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Ghana, February 26, 2005

Yep, Lost Yet Again

And you said you knew where were going too!

North is that way
Amazing: a map
look out!
I bet he was lost
Where am I now? Where are we going? And why doesn't he stop and ask for directions? I know this could be said to me on any number of occasions when I'm driving, but right now I'm asking it of my taxi driver and the response isn't heartening.

He's clueless. He doesn't even know where in Accra we are, much less where my hotel is. If this were any other city, I would make him drop me off, cursing him and refusing to pay. Here, I just look out the window and watch yet more of Accra zips by in the night.

Why don't I rage you ask? How can I just let us drive for another thirty minutes before, by blind luck I recognize a landmark and guide us in? And why, after all that would I still pay him the $2 he asked for?

Because he is the second taxi I've hailed since I started on this seemingly easy trek from a house party in Osu to my hotel in Cantonments. The first one I left in a huff because he took me to the wrong hotel, somehow confusing 'Alisa Hotel' with 'La Palm Hotel'. Yeah, don't ask cuz I did and got a blank look.

Blank looks abound with Accra taxi drivers. Fresh from the bush, with just enough wits to drive, they usually don't have a clue where anything is. Granted, Accra's lack of street names is frustrating, but they don't even know major landmarks. They are really clueless. Unlike Issa, they don't have a mental map of the city and seemingly, don't care to learn one.

Every single taxi I take, I ask if they know the location I wanna go and then quiz them to make sure they do know. Still, I wind up like this about half the time. Like this would be speeding along some random road in Accra at midnight, the driver and I both lost and clueless.

The only thing that keeps me from splitting skulls is that even though we will be wandering around for another thirty long minutes, unlike anywhere else, the price will still be $2. Still, I'd pay an extra buck a ride just to know that they know where we are going. Hell, I'm gonna start bringing along my GPS, and charge them each time I have to use it to guide us home.

Now that would be the killer app for Ghana, what USAID could fund Geekcorps to install which would win the hearts and minds of all Ghanaians - voice activated GPS maps in all the taxis, showing location, routes, and distance. Next thing you know, they'd have meters and unlike taxis in Senegal, might even use them.

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