Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maputo re-bound (or my journey home)

I’ve been putting off writing this last leg of my journey for two reasons.
         One: I didn’t want to sound like a whiner.
         And two: It was so traumatic... I’d mostly blocked it out.

It all started innocently enough.

I had arranged to stay at the Maputo guest house throughout the day, even though I was checked out. I drank coffee, caught up on some correspondence, and traipsed off to the artisanal market down the road to see if I could find some treasures.

I did.

However, the most important trip that morning was getting (all the way across town) to purchase my bus ticket home. I’d done it so often, it’d become routine.

Depending on traffic and the competition stuffing themselves into the public transportation (aka: chapas), the trip can take 40 minutes... or 2 hours.

That morning it took 2 hours, a near knock-down-drag-out with an overly aggressive woman in tight jeans and even tighter braids, and about 45 cents.
    -- Yeah. Public transport is pretty cheap here!

The bus depot sits just outside the city limits on a round-about. It’s gated and always crawling with travelers, ticket masters, and merchants. The buses wait under small overhangs until departure. Small panels indicating their final destination are perched on the dashboard.

The bus for Chimoio sat in its usual spot. As I approached, the ticket master and driver both smiled. In Chimoio, I have to buy the tickets directly from them. But in Maputo there is an official stall. I know this... but avoided the stall until I could get a better look at the bus and drivers.

I had already decided that if it was the last crew I’d hang out in Maputo a day or two longer and spare myself the heartburn.

Fortunately, they were not the last crew. In fact, I knew them and they knew me.
-- “Hola!” the ticket master said in greeting, “Your going to Chimoio, right?”
-- “Yes." I smiled in greeting. "How are you?”
-- “Fine. Thanks,” he smiled back and reached out his hand. “It’s been a while. How are things at the clinic?”
I reached back to shake his hand. This was Joseph. I’d traveled with his crew many times before, and he was always interested to hear any updates on the clinic.

I tried not to grimace as I explained things were still not open and updated him on the latest paperwork saga. He shook his head knowingly at my reports of delays, frustration, and general difficulty.
-- “E-pah!” he said sympathetically. “These officials are a mess!”
I agreed with him, but didn’t trust myself to say more. Instead, I turned the conversation back the trip home.

-- “I’m so glad it’s you guys,” I started, “You would not believe the trouble we had coming down earlier this week.” I complained to him briefly about the endless delays and he nodded knowingly.
I continued on. “I’m so glad to see this is an express bus. Will we be arriving on time?”
-- “Oh, yes. It’s an express bus....” I could see he had more to say, but didn’t. So I picked up the string of conversation and said, “Okay then. I’ll go buy my ticket and see you guys tonight.”
He waved goodbye and I promised to fill him in on more of the details when I returned.

I bought my ticket then hurried back to the guest house for my things.

When the day was done and dinner at the guesthouse was winding down, I gathered my bag and made my way back to catch another chapa. Two ladies who work at the guesthouse kindly walked me to the chapa stop, prayed for safe travels, and waved goodbye through the tinted glass.
    -- What dears! Little did I know how much I needed those prayers.

But even at 9 p.m., the chapas are quite full. Men in wrinkled suits and woman in 2 inch heels doze on the commute home. Those unfortunates who have to stand in the aisles, dive and dip each time the bus screeches to a halt or revs off in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

I stood most of the way, clutching my bag in one hand and a metal rail in the other. People pushed and elbowed their way past as they loaded and unloaded, but eventually a seat opened up. I sat in relief and tried not to doze. It was past my bedtime and my stop was just a few minutes away.

This time when I got off the bus, the fruit stands and street vendors were packed away for the night. Only the road was choked with commuters; the sidewalks were clear. Weary travelers, carting bundles on their heads and suitcases under their arms, zigzagged past.

I joined the march and soon found my way back to the bus. I was not the first to arrive. One man was already asleep opposite my seat. He leaned over his bags protectively, snoring lightly.

I settled in for the night and tried to doze as well. The flood lamps were not making it easy --nor did the chatter from the vendors just outside my window.

Piles of water bottles, soda cans, and bread rolls were for sale. Woman stacking oranges in bundles of three, adjusted their babies on their backs and called to passers-by to come buy from them. Men smoked, joked, and watched the steady flow of travelers come and go.

Somewhere between the noisy mother of two bumping her way in to the bus at 10 p.m. and the raucous laughter of the smokers below my window, I slept. But I didn’t sleep long.

