The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To Find a Way Forward


[Suzanne and our friend Nana]
We’re riding in a taxi with our friend Nana taxi, and because I am the man, I’m sitting in the front seat. In my own culture, I would have given that seat to the most elder of our group, but Nana insisted it is for me…because I’m the man. Nana is our friend from before and we are going around Accra running some errands together.
In the back seat, Suzanne and Nana are in conversation, so I talk with Maxwell, the driver. There are a standard set of questions I ask taxi drivers, questions about family, or the ownership of the taxi. I start with his family, and he tells me about his boy and girl, four years old and three months, respectively. Because the girl is so young, I ask about her Outdooring, which, in Ghanaian culture happens eight days  after birth, but can be postponed for reasons of health or finances. The Ourdooring tradition celebrates the first public appearance of the child with family and friends. In some West African cultures they wait to see if the baby “likes” it here, and when she has decided to stay, celebrate by bringing her outdoors to let the sunshine strike her face and give her a name. It is an elegant way to look past a high infant mortality rate. Maxwell’s daughter was given the name Abena (which means Tuesday born) and will no longer be called the stranger or visitor.
People wear white to an Outdooring. Food and minerals (bottles of soft drinks) are served, and Maxwell tells me he dipped his finger in water and wet her lips three times, saying “when you say water, it must be water.” He then dipped his finger in strong drink, and wet her lips, “when you say palm wine, it must be palm wine”. It reminds me of Jesus saying let your yes be yes, and your no mean no. There is more the ceremony, something about truth and good and evil, but I’m having trouble understanding him over the suddenly loud noise from the radio. Did he just turn that up? I wonder.


Nana joins the conversation, “Is this your taxi?” That would have been my next question. I smile.
“No, it is for another,” which means someone else owns it. Maxwell adds “I will find a way forward,” which means he is working on it. Now I would generally ask about his station, where he parks, but Nana jumps in “What are your plans?”
“Oh, as for me, I am waiting for a certain someone to give me some money,” adding certain to the statement means no one in particular.
“Ah! What sort of plan is that?!” Nana scolds him. “That is the trouble with Ghana,” she begins. I hear this conversation frequently, one that critiques the culture of dependence in Ghana, where people are waiting for someone to come along and give them money to “solve” to their problem. Nana tells him he should make plans of his own money, and not wait for a foreigner to do what he should already be doing for himself. “That is the problem,” she reiterates, “we Ghanaians are always waiting for a foreigner to rescue us. Ah!” and she clicks her tongue in disgust.

nkruma highway 2006

[Kwame Nkrumah Highway, 2006]
A few days later I’m on the N1, which is the former Kwame Nkrumah Highway (named for Ghana’s founding president), now renamed the George Walker Bush Highway (because he visited here in 2008), but no one calls it anything other than the N1, which makes since. If they called it the Bush Highway, in this culture it would mean something very different.
Walker Bush, N1 Highway
[The N1 Super Highway]
When we were here before, this road was a snarled mess of stalled road construction that was perpetually a traffic jam of stalled vehicles.
Today, it is almost a super highway, but traffic has stopped, and my window is down, and I’m chatting up the hawkers selling stuff. I buy two pure water, the baggies of purified water that are cold and refreshing and cost about 7 cents/bag. A few more hawkers come by, and a man selling a Milo set. Milo is a chocolate malt drink that is often served at breakfast, but his set has all sorts of other Nestle products. He is asking me to buy, and I tell him “Oh, I don’t take Milo.” He wants me to give him something small, and adds “they are not selling, the weather is too much.” It is hot. I’ve been outside standing in the sun all day, trying to complete the transfer of our new-to-us vehicle, and so I suggest (channeling Nana) that maybe he ought to find something else that would sell better. He looks at me, cocks his head, and says “Thank you, I will do that,” and he walks away.
Rhino in Action
[On our way back from the Methodist Church in the next village over]
As Suzanne wrote in a previous article, we now own a ministry vehicle, and have begun the process of registering it. It has not been an easy process, even with an agent who walks my paperwork through the bureaucracy: Transfer ownership, registration, complete the road worthiness inspection, renew my Ghanaian driver’s license, and secure car insurance. Mr. Godwin is my agent doing in a few days what would have taken me several weeks. I really don’t want to know how he does it, or what he has added to it to make it happen. I feel blessed because these kind of people always seem to find me, good people who know how to find a way forward in their culture. Mr. Godwin, happened to find me because the former owner’s son happens to do business with him, and so I received an introduction.Rhino Reg
The former owner’s son. Nathan, is a young entrepreneur whose family moved to Ghana in 2003 from the UK. He went to high school here, University in the UK, and returned to, “the wild west,” as he calls it, to make his fortune. He owns three taxis and a few trotros, and has a lease-buy arrangement with the drivers. He makes more than his mum, he tells me. In two years, the drivers will own their own taxi, but only if they are hard working and ambitious. And if they are not, they do not work for Nathan for long. He says it takes the carrot and fire, and I wonder if he means stick, but I don’t ask. I instantly like Nathan for the way he naturally moves effortlessly through the culture here, and organizes his dealings for the mutual benefit of all involved. He has a network of people he knows, and they know how to find a way forward, to get things done. In this case it is Mr. Godwin, who will, in two days, provide me the completed dis-tings I will need to own and operate a vehicle in Ghana, properly.
Men at Work
[Exactly where are they?]
The next day I return to pick up the completed paperwork, and have my picture taken for my Ghanaian driver’s license. It seems like few things can be done in a day. Suzanne and I opened up a local bank account. It took two hours, nine different forms filled out with almost identical information, 15 signatures (each), and two passport pictures. Any paperwork we have to complete always needs two passport pictures. We think we are almost done, but like the car registration, driver’s license, local bank accounts, and immigration physicals, we have to return several times to complete their process. So far we have been able to combine trips, but I have noticed a two-out-of-three-rule, where if we have some success at two, the third will fail.  When we lived in Accra, it was not such a big deal, but now that its 90 minutes of hard road or traffic, but thankfully not both, we notice. Sometimes it is difficult to find a way forward.
In three months they tell me I will receive a text saying I may come to Accra to pick my renewed driver’s license. Mr. Godwin says to be sure and let him know.


Blogger Unknown said...

When we lived overseas and encountered this sort of thing we would say, "Remember, these are what we will call the 'the golden years' at some point in the future." The truth is they are, and they make GREAT stories forever.

8:51 PM, April 15, 2014  
Anonymous Reb Bacchus said...

I didn't mean to be unknown.… Y'all are in my daily prayers.


8:55 PM, April 15, 2014  
Blogger Steve Buchele said...

Reb - that would certainly be how we want to see things. Thanks for your prayers!

8:23 PM, April 27, 2014  
Blogger Nguyễn Thanh Duy said...

thanks for share

4:35 AM, July 01, 2014  

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