Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Not a chicken bus - but just as crazy!

July 3rd, I was going by bus from Mbale to Kampala. The bus was to leave at 2:30. It left at 4:30. Now, you can't sit at the bus station, because Ugandans crowd in front of you (always) and you might not get a seat. (Even at grocery stores, several will cut in front of you - and the person(s) behind you shove their items in front of yours also - unbelievable!)

Back to the bus story. The bus came at 4:20. I tried to shove my way on - but in the end, there were only two left people standing ... a lady with a baby, and me. The conductor tried to get me to sit - but I figured it was more important for the baby and lady. Finally, the conductor ran a young lady off the bus (no ticket), and I had a seat!

During the time I was standing waiting for the bus, an elderly 'street' lady, who was filthy, asked for money. At first, I didn't give her any, but then I felt bad. I found her and gave her more than she had asked for. As the bus left, she was standing outside my window giving me this huge toothless smile, crossing her heart, and waving - while looking right in my eyes. I was so glad I donated.

The Elgon Flyer, a big bus, then literally flew down the road. I was almost getting sick, things were whizzing by so fast! The trip is supposed to be about 4 hours. About 1 and 1/2 hours out of Kampala, the driver stopped for a short call. I wanted to yell, “You can hold it. It's not THAT far!” Instead, almost the whole bus emptied out to head for the bush!

A short time later, we had to stop at the drive-through cafe! Our bus was mobbed by people in blue smocks trying to sell chicken, sausage, or beef on a stick, drinks, etc. Geez - it was already taking too much time!

We were then flying on - until we hit a HUGE traffic jam. A public transport van had had a horrific accident, so we were in a jam at Mukono for over an hour. Our driver got irritated and decided to take a back road in our giant bus! Big mistake! It was more like a path. At one point, people were telling him no - but we plowed on! One tire slipped in a cement culvert. Everyone on the bus screamed, as it tipped - including me!

Finally, we were into the absolute mad-house of Kampala night traffic. It is like a bumper car ring - only throw in triple the number of cars, add in people, motorcycles, bicycles, and animals, and you have it! The driver told everyone to get off at the city taxi park - which is one of the worst places to be at night, though I do take taxis from there during the day. I refused to get off, as did one other lady. Finally, he agreed to take us to his offices.

In the meantime, the young conductor (about 20 years old) kept asking if we had met. Eventually, I asked him where he had attended school. He replied Mengo Secondary in Mbale. Ahhhh! I asked him about the library in the school. He lit up and was totally excited telling me he remembered us putting the library in at his school, and my training the students how it was organized. How exciting is that - to meet him on a bus to Kampala!

He then became my personal protector. He decided I and my luggage would be safe with his boda driver. He ran to get him, and then helped load my suitcase in front of the cycle driver, and I climbed on the back. At 10:00 p.m., we were roaring through the streets of Kampala ... while I am thinking what a miracle it was that that specific young man was the conductor, and I had a safe (manner of speaking) ride home!

Cheers for Libraries of Love and the lives it has touched - including my conductor!

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