At 3:30 a.m. exactly we drove off. By then anyone who was not on the bus was left behind. Comforted that the journey had officially began, I finally slept deeply.

I didn’t wake again until about 8, when the screeching brakes informed me we had stopped. I lifted the blanket off my head and noticed sunlight. Lots of it.

A dozen men were already outside relieving themselves. Women and children were further down. The colors of cloth tied in their hair made them look like flowers in the yellowing grass below.

I closed my eyes again and slept.

Hunger woke me up the next time. I munched on snacks and asked the man next to me how far we’d come. He didn’t seem to know... or care.

Rested by this time, I decided to read a bit and watch the coconut trees pass. Hours flew by in a blur of villages and brightly colored kids playing on the road.

By 11 am, we’d made it to Xai-Xai where the mainline buses always stop for food.

I remember thinking we were late in arriving... but not overly concerned. I was hungry and exited in the mass of flesh. I was one of the first to order a chicken to-go plate and a juice.

I stretched a bit before making my way back on the bus. Ten minutes later we were on the road again.

The afternoon light beat down on me as we rode north. A new man had taken the seat beside me after the first reached his destination. This man was headed to Chimoio too and asked me questions... but didn’t flirt.

I knew from previous trips that we were running late. The convoy (or police escort through rebel territory) took off between 2 and 3 pm when heading North. I started worrying my lip at the thought of missing it. Why didn’t anyone else seem concerned?

When 2 o-clock arrived and we were still miles off, I considered asking the driver for an update. But I hesitated. Pressuring them never worked. So I waited, read, and prayed.

We didn’t arrive to Rio Save (aka: the start of the Convoy) until after 4 pm. We’d missed it by hours. Why?

I waited until the bus completely unloaded before I approached the driver.
-- “Did we miss the convoy?” I asked confused.
-- “Yes,” he admitted.
-- “But why didn’t we drive faster? Couldn’t we have made it in time?”
He laughed at my confusion then explain that things had changed since the last time I had traveled with them. There was only one convoy a day... and it was at 11 am. We would have never made it in time. This is why he didn’t bother rushing. Then he explained that the afternoon convoy was no longer available.

As he spoke, it finally occurred to me that I’d be sleeping on the bus again and there’d be no North-bound progress until well into the following morning.
-- “How long has it been like this,” I asked, finally understanding.
-- “Oh... about two months. Since the last attacks.”
I did the mental math and realized that my last trip to Maputo was right before the attacks. I had no way of knowing it’d changed. It was probably best that way... as I wouldn’t have bothered to come if I’d known.

At this point I decided the best thing to do was to eat, charge my electronics in the nearby restaurant, and settle in for another night on the bus. Little did I know what that night would be like.

Sadly, I have nothing good to say about the things I was forced to listen to that night. Let me just say, it involved loud, drunk men, boisterous and calloused woman, and demanding children trying to make themselves heard over the raunchy repartee. They were unsuccessful, albeit persistent.

By 11 pm I was ready to start knocking heads but could think of no way to get them to quite down. I briefly contemplated stealing one of the soldiers AK-47s and marching them off the cluttered bus. Would I have to blind fold them before I subjected them to the firing squad?

By midnight, I was exhausted but 95% of the bus had settled by then. Only the most determined flirts and raunchiest drunkards bellowed on. At this point, I turned to the guy next to me and asked, “How do we get them to be quiet?” He was Mozambican. He had to know how.
-- “I’m sorry... I don’t know what to do,” he confessed. “Perhaps when the bus driver comes back....”
Unfortunately, I knew that the bus driver had rented a room for the night and was not coming back until the morning. That was a no-go.
-- “Humph!” I complained. There was nothing else I could do. I could yell at them but what would that solve? Nothing. They’d probably just yell back.

I don’t know when they finally shut up. But I can say that when they did, the relief in the bus was deep. I settled in for the second night, but slept fitfully.

By dawn, street vendors were heating water for coffee and selling bolos (fried donut holes). I desperately wanted to brush me teeth but no one was selling water at that early hour. I’d have to wait.

And wait I did.

Dozens waited with me.

Semi-trucks and mainline buses littered the roadway. Trash from the evening before was piled randomly about. A herd of goats sauntered up to investigate but they were startled soon after by a child, and ran off.

Not a dog was in sight.

