This week I had to go to Addis. The hospital van was in Addis, so I called to make sure I could go back to Soddo with them. We were planning on returning at 930 the next morning. The next morning a meeting was scheduled, so the departure time moved to “after the meeting.” Once the meeting was finished, around 1230pm, business was not finished, so the departure moved to the next day. Then, I got a call around 4 pm saying that the next day there would be some detours on the way. So I called my friend, Mami, to see if any of his vans were going to Soddo. One was leaving now, so I rushed to the van. I hired a private taxi and was trying my hardest to get there as fast as I could. The entire way there I was getting calls from the driver saying he was leaving and didn’t want to wait any longer. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.
Well, I made it and it was me and the driver. Yep, that is it! No other passengers. Next, we headed back into town (where I had come from) and got the tires inflated, got some new filter put in, then stopped to pick up the rest of the passengers. The driver decided coffee would be a good option, so everyone unloaded and had coffee. Then an officer came around. Not real sure what was going on, but it involved almost taking the keys and lots of talking. When he got in I tried to distract the officer and improve the mood of the bus by talking to him in his tribal tongue, he just responded to all I had to say in English. He wasn’t impressed, but the rest of the bus enjoyed it! Then, we stopped to get gas and then we went to another place for water and snacks. I had now been in the van for almost 2 hours and was closer to where I had started than I was to Soddo.
This whole time I was just laughing inside. I kept wondering where we would stop next. Let me just say, “Welcome to Africa!” Actually, I should say welcome to most of the world. This trip may have been delayed, but there were a lot of things that happened on other trips that didn’t happen on this one. We didn’t have to dodge too many donkeys, cows, camels, goats, sheep, monkeys, chickens… We didn’t get a flat tire. We weren’t in an accident. The steering wheel didn’t fall off. The axel didn’t break. There wasn’t an electrical fire. We didn’t have flat tires. We weren’t transporting any chickens or other animals larger than roaches. We didn’t get stuck in the mud. I wasn’t sick the entire trip. We weren’t asked to help pull the plane out of the hanger. There wasn’t an avalanche of rocks that blocked the road. I didn’t have to hitchhike… The list could go on and on.
When I was in college I fell in love with the world. I had a serious case of wanderlust! The problem was that I didn’t have money. I saved my pennies and would travel any chance I got. I don’t travel like most. What I mean by that is I spend as little as possible. For example, I spent 4 months in South America and the least expensive hotel I stayed in was something like 14 cents. The most expensive was $7 and I was furious that I had to pay so much. I traveled around the continent on a budget of about $100 a month. What that means is you take local transport and stay in the hotels the locals don’t want to stay in and get to experience a whole other part of what life there is like. It is not a luxury vacation, it is better.
The rest of the trip to Soddo was uneventful, well, except for the hyena. I am pretty certain I was the only one entertained by the hyena. My fascination with them may never die. I hear them every night, but almost never see them. The elusive hyena! So for the rest of the ride to Soddo I was thinking about all the road drama in my travels…
While trying to get to Brazil, I snuck onto a train and just kept jumping seats as people claimed theirs. When the conductor came along, I bribed him and ended up with the best seat on the train. Not that I would suggest any of you do this, but this is what homesickness did to me!
One time a window fell out of the bus while we were driving along. The driver just went back and got it and put it in the back to fix later.
On a boat ride out to an orphanage I was going to volunteer at, we ran over a dug out canoe and chopped it in half. Luckily, no major injuries.
Another time the road was so muddy, it took us five hours to go nine kilometers. I think snails leave trails faster than that. At one point, I thought there was absolutely no way we would ever get out of the mud because it was above the top of tires on one side of the bus. Thank goodness for the tractor that happened to come along!
On a horse ride in Costa Rica, I was dying of thirst. I had been the “monster in the bathroom” part of the night. (I wouldn’t suggest eating the steak at that hole in the wall, but I no longer remember the name of the place, so I can’t really help you avoid it.) Then, we got stuck waiting for three hours on a pile rocks for the horses. I arrived at the river and all I could think was “I have to drink this!!!” So on the island, in the middle of the river, I jumped off the horse to drink from the river. I realized I couldn’t hold the reins and drink the water, so I let go of the reins. The horse was gone in no time, so I ended up wading across the rest of the river and then waiting for my horse to be found.
An axel on one of the buses broke and we crashed in the jungles of Paraguay. The only way out was through a window. The men got their machetes out and hacked through all the brush, so eventually we could go through the door. Everyone pooled their food and drinks and we had a little buffet for dinner. It wasn’t much, but we all had enough. We ended up sleeping over night in the bus and building a fire to keep the animals away. We were out in the jungle for about 10-12 hours until the next bus going the right way came along. You get to know the people on the bus this way. You get to hear about where they are going, who they are visiting…
Another time, I was in the back of a pick up truck and the steering wheel fell off. That was the end of that trip. We all got out and sat on the side of the road waiting for another truck. I was in Northern Bolivia and the only white person in the truck, so I was their entertainment. We couldn’t communicate with words. Some one pulled out some paper and a pen and started drawing pictures: fish, bows and arrows, a river, huts. About that time one of the men started explaining things to me in Spanish. We ended up getting in the back of an Isuzu truck to get to the next town. It was a tribe that only had about 1200 people left in it. They mainly ate fish. They caught them with little bows and arrows. The tips of the arrows had something on it to slow down the animal or knock it out. They lived in little huts that could easily be moved. It was a treasured experience to get to meet these people.
In Guatemala, they know how to stack people into buses. I was in a “chicken bus” or old school bus. The lady standing in the aisle smelled horrible. She was short, so her armpit was on my shoulder. I was having a hard time with her body odor, but when her sweat started dripping down my arm, I lost it. I was crawling over the people in the seat next to me and dry heaving out the window. Now that I tell you that story, I am not sure if it was me or my friend that was dry heaving out the window. Funny, how those memories get blurred.
While in Egypt, I had to stand for most of a 9 hour train ride because some men convinced us that we were sitting in their seats. The ticket was in Arabic, so we thought we had misread it. Little did we know that if you give up your seat to someone, even for lies, it now is theirs.
In Thailand, I was riding in the back of a covered pick up truck. At the front of the bus was some Thai with numbers next to it, so I thought maybe it was the cost for the different destinations. I pulled out the guide book, which had the cities in Thai and English, so I knew the fare. When the guy collected the money he asked me to pay double, but I pointed to the sign and everyone laughed. I paid the posted price. I also learned that you shouldn’t touch anything that belongs to the monks. I was trying to help a monk with some of his things and someone told me to stop. They explained that if a woman touches his things, then he isn’t supposed to touch them.
I was on my way to Peru and had an overnight stop at Lake Titicaca. The bus driver saw that I was alone and so he persisted in following me. I went to the busiest part of town and looked for other gringos. I saw a big table of white people in one restaurant, so I ran in and told them all to act like they had know me forever. They immediately got up and were giving hugs, kisses on the cheek and an invitation to dinner. My stalker left and I had a wonderful dinner with a group from Australia.
I will stop rambling. I wouldn’t change any of these situations for a smooth ride. So many times in life we may be upset about what is happening in the current. I know I am guilty of this. I am soured by the bad of the moment instead of soaking in what I can be grateful for. How many times have I been distracted by the inconvenience that I have missed out on something amazing?
Please share your stories! I would love to hear them.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declared the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11