Hidden Traffic Rules

By: Ting-Yu Wei

To know what the local rules are is critical for a newly arrived traveller. In developing areas, these rules can be unpredictable or implicit. One must learn from experiences. Here is my story.

****

“You did not take your passengers to the destination and you charge me for the full amount?!” I stared at the fare collector of the tro-tro and questioned him.

I had been on the bumpy road for hours. This was the third vehicle that I was on. My first taxi was inspected by the police, which dragged the time. The second tro-tro crashed with a taxi and everyone, luckily unharmed, had to wait for another transfer. The fare collector of that tro-tro had returned the full fare to us. Now the third one announced that they were not going forward anymore. This journey should have been a straightforward one and under three hours. I should have been at my destination by this time.

The tro-tro crash

The tro-tro crash

Another passenger took me with him and found another tro-tro going towards our destination. However, the collector of the previous vehicle appeared and demanded the full fare of the ride. I had the fare ready, however I did not think that I should pay him as the tro-tro had failed to get us to the destination. He was busy collecting money, yet firmly blocked me from boarding the next tro-tro. I tried to reason with him, yet he did not respond.

The fourth tro-tro was about to depart. If I missed this one, I would have had no idea how long it would take for the next one to come. Irritated and tired, I handed over the seven cedis to the previous collector and re-stated my previous question; was he still making me pay even though he had not taken his passengers to their destination?

He let me pass. I settled on the seat and turned my stare to him again. The next moment, I found him paying the three-cedi fare to the fare collector of the tro-tro we are on.

I took a deep breath. I misunderstood his behaviour. In this case, I did not have to pay more for this ongoing tro-tro, as I originally suspected. Later on, I confirmed the rule with our local program coordinator. In Ghana, oftentimes, if one tro-tro fails to take the passengers on, they pay another tro-tro with the fare for the remaining journey to send the passengers to their destinations. Yet sometimes, they would return the full fare as the collector of my second tro-tro did after the accident had taken place. Regardless of which action is taken, people take responsibility and do their best to send you to the right place. Honourable people, the Ghanaians.

***

It takes time to realize how things are being done locally. There may never be a standard procedure to deal with these incidents. There is always space to learn. Living in a foreign land, we encounter people who behave differently from what we are accustomed to. Any tiny bit of difference in perspective could cause misunderstanding, as both sides perceive things through different lenses. Be respectful, be receptive, be observant and be introspective in these encounters. You will find yourself not only able to connect with the locals you work with, but will also come to see yourself in a truly universal context.
Looking into the world, be wide and open-minded
Ting-Yu Wei is a YCI Youth Ambassador who worked in Ghana in August 2014.

To learn more about YCI’s Ambassador Programs in Ghana, Tanzania and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

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