Friday, March 30, 2007 (Part A)
After the brothers had slept for 2 hours, it was now 5:00 am we started
again. I have to confess, I was annoyed. “Why?” I asked
myself, “Could not they have organized traveling time in a way
that each brother, could have driven a portion of time?” There
were 4 drivers. (Mohammad had decided to return with us without my knowledge
or consent.) Each driver could have taken a turn while the others slept.
Instead, all of them spread their trusty rugs on the ground and there
they slept and snored.
Two hours down the road another flat, and, the one in the trunk was
flat. It took 3 hours to fix one of them sufficient for us to travel.
We made it to a village called Araft, where everything is primitive.
Because the tire was still leaking air, they tried to pump air into
it with a bicycle pump, which did not work. They decided to walk down
the road to find help. They flagged one of those trucks packed with
stuff and people on top. They returned with help and pumped more air
into the tire. It seemed that the trucks carried an answer to every
Back at the village, which sits on either side of the road, I watched
as a lamb was being disemboweled and put on the fire. The lamb was cooked
and sold. As the poor creature’s skin lay at the feet of its stripped
body hanging from a tree, I was so glad I had become vegetarian. Little
children stood long starring at me as if I were from Mars. Heavily armed
military vehicles went whizzing passed by. “Is this usual or ordinary?”
I asked Yahya. “No it isn’t,” he emphasized.
At 10:20 am, we were on the move again. There was a huge mountain range
before us. As we were traveling around it, at 10:30 am, another flat.
While we waited for help, we sat beneath a tree and I wondered, “Oh
God, Why?” Help came at 11:45 am. A Good Samaritan loaned us the
spare tire from his car. We learned the military vehicles were due to
President Deby traveling this way. At 12:15, we arrived at a village
called Mango. We gave the tire back to the Good Samaritans. Our tires
were fixed – I hoped. We learned that the Good Samaritans were
newsmen. We promised each other that we would stay in touch. At this
point, we have not done so.
Mango reminded me of a bus stop. There were, as always, a market and
a Mosque. At the fix-it shops, cars and buses had stopped for repair.
In the market there were fruits, water, clothing, vegetables, jewelry,
etc. We departed Mango at 12:45 pm. We got as far as the next town,
Gadaria. It was a good thing too, for at 1:45 pm, yes, we had another
flat tire. This time, for the first time the left front tire. This made
flat #7. And it seemed, the right front tire was going down. We pulled
over and waited for the Good Samaritans. Yes, the air was slowly easing
out. Kindly, they brought a rug for me to sit upon. While we waited,
at least to comfort us, there were surrounding us picturesque mountains
wrapped in a blue haze not far in the distance. The blue haze provided
a delicate touch to the barren invincible mountains.
It must had been 120 degrees easily. The air was scorching but dry.
Thank God, we were near a village called Tchelme, when a man riding
on his bicycle said he would find somebody to fix the tire. I made the
suggestion we push on. If the air goes out we will flag the Good Samaritans.
Or we would make it to the village. In any event, it was better than
sitting and waiting.
However, they decided to wait. The fix-it man returned. His tools were
few, old and inadequate. Mercifully, at 3:00 pm Good Samaritans #2 arrived.
They took the spare off the back of their car, put it on ours and followed
us to town. The Good Samaritans #2, said they had 6 flat tires. To make
matters worst for us every time we stopped we had to push the car to
get it started again. We started off again at 3:15 pm, in a few minutes
we passed Bird Mountains, where the birds journeying from the Soviet
Union, stopped for water, then completed their trip to South Africa.
At 3:55 pm, we caught up with Good Samaritans #2,they had had another
flat tire. Now they demanded their tire back. There were passionate
verbal exchanges in Arabic. I know not what they were saying. Good Samaritans
#2, got into our car with the flat tire, we drove back to the place
we had just passed. It was now 4:05 pm when they started working on
Good Samaritan #2’s tire. I sat in the car battling heat and flies,
surrounded by onlookers. Any event, in these leisure-afflicted villages,
is a happening that convenes crowds immediately, especially the young.
Military vehicles and the huge packed trucks constantly passed by. Here
at this place they occasionally stopped. It is a security checkpoint
and there is a school. I started working on a press statement if I had
to stay, which I was fast coming to believe that would be the case.
It was 4:30 pm, when the tire was fixed. Then they began working on
the engine. We waited on Good Samaritans #2 to fix his car. Now with
both engines roaring, at 4:50 pm, we were on our way.
Anxiously, aware that both cars were without spares. I wondered if we
would make it to the next town. Every bump on the rock-saturated road,
heighten our concern. We were like desert travelers, praying for an
oasis. Or like mountain climbers, frantically searching for a trail
in a snowstorm. While our situation wasn’t fatal, it was very
serious. I was concerned about Good Samaritans #2 also. They had thrown
us a lifeline. Now, would they need it back and would they get it back.
They were lost in the cloud of dust ahead of us. The road looked awfully
menacing. “Oh paved highway, come into view,” I prayed.
Perhaps a better analogy, I thought than mountain climbers and desert
travelers, were seafaring sailors. We looked, eagerly, anxiously down
the highway for the paved road that would save us. As sailors long at
sea, braving the fury of a raging storm look for land, we looked for
paved highways. But the road kept getting bumpier and rougher and we
kept looking and praying, but we saw only more twisting, bumpy, hot,
dusty, hard road.
Good Samaritans #2 has now lost us completely. If our tire goes, there
is no spare and none to help. It seemed the road was putting up the
fiercest fight. The driver seemed to be driving faster. I wished he
would slow down. Maybe, I thought, there would be less wear on the tire.
But, faster and faster he drove. Farther and farther away seemed the
paved road or town.
It was now 5:30 pm. My flight was at 11:00 pm. We still had hours of
driving before us. Another flat tire would just about end my chances
of making the flight. We passed village after village, by now they all
looked the same but they did not have the equipment to fix the tire.
In the distance, the road seemed to be getting darker and darker as
the dust cleared. Maybe, we were nearing the pavement I thought. At
the same time, the road seemed to be getting sharper with deeper grooves.
As far as the eye could see, there were only dirt roads and the dust
had reappeared. It was not a good sign.
To be continued…
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