May 02, 2005

Welcome to the Jungle

Day Two
Location: Luiza
Date: 04/27/05
Hours of Driving: 8

We visit the General Hospital of the Region which is not like I imagine it at all: it has clean walls, large windows, equipment and the offices of the head doctor has several computers and printers. Only, there’s no electricity at the moment. The doctor praises our upcoming visit to the deeper areas of the region and wishes us a “nice bad road”. I wonder what that means.

We stop to refuel: a young boy rolls a barrel of gasoline to the car, sets it upright and starts creating suction with his mouth around a connecting tube, taking care to spit to resulting upflow. It takes about 30 mins to fill up the tank that way.

We pack the small vans with loads of suitcases, two large bags containing money teacher salaries in Luiza (each about the size of two X-large mountain backpacks)…and still manage to pack 5 people in the back and three people in the front.

The road from Kananga to Luiza is a beaten path of clay earth, which can be as hard as cement in some places and as soft as fine sand in others. I am told it’s lucky that it’s not raining because clay turns to engulfing mud. The road to Luiza is so stressful that I barely recall the details of it. I can only tell you for sure that my muscles were clenched the ENTIRE 8 hours of the way there. I count 4 times when the van was driving at a 45 degree angle. I am convinced that we are about to topple over and that we kill at least 5 chickens and two goats. I clench my lower lip for much of the road hoping to quell the shouts of alarm.

I can’t believe I have to do the same road in reverse in two weeks. I’d rather set up my permanent residence in Luiza than have to drive through that road again, which makes the health team laugh at length. I am being serious though.

I crash early and sleep a deep sleep.

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