Today, 8/7/14 we rode in the tro tro for about 6-7 hours with 1 bathroom break; the bathroom consisted of a walled off wooden corner in the parking lot of the gas station. A tro tro is a van/bus that all 12 of us can fit in, plus our 3 guides that accompany us to help teach us the language and culture.
Tro tros are the bus system here in Ghana and most people use them to travel to and from work. If you don’t like the price the driver is selling his ride for you can either negotiate it or move on to another bus. Depending on where you are though, there might not be another bus coming for a while. So it helps to have good bargaining skills.
We have hired Francis to be our personal tro tro driver while in Cape Coast, so we have a more guaranteed mode to travel as we stick to our American schedule of observations and lectures as we move through town. It’s a unique and brilliant opportunity to travel so easily with the accommodations such as security as they also help us in the market.
I have found new friends on the tro tro, for it is easy to make conversation when compacted so closely together. In fact it is almost awkward when encountering silent travelers. The silent spaces fills like an empty patch of earth after heavy rain, though most people are lively, and friendly.
I had the opportunity to ride different tro tros during the “drop off” session where the students grouped together in two or three’s, and we were challenged to find our way back with no help by the Ghanaian guide traveling with us, a sort of scavenger hunt for home. This better acquainted us with the local area and gave us a sense of what it really felt like to live here as a Ghanaian.
During the ride home, I sat next to some of the new friends I mentioned. (Here friends are made easily as it is polite and stressed for people to greet each other when passing by, regardless of the time on the clock, the personal relation-known or unknown, and regardless of what that person may be doing. Time is allotted here to be taken to travel, and the rush of a schedule comes more into play during the fast, fast trade in the depths of the markets, or crossing streets.) I met a man who was telling me about his attempts to travel abroad, and the elongated process it can take to acquire all the details needed for customs. He was on his way to visit friends in the UK and we talked about the mountains and the people, for I had just been there.
The use of tro tros here takes place of what America calls busses, trains or subways. Although none travel through underground tunnels, they do a pretty good job handling the pot holes and paved highways all at the same time. For me, riding the tro tro gives me the chance to see a wider range of Ghanaian culture as we travel from town to town. It is a great way to people-watch from a distance without being obvious, and is there is a quiet exchange of acknowledgement as you meet the eyes of so many people who, more often than not, smile back and wave.
by Eryn Powers