Eric Mintah and Luise
Luise, Johan Martin Kramer and a student practicing for the Christmas play.
The intersection near Adome Bridge in Atmpoku, Eastern Region is a very busy one. It’s on the main road from Accra, the capitol of Ghana, and Ho, the capitol of the Volta Region. Because it is a main thoroughfare I was able to photograph many aspects of travel in Ghana just by hanging around the traffic circle near the bridge. I will put some photos along with a brief explanation in the next few posts. This post will be devoted to the Metro Mass Transit)bus buses A.K.A Kafour buses because President Kafour started the program.
I have a love hate relationship with MMT. It was on a Metro bus that I first traveled to my beloved Sandema. It was just after sunset when we crossed the border from the Northern region into the Upper East. The light made the trees along the roadside look like eerie dancers. In was in an MMT bus that I first saw the new green grasses blowing in the breeze across the vast expanses of the savanna. The first year the Metro bus was my main form of transport from Sandema to Bolga where I could connect with family and friends on the internet. I have had so many great conversations traveling on these buses For all these things I love the Metro Mass Transit Buses.
But I also sat on a full MMT bus in Bolga station for 30 minutes in the noon day sun waiting for the driver to come from who knows where. We had already sat for 1.5 hours waiting for this bus to Tamale to fill. Once, in Sandema, I paid the fare of one of my students. I was sitting near the door when he came and handed the conductor a 5 GHC bill. The conductor shouted that he should have correct change and that he could not get on. The boy started to leave but I handed the conductor the 30 Pesewa to get to the school.
Stopping a regulation bus stops or anywhere else along the route was at the whim of the driver. The MMT petty despots of the kingdom of their route. At least 5 times in two years the MMT into Sandema drove right by me and others waiting for to go to town. This was always so disappointing but even more so after I had waited up to 2 hours for transport into town. The regulation is that the bus will stop anywhere along the route to discharge passengers. But often the crys of” Bus Stop” would go unheaded by the ruler in the driver’s seat. At the stations they entered the bus on their own mysterious time tables. Many came 5 to 10 minutes after the bus filled others kept hot passengers waiting more than 30 minutes.
Their were two MMT buses that ran between Bolga and Sandema. They had no set schedule when they entered the station they would sit until the bus was full. The only scheduled departure was the first bus of the morning at approx. 6:30 am a metro bus left each town, from then on it was up to the fates when the bus would arrive or leave the station in each town again. The time between Bolga and Sandema was also flexible. One time the bus sat in Navarongo, the biggest town between Bolga and Sandema, for 45 minutes while goods were unloaded. As I mentioned before the bus can stop at any place along the route to pick up or discharge passengers so this also adds to the flexible drive time between the two towns. I should have also added this to the love section because really many people had no other from of transport so it was a gift that the bus would stop near their village or settlement.
For most of my first two years, until Metro Mass Transit allowed advance purchase of tickets, If I wanted to travel a long distance I would have to get up hours before the bus left to wait in the dark in a long line. For example, if I wanted to travel from the Kumasi suboffice to the Tamale suboffice I would have to wake up at 3:30 am so the taxi could get me to the MMT station by 4:30 at the latest for a 7:00 am bus. Even when I arrived at 4:30 the line was already 20 people long. Once the ticket office opened there were always those few people who thought they were better than the rest of us and would cut while someone was buying a ticket. I learned to spread my elbows out, put my bag on the shelf on one side of me and to use my body to shield the other side while I was buying a ticket. I blame the ticket sellers. The people waiting in line would complain and shout at the interloper but the ticket seller just went ahead and sold the self important man his ticket.
Once you had your ticket you had to wait for the scheduled leaving time, or the whim of the despotic driver, before you could even load your luggage in the luggage bins. (That’s why Lenore and I were a bit confused when the bus in Burkino Faso started loading luggage 30 minutes before the time we were scheduled to leave!) I usually travel light so I can carry it on to the bus with me and not fight the masses putting my luggage in the bins.
oh but then getting on the bus is often on big shoving match. Here I also blame the conductors who are checking tickets. Why don’t the make people form a line? I have to say that I have gotten ruthless getting on buses Ok so maybe I don’t punch anyone but my elbows are bent and spread on either side to make me as large as possible. When the conductor is checking my ticket I stand with one leg so someone would have to step over it or trip to climb on the bus before me. On time I slid myself in front of a man who was trying to cut in front of me and he said to me ”Obruni, what’s the matter are you worried you won’t get a seat?!” Who was cutting in line?
