I wish that the title of this post was simply a clever joke, but the words accurately summarize the experience that Angie and I had today during our commute to Sankofa School, where we both volunteer as teachers. Normally, we walk from the guesthouse to the main road, take a trotro to Atabazee junction, and then a taxi to the school. A trotro is a large van that functions as a bus would in America because it follows a specific route. Today, when we arrived at the main road, we hailed a trotro, crossed the road after a few minutes because of heavy traffic, and then prepared to get in the van. Angie stepped in first with me right behind her. All of a sudden, the trotro attendant yelled at us to sit down, slammed the door shut, and the driver pulled speedily away. Angie and I were separated from the two other students, Sana and VJ, who teach at Sankofa, which has not happened before. However, we all know the route by heart, so Angie and I assumed that we would meet them at the junction. When our fellow Ghanaian passengers expressed concern that our group had been deliberately separated, we reassured them that they would be able to find their way. However, the tension was quickly rising in the van. Passengers started yelling at the driver in rapid fire Fante with a few English phrases mixed in. Additionally, the vehicle was traveling at breakneck speed, driving on the dividing line of a two lane street, forcing oncoming traffic into onto the side of the road. Angie asked the gentleman sitting next to her what was happening, and the man replied, “we are being chased by the police.” Angie and I stared at each other with a mixture of awe and horror. The yelling in the van increased when the driver started missing stops where passengers were supposed to get off. The woman sitting in the seat behind me, who had been particularly upset, started sobbing and screaming, “My life! My life!” Up to that point, the ride had felt surreal, like a bad dream induced by the powerful malaria prophylaxis pills that we have been taking. Once it dawned on us that our lives were in danger, the nightmare became real and my already firm grip on the seat in front of me became even tighter.
At one point, the police van pulled in front of us and forced the trotro to the side of the road. However, as soon as the police stepped out of their car, the trotro zoomed away agin, with all of us still in it! Eventually, the police stopped the van again, and all of the passengers were ordered to evacuate. The locals who had been on board, taxi drivers that we had almost crashed into, and curious bystanders were all shouting at the driver and each other in Fante, and the same gentleman who had narrated the dramatic events for us in English helped us to find a different trotro. We ultimately made it to Atabazee junction, alive but slightly in shock, where we met Sana and VJ before heading to the school. Several of our local friends later explained that these events are not commonplace in Ghana, even if drivers are more laid back when it comes to following the rules of the road. While this incident was an adventure that we will always remember, I hope that it was a once in a lifetime occurrence.