Saturday, March 28, 2009

The ride in the daladala from halahala, if you catch my drift....

After a long and very frustrating day yesterday in Arusha trying to get medical exams for Bariki and Elli for immigration it was a really long ride home. Had about a 2.5 to 3 hour trip ahead of us and it was already really late. SO we got on the bus in Arusha and started our journey home. We were at the very back of the bus and I had a 6’6’’ Maasia man in front on me in one of the foldout seats leaning against my knees. But to my left I had a really nice kid who spoke perfect English and had a conversation with me all the way back to Moshi while my daughter slept on my lap and my husband read the newspaper.

When we reached Moshi the normally busy bus stop was totally empty except one daladala going to Marangu. But it was full. Problem being a daladala is never full. So it being our only chance to get home and after some shifting of people we crawled in not really having a choice. So where normally there were 4 people uncomfortably across the back seat there were 4 and two kids. Not small kids either. Then came the row I sat in. If you can call it sitting. Here in TZ no matter your size they fit you in where ever they can. For not being a people of public affection they sure do not mind having their personal space invaded. So I head to nearly the back where there are 3 fully grown adult already and I turn to sit on the fold out seat with no back. Unfortunately my a—doesn’t fit so I sort of sit sideways resting all my weight on my right butt check, my right leg folded under towards my left leg and the edge of the seat ahead of me resting between my joint in my knee. Oh and please don’t forget I had Elli who has grown taller significantly sitting on my folded leg and her dad standing on my left foot.

Of course then came the dilemma of where to put my arm. So twisted and contored as my body was with muscles pulling in places I never knew I had muscles I decided the only place was on the head rest of the girl sitting next to me. So she just rested her head on my arm. Now it was dark, late and raining and the daladala was filled with some very angry people. One man behind me was yelling and a man beside me threw some stuff in every so often. A woman at the front was very verbal and it seemed as though it took an hour before we started moving. It was hot, humid, stuffy and cramped. But eventually we were off. The muscle in my right butt cheek felt every speed hump.

They call them speed humps here; they are bigger than a traditional speed bump that we are used to back home and way bigger than the ones in the old Canadian Tire parking lot in Leduc. They are about 1-2’ high but 5-6’ wide. Back to my story, so I felt every speed hump in my butt, my foot and my knee. We continued to stop and pick people up and drop others off on the side of the highway.

Now by this point I was praying, literally, that God would take away the pain that I was feeling take me away to a nicer more peaceful place. And He complied till I started to shift because now I was cramped, had two people standing on one on my feet while the other foot just lay there on its side pretending it was dead. I by this time had also shifted my arm and the girl was now leaning on it. So in an attempt to move it again and have her shift I stuck in elbow clear down her shirt. My apologies were enough and she sort of laughed it off. Then I remembered that Bariki who was standing the whole time with his side to me was also carrying my purse with a lot of money in it. So I reached through under his arm and grabbed my purse. After a minute I felt a hand come and touch the top of mine. So I grabbed it entwining my fingers in his. He pulled away and so I grabbed his thumb and pinched it. Suddenly the guy sitting that Bariki was standing over said something to him and he looked down. At that point he kindly turned towards me telling me that I had been holding some other man’s hand and to add insult to injury had actually pinched him. Mortified I pulled my hand back laughed out loud and sat like I was a stranger on this bus.

At this point we had turned down another highway where we stopped to let more people out and a few people bought roasted maze. That was nice other then the fact that I did not, I was really hungry and it filled the still cramped bus with the aroma of popcorn. At this point with a few less people and some breathing room the nice gentleman beside us broke off a piece of his corn and gave it to the man next to him. Then he broke off another piece and offered it to me but I motioned that he should give it to Elli instead which he happily did and we were off on our final 12 km to Marangu Mtoni. As I looked around the bus I noticed a man in the back seat making funny faces, not speaking, tapping the seat ahead of him and contorting himself in really wierd postions. So I thought to myself “oh my gosh this guy is choking.” He watched me as I REALLY watched him close and this went on for at least 30-45 seconds. I thought surely if he was choking on roasted corn he would indicate to someone. I don’t mean this to sound offensive and forgive me if it does but how do you look to see if an Africans lips are changing colour or eyes are watering in a dark cramped bus. He continued not making a sound till finally I grabbed his hand and said rather loud, “Are you ok?” He looked surprised and totally afraid of me so I smiled turned my head and continued to watch him in my peripheral vision. The conductor started yelling at him to pay and his face went even stranger finally he yelled something and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. The whole time he was trying to contort his body in a way to be able to reach his wallet. I felt like a total knob and the trip just continued on.

After a few more minutes the bus was emptier and everyone had a seat and was comfortable. A drunken guy moved to the front and started to conduct. Asking people where they needed to be dropped etc. As the lights passed I thought that in my whole life I had never been that uncomfortable for that period of time before.

The guys who hand I held had left, the woman’s whose shirt I stuck my elbow all the way down had left, the man whose life I could have saved if he had actually been choking was gone and as I sat watching the lights of the small businesses along the side of the road go by we came to an abrupt stop. We all piled out, Elli, Bariki and I got into a taxi and traveled the rest of the way home. It NEVER felt so good to sit in my kitchen as it did last night after the ride in the daladala from halahala.

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