Thursday, January 22, 2009

Timing is Everything!

Have you noticed that even the jobs you enjoy least can go better at the right time? Or how sometimes being late can be unexpectedly good? Expiry dates don’t mean a whole lot here, although I have learned that you need to pay attention to expiry dates on antiperspirant but that is another story…

This week our car went into the garage to be repaired, which meant that I was going to have to take a series of taxies and/or “faaba faabas” (a faaba faaba is the city equivalent of a bush taxi i.e. Toyota minivan) in order to get home from the boy’s school to get to my language class. I can’t say that I was looking forward to the trip, but I wasn’t approaching it with absolute dread as I would have a year earlier. Maybe that means that my Zarma has improved or I have had a couple of good experiences with faaba faabas. I was expecting that the drive home that is normally 20min in a car would take at least an hour, if I didn’t have to do too much walking in the process. So, I walked to the main road. It was definitely the right time of day to make the trip. When I got to there it was a matter of seconds before a taxi stopped to take me to the Petit Marche (this is the main market for produce and various other food stuffs). I walked across the market and found the place where the faaba faabas wait to be filled with people and things. Because we live on the edge of town there are usually lots of faaba faabas that go by on their way out to the villages and I have learned that this is not only the cheapest way to get to my house, but probably the easiest as well. So I went up to the young man that was helping with one that looked pretty full and I asked if they were headed in the direction that I needed to go. He said yes, so I got in and sat on the little jump seat next to the sliding door—the only place that seemed to be left, only to have one other man come along and squeeze in next to the ladies sitting across from me. At that the boy collecting the money stood on the rail by the door and told the driver he could go. I half expected him to kind of stand half in and half out for the rest of the ride. But no, as soon as we were on the road he leaned in over me and a number of the other ladies and did this incredible feat of acrobatics twisting and closing the sliding door at the same time. This closed in all 25 (mind you I think that I may have missed a few babies in my head count) of us in the Toyota Hiace –a van originally built for about 12-15 people including the driver. The boy stood for most of the trip between my knees and the man’s knees that was sitting across from me and collected money from all the passengers. I had to climb out to let others out three times before I got to the right part of town, but it was kind of nice to have an excuse to unfold. I was grateful that the boy understood my instructions as to where I wanted to get off because I had forgotten the Zarma term for “stop here” and no one else had used it before me. Amazingly, the whole trip only took about 40min. I know that it had a lot to do with the time of day, if I had tried it earlier in the morning I could have waited at the market for half an hour for the van to be full enough to leave. In the same way, a year earlier if I had to make the same trip on my own it would have been with fear and trembling, instead with the relaxed joking I had with the ladies that were amazed not only that I was travelling on the faaba faaba, but was speaking Zarma with them (broken though it may be).


The Walker Family said...

You are so brave! You must have little trouble sharing "personal space" or have gotten used to it in that culture. In any case, I'm glad it worked out for you. Hope you all have a good week!
Bev Walker

Kristi Hopf: said...

Congratulations Jenn!! The little accomplishments mean so much, eh?!!