Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This is Africa

There is a saying that was coined way before the movie Blood Diamond came to the big screen.

"This is Africa."

It is used when things aren't going right, when things are unexpected, when things don't go as planned. I use it several times a day. Tonight, was a record.

The interns were set to arrive at 8pm Tanzania time. My car is not big enough to transport 4 girls and 8 bags, so as in the past, I hired a safari company to drive me to the airport, and bring us all back. No big deal right? They do it all the time!

The trip to the airport takes about 1 hour. He arrived early...6:45PM. But I noticed one thing. The car was too small! I told the girl when I arranged the vehicle how many people and how many bags, but....this is Africa...and something went wrong.

We stop and get another vehicle. And we are on our way, on time. Thanks to his showing up early.

We get about 1/2 hour out of town and he pulls over. We had been chatting in swahili so he said to me, I am sorry, but there is a problem. The car won't go. (This is Africa).

He keeps trying. To no avail. Calls his boss. His boss says keep trying. This is Africa. Apparently if you keep trying it will eventually do what you want it to do.

I tell him politely in swahili, to call his boss and tell him I want him to send another vehicle. Now. These are four young college gals who have never beent o Africa, some of them have never left the USA and I don't want them to deal with the harassment they will no doubt receive when they are standing there in the airport without a ride.

He does. And then says, you drive, I am going to push. This is Africa.

I should mention at this point, that we had just managed to get the point where there is absolutely nothing around. Nothing. We are in the vast spanse of land between Meru and Kilimanjaro...oh...and it is night. Safety is a concern. This is Africa.

Some guys come from out of nowhere. Honestly at first my sometimes fear driven self gets nervouse...I am quite vulnerable at the moment. This is Africa.

They help push. This is Africa.

I try to call a friend of mine who lives by the airport. Network Busy. This is Africa.

I try one answers. I eventually get through, but she doesn't answer. She is known for leaving her room and her phone so I try to get other ways to reach her. Network is busy again. Again. I manage to get through to our mutual friend is South Africa after several attempts and the network being busy. I am hoping she has the number of someone else on the compound to get a hold of our friend. She doesn't answer. I keep trying anyone I know and get through to someone once for about every 9 tries. Oh this is Africa and I want a decent cellular provider to move to Arusha. Can you hear me now?

It is a beautiful starry sky, and due to the plain I can see the KLM airplane on the horizon coming in for landing. We are still pushing. This is Africa.

My phone rings! It is the interns. Um. Pam. We can't find you what do we do.
I explain to them, This is Africa, I am coming. They should wait on the curb.

I want to vomit not because I am not feeling well, I am feeling much better actually, but because I have a heart to welcome my guests and I know that they are sitting on the curb in the middle of nowhere. This is Africa.

We push the car into a lone petrol station. Put Diesel in and the car starts and goes! This is Africa.

I asked the driver, what the problem was. He says, the car has been sitting a while and needed new diesel. This is a joke. This is Africa.

He drives so fast I think I am gonna die. This is Africa.

We pass a safari vehicle from the same company. The one sent to pick me up on the side of the road and take me the rest of the way to the airport. He didn't bother to stop and get me. This is Africa.

We beat him to the interns. YEAH! They are on the curb looking like they traveled the last 24 hours. This is Africa.

I greet them. "Welcome to Africa. I am sorry I am an hour late to get you...but...This is Africa." They did tell you about flexibility at PDO right? They laugh, say they are just glad I am there. We load the car. The second safari car is encourged to caravan with us back to Arusha but we load all the people and luggage into the first.

The second, well running safari car leaves. This is Africa.

We get about 1/2 hour down the road. Our car dies again. This is Africa.
I groan. This is Africa
I get frustrated. This is Africa.
I verbally express my displeasure to the driver in swahili and call his boss myself. It is nearing midnight and we are driving in the middle of nowhere, except wait, we aren't driving...cause we are broken down again! This is Africa. I am amazed at my ability to stand my ground and express my displeasure in Swahili.

We coast into a petrol station. We get diesel again. The car starts going again. This is so Africa.

We speed back to Arusha, and arrive at my house, 2 hours later than we should have. This is Africa.

I give the girls cookies and drinks and we talk about the essentials to get them settled in until orientation tomorrow. We debrief. Talk hi's and low's. (hi and low points of the day.) I am relieved no one says their low point was their pick-up at the airport and the car repeatedly dying!

This is how the evening should have gone:
7Pm leave in appropriate vehicle to pick up interns.
8pm arrive at airport.
8:30 depart from airport.
9:30 arrive at Pam's house and have fun talking about all the adventures they had on their flight and what they are looking forward to most.

It didn't go at all as planned. This is Africa. And we get to do it all again tomorrow.

On a different note, I took a picture of the girls at the airport so their folks could see they arrived in one piece...but I can't get it to load. This too is Africa.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic entry. You are such a vibrant writer.It's funny how daily life can be transformed into a "glorious adventure," even when you don't feel particularly glorious. I found out about your missionary work, and blog, from Chris Giovagnoni. He has you linked to his blog, and it has been incredible for me to read your journey and to pray for you. I was wondering if you've heard of Women of the Harvest? I just came across their organization, and immediately thought of you. Check out their website when you get a chance:
Blessings to you, as it is a blessing for me to get to know you through your "glorious adventure."
Deborah Lee

Skyler said...

I love it!!! Those are the best Africa stories.

I miss it-to tell the truth. I seem to enjoy flexibility, which makes it a little hard here in the states. i don't really know why, but i like it when things never go as they are planned. that's when you get to make memories and laugh.

can't wait to get back to Shagalabagala land!!!

Dore' said...

Hi Pam,
I am a friend of Lisa Borden and that is how I found your blog.
I loved this entry-it gives me an idea of how much prayer,love, patience and humor you need to work in Africa.
I live in Los Angeles and am very tempted to write a parody
"This is LA".
Praying for you!