Everyone seemed to clump together, milling about. Some smoked. Some ate. Some talked on cell phones. All waited.

That morning's wait was the hardest for me. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep the night before, or the massive migraine jabbing the back of my eyes. Either way, I was tired.

What made it worse is I had no way to get any decent food. The buses would take off by 11 am and the restaurants wouldn’t open before then. It’d be hours before I would be able to find anything but a tangerine to eat.
        -- Not good.

By 10:30, the buses revved and everyone piled back on. The passengers were subdued --probably due to lack of sleep-- and the bus driver took us over the bridge. We had to wait another hour on the other side of the bridge for the military convoy to arrive, turn around, and escort us North again.

The trouble was... with all the added precautions, by the time we took off we were made to crawl along at a snail’s pace.

At one point, in the middle of the attack zone, we were forced to park for over an hour and wait. I can only assume it was so the military could patrol a troubled spot. But this is just a guess.

A trip that usually takes about and hour, took three.

Eventually we made it to the end of the convoy. We made a quick stop to load up on water (which I needed desperately by then) and more tangerines. Fortunately, I found a cashew seller who determinedly ran alongside the bus until I could get the right change to pay him. I slipped him the money through the window quickly grabbing a bag of nuts, as the bus drove off.

I ate nuts for lunch.

From there, the trip was more or less typical. We drove quickly in an effort to make up the lost time. And I arrived home by around 6 pm.


When I walked in my front door, I realized that I didn’t have water or electricity due to power failures that day; a shower was out. So instead, I loved on my animals, brushed my fuzzy teeth, and fell into bed.

The next morning, I was finally able to do the mental math. A journey that usually takes about 17 hours had morphed into roughly 46 hours.

It has taken me most of this week to recover.

The up side, of course, was that I got there and back safely. Nothing was stolen and no one was harmed... unless you count that aggressive woman in Maputo who tried to steal my seat. She still might have bruises.

And now... as this particular saga has come to an end. Let me just thank you for praying for me. Please know that I love you all dearly and need those precious prayers desperately.

Please keep praying that my papers in Maputo come through! Pray also for renewed strength, joy, and peace as I tackle the next paperwork obstacles. And pray that I would not lose heart. Thanks.

***Pictures to follow once I figure out how to download them onto my computer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maputo Bound (Part two... or how my papers moved)

So.... the saga continues.

That first night in Maputo was cold and noisy. The feral dogs antagonized the neighborhood guard dogs.

Barking ensued. Lots of barking.

After breakfast, I caught a city bus (or chapa) for the government offices in charge of my paperwork. It takes 40 minutes or so by bus and is a bit of a circuitous trek off the beaten path.

I made it by 10:30 am only to find the doors locked and the lights off.
    --What? Was it a public holiday?

I looked around and found people watching me jiggle the door handle in dumb confusion.

I turned to them and asked, “Isn’t this the place where I get my Equivlencia?”
-- “No, they moved.” The man looked at me kindly and with much more patience than I deserved. I could see he had had this conversation before.
-- “Moved?” I toyed with the tone in my voice and opted for flat. “Where?”
-- “You have to go back downtown.... then it’s around the corner from the Department of Education.”

I pressed him for clearer directions after insisting I was not a local, but all he could accomplish was to write down the exact same information above. Sigh.

So with a new destination in mind, I retraced my steps to the center of town (another 40 minutes back) and I found the new building. But by this time, it was dangerously close to lunch and I was not sure any staff would even be there.

The building was beautiful. Be-UTE-i-ful. Beautiful!

It shone with the glow of tile wax and chrome. Its steps were covered in well-edged tile and its walls were smudge-free. The furniture looked like it was cut from a magazine --modern faux-finish accented with chrome.

I looked down at my (now) dusty sandals --ineffectively hiding chipped nail polish-- and smiled a little. I was going to dirty up their polished interior. 

As I entered the main office, a clerk was hammering out the finer points of the equivilencia process to a woman in tight jeans and platted hair. She had a beautiful degree stenciled with Arabic calligraphy and bright colors. I spied it over her arm, but the only word that made sense was ‘Qatar’. I smiled at her impishly and waited.

When she left, the clerk asked what I needed and I handed him my file number. I wanted to see how things were progressing, I explained. He handed off my identification number to an underling, who took it and walked woefully to a long row of file cabinets.

I sat down to wait.

