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Travel Image: Tanzania
 Photo: Ogen Perr
Travel Image: Tanzania
 Photo: Paul Tooze

Tanzania: This Bus Departs at Nine in the Morning (cont.)

On this extraordinary trip, in the dawn of the rainy season, we were ambushed by mud. As we scaled the side of the mountain, a mud pocket swallowed the two left tires of the bus. Tomatoes, kerosene jugs, greens, and other fish-stenching cargo began to trickle off the roof. The bus attendants dismounted and laboriously pushed the bus, while the driver
prayed loudly the bus free itself from the grasp of the earth.

I feared the bus was going to tip over on its left side; I was only partially correct. The optimistic woman to my right would not confirm my apprehension until individuals alarmingly invoked Jesu Cristo and Allah. In that delayed, dream-like quality of traumatic experiences, a wave of heads turned to the right in unison. Trees, bushes, and wildlife surfed a colossal swell of mud.

The impact of the traveling earth on the unfortunate bus spit the tin vehicle on its left side and carried it well down the mountainside. I recall some bowel-shaking jolts and the thunderous reverberation of the volcanic mud rush during the actual "relocation" of the bus, but not much else. All crests eventually fall, and with the assistance of two obstinate trees, the bus halted and mud slithered over and under us.

An eternal, breathless silence followed the violent stop; not even the livestock whispered. A photograph of the interior bus landscape would exhibit human bowling pins immediately after a champion strike. With the bus exhausted on its left side, we were piled on one another like firewood. Shock slowly evaporated and sore limbs peeked from the mass. Those people nearest the right-side windows began to prudently crawl out of the mud-oozing bus.

I was one of the last travelers to be pulled through the mud spilling openings. Everyone cheered as the final passenger, a milky-haired African man dressed in a forced suit, surfaced the drowning bus. People congregated in small circles, inspecting one another's wounds and bruises. To my knowledge no one was severely impaired, but of course, a Tanzanian would never confess discomfort.

My only memorable injury resulted from a bus-tossed chicken that found refuge up my skirt. Once the chicken realized it survived the turbulent encounter, it decided to peck its way to freedom through my bare inner-thighs.

The tattered Africans, some with bare feet, collectively and wordlessly began to ascend the mountain. No one searched for possessions; they just calmly scaled the mud mounds towards the nearest village. There were no crying children, no declarations of legal pursuit, no cellular phones to notify the authorities, and absolutely no word of a refund. I quickly scrambled after my big-bosomed companion, "What do we do now?!"

Again, her cheek-vibrating laugh, "We walk, young sista!"

"How far?" I winced.

"Oh, hamna shiba!" she responded. I instantly reminded her, she said "no problem" just before we were assaulted by mud. She observed me cautiously, "What are you thinking, young sista?"

"We will walk for a long time."

She laughed abundantly, put her arm around me and exclaimed, "Karibu (welcome) to Africa!"

After a long pause, I said to her, "You know, the next time the bus is going to fall, I am not going to sit by such a fat woman." She could not stop laughing.


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