As we step out for our walk we are shocked to see a shiny new layer of asphalt on Swaniker Road. We walk up to the intersection to investigate. Swaniker Road is a heavily trafficked area during peak hours. There is a tro tro stop which brings many vans and small buses packed with riders up and down the street. There is always a variety of vehicles to spot and identify which makes it a favorite viewing spot for Kojo.
“Listen. Political truck,” Kojo says. He recognizes the sound of the loud speaker and the van moving slowly up and down the street. We can’t understand what they are saying partly because of the feedback from the microphone and speakers but mostly because the propaganda is in Twi. The van is covered in posters from either one or the other political party running for office
Until today, Swaniker Road was covered with potholes- the type of potholes that slow traffic, fill with water after a big rain, and get larger every season. These were the same potholes that forced me to hold Kojo’s head still whenever we rode a taxi because his neck was not strong enough to withstand so much bumping up and down.
Without warning, the road was flattened, covered in black asphalt and still looks wet. There are no painted marks to divide the lines of cars riding up or down the hill. Kojo calls it the new road. I tell him that the old road is still underneath. He seems to be mesmerized by its utter blackness. Seshi, our taxi driver, told us once that this happens before an election. The party in power paves roads to convince voters that they are improving the lives of their citizens.
Until today, drivers travelled slowly down the road to avoid damaging their cars. We could walk hugging the edge of the road and still feel safe. With the new road, cars zoom down the smooth surface and don’t seem to mind startling pedestrians. There are no sidewalks in Abelemkpe and those on foot must trust those behind the wheel.
As we get half way to the tiny mosque, we are feeling uneasy. We liked things the way they were. We miss having to keep our eyes on the ground to make sure our footing was secure as we maneuvered over the uneven terrain. There is no more dirt or small rocks to get stuck between our feet and sandals to make us stop and shake every now and then.
We head right onto the first small road we encounter. We’ve never travelled on it before. We can smell food from an oiled grill behind a covered food stand. We see a boy running after a small cat next to his mother who is selling eggs and tomatoes. The road is filled with potholes and although it’s new to us, we feel so comfortable on its worn down surface.