Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Smelliest Country Award Goes to...Ghana!

There was twenty adults, four children, and two chickens in our tro tro. It was hot. John Duffy was sweating with his knees up against the seat in front of him. There were women outside the windows selling hard boiled eggs off of their heads, or men with frozen strawberry yogurt, or a cart full of random electronics that look like they should have been in the sale bin at Toys R Us seven years ago. We were five white kids, who only spoke English, and were just looking for a ride down to Cape Coast. The tro tro station was five minutes from our port, we thought it was an hour, then we thought we’d be taking off soon. John slept, Toby and Caity made friends with the locals (a man named Sam immediately becoming a pal and thankfully a watchful eye), and Bailey and I tried to play with the adorable little girl a few seats over. It was three hours before we were finally full and on our way.
Once again we think, we will be there soon. Should be another four hours until we get to Cape Coast so we begin to settle in. The windows are all open so it is cooler now that we are moving and the chickens were readjusted in their plastic bag, sticking their heads out of a hole so they could breathe and stop clucking. We were packed in tight but comfortable. Ten minutes in we are driving past a school. We are going fast, I suppose a little faster than the already fast norm of Ghana. We are peaceful until the people in the first two rows of seats begin to “whoaaaaaaa”. We look up quick. SLAM! My face goes into the seat in front of me. I see children running across the street. A silver car spins over the divider into another car. We are all holding our breath. The air was still. The school children were staring.
“Is everyone okay?”
Everyone appeared fine.
I momentarily worried about the chickens.
Caity’s leg was stuck in between her seat cushion and the seat back in front of her, squished together when the car forced forward. We are uneasy about this. People are piling out of the tro tro. We are told to leave-but Caity was stuck. Sam steps in, standing on top of the seat, pulling the seat back, pushing her leg, lots of pushing, pulling, and finally a release.
Toby starts videotaping.
We are standing on the divider between the two streets. We are all looking at our tro tro, smashed in front and leaking, then at the silver victim, front and back smashed in, tires popped, back window shattered, driver frantic.
-The driver said it was his sister’s car. He didn’t have insurance because he never thought something like this would happen. He didn’t know how he would ever repay her. His and his sister’s lives are shattered now too—this sat with me for a while.-
Our tro tro driver approaches us and reminds us repeatedly not to leave, “another tro tro is on its way”. But now there is traffic on both sides of the road, backed up for miles.
We are shaken, but we get back in the new tro tro and continue on. Nothing else we could do.
We learned in Ghana nothing is as long or as short as you expect it to be. Despite all of our expectations of time, we ended up at the coast before dark.

Thankfully there was comfort here. Here, where the history screams of torture, submission, and enslavement, a few blocks and a few centuries away, there is peace. People are smiling at us. Men try to sell us things. They tell Bailey she can have one white boyfriend and one black boyfriend. They tell me they would like to suck on my breasts. Awkward. They are kind people. Strangely sexual, complimentary, and infatuated with white women but they are kind nonetheless. We brush off the comments and stand our ground-our ground usually close to John.
We get dinner right by the water. The beach is beautiful and we are relieved from our stressful day. Best of all, there were drums and dancing. I love Ghanaians for loving the root of our souls. Rhythm is pulsing through us all. We are all smiling and understanding. Music, rhythm, movement-this is where we can all relate. We listen, relax, and enjoy that night and the next night. We find more SASers, we meet some locals, we have a private drum circle on the beach. We sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, a song I have found that if you start singing almost anywhere in the world people will start singing it back no matter what their nationality or language.
So we tried not to worry about a thing. We sweated ourselves to sleep, stuffing too many people into a hotel room, we sang with the locals, we gave them our liquor, we walked over the rainforest walkway, we explored the slave dungeons, we danced-and every little thing was alright.
Bailey and I officially squirm every time we are in a fast moving taxi/tro tro/etc, but we’ve learned to stop looking out the front windshield. We are still alive, thank goodness, and we got to enjoy the West African lifestyle like the 13 other adults, four children, and maybe even a little bit like the two chickens.

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