Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Silver Bullet and the Cockroach Coach

Transport. It’s an interesting thing in another country. Now, before I describe to you the high style to which we have become accustomed, I do want to be clear that those of us here are choosing to ride in these vehicles. One could hire a car of any caliber here, for a price. Like most adopting families, we are trying to conserve resources…and thus are riding in lower priced options. This means a certain share of misery, but also lots of funny stories to blog about.

Everything here costs an arm and a leg. Transportation is no exception. We typically pay $10 an hour for a regular car, and $15 an hour for a mini-van. If there were no traffic here that might be reasonable, but frequently we are paying $10 to sit in one spot (with the engine off) for an hour…or two, and of course you pay for all of the time you spend sitting around at say, the embassy, which has the habit of telling folks to show up two hours before they actually intend to see you. All of the cars are old, none have air conditioning, and they are in various shapes. Also, we always always always pack in way more adults and children than the manufacturer of the car intended. Let me elaborate:

The Silver Bullet, as this car has been affectionately termed, is an old silver hatchback. It has no starter. Every morning that we take this car, we stand in front of the guesthouse while the car gets a little help, or rather a long push, from our translator and the men that work at the guesthouse. This isn’t inconvenient for the families, since we never have to push, but you always feel like you have to hop in quick lest the car roll away without you. It’s also a bit less fun when you are out and about and parked on a busy road or a crowded side street, and your driver has to pay people to push start you. There are no quick get- aways in this car. The Silver Bullet also has trouble making it up hills. It adds an air of excitement to an otherwise boring drive when the ole bullet significantly decelerates and makes tired coughing noises whenever we hit an incline. The Bullet seats five. We typically have six (three adults, three kids) in the back seat alone.

The Cockroach Coach/The Doo-Doo Mobile: This car is a red ‘80s Mazda, meant to seat five. The drivers name is Doo-Doo (might be spelled DuDu?), and yes, it is oft repeated joke that his name means poop in English preschool-ese. But guess what? We are all so close to insanity that we find that funny, every time. Now, the Doo-Doo mobile has been the Cockroach car for about a week, ever since someone saw a four inch long cockroach in the backseat, then found that very same cockroach CLINGING to their back after they exited the vehicle. Now no one can sit in the car without imagining cockroaches swarming them. When I ride in that car I am hyper-aware of every little sensation by my feet, and jumping at the slightest brush. Of course, when there are six people in the back seat of a Mazda, you can bet that there are many violations of personal space, and thus many opportunities for me to lunge forward and quickly examine my feet for creepy crawlies. The worst part of all of this is that the Doo-Doo mobile is absolutely the cleanest car we ride in. Doo-Doo takes really good care of his car. It always looks clean when it arrives, even though our kids were munching crumbly snacks in it the day before. So, knowing that he works so hard to keep his car clean, I feel terrible that riding in it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Also, the cockroach incident occurred soon after we left an orphanage, so it is entirely possible that the critter hitched a ride from there, and we have been blaming the car unfairly. Still, a four inch long roach is just not something you forget about easily.

The Vans- we have rented various vans over the past few days. There isn’t a lot of consistency to which van shows up, so I really haven’t nicknamed any of these yet. The vans provide plenty of humor though, believe you me. Most recently, we rode in a large van that had two standard bench rows, on in the front and one in the very back, and then a funny little bench in the middle of these. The best part of the little bench? It wasn’t bolted down. It was just a free-floating bench. Thus, when you got in or out, or were say, driving, it was liable to shift right under you, or pop up on one side when you least expected it. But by far, the best humor provided by the vans is the presence of a conductor. What, you may ask, is a conductor? Well, according to the law here, each van or taxi must have a conductor riding in it. It is the job of the conductor to navigate the van through traffic, which the conductor does by opening up the sliding door of the van, and standing with most of his body outside of the van, as the car weaves through traffic. Yes, you read that right. It is the LAW- it is required- for someone to be hanging out of the side of large vehicles here as they drive through town. Obviously when traffic is brisk they tend to pull themselves into the van and shut the door, but rarely is traffic brisk here. Thus, in every traffic jam you see taxis with young men hanging out the sides advising (read: yelling to) their driver about how they can best cut off other cars…very safe. Now, our conductor is a different story. I suspect that because we are visitors and unlikely to complain, our conductor does not feel the need to earn his pay. Thus, he spends all of his time sleeping. Without fail, he sits in the first bench seat, all the way inside (so we don’t disturb him as we get in or out) and so that he can’t feasibly get to the door to do his job when we are in traffic. Not that any of us actually want the door of our moving car hanging open…but seriously, we pay this dude to sleep in the car and take up space, and space is a precious commodity in any car. But, it’s the law. Oddly enough, whenever we are stopped for a long time, the conductor always manages to find the energy to wake up and hang out with the driver.

Well, that is a brief overview of how we get from place to place. When I get home I will be so so thankful for our Corolla. Who cares if it is ten years old- IT HAS AC!!!


Sweet Apron said...

I feel awful because I am laughing at your stories, but you just told them so well!! What. An. Adventure.

mary said...

Keep that sense of humor. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading. I could imagine a little of it thinking of Uganda. :)

anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anita said...

I have been following your blog for sometime. Praying all goes well for you and that you will have mtoto with you sooner than later. dying to know which country you are in at the moment and your story about the conductor made me think you are not far from uganda :-)

ZRebeka said...

Lol, your stories are allways so fun to read. :) Love it!
I am with Anita - would really like to know where are you right now! :)