Once I got on the bus, there usually was plenty of room for my backpack, my legs and my ample bottom – a large improvement over almost any tro tro but not as good as the STC buses The people and things that came onto the bus were very entertaining. One time coming home from Bolga a man brought three bright blue plastic lawn chairs on to the bus, He set the stack down in the aisle and sat on the top one. Women often offered me a seat beside them on their bag of corn they were bringing to market. Live chickens and goats were carried home from market.
Passengers shouted encouragement to the drive to get moving. Sometimes they chided him for his reckless driving. They chastised each other as well. Once a drunk was trying to have a political debate with anyone who would take the bait. And when a rude arrogant man offered to give me a black baby the women all joined me in telling him “You are NOT correct!”
I have seen so much of Ghana on the big orange buses that I have to conclude that the relationship is more love than hate.
The first time I saw Adome Bridge I was on a Peace Corps bus traveling to Ho from Accra. We turned a corner and the bridge came into view. I was stunned by the silver suspension bridge against the dark green and azure blue background of the sky and forest. After my boat ride on the Volta I tried to capture the bridge in all it’s glory.
I googled the Adome bridge and discovered it was first used in 1957. We share the same birth year!
I wanted a boat ride on the Volta River. It seemed like a 4th of July weekend kind of thing to do. The Dodi Princess left out of Akosombo but I had mixed reviews on the experience. The trip was 6 hours long and the boat would stop on an island for 1 hour. A BBQ lunch was provided. This sounded like a perfect way to spend a day. Then I read my guide book and it said that the music was obnoxiously loud. Then a PCV and a German volunteer said the same thing. Well I could stay on campus and hear obnoxiously loud music for free! I didn’t need to pay 30 cedis for it.
My second plan was to hire a local canoe. The taxi driver tried to talk me into the Dodi Princess and so did a receptionist at the Adomi Hotel when I went to ask if they had a boat. So I decided to go to Aylos Bay Resort. Have breakfast and ask them if they had any boat rides on the Volta.
I struck gold.
The breakfast was good and the environment lovely. It was so lovely that after my boat ride I stayed, wrote and had a coke. And they had a canoe and someone to paddle it for me all for 10 GHC.
Check out a few pics from that trip.
People selling things off their head have been a continual joy to me from the day we arrived in Ghana. I love it that I can buy frozen yogurt, boiled eggs, water sachets, bowfruit, minerals, toilet paper and even a flash light out of the window of my tro tro. When traveling through Kumasi to the Sub office I always buy plantain chips a one specific intersection and spring rolls at the next one.
Atimpoku, being a major crossroads, has plenty of hawkers. Their wares are a little bit different because of the river. You can buy a kebab of oysters or snails and onions. You can buy a sleeve of prawns. And my favorite Bolo.
Bolo is a white corn cake cooked in a leaf the size of two hands. The batter is put on one half of the leaf then the leaf is folded over. Many leaves are put in a pot to steam. Oh the bolo is so sweet.
Atimpoku lies on the banks of the Volta River between Accra and Ho, the capital of the Volta region. The Adome Bridge is the only bridge across the Volta River, so Atimpoku is a busy town with all the joys of travel in Ghana condensed into a few square kilometers. In the next few blog posts I will share some of these joys with you.
The photos here show the commerce and some of the homes in Atimpoku. The ones on the river tempt me to want to live in the Eastern Region.
This is a typical Ghanaian home along the river. What a view!
A small market place just before you reach the turn to the bridge. Adome bridge in the background.
Many Obruni’s from America and Europe live along the Volta River here.
I was so excited I woke 15 minutes before my 6:15 alarm. I took my bath, dressed, ate breakfast and organized the things I wanted to take to Koforidua. Werner got up. Time dragged and at 7:25 I couldn’t wait for them to come at 7:30 so I walked down to campus. I found two of Vida and William sitting on the pump at the bore hole. They sent two of their mates to get Deborah and Frank.
Up at the house I had bread with margarine and some cold sachet water. I know it sounds awful but the kids love bread and never get cold water. I also know we were going to Goldie’s for lunch and there they could fill their bellies. On my way to get Eric I walked by them eating on the porch and I saw Frank give his second piece of bread to one of the water boys.
