Semi-jokingly I gestured the catholic cross across my chest as I sat squeezed in the back bench of the land rover.
'Criss cross your legs with mine' my roommate told me. On the Chicago el this would be awkward, but in Tanzania, this is normal and I was appreciative for the extra stability for the muddy ride home.
2 minutes and 100 feet from where the school was perched on a hill when we veered off the 'road', or rather path of mud. We skidded into more mud, and a sole large bush kept us from sliding further down the hill into the watering hole. Everyone was speaking swahili and the Tanzanian teachers got out of the land rover, so the rest of us followed suit. In the commotion of getting out of the vehicle and out of the way, I tumbled into the mud on my hand and knees. Luckily only my pride was damaged, but my knee length skirt was not.
Our fearless and well-respected driver maneuvered the car only to make it slide further down towards the pond. With nothing in his way except more slope of mud, it didn't look promising. But somehow he made his way upslope, and with the help of guys and a rope, he was able to make it completely back up to the road.
We climbed back in the land rover, nervously quiet to put ourselves back in this position, but white knuckling would still be much easier than walking. After the worst of it, we could let out a sign...and an honorable laugh at the boda (motorbike) navigating cautiously ahead of us.
At the end of the trip, our driver was all smiles. I think he lives for this. I wanted to take back all the love I was feeling for TZ and the school. How can people put up with this? Why are we driving in this? Why is there no pavement?
To top off my humiliation of my dirty knees, everyone along my walk noticed and said 'pole'...meaning 'sorry'. In my mind it was more hurtful that they called attention to my dirt instead of just ignoring me so I didn't respond. Though I'm told that they actually truly empathize and are meaning 'I feel your pain' vs 'it sucks to be you'. Lost in translation.
My walk uphill home seemed so much longer than normal, and I was seeing familiar faces that I'm usually so happy towards. I burst into tears, waved my white flag. This was it...this is the moment I was warned about that you just want to give up. I had to stop crying when I had to breathe for the steepest part of the hill.
Then the darn kids, like they always do, came running up to me. They always say 'good evening!!!' And this time, one girl just took my arm an put it over her shoulder, and she skipped beside me. I asked her what her name was and you know what she said? 'Faraha'. Translated, that means 'happy'. Yes, a common name here, but ironic, and definitely exactly what I needed. No words or translation necessary.
To see the muddy day: