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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

This Bus Departs at Nine in the Morning - Page 3

Written by Kelly N. Patterson
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"This bus is going to fall," I stated and asked concurrently in my Swahili 101.  The buddah-bodied, sarong wrapped woman to my right laughed at my big worried eyes.

"No, young sista," her electric white teeth glowed through me.  "Hamna tabu."

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 logs preparing for a fire.  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.

(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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