The African transit story starts here
We make the Rwandan border by about 10 am. Again with the exit stamp, the separation from bus and bags for the walk across no man's land, and then the entry stamp. I love the Rwandans. First of all, The US and a list of other countries are listed as "Friends of Rwanda" and no visa is required and no fee is charged. But you still fill out a form and get a nice stamp. I always put pastor as my occupation on the forms, and it does buy me some respect. I am through immigration in record time.
Since I expect to stay in Rwanda for the best part of a week I change some money. $100.00 USD gets me 5,500 Rwandan francs. I feel like Melinda Gates, except that I am sure that Melinda smells better than I do. So I head next to the bathroom. Yes a real building! It is still unisex, but you enter a room with shiny sinks and urinals and stalls marked Ladies, Gents and Staff. The stalls have doors that go to the floor! The actual toilet is still a keyhold in the floor affair, but it is porcelain and flanked by grippy foot positioners. And best of all, a young man stands ready and throws in a bucket full of soapy water between each patron. When you emerge another boy stands ready at the sink and hands you a bar of soap and pours water over your hands from a jerry can (you didn't think the faucets worked did you? silly reader) I am tempted to strip and scrub. But I settle for up to the elbows and my face and neck. I laugh in delight and the boy laughs with me as I splash him. Like all African public toilets you pay for this privilege, but I tip big in Rwanda, God bless them!
Next I buy a coke. First caffeine in 24 hours. I am still hungry but renewed. Then I go and join the people of my bus because we are about to be treated to the Rwandan plastic bag search. Rwanda is a proud country. They openly state that they wish to become the Singapore of Central Africa. They have recently made plastic shopping bags illegal in the entire country. This is a good thing. Plastic bag trash is the new paving material in most of Africa. The open burning of plastic material is a toxic smell you become accustomed to. Rwanda has done away with at least some of this. Plastic bags today, plastic bottles will be next. But for now, every bus, every person, every bag is checked at every border for contraband plastic shopping bags. At first I am told that they did this with the military and guns, it has now been privatized, our inspector is about 20 and wears a t-shirt emblazoned with G-Man but he takes his job very seriously. If they find a bag, it is confiscated and you are forced to buy a paper sack at a very inflated price to hold your goods. When they do find one - there is a great scolding - and then they throw the plastic bag on the ground and it blows off in the wind. It is very clear that it would not be a good idea to question the environmental wisdom of the bag disposal. They don't like plastic in Rwanda and they don't like questions. They are very fond of soap, obedience and respect. Our bus passes the inspection, and as soon as the driver comes back with the customs paperwork, we will go. Everyone is encouraged.
I am finishing my coke and wondering what to do with the plastic bottle when our conductor approaches me. He and I are alone on this side of the bus.
He graces me with a big grin - the first I have seen from him.
"May I ask you a question?'
I am feeling better too. "Sure - go ahead"
"Are you married yet?"
(Important note. All the Africans I have met have a terrible time guessing ages of wazungu. Best I can tell they are gauging by shape, size, hair color and style, and how you move. I am not traditionally built, my hair is not gray, I wear it long and often loose, and I do not move like an old woman. They guess my age anywhere from 25-40, never the 52 that I am, and look.)
I laugh at the conductor. He is tall, large, round, and I would guess him at 30. Certainly old enough that he has a wife and kids someplace back up the road.
He mis-interprets my laughter, and leans in and backs me against the bus.
"Because I have always wanted to have a sweet white babydoll like you..."
His breath is sour and hot.
I put a hand squarely on his sternum and give him a gentle push back. I pull myself to my full height and give him my very best withering glare - eye to eye.
"Sir!, you are extremely mistaken. I am a mother. (I push) I am a grandmother. (I put a finger in his face as he steps back again) And I am a Pastor of a Church, on my way to teach Bible in Burundi." He stops breathing and stares at me eyes wide open. He looks like he wants to melt into the ground. He is saved by the Driver showing up and shouting Tu Gende! and passengers materialize and we all climb back on the bus.
The conductor gets on the bus last, looking like a whipped dog. He tries to avoid me, but this was made difficult by my having the aisle seat at the top of the stairs right across from his perch. For effect, I pull out my Bible and my reading glasses and read from the story of Boaz the good and his treatment of Ruth, Sharing with Chantelle the fine points of the story. Several rows participate in the impromptu Bible study. The conductor is very quiet. After About 50 kilometers I put the Bible away. We all close our eyes in prayerful rest.
After a bit the conductor comes and sits on the filthy step below me. Quietly he pleads his case.
"Ma'am, Pastor, I am very sorry for what I said to you. I beg you to forgive me. I am not a bad man, really. Please do not curse me."
They take the power to bless and curse literally and seriously. This man is extremely worried.
I give him some quiet counsel on his duty to protect his passengers, especially women traveling alone. Then I tell him that I will forgive him, and in fact that I will give him a blessing. He beams up at me. A reprieved man.
"In the Name of Jesus - Whatever you sow you will reap ten-fold. If you give peace,peace will come to you, if kindness, kindness, if trouble - TROUBLE."
His smile froze.
"I advise you to be a very good man."
I recall an admonition from scripture to bless and do not curse. Good Biblical blessing. May he be strengthened to sow to the good.
*Slow, lingering smile*
Where I come from, we call it a threefold law. Tenfold? Well, you do have that pastoral mojo thing going for you.
I try to use only the power of blessing. Africans would remind you that even though that admonition was his own, Jesus cursed the fig tree.Post a Comment
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