When my boss at Today newspaper offered that the company driver take me home after my first day, I said I wanted to take the tro-tro. The response I got was laughs and confused looks. I had never been on the tro-tro before, and I was anxious to experience Ghana’s public transportation system first-hand.
Ever since my arrival in Ghana about a week ago, I have been nervous about taking the tro-tro. I was worried that I would take it in the wrong direction, miss my stop or just get completely lost. I was put at ease when a colleague from Today newspaper wrote down the directions and specific stops I needed to take to get to and from work. She then walked me down to the station and made sure the driver knew exactly where I was going.
I boarded the van and sat in the very front row in between a stranger and the driver. Ghanaian rap was playing out of the stereo and I silently enjoyed the music as I observed my surroundings through the slightly cracked front windshield.
Noticing I was an oburuni, the man next to me asked where I was from. I told him the United States, and it turned out that he worked at the immigration office, and that he planned to visit New York sometime next year. Thinking back to public transportation in the United States, I can’t remember one time where a stranger tried to start a conversation on the bus.
It was at this time that I noticed the heat in the tro-tro. The driver would periodically wipe the sweat off of his forehead with a rag, and the people behind me were fanning themselves. At times, the crowded tro-tro was noisy with conversation and people trying to purchase goods from the vendors on the street. But there were also periods of silence, where people would look out the window and appear to be quietly reflecting on their day.
The man to my right turned to me and asked where I was going. He told this to the driver to make sure that I got home okay. When it was my stop, I struggled to get out of the now crowded tro-tro and out the door.
When I made it on the cement I thought about how I would have never made it home without the help from the kind man on the bus and my co-worker at Today. While the tro-tro was hot, crowded and smelled funny, it’s endearing to know that people are willing to help each other. Hopefully I become accustomed to the smells and noise, because whether I liked the experience or not, the tro-tro is my new form of transportation.