The views expressed herein are mine and not those of the Peace Corps.



Useful Acronyms

PC Peace Corps
ICT Information & Communications Technology
PCT Peace Corps Trainee (pre-swearing-in)
PCV Peace Corps Volunteer (post-swearing-in)
PST Pre-Service Training
CBT Community-Based Training

Usafiri (tena)

Yesterday’s trip to Mbeya ranks among the better travel stories I’ve garnered from my time here, although (surprisingly) not among the worst trips.

Jess was taking girls to a girls’ conference she had organized with a bunch of other PCVs, and Bret and I were tagging along. Because Jess would be responsible for these five kids, she understandably wanted to plan ahead. She had arranged everything with one driver–he’d pick them up at her house, and us along the way–and set the price and everything. Then, the day before we were set to leave, he called Jess to say that he’d be leaving from Mbeya rather than Makete, and that he’d have to pick us up at 10 instead of at 6 as planned. “Sorry,” said Jess, “that won’t work,” and so she proceeded to look for another car. With the help of Hekima, a friend in town, she found one in relatively short order and sent the driver a message outlining the agreement with the first driver to confirm that it was okay. He didn’t respond, but the cell network had been down so she thought nothing of it.

We all woke up early: Jess and her girls waited at her house; Bret and I headed out to the road a little before 6 AM, walking carefully in the cold darkness. And there we waited. And waited. By 6.30 we thought something might be wrong, but the network was still down so we couldn’t get in touch with Jess. So we stood there, freezing and watching the sun rise. A little after 7 she got a call through to us: the car had left without us, and all the other morning vehicles were gone as well. So Bret and I went back to his house; drank some tea; relaxed for a while. At 8.30 we walked down into Jess’s village and got the full story:

The second driver, who apparently has anger management issues, was enraged by the mere mention of the first driver, towards whom he apparently feels some animosity. So he decided not to give us a ride. He told everyone in the village, or at least everyone who happened to be around at the time, that Jess had sent him an awful, offensive text (she showed it to some of them later, and everyone agreed that the text was completely innocuous). He neglected, however, to tell Jess that she’d have to find alternate transportation.

So we all waited for the car we’d planned to take in the first place, the car that was supposed to come in from Mbeya around 10. The appropriate hour rolled around; the car didn’t. It was not, in fact, until 11 that it pulled up, filled to capacity. Hekima, bless him, told the people in the front and middle seats that the seats were already reserved and kicked them out. Jess and I sat up front with a girl between us, and Bret shared the middle seat with the other four. It was a tight squeeze. We finally pulled out at 11.30, after all the luggage had been anchored to the roof.

From there the ride was uncomfortable but uneventful. We only broke down twice, once when the car overheated after a particularly steep hill and once when we got a flat tire. We arrived at the conference at 4.30, far too late for the 1 PM opening ceremonies.

Then later, in the evening, Peter and I sang on the balcony of the dormitory. My voice was as I love to hear it, soaring and pure, the most fragile part of me but so solid I could almost touch it. It was glorious. The acoustics of these Soviet-designed buildings are terrible for speeches but great for singing.


Comment from Chris
Time June 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Are there any motor vehicles that don’t break down daily?

Though I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that you *do* tend to get where you’re going…

Comment from david Digges La Touche
Time June 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Ah Marie, so glad to hear you’re singing well. I can hear it now.

Comment from Mair
Time July 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I love to see that you can write that about your lovely voice. We had a session the other day and I did think of you…I will try to send you an mp3? maybe? too tech?

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