Monday, March 10, 2008

Flight from Africa

In order to return to Bangui to make my flight to Europe (via Tripoli, Libya!), it was necessary to take a 10 hour drive. I rode in the org's white land cruiser filled up to the brim with some oil drums, luggage, and a patient in the back.

Because it's almost 100 degrees, the only way to stay cool is with the windows down - so I was covered in red dust within 10 minutes. I didn't bother to bathe before leaving because I knew after 10 hours, there was going to be no point. My white shirt was red by the time we got to Bangui.

We have a "white face in the front" policy - supposedly to protect us from bandits who are less likely to rob expats than fellow Africans but since I do not yet have the proficiency in the radio that that is needed, I squeezed into the front hour with my translator. "Situation Oscar Kilo. Transmission Terminee." Like that is so difficult to do. But you have to do it every 30 minutes. For ten hours. ugh.

Since I didn't have to do that, I instead practiced my patented "sleeping in uncomfortable places" routine. I was taking a snooze dangling from my seat belt when we went through a village. Normally, my job is to smile and wave to everyone. The kids like it and get to say Mbonjo (which sounds like bonjour but really means WHITE PERSON). While I was sleeping, my driver and translator cracked up because someone started shouting: Mbonjo lango! (White lady is sleeping!)

The translator and driver also taught me a joke. Whenever a pig ran out in front of the car (which was often) - we would shout Coupeur de Route! Which means, literaly, the cutter of the road. But it's also the name for the vicious highway bandits that they have. A little black humor, Central African Style. We did many variations of this joke "un petit coupeur du route", "beaucoup des coupeurs de route", and so on. My attempt to explain the joke "Why did the chicken cross the road?" went down in resounding failure. I guess its not a universal joke.

We left Boguila at 6am and by 1pm we finally got to the first substantial town, Bossasoa. We pulled over and squatted at the roadside grill to eat some grilled goat meat and Manioc served in the market with super hot peri peri powder and some hot tea to wash it down. No electricity in this town so no cold drinks yet. After an unsatisfactorily short break, we jumped back in the car and headed south again.

After stopping to buy pineapples, check outthe price of fish sold on the side of the road, change a flat tire, we finally reached a town which is famous for having cool drinks. Thank god. We stopped and got some fresh fish grilled over charcoal with salt, limes, and spicy onions and peppers on top. Since they don't really have knives and forks at these roadside stands, I again, ate with my fingers. And got pretty good at it! It's much easier to eat a full fish with your fingers than a knife and fork! We washed it down with the most refreshing coca cola I've ever had.

When we finally arrived in Bangui at 5pm ish, i was dropped off at the expat house where I found one of the Italian expats from the east of the country frying some eggplant and marinating some freshly killed warthog that he had brought from the East (where there are much more game animals). I took a shower. I wanted to throw out the clothes I was wearing but instead put on some clean clothes. I had four hours before the airport and my flight to Tripoli, Libya.

Goodbye Africa!

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