Friday, December 2, 2011

Towed from Timu

A few weeks ago we bought a whole batch of water-contaminated diesel. Of course we didn't know it at the time, but soon the engine started to lose power as we drove. Eventually, on our last trip up to Timu with Kate Shugart, we barely made it up the last hill, having to crawl in four-wheel low at 1000 rpms. I got some advice and tried to fix the problem as best I could, but it only got worse (says something about my skill as a mechanic...). By the end of the week, the truck wouldn't start at all.

This was the first time we had been officially stranded in Ikland. Really it wasn't all that bad. We felt safe. We still had food (though we were running out of the stuff we like to cook). And we had plenty of work to do in the mean time. We had peace in our hearts about the situation.

But, we still had to get to Kaabong to get to Kampala to get Kate to the airport. So I called a friend who has a small dump-truck or 'tipper' as they call them here. They agreed to come tow us down off the mountain, but it would have to be tomorrow because of all the rain. The next morning they left with a load of sand (to bring our way) at about 10 am., and it took them five hours to reach us, almost five times longer than it normally takes. They kept getting stuck in the mud on a dirt road that had just been graded but not compacted.

We spent the whole day waiting...and waiting...and waiting. 'Closing up shop' in Timu is quite an operation, and once we do it, it's extremely unnerving to do anything but leave as planned. We pack up things to protect them from dust, mice, bugs, etc. We do the dishes and dump the dishwater. We collect the trash and burn it. We pay employees. We take last-minute shopping requests. We host last-minute visitors. We pack this and put away that. We give last-minute instructions to our translator. It seriously takes half a day just to leave. And if our ride isn't available, then we're just sitting ducks for people to dream up what we could possibly bring them from 'Kampala', that distant and marvelous land where anything wonderful is available for a cheap price. We prayed the truck would come.

And come it did, about 4:3o pm. Dumping the sand and hooking the trucks together with a tow rope only took a few minutes. The tow strap I had looked awfully puny and hardly capable of connecting those two masses of metal. It was a bad omen, as I would soon discover.

Since our truck's engine couldn't be started, I had to operate the 'power' steering and power brakes with, power. I got a good workout from that. After going down the first long hill, things got interesting. We went through a deep puddle, and while going up the other side, the tow strap broke. No problem. Just retie. A few minutes later it broke again, with a loud and very rude 'pop!' My heart stopped every time it did that and nearly stopped every time the driver ahead sped up when there was slack in the line. After the second break, the driver pulled out what looked like a very inadequate white nylon rope, to join to the failing tow strap. I laughed out loud. Shame on me. He quadrupled that rope, added it to the tow strap, and the thing never broke from then on. Never laugh at rural African ingenuity (R.A.I.), especially if it's your proverbial derriere on the line.

Back to the main road that had been graded and turned to mud pudding. On the first hill, we got stuck. So we dug out from around the wheels, cleared a little path for them ahead, and got a few more yards before getting stuck. The hill was just too steep and too long. Someone came up with a crazy plan to go back down the hill, drive off the road, and come up on the side. I confess I had no faith at all that this plan would work, but it did, and quite well. Another good mark for rural African ingenuity.

We continued like this for hours. Getting stuck, digging out, getting stuck again. By then the tow strap was so short, I couldn't see the ground between us and the tow truck. I had to concentrate 120% to keep from running into the back of it and to keep the line taut so it wouldn't break again. It got dark, and we labored under the light of flashlights and my slowly dimming headlights. My resolve was extremely weak---I kept suggesting we find a place to park the vehicle and come get it the following morning. But the driver and the five guys helping him never once considered not finishing the job. They were like the tow angels of the night. Finally, close to midnight, we reached our destination.

We and our African friends have a lot to learn from each other. They have a lot to teach me about just going with the flow of life, not getting stressed about circumstances that are mostly if not entirely out of my control. As Westerners we can tend to try to control life, and that's why life here can be so stressful. Things just don't usually go as planned. On the flip-side, our African friends can learn a little from us about altering the flow of life. We're not just victims of cosmic forces; we can bend and use them to our advantage. We are not just creatures of God; we are co-creators of the earth by God's design. When we face life's challenges together---like towing a vehicle through the mud at night---our different but complimentary perspectives come to light.


Cassidy said...

I had concocted similar stories of your towing adventures, and they were about as bad as the reality! I am so glad you guys blog. I appreciate an open window into the lives of you two and into Uganda!

Andy Sweet said...

Sounds quite stressful. Hope you've a restful Christmas lined up. With best wishes! Andrew and Janet

Isabella Pospisil said...

I'm sure a lot would have found it agonizing to be stuck in a mud puddle and would have called a towing service immediately, but it's nothing compared to what you guys had to traverse--a whole mountain! This adventure is something!