The galvanizer

Berekuso speed limit

Berekuso speed limit

Every village needs one, and almost every major junction has one. I didn’t know the word as a trade 8 months ago; now I amuse students by telling them we don’t have them in America. The galvanizer.

A galvanizer hurrying to inflate the taxi's tires

A galvanizer hurrying to inflate the taxi’s tires

A galvanizer is the person who has an air compressor and jumps to attend to tires on every taxi, car or tro-tro that comes its way. Flat, low and leaking tires are the norm here — at least outside of the city where we live. To be mild about the situation, the roads can be horrible. On the worst section of a commute into Accra, it can take 30 minutes to go less than 5 kilometers because of the dodging and weaving necessary to navigate the erosion shaped and rock cluttered packed dirt road. Every several yards, a taxi driver can point out to me parts of old pavement remaining from the last time the road was covered. Ironically, the township still has speed limit signs noting not to exceed 50 or 70 kilometers per hour. I’ve mentioned before the executive who reported “things on the ground are not as they appear on Google maps.” Perhaps the speed limit is set at the maps level, not actually from on the ground.

Compressed air and tires for sale

Compressed air and tires for sale

I asked about the roadside tire sales. A colleague explained that the U.S. regulates thickness of tire treads necessary for a car to pass inspection, so people cast off “old” tires much more quickly than here. Perhaps we also have different road coverage compounds or different citizenry expectations for road maintenance. And most of the cars here have come from a lifetime in another country, or some tell me off-loaded here when not meeting the quality standards of other countries. That could explain the challenge most car shock-absorbers seem to face (sitting in the back of the Long Bus becomes a bouncy house!).

Whatever the circumstance, buckle up. We laugh on our commute that the worst sections are our “free” chiropractic treatment.

Berekuso road

Berekuso road


Up to the chop shop

Up to the chop shop

Road to Ashesi


2 responses to “The galvanizer

  1. The roads you show are no worse than those in my hometown today as they’re still recovering from Katrina. Following Camille, we used to joke that the city should exploit our roads as training grounds for Army tanks or in filming commercials for shock absorbers. Others pointed out all the money which could be saved on signs for speed limits (as you observed, they are hardly necessary).

    • Bummer about your hometown roads. Maybe I’ve gotten spoiled in Georgetown! I’ll suggest the idea though of the shock absorber commercials as a money generator. Maybe it could turn sufficient revenue to repair the roads (before rainy season starts again?).

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