Once again, we have our own darling, Enyima, guest commuting from the beautiful side of East London. She’s quite gifted, I must add. I like to say she’s an important person in the financial community within The Square Mile. Enjoy her experience with Transport for London (TfL), comment, and please share.
As for this one, I can’t say I didn’t deserve it. After all, who in their right mind expects a peaceful journey home after choosing to sit at the back of the bus? The back row of seats (and the rear-facing row in front of it) belongs to the hard knocks, the tough guys, the kankpe girls, the people who spent their childhoods disrupting lessons and are hell-bent on spending their adulthoods disrupting life. But there were no other available seats on Bus 35 that balmy Thursday afternoon and I was not about to stand all the way home, or sit upstairs with the real nutcases.
It was a slow day at work exactly two years ago when I decided that I’d procrastinated enough. The sights and sounds of trotro and taxi rides, the quirky happenings on the streets of Accra, and the unique Ghanaisms I witness on the way to work needed to be told. This blog was born in that moment. Without knowing how long I’d be able to keep it going, or what each week (or other week) would bring, I kept it going.
Over 80 posts later, it’s made it this far.
I’ve had exciting guest commuters write their perspectives of commuting from four continents. Many thanks to Benjamin, Sharlon and Dodzi (Ghana), Amma (Rwanda), Tosin (Nigeria and Dubai), Abimbola (USA), Enyima (UK), and Ewuradjoa (Spain).
Thanks to all of you who’ve enjoyed, commented and shared my posts. It means the world to me.
Two years of The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge. How much longer will it last? A month? Six? Another year?
Let’s see what the future holds.
Here’s to eventful trips to work, on any given day.
Walking along my road to join the fray of commuters every morning can get quite monotonous. It’s always the same scenery, apart from the occasional new kiosk that sprang up overnight to house the latest busload of squatters. Or a new splash of paint on the local drinking hole. Or a poster advertising a death, and thus reminding us of our own mortality, irrespective of how many Christmases we’ve celebrated.
One announcement, though, constantly brings a bit of a chuckle out of me. Not because it holds much humorous value to me today, but for its bluntness. “WHAT A SHOCK!” the headline screams. For some reason, the picture that comes into my head whenever I hear it is that of a guy in dark glasses, wearing faded jeans and posing against a car not his, a young gun robbed of his breath in the prime of his youth. It was only a few years ago, riding through Jamestown one Sunday afternoon that it caught my attention. I initially wondered what this great shock was. I felt bad for laughing, though my laughter was at the notice, rather than the sad event. I was probably the last person in Accra to ever have seen one like that.
Our guest commuter for today is Tosin Osunlaja. Again. Now, she’s living it up. Not long after adapting to her new life of helicopters and spending days at sea as a petroleum engineer off the coast of Nigeria, she’s been whisked to the United Arab Emirates for training. As an extended visitor there, she’s seen most of what there is to see, and offers some insights into public transport in beautiful Dubai. Share it, leave comments, enjoy.
For all its magnificent buildings, the Burj Khalifa and Burj al-Arab among others, Dubai has few forms of public transportation. As a Nigerian used to choice – most of them dangerous – this was culture shock. Here, you can decide on a taxi, take a train called the metro, or walk gracefully. Walking in Dubai sometimes feels like walking on the moon with the nicely paved walkways, sometimes properly tiled, so you know your shoes aren’t getting dirty any time soon, as you enjoy the sights.
Here’s a reason to leave an extra shirt hanging somewhere at work.
The morning traffic wasn’t too bad. I’d recently discovered Freakonomics podcasts and was being enlightened by their discourse on the upside of quitting. A toddler in the row ahead was doing his best to be a distraction with his squeals. I, for one, didn’t find that cute and just turned up the volume, totally disregarding any future damage to my hearing. He was sucking on a piece of bofrot, soaked full of saliva and throwing his arms up and down. I wonder how his mother coped all day. She didn’t seem overly upset either. Good for her. The gentleman next to them was enjoying it. He was making charming faces and looking at the boy with a smile of admiration. I tried hard to shut my eyes to the whole scene, but I was scared the wet doughnut would come flying through the air onto my lap.
