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7.30.2010

Milagro

So you may not fully appreciate this - even with context given, but here goes.

It is really hard for me to do any business here. I have a hard time buying bananas. 

I have a toddlers vocabulary in Kirundi, and less in French. I can count the fingers on one hand in either language but I often get stuck on Four. Money comes in denominations of hundreds and thousands and millions. Even street sellers negotiate in French.

The price of anything negotiable, which is almost everything, triples or more when I look at it.  Because I am Mzungu. Since I do not know what it OUGHT to cost all I can do is roll my eyes, cut the price in half and hope. At the end of the day I check my purchases with the children. They laugh a lot and beg me to send them, and not try and buy things myself. Daniella is a great bargainer and for anything important, or expensive, I send her.

There is not really anything that requires much more skill than that. All my needs are supplied by my generous hosts.

But once in a while I just get a bee in my bonnet.

Last Sunday morning we were on our way to Kamenge. Feli was driving. David was is Nairobi for the week. I was quizzing her on the cost of the basics;  A taxi to downtown? don't pay more than 3500 francs. What do the motorcycle taxi's cost?  "Oh, Peggy, please don't ride the motos - they really are not safe." And then the voice of the Yoyo in the back seat "Unless, of course, you are driving!" and everyone in the car laughed. And a bell rung in my belly.  That evening I sat on the terrance watching the nightly Kibenga Sunset, made all the more spectacular by the terrible  summer air pollution. And I had a little chat with Jesus about motorcycles. The conversation ended with me telling him that if He did not want me on a bike in Buja, that I would submit to that, but that I was going to make a few inquiries and see if way opened.

The first problem with my plan was that I could not make inquiries among any of my friends and aquaintenances because, except for Yoyo, there seemed a clear sense that Peggy should stay in Taxis.

The next problem was money. I knew I could not afford to buy a moto, even the little chinese 125's that are the entire market here, but I was pretty sure that I did not have budget for a lease or rent either. I had a visa card, but it had failed at an ATM in Kenya. Businesses don't take them here, but you can go to the big bank and withdraw a cash advance, if they recognize your card.

So the next morning, I walked up to the main road, and besides getting a moto ride downtown, I managed to find out what the moto boys pay per day to rent their bikes. (yes, they are really all boys - teenagers) We did this by writing in the dirt, and a combo of Kiswahili, French, Kirundi, drama,charades, and one sharp moto boy who finally grocked that I did not want to rent a bike and boy for the day, I wanted to rent a BIKE for the day. When I asked if any of them would rent me their bike for a day, at a small mark-up - they laughed me into the dust - but I did get a ride downtown and a piece of information. They pay 10,000 frc a day (about $8.50)

Arriving downtown, I had a few other errands, and I intended to just walk into a few bike shops and make some inquiries. I went one block and looked up the street. And there was "MIRACLE MOTORS - SUZUKI MOTORCLES - RUE de la REVOLUTION" Jesus chortled. I walked in and they had real Japanese bikes assembled in India. One million-eight to buy. The proprietors looked bored, and the Owner one Mr Muni Raju, greeted me. Indian - God bless the British Emprie - long may she stay dead!  I told told him my situation. I asked him if he thought it was conceivable that I might lease a bike for 6 weeks. He looked me up and down, smiled a small indulgent, wicked grin, and said. "See this one, my friend just bought it to rent out as a moto, the six weeks needed for documentation should be finished in a day or two, perhaps I could call him and see if he would like to rent it to you?" Mr Muni
Raju received the kiss on the cheek with great dignity. I told him I could pay 10k bfu for 38 days with maybe a little for insurance. He told me to come back in the morning and he would let me know.

And I walked out and considered these things in my heart, with only the small occasional smirk.

The next day, the moto boys greeted me with mild derision. Still walking? Madame?
I told them that they needed to have more faith.  At Miracle motors, the news was solid and good. Mr Benjamin Mutua, a Kenyan and a teacher at Hope Africa University (where David teaches and Feli and Dani study) had agreed to rent to an unknown American lady. But he asked to be called down to meet me. He received the kisses on both cheeks with great dignity. He told me it was all insured, docs paid for and that it should be ready the next day after a visit to the DMV for an inspection.  He called his wife and told her the news of his novel sponsorship and took pictures of me and us and the bike. We agreed that if I wanted to take riders that the fee should be 5 times the normal - ten if they wanted to hang on tight! He promised me there would be a line. (we were kidding - I was not getting the commerical license)

I walked to the bank and had $500 fresh USD in my hands in no time.

I slept with a smile on my face, but told no one, for fear that a call would be made to Nairobi to get the only human voice in Africa with the power to command me.

The next day  the moto boys were kinder - as I had obviously failed. At Miracle Motors the bike had a new shiny license plate and the mechanic drove her to the DMV while I waited - four hours later she came back.  As a final little funny - they had covered the commercial moto sign with a rainbow sticker - the angels giggled.  Mr Mutua arrived for the Christening. My Raju finally got a little nervous and asked me if I needed driving lessons. I declined.  I did practice the kick start but she lept at the first chance to start for me.

As I rode back to the house I made sure to stop and visit the moto-boys.  Who in great Burundian form immediately swallowed their skepticism and shouted an Africa HUZZAH! HAIL  the great Mzungu Moto Madame of Bujumbura! I am their new patron saint. I expect small plastic statues of a white lady moto on moto dashes as soon as they can be ordered from China.

When I got to the house - I beeped - several times until YOYO finally looked out the gate.  The look on his face said it all. "Be careful what you speak - Yoyo - The Lord seems to want to make you into a prophet!"

................


 Last Year, I sold a motorcycle to get here. Didn't really want to, but it seemed needful.  A big Bruiser 1000 cc.  I cast my bread upon the water and in due time it came back to me divided by ten if you count cubic centimeters; multiplied a thousand times if you are counting joy. Here she is, my little Milagro.


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Comments:
Peggy, she is beautiful.

And I note that, whatever the computer difficulties are, you managed to be able to make a nice long post about this!
 
this made me laugh so much. god is good!
 
Ride like the wind.
 
REALLY good thinking.... or inspiration! "Milagro" Lovely name, does it have anything to do with "The Milagro Beanfield War?"
 
We had a good week. The hardest part is the dirt streets in our neighborhood. The moguls are ferocious, and I have precious little dirt bike skills. If you could please, someone let the Hazels, of Scotts Mills know what I have done so I can have the prayers of actual dirt-bikers - thanks
Peg
 
o peggy. I suppose this is good news. I would ask to send Bernard, but he is always busy, and of course there is the throng of Peggy angels - what would he do? Have fun, have fun, have fun. Mercy do!
 
¬°Que linda, tu milagro!

You know about shifting your weight onto the pegs going over 2x4s and such, right?

Joy!
 
Raye, yes I passed moto safety school and they taught us avoidance and crossing of obstacles. 3 foot deep potholes are another matter. The most exciting is when you are in the middle of a swarm and all your pegs are inches from each other. You have to move as one or all die. I have never seen a swarm go down. I was honored when on my third day a taxi boy signaled me to enter a swarm. You could put your arm around the next man, no problem, and they often reach out and touch me - I think I am considered good luck. Pray that it remains so!
 
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