Can You Help a Brother Out?

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Because our airplane is scheduled to leave Ziguinchor at 9:00 am and given the pot-holed road with the toll stops and military check points we need at least 2 ½ hours of travel time.

Papalye, our driver, gives us clear instructions to have our bags ready to be tied on top of the car by 5:30 am and to be ready to leave at 6:00.  Makeda is not making this portion of the trip with us. She is leaving for Ziguinchor a few hours after us to attend a wedding there. She will head to The Gambia for a brief vacation—she is returning to visit a series of OB/Gyn clinics there that are focused on well women care, redesigning women’s rites of passage to exclude female circumcision, and re-training traditional midwives to stop performing female circumcisions and teaching them other skills.  Perhaps the perfect clinical site for ICTC. I could see Sister Shafia Monroe there.  Makeda will return to Kafountine for the week-long Carnival that begins 19.

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It is still pitch black dark when the five of us squeeze into the car and head down the road.  Just about 8:00 the right rear tire blows.  Hell and not AAA service for mile (LOL)!

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Zuzu and Papalye begin to change the flat tire with the spare that does not look much better. Problem # 1—the jack will not raise the car high enough to get the flat tire off.  We stand by the side of the road as the sun starts to touch the tops of the trees.

Papalye is not worried—this road is traveled by a steady stream of public passenger taxis and busses and someone will loan him a jack, he says with complete confidence.  Four minutes later he flags downs the very next passenger bus and explains his problem.  The driver promptly gives him his jack—no big deal. Papalye will return it to the bus driver, whom he does not know well, when they get back to Kafountine. Papalye memorizes his license plate number and takes the jack.

The new jack is applied with the first jack, the flat tire is removed and the spare tire is put on. As soon as the car is lowered the air leaks out of the spare tire too—it has a leak!  Now what do we now?  It is 8:20.

Papayle says not to worry, a Peugeot like his will come along and let him borrow their spare tire. I see the worry and stress in his face but his words of unquestioning faith are strong.  Just to support his conviction we break into a series of songs to Elegba, the orisha who opens the roads.

As we stand on the side of the road the awakening children in the nearby house come out and introduce themselves to us; one of the young men come over to help Zuzu and Papalye.

The very next car to come down the road was a Peugeot (I am not lying)! And the taxi driver is a friend of Papalye’s. He gives us his spare tire and takes one of Papayle’s flats.  Papalye changes the tire and we are back on the road at 8:40. Asia calls Senegal Air to let them know we are on our way, but no one answers.  Papalye says that the plane will be there when we get there, and drives on as fast as he can on these roads.  I can see that he is sweating this conviction. I am sitting in the front seat next to him and I cannot help but ask him how come he knew that folks would arrive and help.  He says in plain common sense and acknowledgement that all of the men who drive these roads can, at any moment, be in the same situation as he was in and would expect others to stop and help.  Uumm—an Expectation of Brotherhood; of Mutual Cooperation.  Not a phrase quoted once a year at Kwanzaa, but lived every day here among these men.

At 9:15 we enter the town of Ziguinchor and Asia reaches the airline—the plane from Dakar that will take us back there is just landing!!!!!

We arrive at the airport at 9:25; they do not charge us for our excess luggage and the plane leaves at 9:40.

Off to Dakar on a little bitty plane again!