10 November 2007

day 10 :: because it wouldn't be Africa otherwise

We were on our way to the airport, er, the airstrip, late, and we were massively annoyed by the slow speed of the vehicle in front of us that refused to move over to allow us to pass and drive at a normal speed. My colleague hooted and hooted (that means honked, for the North American guests). Finally, the car pulled over on a wider span of road. We passed him and sped on. Not two minutes later, there was a hissing noise, unalleviated by stopping the car. Tire. Gone.

We stopped the truck we’d just passed and threw my bags into the open bed. I jumped in the back of the double cabin, waved to my colleagues, and off we went. Just on the off chance that the plane would arrive on time and, for once, decide to go straight back instead of jumping to another town first.

The slow driver was now my driver. The engine had a power problem, so he couldn’t drive faster than 50 km/hour. And that was on a good engine spell. On the bad engine spells, when the power suddenly went, even though the pedal was on the floor, we sank below 40 (25 mph). The shocks were gone. I bounced around in the back. The worst part, though, was that the driver had clearly learned to drive on a car without power steering. His hands, and therefore the steering wheel, and therefore the truck, went right-left-right-left-right-left, constantly. I could feel it, the swerving, in my stomach. My motion-sicky-prone stomach.

We finally arrived at the airstrip, to find lots of NGO and UN people sitting on their hoods. No plane. Our car, tire replaced, arrived not three minutes later.

And then we waited.

Oh, and we waited.

Three and a half hours later, having used the bushes as a toilet (and gotten something smelly on my sandal – ew), having eaten less than ¼ of a granola bar since breakfast, having bored ourselves to tears talking about crime in Nairobi, I finally made it on a plane.

Uneventful flight. Uneventful landing. Except… wait, I think this has happened to me before… NO ONE CAME TO PICK ME UP. The same thing happened when I arrived in my little town, back in August.

This time, I carried through on my threat to find another ride, but this time the ride was going in my direction and dropped me off at the right compound. It always helps to have chatted with the people on your flight. They’ll take pity on you and bring you places.

So here I am. Out of Tilt and in Central Location. I’m staying in a hotel, which is I-can’t-even-tell-you-how lovely. My toilet? My shower? My sink? My MIRROR? (I haven’t seen a mirror on the wall since Nairobi.) ALL IN THE ROOM (er, the tent). It doesn’t even matter that I don’t have a flashlight.

When I checked in, they gave me a glass of juice so cold I could hardly drink it. There was icy slush of juice in it. It was amazing. I drank it and thought to myself, I love the modern world.

Then I saw the self-contained room. I rejoiced over the lights and the sit-down toilet and the fan.

I could get used to this, I thought.

And then, Oh, wait. I have been used to this. MY WHOLE LIFE.

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