I recently took a trip to the Upper West Region and back and these are just random thoughts I had on the bus trip over and back. This is a 700-kilometre journey by road. The Savannah and Northern regions are not new to me. I have visited several towns in the northern, western and eastern parts for leisure during my university days. I have also had work projects in Tamale and see Tamale in a romantic light as the place I will love to retire to. There is something about the weather and people that are just warming.
First, travel etiquette should be a thing. I will gladly write a curriculum on it for free if the government will implement it in our school system. Personal hygiene should be a box we tick before entering a box with limited air circulation for half a day! Do not remove your shoes, especially if you have athletes foot. If you are going to sleep, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t enter into people’s spaces. An older gentleman was so comfortable he put his legs across the isle unto my seat. Please take a shower before travelling or get your deodorant game on. Finally, for heaven’s sake, take hints. Limit conversations with passengers unless there is mutual wiliness to engage. The on-bus movie was narrated for 2 hours by a fellow passenger, spoiling an already tedious plot with problematic content.
Speaking of on-bus movies, Kumawood really needs better writers with progressive ideas. Stories pounding on stereotypes of women as homemakers only and prayers being better than medication are dangerous and contribute to the narrative. The movie I was watching, for instance, told the story of a couple having challenges with childbirth. The usual inlaws abusing the wife is compounded with infidelity on the part of the man. The woman is then raped during a robbery and gets pregnant. Her husband then convinces her that if people found out that she was raped, she will be ridiculed, so the incident was swept under the rug and sealed with their pastor’s blessing. The husband then comes out to say he has fathered a child with another woman and proceeds to bring that woman and the child to his marital home. That is not even close to the worst part! The woman takes consolation in the church only to find her rapist as a new convert. She is coerced by her pastor to forgive and forget because God has forgiven her rapist. But wait! She then falls in love with her rapist. At this point, I had facepalmed so many times, I was beginning to have a headache. Kumawood has the opportunity to tell stories that challenge the status quo, shape the future of discourse and break boundaries in areas such as minority and religious rights, environmental issues, etc, while still remaining funny and accessible. The “war room” narrative of a submissive wife who has to endure everything including rape, in the hopes that God will bless her marriage and change her man, is overplayed and harmful.
Rest stops are a rip off! I can’t believe they still charge you to use the restroom. I can’t believe how expensive their food and drinks are. I can’t believe how and why we have allowed them that much power. There are unofficial rest stops on the way with my favourite being between Bole and Wenchi. Superb fried yam! For travellers at night, a stop in Kumasi at night offers little in terms of food so I plan on bringing some food on my next trip.
The night sky outside the glaring city lights is unbelievable. For the first time, I could see so much of the Milky Way. The cold mid-night breeze offering the freshest air I have ever breathed in. Bole has the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Plush greens with patches of grey, ridges that just kiss the early morning sun as people and livestock wake up to what I can only imagine is another day in paradise. I am not oblivious to what many will see as poverty; mud houses with thatched roofs, brick houses with rusted roofing sheets, signposts of NGO’s laying their claim to being saviours, etc. I am more aware of the peace, beauty, serenity and overwhelming sense of equipoise between man and nature. This balance, I fear may be lost to capitalist interests, because, what next I observed is the immense resources the plains where offering.
Wa is a beautiful town. Quiet, unique, friendly, with only one set back; the weather. I can’t really blame the place for having weather that can’t make up its mind and exists only in extremes. I can’t also say I did not enjoy the extremes. Extremely hot days with temperatures exceeding 38 degrees and over 6 inches of rain with wind speeds of 15kmph; these can happen within an hour of each other. I loved the uncertainty. I also loved the Waakye and Banku. One thing is for sure, Wa has changed my taste in grilled meat. I have never tasted any as I had in Wa. Also, I loved the tricycles that are used as taxis. They are called “Camboo”. If you have beautiful weather, you might as well flaunt it. With an airport, I wondered why there were no commercial flights, but only for a second. The bus ride, although long, was an experience worth repeating.
My final thoughts as I got down from the bus was that in some ways I wish Wa was more like Accra – more opportunities for the people, but in all other respects, I wished Accra was more like Wa – better-grilled meat, kinder smiles, less traffic and of course, more “camboos”.
Kwabena Antwi Boasiako (April 2019)
Kwabena Antwi Boasiako is the current President of the Humanist Association of Ghana and a Building Services Professional.