I'm a total wimp, and I've been doing pretty great here. I've been driving around, which has been stressful because of not knowing where I'm going, but the driving itself is not anxiety-inducing like it is in India. Many of the roads are not paved, and while that's bumpy, it's fine. When people ask how I'm transitioning, I feel like I'm able to reply, both honestly and enthusiastically, "great!" I usually follow with the caveat that there may be a day when I don't do great.
It was bound to happen. Today is that day.
With all the kids in the car, I followed a friend to another friend's house, where I've never been. It wasn't far, and it wasn't far off a main road, but I didn't pay close attention to where I was going because I was following. But, due to the normal and universal circumstances of motherhood, my friend had to leave an hour early to pick up a sick kid, and I was left to drive home by myself. Which shouldn't have been a big deal.
But I went downhill when I should have gone uphill. I blame it all on Simon. He is my navigator and he totally fell asleep on the job. Anyhow, I was not on a paved road and it was narrowing quickly. It wasn't bumpy; it was mountainous. On these types of roads, it's very hard to turn around, and usually better to just keep driving forward until you get out to another road. So, I kept driving. Down. I heard the bottom of my car crashing against the mountains sticking up out of the road. Charlie and Annie were playing some sort of squealing game, which works wonders on my sanity. I ended up in a valley, surrounded by a large number of Rwandan children screaming "Mzungu!!!" (white person) Truly, I couldn't have looked anymore Mzungo than sitting in my car on a road that was never intended for vehicles with four wheels, nearly crying, and muttering under my breath. I had to stop my forward progress when I came to a bridge that was narrower than the width of our car. I had steep ravines about one foot from each side of my car.
Accompanied by my adorable yet annoying audience, I completed a one-million-point-turn to go back up the hill. My audience followed, laughing and begging for money. And then I got to the part of the road that was narrow, mountainous and both dusty and muddy. The tires started spinning. Rwandans were howling with laughter. My kids were looking uneasily amongst themselves. I scanned the crowd, and was pretty positive that no one in this valley spoke English (why should they?) or drove a car. Certainly, if they were able to drive, they'd be too smart to bring a car where I'd attempted to bring one.
I called Ben and asked him to pray for me. I wanted to ask for help, but as I had no idea where I was, I couldn't very well direct anyone to my location. In Kigali, there are street numbers, but no one knows them or uses them. I'm actually not sure what they're for.
A guy (an answer to prayer?) flashed his wallet at me, giving me a glimpse at what I think was a driver's license. So, desperate, I flung my door open and let a stranger in my car with my keys and my 4 kids. (Mom, how are you doing?)
I had mixed emotions as I watched him grind and spin the tires deeper into the dirt. 1) Vindicated, that it wasn't just me, and 2) ashamed that I'd brought my car down this stupid path that wasn't a road.
Eventually, he got out of the rut and took off up the hill. I scrambled up in my flip-flops, after my kids, and was given back the keys and the driver's seat.
|My new friend having not much more luck than I.|
|the rut I was stuck in.|
|help to the rescue!|
|After a morning like that, it's ice cream for lunch.|
I ended up on top of a hill that seemed to be overlooking Kigali, which meant I'd gotten myself outside of the city (I think). So, I went back down to a backseat chorus of, "Mo-om, we're going downhill!! You said we can't go downhill anymore!!!" I found a mototaxi driver and called Ben. Between my mototaxi driver and Ben's kinyarwanda-speaking waiter, we arranged for me to follow the driver to a location I knew. Guys, it took a long time to get there. I have no idea where I was.
Anyway. I truly love it here. But today, Africa got the best of me.* Although, I can't blame Africa. I was the one dumb enough to not ask for directions before I left the driveway.
For those interested in the details, we drive a pimped-out Rav4 with sweet rims but not enough seat belts. It's the school's car, but they've allocated it to our family. We are currently exploring some changes to our transportation situation, but doggedly making this work in the meantime.
A mototaxi is a motorcycle that operates as a taxi. That is how Ben generally gets to and from work. It works great for one person, less great for 6 people.
|mototaxis waiting for riders.|
Next on my to-do list: find a kinyarwanda teacher.
There are many ways that my amazing husband is like my amazing dad (aside from the new vocational similarity). One of my favorites: they answer the phone when I call. Even if they're in a meeting.
*Africa didn't beat me, because Africa is not my opponent. Today, what got the best of me was my own foreign-ness, ignorance, and insistence on independence.