Life in lawra, part 1: the police trouble Steve

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Sue Kolljeski – The Grandmother of Lawra

I am in Northern Ghana visiting Sue Kolljeski, a Mission Society Cross Cultural Witness living in the remote town of Lawra, Upper West Region of Ghana. Lawra is a community of nearly 1100 homes, and depending on who you talk to between 6,000 and 10,000 souls. Sue has an amazing network of friends, colleagues in ministry, and people she does business with.
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Sydney & Maakum

Everywhere she is known as Maakum, which means Grandmother in the local language. As we walk around, we hear people wondering who I am, asking each other in the local language, “Is that Maakum’s husband?” It was for this reason I sleep at the apartment of Sydney, her Peace Corp friend, but now the town is thinking I am Sydney’s father.
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Lawra, Ghana

Lawra would feel like a backwater sort of place were it not for the five enormous communication/cell towers that canopy the town.
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It is also a village with only one of the two typical forms of public transit in Ghana, and because of its remoteness, there is a form new to me: The Yaabaa.
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Yaabaa Daabaa Do – these are sure fun to ride in!

In the local language, Yaabaa is translated disastrous; a motorcycle cart that hauls cargo and turns out to be quite handy for hauling people, like us. Of course being the northern part of Ghana, motorcycles and bicycles outnumber cars and trotros 1000:1 and in Lawra, there are no taxis. I get the feeling I would see a lot more motorcycles on the road but for the fuel crisis which was supposed to end earlier this week but didn’t and now even the black market gasoline is finished locally.

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The Yaabaa is multi-purpose.

Two hours away in Wa, a fuel truck arrives and we witness the long lines and high tension of frustrated buyers.
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Long lines to buy fuel in Wa.

Just a block away, the mood is different: two happy young enterprising men are selling it by the half liter, in Fanta bottles.
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Gasoline, for sale in small bottles

At roughly 70 cents a bottle, the experience of buying some black market fuel is too much to pass up. I buy one and the two young men pose for me take their picture.
I generally have no trouble taking pictures, but when they are of people, I try to ask permission first, unless it is of a busy intersection featuring the only traffic light in Wa.
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If you look carefully, you can see a picture of THE traffic light of Wa.

Five minutes after taking that shot, a bored police officer motions for me to come. That police officer is guarding the other ATM across the busy main road. The security man at our ATM say “You no worry about that small boy,” when I ask what I should do.
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We have come back to Wa for Sue’s annual pilgrimage to Ghana Immigration to renew her residence visa for another year. After paying the Ghanaian equivalent of $100 US and waiting two and a half hours, she walks away with a new stamp in her passport and Sue is legal for another year. We see a working ATM without much of a line and stop. As Sue works the ATM, I see something I’ve been looking for all day: the famous traffic light of Wa. Wa is famous for being a big city with only one traffic light, and I want a picture of it.

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Can you see the traffic light now?

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5 thoughts on “Life in lawra, part 1: the police trouble Steve

    • Oh – Sorry. It really is funny how not freaked out I am seeing AK47s around on police or military. I remember visiting the folks in Cabo and flying in to that field airport and getting all freaked out because men with AKs were walking around. These days…not so much. Sorry for the scare.

  1. Glad to see a photo of Sue. Saw many yaabaas carrying women in the area of Mole N.P. (an hour or so away. It was a Sunday. In the 2nd photo I did see the traffic light.

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