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On The Road Again

June 21, 2012
I walked outside one day to see a string hovering in midair.  Witchcraft?  Nope.  They had a giant beetle tied to a bit of string and were ‘walking’ him around the porch.”

I walked outside one day to see a string hovering in midair. Witchcraft? Nope. They had a giant beetle tied to a bit of string and were ‘walking’ him around the porch.

Man, I travelled a lot last week, spending an estimated 24 hours actually in taxis.  I made two round trips to Ganta with the trainees then headed down to Monrovia on Friday.  That was an unnecessarily difficult trip, but, surprisingly, I didn’t mind too much.  I guess that means I’m integrating, for better or worse.

I reached the taxi stand Friday just as the rain came.  Five of us plus one kid (they don’t count) piled in the car and waited for one more… for over an hour.  Finally we left only to have the car roll to a stop twenty minutes outside Sanniquellie.  No problem.  It happens.  Everyone else piled out to release water and the driver raised the hood.  Fifteen minutes later this was not going well.  Pelle flew past in his UN car but he didn’t see me and I had no signal on my phone.

Great.

Just when I was starting to think the trip wasn’t meant to be and I should go home the ol’ ma grabbed my arm, “Le’ go, my daughter.  We finding new car.”  Two minutes later, as if sent by god, a car passed carrying only two passengers.  “There are so many break downs,” the driver explained, “that as soon as I have one or two passengers I go.”  We each paid him another $150 and forty minutes later I was finally in Ganta.  Thankfully the car filled immediately.

I was forced to break my own rule and sit in the front, but it was for the best since there were two small small babies in the back.  The guy sharing my seat was very nice and, under different circumstances, you would have considered our afternoon a date.  He sat on my lap.  I sat on his lap.  He put his arm around me.  I put my arm around him.  We ate ginger snaps and sang along with the radio.  Then, six hours later, we shook hands in Red Light and wished each other well.

The driver agreed to carry me to Mamba Point after some hard negotiation, quickly forgiven once we started talking about Sanniquellie, his birthplace and family home.  The entire trip took almost ten hours so it goes without saying it was amazing to take a shower (that thing where the water comes out of the wall?) and put my feet up.

Coming home Monday was the same story.

I got in a fight with the driver before we even left Red Light.  He was over charging everyone and said I should buy two seats because I was rich and white.  That’s when we started yelling.

“I don’t have money,” I said.

“Yes you do!” he spat, “Give it to me!”

“Don’t be rude or I’ll take another car.”

Give me your US dollars.”

Just as I was about to shove my way over to a different car, any different car, an ol’ ma put her hand on my arms, “That’s what he make us all pay,” she said quietly, “Let it be so.”  I paid and took my seat, soon to be joined in the back by two mas and three kids.  Two of the kids were sitting on each other’s lap so it actually wasn’t as bad as you’d expect six people in the back seat of a Toyota Sunny to be.  We ate snacks, sang songs, and slumped in a pile to sleep.

“No sleeping, white woman!” the driver yelled, swatting me.  He was still annoyed from our earlier argument.

“We aren’t your prisoners!” one of the mas yelled, “Let the woman be!”

I motioned to her to let it go and tried to joke with him.  It must have worked because by the time we hit Gbarnga he bought me a soft drink and whispered, “Thank you Jesus!” when I told him I was a math teacher.  I spoke some Mano with him and he clapped my shoulder, “Ayyyy! Ma sister!”

That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

We made good time then the kids started complaining their stomachs hurt.  One of them slumped over and buried his face in my lap.  “Here it comes!” I thought, imagining how I’d show up at Matt’s house unannounced, covered with vomit, and begging to use his bathroom.  But that one only cried.  It was the girl sitting on his lap who threw up… all over the ol’ ma, miraculously missing me completely.  We stopped and tried to clean her off and ten minutes later were in Ganta, where again I waited an hour and a half for a car.

I got home just before dark and ate biscuits on the porch with Grandpa.  “RB, I was missing you!”

Me too, Grandpa.  Me too.

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