Well I made it home, at long last, on Saturday night. I was intended, as I wrote last week, to leave Kampala at 4pm on a bus. That didn’t really happen. There was a traffic jam in Kampala so bad that we didn’t leave until 6pm. I had purchased my ticket late in the week, a week including Ugandan Independence Day, so there weren’t many options for a seat. I chose number 40, which looked to be in the second to last row on the diagram, and I was okay with that, because, although you never want to sit in the very back row, but the second to back row is usually okay. The back row is bad because it is a bench across the entire back of the bus, seating five people, and all of the cold air coming in from any window is immediately sucked into the back of the bus and sits there. Also, most bus drivers, being more concerned with the point A to point B than the comfort of the passengers, will ease the front of the bus over speed bumps and potholes, then gun it, so that the back of the bus hits that same pothole pretty hard.
I knew all of this, so I was pretty pleased with myself for choosing the last seat in the second to last row, until I got on the bus and realized that the diagram did not match the actual layout of the bus, and seat number 40 was the first seat in the back row. The bus, being an overnighter, had reclining seats (think airplane seats) in every row except the back row. The back row had only me and one other mama in it, so she stretched out completely prostrate across four of the five seats, such that I could hardly move without bumping her feet. The wind starting blowing into the back of the bus, sweeping under my skirt, and through the four layers I was wearing on top. As it got a bit darker, we picked up two more passengers who joined us in the back row. The woman who sat next to me asked if it was okay with me if she took her hair out, meaning removing her extensions. (I am still finding small tufts of her artificial hair in my bag.) The girl sitting in front of me kicked her seat all the way back to sleep, leaving me about three inches between my chest and her seat. For the next eight hours I tried to sleep without resting my head on the freezing cold window pane. Sleep never really came, needless to say. We arrived in Nairobi around 6am the next morning where the girl in front of me woke up and realized my tight quarters, shook her finger at me for not waking her up and telling her to move her seat up. The hair lady and her friend got off, giving us a bit more space, and the bus company stopped to serve us breakfast, which was really nice.
We went on toward Arusha, Tanzania. The road from Nairobi to Arusha is being improved, which means that they create a kind of off-road dirt track parallel to the road for vehicles to drive on. I’ll leave the state of that dirt road to your imagination. At the Tanzanian border we picked up a mama and her 2-year-old daughter. They were sitting in the space of the back bench that opened onto the aisle, so as we went over these huge bumps, big enough to unseat everyone on the bus, the mama would fly up in the air, holding onto the baby, with nothing to hang onto. I was pretty well wedged in, so I took the baby, and held onto her with both hands and braced with my legs against the seat in front of me as we flew over the bumps. My long unused volleyball thigh muscles got a little work out trying to keep us elevated a bit above the seat so that I wouldn’t jar the baby too much on the way down.
Upon arriving in Arusha, I was met by some friends of Mama Esther’s who had arranged a guest house and pre-purchased my bus ticket from Arusha to Dodoma the next morning. I got to the house around 2pm, and promptly fell asleep until around 10pm, when I got up to pee, then went back to sleep until 4:30am, when I had to get up to get to my next bus.
If you drive straight from Arusha to Dodoma in a private car, it would take about 5-6 hours, but the buses leave at 6am because they take such a circuitous route that it requires 12 hours to get to Dodoma. The seats on this bus didn’t recline, but were so close together that my knees were constantly pressed into the seat ahead. I’d forgotten to take my car sickness medicine, so I couldn’t read, I just listened to nearly anything on my mp3 player (thank you, Grandma!). There was a pastor sitting next to me who really wanted to chat with me, but I was simply not in the mood. The poor man tried valiantly, then gave me all his contact information anyway, in case I ever found myself in the tiny village where he lives.
I finally arrived in Dodoma at 6pm, filthy and tired after 48 hours of travel, to be warmly greeted by Mama Esther, Leah, and Shomari. (My co-workers returning to the States arrived home in about half the time it took me to get home!) I had really missed Dodoma, and it was really good to be back at one of the many places I call home.