Wednesday, May 2, 2007

G'day mate!

A friend asked me the other day what I would want to do if I stayed in Ghana. "I want to be a tro-tro driver," I said. I couldn't be a "mate" - the guy who collects the fares - because I could never keep count of the people or the money. I just want to zoom around all day; dodging cars and sewers seems like a real-life video game to me.

It's odd, though, that I aspire to be a driver because they seem like such aloof, distant figures. You have some contact with the mate, at least, when you pay your fare or when you're trying to figure out where you're going. The driver, however, sits grim-faced upfront, weaving in and out of traffic; they rarely seem to talk with anyone at all.

Earlier this afternoon, I caught a tro-tro at a stop near my apartment. I was the first one on, so I hopped onto the seat beside the driver. We were alone for a few minutets, waiting for the mate to come back from a break so we could leave. I stared straight ahead, not even saying as much as "hello."

When we were a couple of minutes down the road, the driver turned to me and said, "You didn't even greet me when you got on. You said nothing." I said I was sorry, smiled, and shook his hand. It had felt wrong when I didn't even acknowledged him, and he confirmed that feeling. "That wasn't nice. I should have greeted you," I said.

"If I walked into your office, I would have greeted you. This is my office," he said, waving his hand and casting his eyes around the tro-tro. I turned around and the mate was nodding in agreement.

Accra is a big city. It can be easy to behave as you would in Canada, where it's nice but not necessary to be friendly toward people you come in contact with throughout the day. But the Ghanaian way is greet everyone warmly, even the guy who drives the tro-tro that gets you to work. After all, he's your mate too.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Janet & Mark,
I did not have the chance to read you in the last couple of week. SJ is not so big but still it is extremely busy. It must be the rain fall of entrepreneur and project that Janet has worked so hard to bring to the City :). Very funny last article, I appreciated the tro-tro expression as it was called tap-tap in haiti since that is exactly what it does to your behind when you ride along. Always interresting to read you, keep you the good work. What is the ETA back in SJ? Did you receive the recorders? I hope they will help them to acheive their goals. Talk to you soon.

Anonymous said...

That was from me Patrick

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hello Patrick - so good to hear from you. I will send you some pics - and post some on the blog - of the guys at the camp. They were so appreciative of the recorders that you sent over. They work great and they're already using them in their work. - Mark

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

Hadn't been on your blog in awhile - good to get caught up. Have a great weekend.
allie

Erin said...

Hey Mark,
I am a former journalism student of yours, circa 2002-2003, anyway I heard that you are in Africa for JHR. I was hoping to get some information on what your term was like, how you like living there, how the job was etc. I have an interview with Journalists for Human Rights tomorrow this afternoon for the position of print journalism trainer in Kampala, Uganda. I was wondering if you had any tips?

Hope to hear from you,

Thanks
Erin Pottie
STU Journalism Grad 2006

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hi Erin, good to hear from you. I think I'm responding too late if your interview was yesterday afternoon. Let me know how it went. It's a great experience. I really hope you get the job. - Mark