Monday, February 20, 2012

Things my Parents Taught me


As semi-permanent residents of the guesthouse, the roles of greeter,
tour-guide, and welcome committee have fallen upon Ash and I very
naturally. Recently, we were incredibly lucky to play host to some of
the most pleasant guests Chipole has seen since we arrived- my mom and
dad. We had a wonderful week together playing cards, catching up,
visiting the places Ashley and I spend our time most and introducing
them to some of our favorite sisters. The memory that stands out most,
however, will forever be the getting to Chipole rather than the being

As it is for so many guests, the trip to Chipole (always long, always
unpredictable) was an initiation of sorts and provided my parents
their first glimpses at the challenge that is African life. We all
figured that booking a flight from Dar to Songea (skipping the 16+
hour bus ride) would spare them this experience. We figured wrong.

Lesson number 1: Watch the weather before you go.
It began with a three-hour wait for a four o’ clock bus. Wanting
everything to go as smoothly as possible, Ash and I had bought the
tickets in advance and arrived an hour early making it 6 o’clock when
we decided that it probably wasn’t coming. Not wanting to cut any more
time out of an already short trip, we ignored the dark, rumbling
clouds and began to hunt down a cab…

Lesson number 2: Listen to people who know more than you.
Despite the warnings of locals that it had been raining in Chipole all
day and travel would be difficult, we attempted to get to Chipole by
cab. We got pretty far, actually, before we came to a place in the
road where two big trucks were stuck and it was impossible to pass.
Our cab driver suggested we turn back, stay the night in Songea and
try again in the morning…

Lesson number 3: Don’t get into a car with strangers.
As luck or fate or divine intervention would have it, just then, the
biggest truck I have ever seen pulled up. I mean, it was massive.
There were dozens of heads poking out from the canvas tarp that
covered the back cab, which was just tall enough to stand under. In
the dark, all we could really see was the whites of eyes and
teeth-mouths smiling, saying “Sure come on in! We’ve got room!” It
must have been the size of the tires that hypnotized us into a quick
decision. I’m still not exactly sure who said, “Sure, yeah. These guys
look legit.” But seconds later, we were piling our bags and ourselves
into the spaces between bodies that remained. The air was suffocating.
Thick and swirling with body odor and alcohol. Most were men and most
were soldiers, coming from the army base just down the road from
Chipole. The majority were friendly and good-natured, though toward
the end of the trip their charms began to wear off a bit. The image of
my parents, hunched over, bodies flailing with the constant bumps,
pressed up against young, rowdy African soldiers, but still smiling,
pretending they are fine- will stay with me forever. The ride we
thought would take no more than 15 minutes ended up being a few hours.
Later, we hopped out the army truck and hitched one last ride with a
man named Godfrey. And so, with stiff muscles but, luckily, still the
ability to laugh at ourselves, we arrived in Chipole around 10:30 pm.
The sisters, of course, like mothers do, shook their heads but had
dinner ready and on the table.

What my parents taught me this time? A little, healthy disobedience
often makes for a good story and an even better memory.

Thanks for being troopers, parents!