Sunday, January 11, 2009

Planes Trains and Automobiles

Well I guess it’s safe to say that a lot has happened in the life of Justin since my last post following Thanksgiving. Instead of writing a ten page essay to talk about it all I’m going to write a bunch of different posts about different parts of what’s happened.
From Thanksgiving to December 11 when we left Heri for Kigoma to get on a train not much happened out of the ordinary. Because of that I’m just going to start off with the train escapades. We had made bookings a few weeks in advance and we had reserved a first class room which we were told would have two beds and we could be by ourselves. On Thursday December 11th we rode into Kigoma in the hospital car. Although we had been told that it would leave at 6:30 a.m. it of course didn’t end up leaving till several hours later:) Once in town we dropped off the doctor who was flying to Dar es Salaam and then went down to the train station to find out just when our afternoon train was going to leave. The station master informed us that the train wasn’t leaving that day. That was a surprise! We came back a little while later with a guy from the hospital who could translate better for us and we learned that the train had broken down and would be arriving and then leaving the next morning. After that cheery bit of news we found a place to spend the night and then the next morning arrived at the station early enough to end up sitting around for a while with hundreds of others. The train actually did end up leaving within an hour of its scheduled departure. Once in our ‘room’ the unique experience started. The mental image I had created about what it was going to be like probably belonged to a US train ride because this was far from what I had expected. The room had two beds, one on top of the other, a window with a stick to keep it shut, and a sink that didn’t drain and had bugs floating in it. So yeah, it was the Ritz Carlton. But I was still really looking forward to this whole train riding experience. The trip is usually supposed to take two nights and one day but ours wasn’t the ‘usual’ trip:). We ended up being on the train for 50 hours.
Soon after leaving the station I was standing in the hallway with my head out the window when a guy came up and started talking with me. He was pretty nice and didn’t seem like the serial killer type so we talked for a little while. Then I realized where this was heading when he started to tell me how he was such a poor man (riding first class) and then he told me I should give him my watch. I declined his generous offer of my donation to him and then later he wanted to come into our room and talk with us. That didn’t end up happening because I didn’t figure it was a smart idea to let him see all of our other stuff so he could start asking for it. It’s nice that he was a friendly con man. The mean ones are just no fun.
Due to the 50 hours we spent on the train even though we left in the morning we still ended up with two nights aboard the Polar non-Express. The first night wasn’t so bad. We had the window open and it was actually kind of cool so besides the fact that a big rat had run through our room all was good. The second night however was entirely different. We still had another rat run through but this time it was incredibly HOT and then the train stopped in a town and didn’t leave a half-hour late like usual. After talking with some people we found out that there was another train broken down on the tracks ahead of us so we’d have to wait till it got out of the way. I ended up spending the hours from 1 to 4 in the morning outside sitting in this train station because it was cooler than our room. I got to meet a 17 year old guy named Edward who came up to me and said that he hoped he wasn’t bothering me but he wanted to practice his English. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. It was pretty cool. After the train finally left and I got back to sleep I was awoken by something biting my foot. Not a mosquito kind of bite but more like something sinking its fangs into me. I came to the land of full consciousness quite rapidly mostly because I thought it was the same rat that had run across me the night before. I kicked my sheet off and found that I wasn’t missing any appendages so tried going back to sleep. When I got up later in the morning I found a HUGE bug in my sheet that had been trying me out for taste.
All the fun didn’t end with our arrival in Dar though. We had asked the doctor to make a reservation for us at the YWCA before we arrived. He had called us while we were on the train and informed us that the YWCA and the YMCA were fully booked. We weren’t sure what we were going to do when we got off the train but we grabbed a taxi and went to the YWCA in the hopes that something had opened up. God is amazing and lo and behold they had a room we could have for a few nights till our flight left for Johannesburg, South Africa. That was the end of the excitement of our trip to my parents’ house in Maputo Mozambique. My dad met us at the airport in Joburg and by that evening we were eating enchiladas that my mom had expertly crafted:) Well that’s the end of the travel down. Read the next post about what I did over the few weeks I spent in Mozambique.


Katie said...

Wow. I am definitely NOT taking the train alone. Thanks for your description of your experience. The part about the bug eating you in your sleep is probably the most awful part. It sounds like you and I were in Dar at the same time. What a coincidence!
Let me know how the bus ride goes next April. I'm still figuring out how I'm getting down to Maputo.

Anonymous said...

Happy Sabbath!
Hope you are enjoying a great weekend! Looking forward to finding out more of what you did next... :)
Sure was awesome to have you home for Christmas! Love & hugs!