Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elbow elbow wrist wrist... the classic wave

I returned from Nimule to Kajo Keji today, though it was a bit more harrowing than I initially intended. When I got down to the river landing (it is the Nile, by the way) on the Nimule side, the boat guy refused to take just me. There were around 30 men and women all sitting at the bank of the river, their baskets piled up haphazardly waiting to get over to Uganda where the markets actually had vegetables which could be brought back and sold at a premium in the empty South Sudanese souks. I wasn’t totally comfortable coming over and plopping down in to the canoe when all these people had been waiting for hours anyway, so I agreed they could bring everyone, on the condition I wasn’t charged any extra.

God, if I knew what I was getting into. 30 people crammed in to a canoe built, maybe, for 15, plus all those baskets and everything meant that we were tippy as all heck, taking on water to the point that I was up to my ankles when we landed and moving so low and slow that the normally 45 minute journey took about an hour and a half. I still didn’t see any elephants, either, but I did see lots of antelope grazing next to the river. Which was nice.

When we landed at the Ugandan side, my truck wasn’t there. I went through immigration, sat around a bit, read my book, chatted with the boat guy and, eventually, started to get nervous. I was a four hour trip, minimum, from Kajo Keji and at least two hours from a town that had a guest house. There was another NGO truck there, a pickup with two huge refrigerators in the back and a front crammed with women and babies and such. I walked up and asked the guy if he could take me as far as Kajo Keji if I rode in the back, on the refrigerators. He looked up at the thunderheads gathering behind us, looked at me with my jewelry and aviator sunglasses and eye makeup and shrugged, pointing out there would be no room for me in the front no matter what. I agreed and swung up on to the back of the truck, perching on the fridge boxes and gripping on to the metal roll bar, with my feet braced against the cab.

This, obviously, caused a bit of a stir as we cruised through the tukul villages that lined the river. I felt a bit like Miss America in some small town parade. Or Brittney Spears. I was so obvious, my white (well, at this point, pretty burnt red) skin, blond-ish hair, sunglasses and, in a genius bit of wardrobe, bright blue shirt perched above the cab of the pickup, sitting ramrod straight to keep my balance and waving to everyone like Queen Elizabeth. The adults fell about themselves laughing and the kids screamed mzungu until they were almost hysterical. Eventually I got bored so I started singing to myself, which meant not only did I look weird, I looked weird and crazy. They’ll be talking about this for months.

The huge storms, which whipped up massive winds, miraculously stayed just to the west of us the whole time. But, just as we crossed the border at Moyo (very very bemused border guards), I saw the biggest, most prefect rainbow I’ve ever seen. It stretched from the low mountains in the elephant reserve all the way across to land, perfectly, on a lone tukul in the middle of a plane below us in the valley.

Damn fine day.

1 comment:

Erin said...

GOSH how i miss you, i was laughing/tearing up through this one..sigh. -e