Note: Pictures have been uploaded and are at the end of the post. Finally got a little speed out of our internet connection!
A friend of mine spent a couple of years in Africa (Morocco) while with the Peace Corps 20 years ago. She has this habit of saying “In Shaa’Allah” (Arabic for “God Willing”) quite a bit in her everyday life. Being a self actualized guy, an entrepreneur and somewhat assertive in life, I really have never understood that saying at its deepest level; until now. My goodness do I understand it now.
In Shaa’Allah is an everyday saying here in Africa. Just to procure something, be it a hammer, a chicken, dish soap, whatever, you need to spend the time to go to the market, all the while hoping the merchant has the goods. If not, you keep walking, pick up a little here, a little there, changing plans and strategies along the way. “I’ll be right back with the stuff!” … In Shaa’Allah
“We’re going to the museum to study the history of the textiles and statues of the area. Be back this afternoon!” Ha! Riots in the streets changed that around in an instant.… In Shaa’Allah
The bus leaves at 7am …. In Shaa’Allah
And you know what? Sometimes the added time or the diversion actually begets something else that is wonderful ….. In Shaa’Allah.
But the best example for me, and the one that had me laughing my ass off (and being grateful that I was still alive) was the ride back to civilization from Timbuktu in a stone stock, ½ assed 4×4. It starts with 7 of us crammed into a Mitsubishi “Galloper”, leaving Timbuktu early in the morning. We are heading back to civilization, 5 hours across the Sahara to Douentza and then another 4 hours down a minimally paved road to Sevare. The 4×4 is ready to go across the Sahara right? Ha. We push start the jeep (is it the battery? because the alternator is bad?); the gas gauge shows ¼ tank. Onward! … In Shaa’Allah.
We make our way down to the port, board a ferry, and spend a very enjoyable hour going down the Niger to the small disembarking village at the head of the road to Douentza. I am blessed to meet a like-minded soul and fellow traveler, Fabian, an organic farmer from the South of France (a village called Tourtour). It is a delightful visit! And alas, it is also the last bit of calm we have until we again reach paved roads late that afternoon.
[Note … to read the rest of this story you will need an assistant. His or her job is to help you experience the ride. Simple words will not do this justice]
[WARNING! This story is almost as dangerous to re-enact using my directions as it was to experience first-hand. If you follow these instructions you are as stupid as we were to take this E-ticket ride in the first place. Don’t do it! But if you do, send pictures]
Imagine a bunk bed on wheels and you are in the top bunk. This is your ride.
Here are the vignettes that help to describe the experience.
Sand, soft like sugar, going fast, 70mph, all four wheels on the ground, heading for a soft right turn, slightly uphill, drifting, no seatbelts, a feeling of dread permeates the inside of the 4×4;
[make sure reader is sitting on the top bunk. Start to run fast. Let bunk bed go off-course towards wall. Watch reader’s eyes and when they widen to size of quarters, recover and save bed from crashing into wall]
At the crown of the hill, the radius of the turn decreases suddenly and the descent is steep. There is a huge rock on the outside of the curve, and a high ledge at the concrete bridge apron at the base of the descent. With the exception of careening into the dry wash below, there is no way around this funnel. We recover from the drift, hit the off-camber crown, fishtail down the descent and hit the ledge hard enough to hit our heads on the roof (and think we broke the suspension on the 4×4).
[Yank the bunk bed around the curve, making sure to put enough wobble into the contraption to make the reader think they are going to tip over. Tighten curve and kick bunk bed down the porch stairs. Hit reader on head with lightweight cooking pot, medium hard. Record reader’s curses for continuous playback during remainder of story].
Out of nowhere, another 12” ledge, hit at 60mph
[put little child onto top bunk with reader. Have little kid kick reader in groin and hit on head with same pot as used before]
We are in the wake from the car ahead of us. Its like being in the Paris to Dakar Rally! Dust and sand is everywhere and seeping through the air vents. We can’t see and can’t open the windows.
[Throw vacuum bag contents into reader’s face]
Wwwwwwaaaaaaasssshhhhbbbboooaaaasrrrrrddddddd rrrrrrrrrrrroooooBUMP!ooooaaaaaaddddddd aaaaaggggggaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnnnnn…… Tttttttttrrrrrrryyyyyy tttttttooooo BUMP! ssuuuuurrrrrrfffffff ooooooooovvvvvvveeeeeeeerrrrrrrr aaaaaaBUMP!tttttttt 666666660000000000mmmmmpppppphhhhh.
[Stand behind reader and hit rapidly on back so that they make the sound of a motorboat. Don’t stop; ever. When you get tired, enlist little kid again to take over for you]
Another decreasing radius descent entered from a blind corner. In the road in front of us a …. GOAT! …. GaspCurseBeep!!!
[wet reader’s hand and stick their finger directly into electrical outlet]
Re-read story for 5 hours, repeat all instructions.
[At the end of the 5 hours, drop a watermelon on the reader’s head as a final way to share the absurdity of the adventure;-]
How we made it to Douentza in one piece, wheels down, without a flat tire, running out of gas or losing the alternator, I have no idea …. In Shaa’Allah. It also made us closer as a group, gave us one heck of a story, and made me think that God does have bigger plans for us than dying in the Sahara.