Links

9.16.2010

Dawn of the Dead Travelers

When the midnight bus out of Kampala finally rolls at 2:30 I am relieved.  Relief gives way to annoyance when we pull into a petrol station at the edge of town, but really, I can't be opposed to the notion of being fueled up. It takes 30 minutes to fill a big bus. Then,  to my enormous dismay, the bus turns back towards town and returns to the bus station. What sort of velocity do you need to escape this place? We apparently lack a conductor, and had simply been allowed to ride along for the fill up. A conductor joins us and it is 3:30. Perhaps now?

And then the young fellow next to me speaks up.
"Say, Conductor, Do you have our complimentary water? Our tickets say that we will be provided bottled water on this trip."
"No - you want me to go get water?" asks the conductor.
"I do" says my seatmate oblivious to the hissing and growling and wall of hatred radiating off his fellow passengers.
As for myself, I haven't see a toilet since the Kenyan border 8 hours ago, and drinking water is the last thing on my mind.
"You have got to be kidding!" I say "We are working on four hours late and you want to slow us down!?"
"We paid for the luxury bus, and I mean to get what I paid for." He says.
And an entire busload of Christians ignore the Sermon on the Mount and commit the sin of murder in their heads.

The conductor goes back up into the station and eventually comes back with a case of bottled water. It is 4am, and we appear to be leaving Kampala, but I am not convinced.

The roads are bad, and I don't care. Our driver drinks, and I don't care.  I wedge my pack between me and the seat in front of me so that I physically cannot be thrown out of my seat when the brakes slam on. I put my small bag between me and the wall so that when I am hurled outward, I have something to cushion the impact, and I turn my back on my seatmate, and try to sleep.  My dozing is intermittent due to the flailing arms and knees of the boy next door. He is not wedged in and occasionally gravity attempts to put him in my seat. Despite this, He stretches out and snores peacefully.

About 6 the darkness starts to lift.  I give up on sleep and watch the Ugandan countryside fly by at warp speed. Uganda looks poor but there are enormous white cranes in the marshes. I decide to take out my final hard boiled egg and call it breakfast. I find it nestled intact in my bag. I hold it up and try to compose a prayer of gratitude. At that moment a pothole gets us and my egg is airborne and crashes to the floor, cracks and rolls towards the back of  the bus. Somehow this manages to disturb my seatmate and he sits up and says "What was that?" "My last bit of sanity breaking - not to worry."

At 7, the bus pulls off at a petrol station and the conductor announces that this will be our only morning rest stop. I look across at Chantelle, "Toilets?" "Of some sort" She says. Everyone gets off. I follow the parade. Behind the station is a Ugandan  people's relief station.  This means that behind a low wall, there is a 3 meter by 3 meter, concave, concrete structure with a hole at the low center. It is not only unisex, but is used by 8 people at a time, two to a side.  The surface is slippery and sticky at once. The men have the obvious natural advantage of distance and don't actually have to step onto the concrete. African ladies step up onto it and raise skirts and squat.  Gentlemen are very careful in their attempts to not splatter the ladies. If you must do something other than make water, you squat with your back to the hole, and there is a garden hose to wash solids into the abyss. Not everyone had been so thoughtful. Like most western ladies I prefer trousers for travel. I took in this entire scene and scanned the area for friendly bushes. I asked Chantelle if she thought anyone would care if I went off into the brush. She looked shocked, and mildly disgusted and said "You can't do that when there is a toilet here."

The social rules seemed to be urban elevator. Do not converse, do not make eye contact, do not look at others. Unless of course a white lady is about to drop trou, in which case anyone could be forgiven taking a good look because, God knows, she might have a tail or something in those trousers and this may be your only chance in this life to see such a sight.  I hope they were satisfied.






Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home