One hour after joining the queue at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Station, I was cursing my bad luck. I’d turned down a lift from work to the Accra Mall. “Oh, it’s difficult getting a trotro from Spanner Junction. I’ll just walk to Circle and take one from there. Don’t worry about me. By this time, there are no queues.” That was me, walking away from into what I thought would be a routine hop-on-hop-off. After all, who expects a queue at 9pm on a random weekday?
It was Monday morning at Spanner Junction. Commuters were rushing from one trotro to another. I could identify with whatever frustration they might have been going through. After all, what else could possess an obviously pregnant woman to elbow her way through a fighting crowd to get one seat? I’d once had the unfortunate experience of trying to get a trotro from there, thanks to the policemen controlling the traffic flow stopping my original trotro. Usually, there’s only one space left, so it’s left to the desperate commuters to do battle like gladiators for the last seat.
I cast my eyes to the right, in the general direction of the African Regent Hotel. All was quiet. Four short years ago we could expect to be stopped at any moment as President Kufuor made his way to work. His convoy was too many cars long, and after his near-accident, an ambulance was added to the fray. It was an incredible procession, all the way from Mr. President’s house to his office. The rest of us citizens could – and would – bake in the unkind sun for all they cared. It predictably yielded unnecessary commentary from angry passengers. Noisily they came, noisily they zoomed away.
My guest commuter for today has been here before. Tosin Osunlaja, is probably more accustomed to “smelling the salt”, spending days at sea on oil rigs off the coast of Nigeria as a field engineer at Baker Hughes. She’s lived in Port Harcourt most of her life, and brings us today a rather touchy observation she’s made, seeing as I’m totally unqualified to write about it. Share it, and comment as usual. Enjoy.
It was a hot day on Okporo Road in Port Harcourt. Too hot to be outside, but I refused to take a keke. Maybe what made me notice the seller and buyer was my sudden craving for a snack. It was a posh young lady buying roasted groundnuts from a young girl. What struck me, though, was their hair. Poles apart in quality, but both, for want of better wording, fake.
African women ask, ‘Why would God give us such wooly hair that can hardly be tamed?’ For years, we sought solutions to this unbearable condition. Along came relaxers. Not long after they were embraced, women began to see the side-effects of these chemicals, mainly as a result of half the hairdressers being untrained and hardly reading instructions. What once was a full, fluffy black cloud transformed into discoloured strands falling lifeless from their heads because of too wrong and too frequent application. As women lost their natural hair, they began to seek ways to salvage what was left of their glory.
It was the kind of trotro you wished wouldn’t be involved in an accident, simply because you wouldn’t want to be caught dead or alive in this patchwork Mercedes Benz 207. Every few metres, the gate would pop open, and the mate would have to slam it shut with all his might a few times before it would remain in place. The body, which had seen the inside of a welder’s workshop a few times too many, was rusted. Each time we braked, it was like being caught in a storm. And yet, on this day, the deplorable state of the vehicle was not my concern.
It was the post-Christmas period of 2011. I’d woken up to the news that fuel prices had increased. Again. This was trotro drivers’ chance to close the books in a profit. Surprisingly, fares remained unchanged that first day. Strange. At Ridge, the taxi driver who would drop me at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital said with shifty eyes, “50 pesewas.” My mouth opened in amazement. “But it’s always been 40!” I shot back. He glared at me. I tried to read his next move, but before it got to the point of argument, he dipped among his coins and gave me my change. That went smoothly, I thought.
I’d choose a direct trotro from Bridge to Ridge any day. Unfortunately, Accra-bound trotros are not as plentiful as I wish they were. That means, more often than not, that I have to take one going to Circle, drop off at the 37 mini-station, and jump into one going my way. Transit takes less than 5 minutes, but still, wouldn’t you rather get a direct trip?
On this particular morning, however, I was grateful for that brief transit. This trotro was of a make I’m unfamiliar with. In fact, it looked like a bus that would’ve been useful to the Russian army in the First World War I’ve been in tiny trotros, but it looked like no consideration whatsoever was made for tall people during the design process of this one. Unfortunately, my staring lateness to work in the face forced me to get into this bucket of bolts. So, along with the other commuters, the journey began, being herded through Accra like cattle.
And it shook. Mightily. My cramping legs felt like they’d been riveted in a bent position. Stretching was such a relief when I limped off at 37.