Would I have to wait two days for them to find it like last time? I wondered.

Twenty minutes later, I was called up to the desk. The clerk looked confused, my file open in front of him.

-- “We have your file...” he started, “but I don’t know what it means.”
I waited silently. Praying. He obviously had something more to say.
-- “You need to speak to my Chef... but he is at lunch.”
-- “Can’t I see what it says?” I asked, reaching for my file.
-- “No... no. You must talk to my Chef.” He shifted the file slightly away from my hand. A flash of fear in his eyes at the thought I might take it by force.
-- “Did they refuse it?” I asked after a long, pregnant pause. My hands obediently by my sides.
-- “Come back today at 3 pm," he offered. "My Chef will be back from lunch by then.”
Clearly, he did not want me to touch my file or know the secrets it held, so I relented and agreed to return at 3 p.m.

I confess my hopes were not high when I left. My last diploma was rejected... and I was starting to think this one would be as well. Ugg.

I returned to the guesthouse deflated, ate lunch, and napped. But as three-o-clock ticked ever nearer, I found myself back in the shiny, waxed office.

Once the clerk met my eyes, he asked me to take a seat and wait. He had to find his Chef do departemento, he explained. But after looking for awhile and making a few calls, he learned that the Chef was in a meeting. I’d have to come back in the morning.

-- “Can’t you just tell me the results of the file?” I pleaded.
-- “Can you please come back in the morning?” He (almost) pleaded. “Come at 9 am.”
-- “What time does the Chef come in?” I asked.
-- “He gets in at 9 am.”
-- “What time do you open?”
-- “7:30 am.”
-- “I’ll be here at 7:29 in the morning...” I stated flatly.
He nodded that he understood completely, and I left him with a smile. Or was it a leer?

The next morning, I was feeling half nauseated (must have been the chicken I ate on the bus), half nervous (what if he denied my degree?) when I entered the office doors.

I was not there a minute before the clerk called me to the front of the line. (Yes, there as a line at 7:30 a.m.!)

-- “The Chef is not in the office today...” he informed me.
-- “Is there someone else I can talk to?” I queried. “I need to help clear up a misunderstanding.”
-- “Yes. Yes. Let me get her,” he mumbled quietly and scurried off.

While I sat, I prayed. It had been 7 months of this. I’d been filling out paperwork and shuttling back and forth to Maputo for 7 months... and they still had nothing. Why, Lord? What is the hold up?

Eventually, a round-faced woman in a polyester skirt suit called me to the front desk. Her purse was on her shoulder... and I could see she had to leave any minute.

-- “The Ordem de Medicos (or medical board) insist you are not a doctor,” she explained. Lights were going on in my brain.
              --They thought I was a doctor? Oy! Vey!

I nodded to show I understood and waited. She continued to outline that every office they had sent my documents to (two different offices at the medical university and the medical board) all were at a loss as to what to do with me.

I continued to wait.

-- “The Chef has a meeting to go to... we are late,” she confessed. “But I’m going to ask my second in charge to take over this case.” She paused a minute, then added, “There has to be an answer.”

I thanked her and went to wait a bit longer. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made this journey in vain. Would I have to return to push on this paper in a few more weeks? When would this merry-go-round stop?

Ten minutes later a thin man in a pressed, white shirt and olive green trousers called me forward. My file sat open before him. He seemed genuinely nervous... almost chagrined.

-- “Senhora, we don’t know why the medical board refused your degree...” he explained. “We are going to send it to the Ministry of Health for a review and get back to you as soon as we can.”
-- “Sehnor,” I interrupted kindly. “The medical board is right. I am not a doctor... nor do I pretend to be. The confusion is due to the Portuguese word for midwifery. I am a midwife. My degree is in midwifery. But the word in Portuguese for Obstetrics... is the same for Midwifery. There is no other way to translate this degree.”
As I explained his eyes lightened with understanding and he allowed me to continue without interruption.
-- “I spoke with the doctors in Chimoio,” I explained. “My equivalencia should be for a degree in nurse-midwifery not obstetrics.”

He smiled in relief as I explained and promised to send the file off that morning for approval. He apologized that I had to come so far and especially being that I had to travel through insecurities to get there... and even offered to send my documents directly to Chimoio via courier once they were ready. That was a first.

We exchanged numbers and I left. This has been my 5th trip in 7 months... and I hope it will be my last. My fingers are crossed that the courier will actually work out, but I’m not very optimistic. I suspect I’ll have to return to Maputo again. The question is when.

