under a minute. So i jumped off the bus and under the nearest shelter. I did not count but there could easily have been twenty other people huddled under the shelter...and talking. Someone said "ah nsuo yi tɔɔ ntem a, anka menko edwuma" (tr: *said regretfully* if it had rained earlier, i wouldn't have gone to work). We all laughed softly. Then two small kids decided to leave the shelter and brave the peltering rain. Maybe they needed to go so as not to be late for school. As they were leaving, one man said "oh nkɔlaa yi, future ministers paa o" (tr: these kids, who are future ministers). I thought that may well be true. Twenty years ago, I was that kid jumping over the brown puddles in Madina, and taking that tro-tro to school so I wouldn't be punished if I was late. Memories. Those kids may well become Ministers of State in the future. In some ways it is the beauty of life that you do not have to end where you begin...that there are ways to reach that "better life".
I smiled a little more broadly when two tro tros headed for Adenta came and one of the mates shouted:
adenta dentadentadenta down
and the second mate followed with:
adenta dadada down ...
I looked around me, trying to see if anyone else found this funny but it looks like i was the odd one amused by what is obviously a normal part of life on the streets of Accra.
Soon, a tro-tro came and i boarded it. Before I had sat down, one chubby woman also got on and wriggled her way past me onto the seat I had aimed for. She is lucky that she was older than me or I would have confronted her for an explanation on why she'd decided that only my seat would do for her. But she was older, and my Ghanaian upbringing made me keep mum. But surprised at how rudely she had taken what should have been my seat, I decided to shame her by taking the high road- I opted to go sit on the row behind instead of squeezing in by her side. She did not seem moved. It was a good thing I was wearing trousers, because I then had to jump over some seats before I could sit. Ah well...life in the tro-tro.
The trotro lumbered on. I didn't notice when all the people got off, but by the time we got to Gulf House, close to Tetteh Quarshie Circle, there were only 4 of us in the car: The driver, the mate, one guy at the back and yours truly. The radio was tuned to Peace, Adom, or some other twi-speaking radio station. The news for the day was: Abranteɛ bia, ose wiase nyɛ ne dɛ biom. ɔbra eetwa ne mbaa nti ɔde ahoma asɛn ne kɔn (tr: a young man who no longer finds joy in life has hung himself). That's when the conversation began.
The guy at the back: na akɔlaa so deɛ ɔhaw ben a na wo wɔ a nti a wasɛn wo ho?
(tr: what problems could a child of 17 possibly have that would prompt him to hang himself?)
driver: ebi a, ɔakɔ nyem obaa bi na osuro ne a nawofo bɛyɛ no.
(tr: maybe he's impregnated a girl and is afraid of what his parents would do to him)
Mate: Ho, na sɛ wo nyem ɔbaa, wo ayɛ lucky. Wo nim esikafoɔ a ɔmo pɛ ba awo a, ɔmo nya? Anaa sister...?
(ho, he should count himself lucky if he has succeeded in impregnating a girl. Do you know how many rich people are trying to have children without success?)
Me: saa... ɛnyɛ nipa na obɛ wo?
(you're right. afterall, isn't it a human being that he will have?)
That was the first of many more commentaries and chats we had about what was on radio. By the time I got to work, I was in a fine mood and ready to be a productive citizen. Ah, the wonderful Ghanaian life!