Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I have found a great time to pray. On the back of a motorcycle heading down a mountainside in the dark. The Lords Prayer and Psalm 23 are two of my main go-to's when I am terrified. Days of Elijah also comes to mind often. I'm not sure why. Maybe its the whole behold he comes riding on the clouds part. Maybe I'm just not created to be a motorcyclist. When I came to first came to Tanzania Pastor Frank(who I stayed with) said that we would be going places on his pikipiki(yes that is really the kiswahili for motorcycle). However his motorcycle needed to be fixed.(It's another story why it was broke in the first place.) We picked up some parts in Moshi which was an all day event. The next day we went to Kifula to try to fix the bike. First we tried to do it on our own. I'm pretty sure that we just exacerbated the problems that it already had. We then dragged/carried it down the hill and to the mechanic. He was not impressed with our work. He was also not sure how to fix our unique problems. Needless to say, what we thought was going to be a home by noon job turned into a home past sunset job. On average we are able to accomplish about one thing per day. Coming here has given me a new appreciation for the ability to get places easily by car. They say that you don't really appreciate something until you don't have it. Traveling without your own transport does not lend itself to keeping a schedule. Anyway back to the motorcycle. The day was ending and the mechanic finally gave us the go-ahead. We hop on the bike, Frank confidently, myself not as much, and we were off. I'm no mechanic, but I did not like the sounds coming out of that engine as we tried an incline. Three minutes later we are walking the thing back to town. We got a bus home that night. So our one task for that day was an epic failure( two days wasted if you count the previous trip to Moshi for parts). That should have been my first sign that I'm not meant for pikipikis. The next day we planned to journey to Usangi to check out the future resource center that is actually the reason for me coming to Tanzania in the first place. We called one of Frank's pastor friends and he said we could use his pikipiki in Usangi. Our plan was to leave at 9:00 a.m. At 6:45 Frank wakes me up and says there is a bus here so we should catch it. I throw some clothes on and rush out the door. The bus has already gone. Frank says that if we hurry we can catch it further along the route. I say let's do it, so we do an early morning run through the mountain jungle to the next stop. Twenty minutes later, out of breath, we arrive at the next stop. The locals there said that we just missed it but it usually waits at the next village for a while. We did a speedwalk to the next village. Gone. Maybe this was a sign to turn around and go home. We don't give up easily though. We squeezed into a van going our direction. A few vehicles later we arrive in Usangi. We get to the church and borrow the motorcycle. My motorcycle experience before coming to Africa is exactly zero. So to say the least I was not ease when getting on the back of this thing. Maybe if we were driving on the streets of Shelbyville it would have been different, but these aren't exactly paved roads, or even necesarily roads for that matter.(see Musings #17) Before we are even moving I have started praying. I was probably into my third reciting of Psalm 23 when we come upon an innocent looking bridge. When we were about 2 meters away I noticed a crevice in the road about a foot wide. Being a pikipiki novice, I thought this is interesting, what do we do in this situation. It turns out in this situation we first try to apply the brakes to no avail. When that happens, the next step is to fall into the hole. The next few seconds are completely gone from my memory. The first thing I remember is turning around and seeing Frank on the ground with the motorcycle half on top of him, half in the chasm. After asking if he was ok I pulled the bike off him as quickly as I could. His lips were torn up and bleeding pretty badly but other than that he said he was unhurt. I checked myself over and did not have a scratch, I was not even dirty. Somehow I went over the handlebars and Frank and seemingly landed on my feet. I have never put a lot of thought into guardian angels, but I could believe I was carried by one in this event. After checking over the bike, and yes the brake was broken, I thought we would walk the bike back to the church. Frank however got back on the bike and said lets go. I said don't we need that brake. He said the other one is the only one we really need and it seems to be working. Bucking up my courage I got back on the bike. We went smoothly enough for awhile until we arrived at a particularly steep hill on a turn. We slowly toppled over. Once again I somehow jumped at just the right time. We walked the bike up that hill. We finally got to our goal. We looked at the building for all of ten minutes. We then start to head back a different route. It is a beautiful view overlooking some mountains and I am starting to feel somewhat relaxed. I pull my camera out of my pocket and snap a few shots. We come to a fairly steep decline. We aren't going very fast and I'm feeling fine. Frank says something to me that I can't hear and then we start to go towards the side of the mountain into some brush. Once again confused as to what is going on, I am forced to alight from the bike. This time I wasn't quite fast enough and got my leg dirty, from rubbing against the wall while on the bike, and a scratch on my finger. Frank ended up inside the brush. What he had said before the crash was "Now we are in danger". It turns out that the motorcycle would not switch gears when he tried, so rather than go down the hill at an uncontrollable speed he opted for a calculated crash stop. We then walked the bike down the hill. And yes we did continue the journey on the pikipiki. We made it back to the church eventually. And we made it home that night. After another forty minute jungle walk in the dark we arrived to a dark house. The entire town had lost power. While taking a shower by cellphone light I looked back on the day. I was involved in three motorcycle wipeouts and all I had to show for it was a little finger scratch. God sure does make life interesting. In order to make this blog worth your time I am now going to turn it into some allegory. One interesting facet to the journey was that after each incident I became more and more comfortable on the thing. I chalk it up to seeing that, yes we would crash, but also we could survive the crash. In our lives we all have unexpected crashes. Some of them are worse than others. The choice you make after the crash is what determines if you reach your destination. You can choose to give up, say "I am too afraid to continue", walk the motorcycle home; or you can dust yourself off, say a prayer, and continue the journey. The first option is a whole lot easier, but have you ever heard anyone say they were proud of taking the easy way out. If any of you finished reading this story I am impressed. I myself probably would not have, if were reading it. I don't have much of an attention span for these kinds of things. As a bonus note for making it to the end you can know that I am writing this after seeing the sunset on Mt. Kilamanjaro then taking an uneventful motorcycle ride down a mountain in the dark.