After a hectic, yet relaxing weekend in Accra, highlighted by a trip to the Buduburam refugee settlement, I find myself sitting in an old mini-bus waiting to leave for Takoradi. Sitting while the mini-bus fills up with people. They don't leave until full. Sitting in the cacophonous Nkrumah Circle station, surrounded by hordes of people, travelers, drivers and their mates, hawkers, sellers and buyers. Waiting... for hours.
Long into my wait I see a crowd gather and hear shouting begin. A man in a military outfit is directing a man in a car to drive through the pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The driver looks worried. The crowd pulsates and a violent throng separates, creating a wall between a large bus and a car.
I get out of the mini-bus to try to find out what is going on. A man is yelling in fear and pain. He breaks away from the mob, shirtless. A huge gash is open above his right eye. The bright crimson blood pours down his face. The thick, red blood is illuminated by the bright sunshine. His mouth opens in groaning moans, over and over. His eyes bulging, he stumbles away from the crowd toward me.
I fumble up the stairs of the bus as the man kneels right in front of me. The man in charge of the mini-bus takes an open sachet water and sprays the man's wound, cleaning some of the blood off the gasping man's face.
Yelling and cries and people and movement, the man stumbles away from the scene. The agitated crowd burns, hums and slowly dissipates back to the usual level of craziness. I ask the mini-bus driver's mate what happened, and he responds that the beaten man is a cell phone snatcher. He is a bad man, who deserves worse. I ask the man who helped the alleged thief what happened, and he mumbles something unintelligible and walks away.
I return to my seat and continue to wait. A half hour later, I see the beaten man return to the scene. He's now wearing a bright orange shirt, backwards. The bleeding has stopped. A gritty substance holds back the flow. It looks like the work of a bus station cut man, allowing the fallen fighter to return to the ring.
He wanders back into the crowd, with no further actions taken against him. I go back out again to ask the mini-bus driver's mate if this man is crazy. He replies, 'that would help'.
I return to my seat again, bewildered and confused - and yet feeling strangely safe. It feels like if someone robbed me in this crazy place there would be hell to pay. I buy some fried yam and pepper sauce from a wandering hawker through the open window. When we're finished our interaction, she looks me in the eye and says thank you, like she means it, and walks away. I open the bag and the red pepper sauce glistens, reminiscent of the thick, fleshy blood glowing bright red in the sun. I devour the bag, and it tastes good. I'll survive until my next meal. I'll get though this long journey. If only the bus will leave.