The time in Africa is winding down for us. Erika leaves in a few days. As cliché as it sounds, I cannot believe it has been a year? It seems like the time has flown by. Is it partly that we haven’t had seasons of distinction, or that everything has been new and interesting, or that we didn’t have the long gray days of winter, or that it gets dark at 7 every day so the days seem short...??
Now we start to think of what we will miss and what we look forward to as we go home...kind of hard to guess what we will miss...We are sure of some things we look forward to! And we are also quite sure of some things we won’t miss...related to driving alone:
potholes everywhere, unmarked speed bumps...lots of them, high beams only, no street lights or white lines, pedestrians, donkeys and bikers in the road...even when pitch dark...no helmets, and possibly cars or bikes coming at you against traffic! What will it be like to actually be able to see where we are going and to feel like we can go out at night just for fun if we want to?
Remember the bandit story? I got a call the other day from the local police telling me they had caught some guys and they wanted me to come and “identify” them?? Imagine? Would you know what the 3 guys who threatened to shoot you or beat you looked like if you had pressed the pedal down and bolted?! And I still don’t feel comfortable going back on that road.
We got stopped the other day randomly. We were between two matatus (local mini bus transport) and the police claimed we were speeding. He didn’t have any way of measuring speed, just the desire to collect some money. The process can easily lead to having to drive to a court hearing, sitting in jail for an hour or two, and then still paying a bunch of money...this would be how you might avoid just giving them the money in the first place...no ticket, just money direct...perhaps for the police to have lunch later. Warren started suggesting amounts that might make it possible for us to just keep going and get on with our day. It didn’t take long to agree on a stupid amount of money, but a pass to keep going...and this was worth it for us on that day.
John (and now Erika) rides motorbikes here. It is part of the deal...and a big part of life here. He loves it! It scares me. Many of you would think we are insane for allowing him to do this. Maybe we are, but it would be pretty crazy to bring a 17 year old here and tell him he couldn’t as well.
What it takes for me to get to the grocery store...distance, hazards...It will be amazing to have the option of walking down the hill to Safeway or QFC! Or even better...just to walk to a restaurant for dinner. John has lots of restaurant fantasies!
But, despite these complaints, driving is actually a luxury here...most people ride in matatus, driven at insane speeds and packed to double capacity. Many people die in these.
(We are grateful to already have a buyer for our car and one of our motorbikes.)
Back to what will we miss?
Today Erika said that she might miss Abraham more than anything when she leaves. Abraham is a local schizophrenic who arrives on our porch every morning. His toothless grin and HEARTY laugh make us happy. He sticks his head in the window over my sink and says, “Hi mama, how are you? Do you have chai?” We tell him that we will make tea and he sits down on the porch and waits. Abraham is very, very dirty...always in the same wiped out clothes and he brings a few “friends” along to keep him company...as he sits alone on our porch. If he isn’t talking to us he is talking to them. He likes to enjoy a muffin and a banana with his tea...and he knows if there are 3 scoops of sugar in the tea...any less and he will say so. He can drink the tea immediately, near boiling point! He must have all the sensation burned out of his mouth! As he drinks it he tells us...”you are good...you are good...” Who wouldn’t miss this? A happy person who shows up every day and tells you...”you are good”, for doing something as simple as making him tea...