“Ghana drivers de3, Maame, w)n nim nyansa koraa o. Ey3 s3 wo y3 extra careful wo h)”, said everyone close to me when I told them I would start driving in Ghana.
These close family and friends, mostly living and driving outside of Ghana, and if in Ghana, not driving here, made me especially scared to drive. As you can see from the video of my cousin and I driving on the N1 Highway below, my first time driving in Ghana, was especially nerve wracking.
Although I drive in New York City, well occasionally anyway, everything I heard about driving in Ghana made me as scared of the road as most Ghanaians are of juju. In fact, when I touched the steering wheel here, I was as stiff as a bat – determined to do the right thing, and not die driving, as everyone feared.
Take Advice With A Pinch of Salt
Let me delve a little deeper: when I first moved to Ghana in January 2016, I moved around in trotros and taxis, mostly trotros though. The trotros are inexpensive yet notoriously time consuming, though entertaining if you have a good spirit. Taxis are ridiculously expensive, especially if the drivers know that you don’t know the city well. So in pre-Uber Ghana, I decided to get a car.
To be fair, no one said, “Americano, don’t get a car” or “don’t drive in Ghana”, because they too understood my plight. Yet, in the context of their own experiences and their own beliefs and expectations, they could not help but vomit their most ludicrous stories about crazy drivers, disastrous accidents and lack of emergency response at my new driving feet. Afraid, I wobbled to the driving task.
However since driving, I have found that Ghanaian drivers, even the trotro drivers people criticize, are sensible. Everyone is just working in their own interest AND trying not to get hurt or hurt anyone. Getting into such trouble is a tragedy no one wants to experience in the siege of this Sub-Saharan sun. Once I was thinking and working within this perspective, driving and doing everything else, was less of the conundrum others make it seem.
A week into driving in Ghana. Now with the joy of a 2 year old who had just discovered candy.
Also, with A Bit of Meko (Pepper)
Still, I cannot deny the precariousness of life here. Driving here is far more involved here than anywhere else. It includes: dodging – deep potholes and ditches, pedestrians racing across highways, hustling hawkers, speedy motorcycles, steady bikers, overloaded trucks – not to mention, the horror of having a 40 foot container fall off the interchange, weak infrastructure, Nascar racers, un-tarred roads etc etc etc.
There is a reason Africans are the most prayerful people on the planet and our churches are the most populous: we are all acutely aware of the fact that we can die at any moment, of causes that may be rare or can be salvaged elsewhere.
But in spite of these realities and the fears they elicit, I have learned to move forward – and drive. Ghanaians say, fa m3ko sh3 wo ani ase, ie. put some pepper under your eyes. As in, be bold and fearless.
As my latest driving video below proves, learn the rules, acknowledge the risks, and have fun. That’s what everyone is doing, anyway.
Americano, out. Catch up with you next week!
Let us know below of any driving experiences you have had in Ghana or Africa?