Bags and baggage

The more I thought about it, the hotter the sun grew. It wasn’t even ten in the morning. I was on leave and had to make a quick dash into town before settling for a relaxing week in bed. Tema Station was buzzing with activity. A salesman clutching a battery-operated stereo sang along to a tape he was playing. Does anyone still buy audio cassettes? After him, a drug peddler had his turn. I was more intrigued by the sales pitch than by the wonders of his product.

The disadvantage of being first into a trotro is that you have a long wait for it to get full. The advantage is in getting to choose your seat. So I plopped myself in the front.

One woman came carrying a heavy load of foodstuffs. The mate convinced her to pay double and lay her burdens on the next seat. She also had a worn black fertilizer bag filled with bagged gari that she placed in the space in front of the mate’s seat. Slowly, the trotro filled up. A heavyset woman walked leisurely to us as the mate shouted his lungs out, “Bawaleshie, America House, last one!” On her head, she balanced a black fertilizer bag containing three tubers of yam. “We’ve been waited for you a long time,” the playful mate chipped before he went screaming for his master, who was probably playing cards or draughts with the other station dwellers.

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Let’s just vote already!

I knew I was in trouble when I hummed “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” to myself on my way to work and found myself singing, “From victory unto victory, the NDC …” I quickly stopped myself, a shy smile spreading across my face. In the moment, I also remembered I’d heard the NDP’s anthem, a corruption of “Will your anchor hold?” Sadly, the politics of the day had infiltrated my mind and I was swept up by the national mood.

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All in a night’s work

It was late. Perhaps, too late. Too late, certainly, to find a trotro. I kept on asking myself what on earth I was doing in a taxi at a quarter to midnight trying to get home. This was by no means a beautiful cab. But at this ungodly hour, you take what comes. “Driver, which way is this?” I asked. This time, he ignored me. In the first three replies, he hadn’t convinced me that we’d get anywhere near where I thought we should’ve been. I felt the first strains of fear creep up my spine. The night was playing out in my mind in a variety of ways, none of which was pleasant. Force the door open and roll out, I thought. Not in this neighbourhood, home boy. Now I was talking to myself. That’s never a good sign. Mr. Driver was bobbing his head violently to each beat from his stereo.

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A deathly business

By some stroke of ill-luck, I wasn’t on my regular public transport route on the evening of 24th July, 2012. I wasn’t on any public transport route at all! I wondered what kind of conversation was going on within individual beat up trotros, or what taxi drivers were talking about. Rumour had quickly turned into sad truth: the president had kicked the bucket (Metro TV couldn’t have found a more classless way to make the first announcement of its kind ever in Ghana). Grief quickly made its way up like a destructive flood from the south to the north. Hearts were filled with sorrow. Heads were filled with ideas.

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Lights, camera, action!

After a long hiatus, I’m back with a guest commuter today. Very briefly, he’s got to be one of the best wordsmiths I know on Twitter! Dela Kobla Nyamuame is a poet and a keen observer of Ghanaian life. One thing, don’t gbaa around him, or he’ll find the wittiest way to expose you. Please comment, share, read his blog and follow him @Amegaxi.

Asomasi.

*******

It had been your typical trotro trip on the Spintex Road, slowly cooked in a sardine tin on wheels. China phones had been doing their thing, ringing too long and too loud. Mixed with the cries of babies sweltering in the heat, it was all very unbearable. It felt good to have the blood find its way to my legs once again. Turning my neck to massage the cramps that were forming there, my weak legs almost gave way when I saw a man walking in on the pavement, DVDs in hand and a movie poster tacked onto his shirt: “Azonto Ghost”. Seriously?! Is there no end to the wonders that a trip to work in Accra can churn up?

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Wardrobe malfunction!

I hadn’t quite envisaged my trip home this way. I was increasingly worried about what my room would look like after the afternoon’s downpour. What bad luck, that on this day that the heavens let it all down in all its destructive glory, I had opened my windows and forgotten to close them. Soon after reaching Spanner Junction to complete my homeward commute, a slight drizzle started, only compounding my worries. The restless crowd I was going to contend with was getting more agitated as bodies got wet. The sound of a trotro was an invitation to a rush of epic proportions. Many months ago, I refused to partake in any such undignified shows of desperation, and decided to wait for a taxi.

