Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fight Night @ Kwame Nkrumah Circle Station

(I’ve not been keeping my blog as up-to-date as I had originally planned so this article comes a number of months after the incident occurring.)

A number of months ago I was working quite late one Sunday evening and decided that I should pack up and head home.  Using local transport, I’m about a 2-3 hour journey away from the office in which I work.  A large portion of that travel time is consumed in waiting… waiting… and more waiting… for the next bus to arrive.

After packing my bag, along with a medium-sized pocket knife a Russian friend gave me just before I left Canada, I began my journey home.  I walk from my office and hop into a shared taxi that will drop me at my next connection stop, Kwame Nkrumah Circle Station.  So far so good.

Once it gets around 10pm in Accra I don’t deem it to be that safe.  Lots of dubious people hang around the streets including prostitutes, drunkards, thieves, sellers, armed robbers and even mad men.  Yes, that’s right mad men!  See the story of the madman of Gadara (Mark 5:1-18) and you’ll get the idea.  After seeing this night after night I decided to carry a knife – more of a deterrent than anything else.

After arriving at the KNC Station I joined the queue (line) for the next bus to my area.  There were 70+ people in the queue and each bus holds 23 people minus the driver and mate meaning only 21 passengers are permitted per bus.  I had a very long wait ahead of me!  At that time of night I try to put away any obvious hints of affluence or worth.  I generally take off my watch, ring and don’t use my iPod.  It’s not an issue of fear.  More an issue of wisdom.

After a long wait a bus arrives.  Pandemonium breaks out!  Those at the front of the queue rush onto the bus.  Others from the middle and back of the line jostle forward with some jumping ahead to secure a better position.  I merely moved forward with the crowd and didn’t try to jump ahead.  What’s the point?  Though there is a definite lack of order in such things in Accra I don’t feel I should jeopardize principles just so I can get home earlier.  It’s not fair to push ahead of anyone.

The bus departs…

Suddenly out of nowhere this guy about 5’10, 185 lbs approaches me and says, “Do you know me?”  I had no idea who this guy was nor did I really care.  My focus was getting on the bus and going to bed.  When it’s that late and I’ve had a long day, I just zone out and am not really interested in conversation.  I Ignored the guy because I had no clue who he was.  He repeated himself while increasing his volume, “Do you know me!”  I thought, “This guy isn’t going away.  Oh man, what’s his issue.  It’s late, I’m tired and I’ve now been here nearly an hour.”  “No!  I have no idea who you are!”

“You jumped the queue!”

“No I didn’t”

“Yes you did!”

“No… I didn’t!”

“You were in the back of the queue and you jumped ahead of me,” he declared.

“Look buddy, I moved along with the line and didn’t jump the queue.  If you’re looking for those who jumped the queue, look at the five people ahead of me because they did.”

“No, you jumped the queue!  You need to go to the back!” he continued.

At this point, I realize that this guy must’ve had a few drinks or something because I didn’t jump the queue and he was really pushing the issue.

“Listen, I didn’t jump the queue and I’m not going anywhere!” I replied.  “I’ve been here for a long time and there is no way I’m extending my time by going to the back when I didn’t jump this queue.”

“Then I’ll move you!”

Great!  Here we go.  Now this guy is threatening to physically move me to the back of this bus queue.  Is this really happening?  For a minute I thought I was dreaming or this was some sort of joke.  In Ghana, those with mixed ethnicity, especially when one of your parents are White, are targeted.  I thought this guy was just targeting me because it’s obvious I don’t look Ghanaian and wasn’t dressed like the rest of the people there.

“I’m not moving or going anywhere!”

Me in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi
This “I’ll move you” “I’m not moving” continued for the next few minutes though it felt like about a half an hour.  Finally with a strong voice I said, “Okay, you want to move me… try it.  You have no idea who you’re dealing with!  You don’t want to try me pal.”  He insisted that he’d move me.  I held my ground and said, “Okay, go for it, I’m right here!”  At that moment I began thinking, “Wow!  I don’t believe someone is threatening physical altercation over a spot in a bus line.”  Looking back I probably should’ve swallowed my pride and just moved but something rose up in me to hold my ground.  I then began to weigh the situation and my options.  Should I just take this guy to the ground and lock in a submission, or punch him in the head, etc.  I didn’t want to take out my knife or use it because frankly, I didn’t think the situation warranted it.

I didn’t move to Ghana to get into a fight.  I mean really.  But here I was about to be in the middle of one.  Man, life is complex at times.  At one point I thought of moving to the back but that would’ve meant arriving home around 2-3am and that just wasn’t going to happen.  So I continued to hold my ground.  I called his bluff a few more times and he didn’t make a move.  Reminded me of one of those tiny poodles that just yack, yack and yack.  All bark and no bite.  He never did make a move.

After thinking about it a bit more I decided that nothing good is going to happen in this bus queue.  I eventually walked away.  Getting arrested by the Ghanaian Police for fighting or even worse, deported, wasn’t something I was willing to risk.  Why jeopardize my life for a guy who had no legitimate reason for fighting me.

It’s amazing what goes through one’s mind during such situations.  At the end of the day, I thank God for allowing me to put down my pride and leave the situation peacefully.  Beating down a local over a bus spot isn’t worth it and honestly I don’t think Jesus would’ve been happy with his servant had he done so.

At the end of the night a fight did occur.  It wasn’t a fist fight but  a fight in my mind.  Do I give in to the desire of my flesh to lay down a solid beating on this guy or do I take the high ground and walk away.  I thank God for giving me the wisdom to do the right thing.

Everyday we all experience mental battles.  It’s inevitable that you’ll experience a challenge wherein you will need to decide what you should do, how you should act, what you will say, etc.  I firmly believe that all of these things are tests that are permitted to test our mettle.  The key is to identify these as such and take the necessary steps to pass them.  As it’s been said, “There is no testimony without first having a test!”



  1. Cool story J! Thanking God that nothing bad came out of it. Oh, yeh, who's that Russian guy that gave you a knife, I'd like to meet him. I collect knifes too. ;-)))

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