31 December 2010 – Best and Worst the last day of 2010

The best was meeting a cab driver in Accra who had a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) for a teaching in 1971 and Louisa taking care of sick children. The worst was a phone credit vendor yelling at me in the station in Koforidua. I’ll start with the worst.

 Koforidua station is always packed with tro tros, taxis, travelers, vendors and mates calling the destination of their tro tros. The main station in Kof is being renovated so all tros tros come to one small station with a big lime green GPTUC storey building at the center of it. That building is my guide to the Tros back to my village because it’s three stories tower above the other buildings and vendor stalls.

I alighted from the tro slinging my purse over my head and handing my three bags out of the door. On the ground I put my lilac back pack in its appropriate place, picked up my other two bags in each hand and walked toward the green storey building. People kept asking where I was going, fellow travelers to help me find my way and mates to see if I might be the one last person to fill their tro tro. I smiled and said thank you but I know where my car is.

 As I walked through the station much of my attention is on the ground, looking out for new potholes or things I don’t want to step in. The rest of my attention is on staying alive – watching for carts moving around the station, or tro tro backing up or taxi doors opening. Thus distracted I missed the turn to go to my part of the station. I discovered this when I looked up and no longer saw the green storey building.

 I turned around discouraged because my bags were heavy, full of good tidings from my family back home, and I really didn’t want to walk even a block further than I needed to. As I turned a young man selling units for phones shouted at me “Ask someone where to go! What are you doing not knowing where you are going with all that luggage! Next time ask someone where to go!” Well I was tense small small and I turned around and scowled at him and said “Thank you for your help and your criticism!” Then I turned back and headed to my tro tro.

As I walked I though of all the ways that young man was not correct! First he shouted at an older person. Second he criticized an older person and the worst thing of all he didn’t even offer to help his old mother carry what were obviously heavy bags. This is expected in NYC but not in Ghana!

 I finally make it to the tro for my village and get seated. There he is again. He shouts at me one last time “Next time ask for directions!” Everyone in the tro give him the evil eye. Thus my travel day ended.

But earlier in the morning I met a taxi driver in Accra who had a PCV for a teacher in the early 1970s when he was in Form 1 (freshman) in a high school in Winneba. We were driving to the Peace Corps office to pick up my bags. I had walked to the nearest junction to fetch a cab to take me to Tema station where I would get my tro to Koforidua. The driver and I started to talk on the way to the Peace Corps office. He asked if I were a teacher and I said I was with Peace Corps teaching ICT. Then I asked him if he knew Peace Corps. The way his face brightened when he said he knew Peace Corps I thought he must have had a PCV for a teacher so I asked him. “Yes” he smiled.

Let me tell you a little about the taxi driver but first I want to apologize for not being a better reporter – I didn’t even ask his name! I never asked his name. He was well educated. His dad was a professor at the Teacher Training College in Winneba when he was a younger man. His dad also traveled to the US for three months on an teacher exchange program. The taxi driver was up on Ghanaian and US economics and politics. He’s a professional man with two daughters and one son. He moonlights as a taxi driver to pay for their education.   He is 52 years old.

 On the road to Tema station he told me the story of his teacher, Cornelia. Cornelia taught science. “She was good. She really taught us and we learned!” As he said this his face was nostalgic with memories from 40 years ago. “She talked fast” he continued “you know like you Americans do. She spoke English so fast that at times we really couldn’t understand her. When we told her she was going too fast for us she would begin 

‘ I     s   a   i   d       t   h   a    t          m   o   l   e    c   u   l    e    s . . . ‘ “ He continued “She would break down the words for us one by one like that.  The taxi driver then smiled and laughed at a memory. “She would get this face when she broke down the words for us. We called it Cornelia’s slow talking English face.” He made  stern, serious, scrunched up face and repeated “I said that molecules” very slowly and drawing out each sound of the word. Then he laughed and repeated “Cornelia’s slow talking English face!”

When I returned to BASCO I found Louisa standing at our table with thin blue rubber gloves on. A rolled piece of paper was stuck in an empty plastic coke bottle and she was pouring the contents of a small white envelope into the bottle. She then filled the bottle half way with water, put the cover on and shook. Regional Hospital Pharmacy Koforidua bags were strew at one end of the table along with band aids and empty white envelopes. Either she had become a mad scientist since I last saw her or she was mixing medicine.

Luckily she had turned to medicine. At lunch that day over grilled cheese sandwiches (Thank you Dennis!) she told me how she ended up as the de facto school nurse.  The house mothers were all gone. The headmaster, the administrator and the senior house master were also gone,  no members of the staff present at the orphanage that day. Well maybe a young teacher who was not much older than the Senior High orphans who had returned to BASCO for their Christmas break. She also told me that she had organized a trip to the hospital for three sick children. Because the day they went was a holiday they had to wait four hours to see the doctor.

 All day children have been coming to our house with bumps, bruises, many bug bites, one soccer injury and many have come with some kind of flu that’s going through the dorm.

 I watched her with a girl whose legs were covered with sores from bug bites. Louisa inspected each bite individually. As she put ointment on each bite she talked to the girl about  this or that and generally displayed an excellent bedside manner. Her mom, who is a doctor, would be proud.

 All in all the good of today out weighed the rudeness of that young man.

-vc

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