Mapping Kumasi, A Work in Progress

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. After months of walking the streets of Kumasi, finding friends homes and hidden shops, I found myself increasingly frustrated when trying to retrace my footsteps without a map. Not to mention the embarrassment after securing a ride to a place I’d been before on foot and finding ourselves completely turned around.

Google Maps told me nothing. It looked like this:

BeforeAdiebebaNeighborhoodMap

Meanwhile, we were meeting lots of new friends in our neighborhood and no way to describe their location using a map. So in mid-March, I began walking with a notebook and a pen, stopping before each street sign and carefully writing down the name, making sure to get it right. The street names here can be rather long and interesting. Comfort T W Brobby Ln, for example. Or Ofori Kuragu Ave.

I printed a copy of the map above and began penciling in the names. The next time I went out, I would check the names against the map to make sure I had them right. It was a messy process with no guarantee of success.

20130519MappingKumasi

I had searched the internet for information about “how to add a street name to google maps” and found my new best friend, Google Map Maker. Over the next few weeks, I submitted forty-one map changes. Emails began to dribble in from the Map Maker reviewers and street names began appearing on the map. As of May, the map looked like this!

MapAdiebebaMay2013

Not all of my submissions were accepted. Lawyer S. K. Sotemey St. for instance sounded too much like a person’s name, one reviewer wrote. Indeed, I answered, thank you for all you are doing and it is true that the majority of streets in Kumasi are named after the people who live on them. In fact, we live on Dr. JG Wood Ln, two doors down from Dr. Wood.

The crown jewel of my efforts was getting Elodie and Kojo’s Green Ranch at Lake Bosumtwi on the map.

Green Ranch

Putting street names on a map may seem like a small thing but it keeps me out of trouble and gives me an excuse to wander the streets of Kumasi with a sense of purpose. In Ghana here where I often feel I’m at the mercy of a disorganized world, I am relieved to know that in some small way I can make a difference. Not only do I feel empowered, but map making is an exercise in making order from chaos, which is my reason for living. Best of all, when a new friend needs directions, I can direct them to Google Maps!

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