If it takes 1 person 10 minutes to get ready to leave, it takes 2 people 20 minutes etc. After what felt like an hour to me we were all ready to go. The mentors, Werner, Eric and I and the children, Frank, Vida, Deborah and William headed down the path to the junction. At the junction we were lucky enough to find a tro tro that we could all fit in. I held back as Werner, William, Deborah, Frank and Vida disappeared somewhere in the tro. I dubious that the tro would hold us all but the other passengers urged me to get in. The five of them were in the backseat meant for three, Eric was in the jump seat in front of them and I took a seat behind the driver. I think Werner might have felt like he was in a clown car.
When it came time to pay the mate only made me pay for 6 of us instead of seven.
On the ride to Kof I heard Eric telling the children about the Vodafone Internet Cafe. “It’s air conditioned!” “You will meet big men there.” “The connection is so fast!” I think Eric was just as excited as I was about this trip.
We arrived at Kof and the cafe safe and sound. When we entered the cafe I took the kids step by step through buying the time, getting their Username and password and logging in to the Vodafone network. I proudly introduced the kids and my fellow mentors and told the Vodafone employee about the contest.
The students successfully logged into their computers and we began our first task – signing up for an Email account. The tutorial they had watched at school had said it would only take 10 minutes to sign up for an account. No way, I thought. Because of my experiences in the library with newbies, I knew 10 minutes was way too optimistic! I planned 30 but even that turned out to be optimistic!
Boy oh boy did we all have trouble with the Email accounts. Everything imaginable happened. The students were slow typist but I wanted them to gain experience so we had them type the information requested. Once after Vida had filled everything out she clicked to get her account and the whole tab disappeared. Of course she had to start all over again. Werner was working with William in Gmail and they kept getting the message that this page is unavailable. Everyone had trouble with the hidden letters. If you can read them it means you are human and not some program registering many spam accounts. I guess we were programs because we failed time and time again to decipher the letters and numbers. When the student didn’t get the numbers correct then the registration page came back. They then had to reenter their passwords and remove default setting like, “keep me signed in” and “share my email address with advertisers”. Luckily all the info the typed didn’t have to be reentered! After 50 minutes everyone had an email account and they had started sending messages to each other.
Werner sent them a congratulatory Email with a link to the trailer for the new Pirates movie. This was a good introduction to YouTube! I had a couple of things they could search for – cat and dolphin and guitar lessons. Then they had a free for all. Their interests were immediately apparent. William was watching shots from Wimbledon. Vida was watching a female Ghanaian pop star. Frank was watching football (soccer). Last, Deborah was watching a woman singer as well.
I pulled them away from YouTube to show them Wikipedia and the Daily Graphic (Ghana’s major daily newspaper) but after YouTube these sites were snoozers! Note to self: Next time show the students YouTube last.
The excursion was very satisfying to me. The kids gained concrete skills. The girls especially could manipulate the mouse better and navigate around the computer screen with more confidence. They saw three different types of websites as well as getting an email account. On a more abstract level I hope I showed them the collaborative nature of the internet and exposed them to a larger world. It’s funny how ICT tools are making the world smaller but also making an individual’s world larger!
5 July 2011
Today the world is like a computer because the use of this tool (computer, radio and even phone are everywhere. These days’ people just hold the world in their pocket. The reason for me saying this is that the use of all the above mentioned age becoming common all over the earth.
Computers today are on source of communication tool used across the globe. To send information though the computer (Internet) is faster than traditional mail. Through the Internet you can send information and within two or three minutes you get the reply. This same tool helps us listen to music from all over the world. It helps send information in a form of action to people from far away, to do this people use video cameras, for example we could use the BASCO network to send videos of our school to Madam Vicky in the USA.
There are many tools that are making the world smaller. Not only the computer but also mobile phones are making the world smaller. Mobile phones or the telephone network can relay not only voice but also pictures and written information as well. Telephones communicate over land, sea and air sometimes using high frequency microwaves.
Not only computers and telephones are making the world smaller but also cameras (still photos and videos) are involved when sending pictures through the internet. The camera, on the other hand, works like the computer when talking about making pictures. The reason is that people can send information in a picture through the video camera. We are able to see some important people from the past e.g. Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkruma and Martin Luther King Jr. When special events happen with the help of cameras we set information about these events.
The world is becoming smaller because when all these tools are used, the world is contained in a netbook. Me saying this is not a joke, because, how can people put this large word or earth in their own pocket? Phones are not very expensive. Now the world has become an information and communication age because all of our daily lives depend on television, radio and computer. And people use the phone more than all the rest. I can say that the world is contained in a mobile phone.
Form 1 (Grade 7)