From there, I was tempted to leave back to Chimoio that night but I was booked for another night in the guest house. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go. I opted to stay that night and left the next day.

But... the trip back is a story unto itself. I’m still exhausted from the trip... and would rather write when my mind is clearer.

More to come.

Please pray that my documents (no doubt on someone’s desk at the ministry of health in Maputo right now) are approved, stamped, and signed off in record time. Thanks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Maputo Bound! (Or... How I got stuck on a chicken bus).

My bus ride down to Maputo started out innocent enough. I drove into Chimoio to buy my ticket. (To buy a ticket, you have to walk up to a waiting bus with “Maputo” clearly marked in the front window, find a bleary-eyed driver and pay the fare. It’s not complicated. Each bus leaves promptly at 3 am.)

However, when I got to Chimoio to buy my ticket, the bleary-eyed mister was missing. I asked around as the bus sat empty and closed. Finally, I found one of the drivers who assured me a seat, we exchanged numbers (this is to track me down if necessary), but he didn’t want to take my money just yet. He didn’t have the official ticket booklet. So, I promised to pay when he picked me up that next morning. Everything was set.

Or so I thought.

I got back to Maforga in time for church, lounged around all afternoon trying to motivate myself into packing, then got a phone call.

-- “Sorry, Miss,” squeaked out a thin voice. “The bus isn’t going tonight.”
-- “What? But I was there this morning and you said it was leaving.”
-- “Sorry. You’ll have to come in again and get a ticket for tomorrow night.”
-- “Okay,” I sighed. “See you tomorrow.”

Tomorrow came.

I returned to Chimoio. Repeat. Wash. Spin. And dry.

But this time, there was no call to cancel. So I got team members to agree to get up at the unholy hour of 2:30 am and drive me to my pick up site. There was a bit of a wait. So we watched a restaurant guard sweep up trash in an effort to stay awake and listened to the feral dogs fight.

Gondola (my pick up site) is depressing at 2:50 in the morning. The pale street lamps paint the main street a dusty taupe. Nothing but the sidewalk sweeping man moved. Not even the wind.

My bus arrived. Brakes hissing in protest. I grabbed my bag, thanked my friends, and hustled without a look over my shoulder. If the bus driver doesn’t see you running, he generally starts to honk. It’s annoying.

When I boarded the bus, I was told to take my seat but I couldn’t. A clean-shaven, barrel chested man was sitting in it.

-- “Sit down in your seat,” the ticket master instructed, absentmindedly tying the door shut with a cord.
-- “I can’t. Someone is in it,” I said flatly.
-- “Go sit down,” he repeated. Obviously not listening.
-- “Where? That man is sitting in my seat,” I repeated sourly gesturing toward the intruder. In protest, I sat down in his seat instead.

He looked at me in irritation, the bus lunged forward, and we were off.

Once we were well underway, the ticketmaster shuffled us about and I took my seat next to a nice man from Zimbabwe. He didn’t talk much but he clearly wanted my seat. The view was better and he kept poking his head around to spy oncoming traffic. For reasons still unclear to me, oncoming traffic really interested him. Halfway through the trip, I offered to swap seats with him and he eagerly jumped at the idea. I slept better from then on, and whiled away the hours reading.

We stopped from time to time to pee alongside the road. (Pee breaks are hilarious. The rush to exit reminds me of elephants stampeding. Pushing. Stomping. Cries of protest. Woman tend to veer one way, men the other. I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole semi-squat while wrapped in a kapulana thing. I think I’d be a fierce contender if it were ever an olympic sport.)

The bus was old. It wheezed and coughed up even the smallest hills. When we tried to pass Big Rigs snailing in front of us, the engined protested loudly. Rarely did we succeed.

As a result, we doddered about inching our way to Maputo. 

Every other village, the driver and ticket master stopped to pick up passengers. The stop and go made our travels even slower. Morning faded into late afternoon. Evening blurred into night. More villages. More random passengers.

The passengers started grumbling. Each hour we delayed they grumbled louder.

-- “Why do you keep stopping, Driver?” asked an irritated man from the back.
-- “Yeah,” joined in another, “Is this a Machibombo (a passenger bus for long distances) or a Chapa (a rickety bus, usually topped with chickens and chairs)?”

