The STC bus is superior to many forms of transportation in West Africa, including the Metro Mass bus, the tro-tro, the Benz Bus, the sept-place, and the one-speed bicycle. However, it is vastly inferior to Antrak Air, which, as my friends like to call and remind me while I am on the bus, takes 1 hour to go from Tamale to Accra and serves tuna fish sandwiches. My tips for a pleasant trip on the STC bus:
1. Plan for a 15 hour trip; expect the bus to leave 2-4 hours late.
2. Dress for the air con. During the day, the air conditioning will be sufficient from keeping the bus from getting unbearably warm. At night, the air conditioning will be sufficient to cause hypothermia in penguins.
3. Bring ear plugs or headphones. Or learn to love very loud Nigerian movies.
4. Plan what you eat and drink around rest stops. The bus will usually stop 3 times, each stop about 4 hours apart. The restrooms get progressively worse as you go north.
5. Lean back. Avoid sitting in front of a grumpy lady who hits you on the head every time you try to recline an inch, despite the fact that her chair is in the lap of the person behind her.
5. Make it a party. Your "friend" calls to tell you he's having a steak dinner with a glass of bourbon? I've got a 1.5L water bottle of gin and juice, and bag of popcorn, so there!
In Ghana, large plastic bags, printed with plaid or otherdesigns, are prolific. The bags arecalled “Ghana Must Go” bags. I haveasked numerous Ghanaians why they are called this. They reply that Nigerians call them that, forunknown reasons. I finally learned thatthe name originates from Nigeria’s political turmoil in 1983, when manyGhanaians fled Nigeria. They hastilypacked their things in these bags.
Upon discovering these bags, I decided that they would be agood inexpensive option to carry our surveys, and dispatched the field managersto buy a couple for each of their offices. The tough field managers, who are a sophisticated combination of book-smartand street-smart, came back with bags printed with cartoon bears and cartoonpigs. Secretly amused, I asked themwhether they thought the print on the bags reflected the seriousness and professionalismof IPA. The next day a third bagappeared bearing cartoon Mickey Mouse.
The bags held up during the course of the surveying,ferrying blank surveys to the field and completed surveys back to Tamale. StuffNigerianPeopleLike.com claims a GhanaMust Go can carry a child and his dog for miles. When I took our complete batch of surveys toAccra, the bags weighed in at 35 kilo per bag, which unfortunately, seems to bemore than a child-dog combo. My bags weredestroyed in one bus trip to Accra. To add injury to insult, plastic handles onthe bags chafed my palms, which have been peeling unattractively for weeksdespite copious amounts of shea butter.
The surveys ultimately made it to the data team, whopolitely did not comment on the layers of dust the surveys had acquired duringtheir sojourn through the Northern Region. The lesson is that while I highly recommendGhana Must Gos for children, dogs, and objects with high volume-to-mass ratios,I do not recommend them for objects with density greater than or equal to adusty IPA survey.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.