Only in Africa

This was a story that as it was happening, I just kept thinking, “only in Africa, only in Africa”.  Here’s the back-story first.  So normally the rainy season ends at the end of September or the first few weeks of October (it might rain from time to time but for the most part the dry season has started to set in), but here we are into November and it’s still raining almost every day.  As a result of this nonstop precipitation the roads are in TERRIBLE shape.  It’s gotten so bad that if it rains during the night cars will refuse to even set out, and sometimes motorcycles won’t even give it a shot.  Huge pot holes and ravines of water crisscross the route all the way up into the foot of the mountains and the trip to Mayo Darlé that normally takes 2 hours at max in the dry season took me 6 ½ hours a few weeks ago.  People who live on this route including people in Bankim don’t seem to be capable of going 10 minuets without either commenting on the continued rain or the state of the roads (I’m totally guilty of this too).  Now if you get in a car or hop onto the back of a moto it’s just commonplace to say something about the roads, and if you don’t people tend to think there is something wrong with you.

Ok now, back to my original story; after site visit I was coming back home in an agencé vehicle (a 16 passenger van with 25+ people in it) and found myself stopped on the road at a place other volunteers and I commonly refer to as “The Swimming Pools.”  It’s right outside of Nyamboya and it got the nick name because there are two holes in the road that are each roughly the equivalent in size to an in ground swimming pool.  Just to help paint this picture, in the dry season I stood inside one of the “swimming pools” with my hands in the air and you still couldn’t see me from the road. Were talking massive massive potholes filled with water and mud that eat big 18 wheelers for breakfast.  So, on this particular day everyone was stopped because one of these big trucks had jackknifed and tipped over on to its side completely blocking the road except for a small passable part that was playing host to a bush taxi that was sunk in the mud up to the drivers window (so on second thought not very passable).  Predicting that we’d be there a while because there were at least a dozen trucks and a handful of agancé vehicles and bush taxis waiting to pass in each direction I got out to walk around and pass the time.

Whenever the road gets blocked like this people from Nyamboya trek out to sell oranges, bananas, peanuts, ect. to people stuck there and the place that a few hours before was nothing but a bend in the road is suddenly transformed into a busy market place with food stuffs from the tipped trucks strewn across the road and mommies and kids hawking their bowls full of this and that.  Even though things are pretty lively after about 15 minuets you’ve seen it all and then the boring task of waiting for your car to be pushed/pulled out of the mud begins.

Our car took about 2 hours to make it through, but I didn’t really have to much to complain about because I spent the time sitting on a prayer mat in the shade under one of the big trucks with two new friends. (side note: in my opinion the ability to make friends on the fly is one of the most useful skills a peace corps volunteer can have in their back pocket… thanks Dad for passing that one down to me )  One of them was a driver and the other was an Allahjihi (a Cameroonian VIP) from Banyo.  They saw me walking around and when I greeted them in my very very very limited Fulfuldé, I guess they were impressed, because then they asked me to come sit in the shade with them to wait for the car.  It was a so surreal and at the same time no big deal… there I was sitting on a mat, an Allahjihi to my left and a huge truck wheel to my right, drinking fresh milk out of a gourd and shooting the breeze with two people I’d just met 10 minuets before like we’d been friends for years.  Only in Africa!

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.