Friday, October 8, 2010

Making my way in Kumasi

On the plane to Kumasi on Wednesday, a very nice Dutch employee from Phillips said that he didn’t like Kumasi because it seemed less like a city than a huge, sprawling village.  Kumasi is composed of ten sub-metros that have merged together into a sprawling, vibrant mass of humanity.  Coming from the RTP area, which has no central city but many suburbs, I feel rather at home in Kumasi, at least from the city layout viewpoint.

However, in my short time here, I can see why Westerners are advised against driving in Kumasi.  On the way to the Kumasi Metropolitan Authority today, we drove through an intersection that functions as a 4-way stop but without the bother of having actual stop signs.  The drivers on the main road knew to let through some of the drivers from the side road on an intermittent basis.  Strangely enough, even with all the crazy driving, there is no road rage, maybe because very few people are concerned about being on time for most things.

Back in the US, I struggle to find my way in a place I’ve lived in for years.  Ask anyone who’s gotten a phone call from me when I’ve been lost—GPS may have saved my marriage and many friendships.  In addition to the driving, navigation in Kumasi is best left to the professionals, like our driver, Akmed.  While Kumasi’s streets show up on Google maps, there are still plenty of streets with no names.  Luckily Akmed is a champion at navigating the twists and turns of this sprawling city.  In the two days I’ve been riding with him, he has used every side street and back road he can to get us where we need to go in the shortest time possible.  He also appears to understand our Western insistence on being on time, as he consistently shows up early to pick us up. 

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