July 25

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King of the Road

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Driving in Ghana is impressive, and the people who do it are astounding!

John is a driver for the Jhpiego Takoradi office.

If you are like me, you are asking yourself,  “A driver?  Why does an office need a driver?”

There are many reasons, really.  After only 2 weeks, I do not claim to be an expert on the transportation in Ghana.  I can only describe from my point of view what we have encountered.  So here it goes….

First, there is The Road.  Whether it is paved, dirt, has potholes, or various combinations of all three at once.  The Road, seems to be a living ever changing being, One that you need to know well and assess quickly, especially now, during the rainy season.

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The pavement seems to stop without any reason, rhyme or notification and in the same way starts again.  Regardless if there is pavement or not, there are potholes, some deep enough for a child to bathe in. It is like driving down the road in a mobile bounce house when someone else is doing the jumping.  That jarring, sometime sickening feeling you get yet it is for hours with a seat belt across your lap.

The drivers seem to work together in a give and take, not paying attention to the lines (if there are lines) defining their lane, the oncoming lane or the shoulder.  None of it really matters.  It only matters what part of The Road is the smoothest or least likely to get stuck in.  You know that your driver is of a different mindset when he chooses the dirt shoulder of the road rather than the pavement. (Yet, you quickly understand and agree once you realize the choices he made seamlessly, minutes ago.)

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Also, there are people, of all ages, everywhere.  Some of them trying to sell you stuff, some trying to cross the road, and others just simply walking by the side (a lot of people walking everywhere, all the time).

Then there are the other vehicles – cars, motorcycles, trucks, vans – everything and anything bulging with people.

Besides these three major considerations on the road we also encountered the following: goats, pigs, snakes, Brahmas and chickens.  To me it is unrealistic that we haven’t hit anything yet.

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I fear engaging John in conversation, lest I distract him in any way from the multitude of things that are directly in front of him on the road.  He is amazing to watch – increasing or decreasing speed, knowing when to pass, magically knowing the depth of each puddle, being intensely attentive to The Road for hours and hours at a time. Most of those hours are spent anticipating the road conditions in the next ten feet, all while knowing that a minor fender bender can cause a full on street brawl. Yet, when I go to thank him at the end of every trip, he gives a sly smile and says “ahh it was nothing”.