A trotro approached, looking to stop right in front of me. A stroke of luck? I could only get out of the way in time to miss Hulk behind me charging at the gate. It was now a stalemate, as the passengers getting out were blocked, and nobody could get in. Perhaps the rain was fuelling tempers. In a flash a young man ran swung his leg through the open back window. The next thing we heard was a long ripping sound. The laughter that followed from stranded commuters diffused the tension. How the young man’s face was one of total calm was beyond me. Poor guy.

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A watered down pain in the gut

There’s something about trotro drivers. They can’t bear sitting in traffic for even the shortest time. The car stops and the driver slouches into his seat on his left elbow, with a kiss of the teeth and a frown on his face. Half a minute later, he sits up, beckons his mate to stick his hand out and with all the energy left in his two arms, turns the wheel, bouncing in his seat with each turn. A jerk or two later, the car moves onto the shoulder of the road, warning animals and pedestrians to get out of the way with a blast of the horn every few seconds. On my route, however, a good number of these are people carrying yellow containers in search of water.

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Whatever it takes to win one

Walking through the tunnel at the Accra Sports Stadium I couldn’t help feeling a rush. The faithful’s singing got louder as I approached the field. At the end of the passageway, my eyes adjusted to the light, my spirit realigned, and I was ushered into the presence of a few thousand Christians, singing and dancing along to Cindy Thompson’s music. It was great! I was at the Billy Graham Ghana Jesus Crusade. I hadn’t been to the stadium since Ghana beat Nigeria at the 2008 African Cup of Nations. I hadn’t been to such a gathering since the Healing Jesus Crusade at Brewaniase in 2007. In fact, this was only the third of fourth crusade I’d ever been to.

Hours after I’d witnessed hundreds walk up in response to the call for salvation, I thought about our church programmes in Accra. There must be thousands each year, most meant to win souls. Of course, there are the charlatans who have jumped onto the bandwagon to increase the girth of their waistlines, and have become acquainted with Gucci and Prada in the process. But how do they all get congregations to flock to them in their droves, irrespective of motive? Good old advertising.

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Adabraka, it’s been real

On Friday the 13th, April, 2012, I had to make a decision.

I was on my way to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in the evening from the office. I’d made that trip so many times that I never even gave it a second thought. I had to be at Calvary Baptist Church in Adabraka by 6:30pm. Fairly routine, no?

Not quite. This time, I was making the journey from my office in Dzorwulu.

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What have you inhaled today?

In line with the second anniversary of the blog, and giving some friends a chance to vent, we have another guest commuter on board. Veronique is the editor of Emerge magazine, and for those not in the know, it’s a bi-monthly magazine focusing on women’s strength, beauty and confidence. A through and through Tema girl (apart from a brief stroll through Atlanta), she’s got quite her own ups and downs. Have fun reading, comment, and please share.

Asomasi.

*******

I remembered Kwaku’s plea to share my public passenger ‘experiences’ or more aptly ‘encounters’ two minutes after I sat on the bus (Microbes Mass Transit). I had just wrapped up a business phone conversation with my colleague and bought my ticket when the lady sitting next to me motioned to the petty trader for a sachet of water.  I mentally sighed with relief; thankfully and atypically, no droplets splashed my freshly pressed AfroChic dress as she hurled a hefty arm – inches away from my face and chest – to grab the globule of obviously lukewarm water on a slightly cloudy yet warm Wednesday morning.

By the time the bus took off, I was I re-reading my Daily Word reflection for the day, while relishing the surprisingly cushioned seats on the immaculately clean bus. Then I heard the familiar light thud despite my earphones: my neighbor had done it again. She had confidently thrown the half-drank sachet on the floor in front of her. My heart immediately sank a little. At least, the radio won’t be blaring at inappropriate decibels en route, I consoled myself. The trip was further interrupted by a young passenger who proceeded to jump off the bus to make an eleventh hour purchase, just as the driver was pulling out of the station, only to then scream, “Hey, hey, door!” to get back on.

As if on cue, a loud cough emanated from an undoubtedly uncovered mouth two seats ahead of me. I knew we were really on our way now.

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