Thursday, April 12, 2007

White hot

It was 7:30 in the morning but it was already very hot; my breathing was shallow and shirt sweat-stained as we climbed into the tro-tro and slid into the back seat. It became even more stifling after 20 people had squeezed into the van, which couldn’t leave the yard because it was hemmed in by other tro-tros. I turned my head to the left and my colleague Renee had stuck her head out the window, gulping for air. I turned to my right. The man beside me had a woman sitting on his lap. I began to feel claustrophobic, and pulled out my book to try and calm myself down.

It didn’t work, and I began to feel more anxious, cramped and short of breath. I stood up and announced that we had to get off the bus. A man in the front motioned for me to sit down. Everyone turned around to look at me but no one got up to let us off. “We have to get off NOW!” I said, and started to push my way past the couple on my right. Everyone then got up so we could get out.

Outside the bus, Renee squatted close the ground with her head buried in her arms. I felt embarrassed by my outburst but thankful to be outside stretching my legs and catching my breath. We only agreed to get back on the tro-tro when we were given seats near the front by the window.

I sat down beside the man who had early urged me to sit down. I smiled sheepishly, and then laughed along with the people who were amused by the “obroni” who couldn’t take the heat at the back of the bus. The man turned to me and said, “The black man is strong,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “The black man is strong!”

A month ago, I had a similar meltdown on a tro-tro and we had to get off and board another one. I felt silly and worried that I had insulted them, leaving the impression that I found the conditions of the tro-tro (the heat, the overcrowding) unacceptable and beneath me.

I’m not one of the obronis that wants to blend in here, to be treated like a Ghanaian. But I am sensitive about the way people perceive me. I want them to respect and like me, and I try to do the same with them. I was glad that we were able to share a laugh over my hysteria on the bus, and move on.

- Mark


darling_bisquit said...

What an inspirational blog, filled with fascinating stories and glimpses of the life you guys are living + the good work you do. Reading your posts really put some things in my head to perspective ... Thank you very much! Can't wait to read more posts from your side. Keep up the good work.

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Thank you very much for the post. It's nice to know you're getting something from it. Writing the posts helps me put things in perspective. It can be quite overwhelming at times so the blog allows me - and Janet - to reflect on the things we experience. - Mark

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Mark if anyone can understand your panic, it's me. Panic attacks are the most terrifying ordeal. Worst of all, while you are experiencing this overwhelming surge of fear, you are stressed about what others around you may be thinking of you. I am so glad you are alright.

Love your sis, Becky

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet,
It has taken me a couple of days to comment on this blog. It must have been pretty frightening for you.It is hard to think of the heat especially when we are still getting snowstorms. You blog gives us the perspective of what you are doing as it does to you.
We really enjoy them. Take care of yourselves.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Anonymous said...

Mark, I understand the distress of being overwhelmed too. After I read this blog though, I kept thinking of how I wouldn't have been able to cope nearly as well as you did in that situation. Speaking of intense heat, remember how you used to be able to convince me to keep playing tennis with you, in spite of the fact that I thought I would drop from exhaustion from the 90 degree August heat on those courts we played on in Maine? (not to mention the exertion it took to keep up with returning your powerful shots!) In any event, it made me a better and stronger player....
Love your other sis, Jen

Paul said...

Hi Janet & Mark:

I've been continuing to read your posts with interest.

Marcia very much enjoyed her trip there, and Liam is really enjoying playing his drum these last few days, too.

I work with Bill Estabrooks, whose daughter Trisha, is one of the JHR interns there right now - have you had the chance to meet?

Take care,
Paul Black

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hi Paul - what a coincidence! Yes, I have met Trisha. She's in Kumasi, a city about five hours north of Accra. I'll be seeing her next month because we'll be conducting workshops in Kumasi. - Mark