After 16 hours (only 300km) of sharing a mini taxi with 21 people (2 children, 1 baby and a potential Ebola carrier) I’ve reached my first checkpoint, Butembo.
But, somewhere between somewhere, I think Bukomerwa and Bulotwa, I questioned my logic in agreeing to travel by way of mini taxi.
It’s called the Congo massage and brother, I have bruises. Mainly because of the one inch steel bar that runs parallel to the rear window.
Sitting passenger side back row is arguably the worst place to sit. According to physics.
For those of you who’ve never taken a School bus over speed bumps, google: -fastest way to get multiple concussions.
There were quite a few Ebola check points along the way.
Usual makeshift stations where “washing” your hands with grey chlorinated mystery liquid is absolutely mandatory. (My Ethiopian dress pants are three distinct colours now )
The thing I should have been prepared for but wasn’t, is the attention I’m getting from locals.
At one point during a long military check point I was surrounded by over twenty excited children, a few selling eggs, a couple selling buns, all wanting me to buy them eggs and buns.
Watching these strong children jockey to be near me, pushing through thatched shoulders to get a glimpse of me. High pitched knock off english, “Good Morning” “welcome” “areyoufine“, buzzing through the airwaves, in an excited cacophony of free Rosetta Stone.
Being there, realigned my heart strength. Made me more human.
Amplified by love and feels and kinship.
How can being reverently adored by a crowd of beautiful African children not bring tears to my eyes?
Please don’t give me Ebola.
My biggest criticism as I approach Beni- the Ebola capital is;
Why are officials insisting that everyone vacate their modes of transportation to rinse hands and have a bullshit temperature recorded!?
There’s no line. No buffer between people. Healthy or otherwise. It’s a chaotic everyman for himself scenario. People are pushing, cutting line, arguing.
It’s a tad ironic that the place where I’m most susceptible to Ebola is the very place designed to alleviate the risk.
I have 4 bottles of hand sanitizer, after every checkpoint I offer liberal amounts to my fellow bus compatriots.
They all happily put out their hands as I disperse potent white slime.
In my opinion, the probability of me accidentally getting Ebola goes down to an acceptable risk if everyone is coated in slime.
There is no road here, it’s more of a multi pitch obstacle course. 16 hours bouncing around the inside of a hot dusty mini van as the guy two Africans down from me pisses in a water bottle for the second time.
And I’m not even a quarter of the way yet.
Then gorgeous women run to the freshly stopped yellow mini taxi. They’re adorned in long beautiful dresses.
A menagerie of geometric shapes, greens and reds, orange and blues. They’re holding baskets of roasted bush animals and the biggest green onions I have ever seen.
Suddenly the realization of where I am comes into focus, the discomfort subsides.
It’s worth it.
I’m in Butembo finally, the bus to Nia-Nia leaves in two days. More than enough time to buy Congo flags and pins and patches from the local police station.
I have to wonder however, if it took me 16 hours to travel 300km, how long will it take me to travel 944km to Kisangani from Butembo?
Is that why I see as many military helicopters and private aircraft in the low Congo skyline as convertibles on the 405?