The driver grumbled to himself and drove on. The passengers grumbled louder but nothing came of it. Their complaints (and mine) were powerless to move the aging mass of steel even one kilometer faster. And the driver could not pass up picking up more fares along the way.

I read some more, stretched cramps out of my neck, and chatted with the passengers around me.

At one point I woke up to find, the Zimbabwean was no longer sitting beside me. In his place were a set of dirty sneakers. I followed them down a narrow passage way between the seats and found my neighbor sound asleep. Miraculously, another man slept beside him! How? I still cannot fathom.

It’s about then that I noticed the chicken. Yep. It crackled in protest each time the brakes squealed. She was close. Somewhere under foot.
    Sigh. I guess I was on the chicken bus after all.

My friends in Maputo (awaiting my arrival) texted in a fit at half past twelve in the morning. Why hadn’t I arrived? What was going on?

I was irritated to have to hop over two sleeping men, a chicken, and 6 bags of junk to reach the ticket master. But I made it.

-- “My friends are worried,” I informed him. “When do you think we’ll arrive?”
-- “We are going... we are going.... “ he mumbled with a faux-smile and diverted eyes.
-- “I know we are going. I can see we are going,” I answered irritably. “My question’s not if we are going but when we expect to arrive. I need to give my friends an answer.”

More maddening teethy grins, shifty eyes, and mumbles.

-- “What? I can’t hear you,” I continued, obviously not impressed. “When? When!? When do we arrive?”

When I realized it wasn’t my accent or lack of Portuguese vocabulary that silenced this fool, I pushed him aside and crawled my way over to the driver.

-- “Your ticket master does not know when we’ll arrive,” I complained. “Can you tell me?’
-- “We’ll arrive soon,” he said a little too quickly.
-- “Soon?” I interjected. “We are already 5 hours late! When will we arrive?”
-- “We are near the city....”
-- “I can see that. I want to know how many kilometers we have to go. I need to inform my taxi driver when to pick me up.”
-- “It’s only 25 kilometers more.”
-- “And how fast are we driving?” I pushed for more answers. “It feels like we are driving 10 kilometers an hour. How fast are we going?”

I tried to look over his dash but it was not lit. I was tired, hungry, and clearly not able to do even simple math in my head... so why I bothered to badger him about this baffles me. But I did.

He never did tell me how fast we were going but insisted it would be only 45 minutes more.

He was wrong.

We didn’t arrive until 2 a.m.

But by then, even the on-call taxi drivers weren’t picking up their phones and the city buses were powered down for the night. How was I going to get to the guest house?

When the bus finally parked for the last time, I shouldered my backpack and hurdled toward the door. The ticket master had it barely untied and I was out like a flash.

Two taxis waited nearby. I’d have to take my chances with unknowns. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was what God supplied. So I prayed and picked the face with the kindest eyes.

-- “I need to go ____,” I told him as I settled into the back seat. “How much do you charge to go there?”

He gave me a price and I haggled.
-- “That’s too much. The price should be lower.”
-- “But you are paying more... because of the hour,” he reasoned.
Smiling at his obvious logic, I nodded that it was fine. And he drove on.

The problem was, I was not completely at ease. I was alone in a cab, in a strange city, with a guy I did not know, and a lot of cash in my pocketbook.
        What could possibly go wrong here?

I prayed as we rode down empty streets and through construction detours. I didn’t recognize the route he was taking, and I asked him about it nervously.

-- “Why are we going this way?”
-- “The other street is blocked off with construction,” he offered with a polite smile. I’m sure he could sense my frayed nerves.
-- “I don’t know this road... are you sure we are in the right neighborhood?
-- “Yes... this is where you need to go.”

He was patient with me. I was frazzled. And by God’s grace, my fears were in vain.

But once at the guest house, no one answered the buzzer. I knew they were expecting me... but no one came to the door. I rang twice, saw curtains move, lights blink on, but still no one opened for me.

I asked the cab driver to wait with me (as the guest house isn’t in a very safe neighborhood for 2:30 in the morning) and he did.

Bless him.

We chatted about world cup results and I stamped my feet in the cold.

Eventually, the guard popped around a bush, key in hand, and opened the gate for me.

The next morning, I learned that the guard was fast asleep and was the only one with the gate key. The guesthouse staff had to first find him, then wake him out of a dead sleep before he could let me in.


The  journey continues... but my eyes are drooping. To sleep, I go.

More to come.