Living in Ghana is an adventure to say the least. I can honestly say that many of the stories I’ll tell when I’m back home revolve around public transportation. On my first day of work I decided to take a taxi home. I hadn’t learned the ropes of the tro tro yet and every coworker I asked gave me different directions to how to get to my station. I decided the tro tro could wait another day and I hailed a taxi outside my work.
“American House Road,” I told him. He groaned, clearly frustrated because it was rush hour and I wanted him to drive me close to an hour away. Whatever, I was paying him so I didn’t feel guilty. Once I used my bargaining skills to get the price I wanted, I hopped in. The drive started out alright. I changed into comfortable shoes and relaxed knowing that my drive home would be peaceful and quick compared to a tro tro ride. I could not have been more wrong.
First of all, the driver literally drove like he was starring in the Fast and the Furious. Being from California, I’m usually the speedy driver zipping past all the slow Oregonians, but this was a little out of hand. Maybe it would have been fine if we were in a sturdy car with state of the art surround air bags, but this car looked like it had been around the block a time or two. Or ten.
My driver sped through back roads and neighborhoods and I wasn’t recognizing anything. I knew this wasn’t the tro tro route and I began to have overwhelming thoughts of my abduction. I imagined my name in the news as the Oregon student who was abducted and killed on her taxi drive home from interning abroad in Ghana. I was replaying scenes from Taken and starting to think of an escape plan.
We finally reached a railroad and I was relived because I saw many other hurried drivers heading the same way as us. If he was abducting me, he was not very good at keeping a low profile. The second we reached the tracks, two guys roped the front of our car and begin banging on the windows. My driver seemed angry and started yelling in Twi. The guy outside demanded 50 cedi and I began to wonder if we were being jumped. My driver yelled and argued with the men for a few minutes but finally coughed up the money and they let us pass.
My panic subsided until my driver pulled over and said to me, “I’m going to get my money.” Was this a joke?! I watched him take the keys, close the door and walk back to the two men. I imagined the worst. I pictured my taxi driver throwing punches, or worse, pulling out a gun. I was worried it would get out of hand and I was going to be a witness to a sketchy murder in a town too far from mine.
After a few minutes, he came back to the taxi with his money and we took off again. I was so relieved I didn’t even know what to say to him. I think I asked him what the guys wanted but I’m pretty sure he didn’t understand me because he angrily mumbled more words in Twi.
I finally arrived at our house, thankful I survived. Apparently it’s common for people to charge money to take shortcuts and what happened to my driver happened all the time around here. I also learned it was completely normal for taxi drivers to take crazy and complicated back road shortcuts to avoid traffic and it was nothing to worry about. Both of these pieces of information would have saved me about an hour of panic and stress. It’s been a few weeks since this incident and I have to say, this was the craziest of all my taxi rides by far. In the moment, I was sincerely scared for my well-being but at least it made for a funny story, right?