Many times in my life, I have found myself waiting, just waiting, for hours. Sometimes in airports. Sometimes in hallways. Often, in Rwanda, I found myself waiting in my car. I have mentioned several times my mixed feelings about my car. It was a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which means that it was big and white and pretentious, like the oft-mocked NGO cars all over Africa. Nine people could ride in it. Or five people and some goats. Yet appearances are deceiving, because it was a 4-cylinder and therefore a leeettle underpowered (also slightly better on the diesel than it might otherwise have been). On the way up into the mountains heading west from Kigali I had to turn off the airconditioner and resign myself to the underpoweredness. No crazy passing on blind curves, no matter how frustrated I became with the sloooooooowww trucks in front of me. But I loved it, because it got me places and because I was so comfortable in it. I knew its capabilities and it knew mine. We were a team. It knew, for example, that I would back it into ditches. Repeatedly. I knew that it could get itself out in 4 wheel drive. I knew that it would blow fuses and the electrical system would go crazy. It knew that I would fix it. It knew that I would lock my keys into it over and over. I knew that it was hard to break into, so it was safe while I went to find someone to get me in (once I tried to pay some thieves to let me in... no luck).
I remember several of the waiting occasions very distinctly. Once, for example, I was waiting to meet a pastor in this one neighborhoood in Kigali (okay, I've forgotten the name. You know how there are some names you just can't remember? this neighborhood has one of those names.) I sat and sat and sat and moved the car and sat some more. I remember this waiting state of perfect calm. The waiting itself was grace.
Another such occasion was once in Budaha while I was waiting for a colleague from Kigali to meet me (it's the halfway point between Kigali and Kibuye, plus we were meeting some beneficiaries there). I was reading a book (always have a book along) and then people came and started talking to me. One man wanted to talk about the cost of higher education. How much is it in the US? (About $20,000 a year.) How much is it in Rwanda? (About $300 a year.) Could I pay for him to go to university? Erm...
A group of kids gathered. Sometimes, in a group of children, all of them are cute and personable and fun, but one child draws your attention. It's not always the vivacious one. It's not always the cute one. Sometimes it's the sad one in the corner. Sometimes it's the one who reminds you of yourself. I don't know what it was about this little girl, but I liked her. She was a little bit shy. I don't know her name (I think I did, but it was almost three years ago and the name is gone). But when my colleague finally arrived, I let the little girl climb into my car and stand in front of the passenger seat, clinging to the bar on the dashboard. As we drove the half mile dirt road into the village, she waved at everyone we passed, and then I stopped and let her out, only to have her chase after the car along with all the little boys trying to jump onto the back bumper and cling to the spare tire.
I just remembered this little girl because I read a story about a little girl excited to ride in a car in Africa. But anyway, below is part of the group of kids in Budaha. My little passenger is in the black and pink dress on the far left.