Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Most Difficult Thing about Zanzibar, and about Africa in general...

Our day on the spice tour included several stops: We were to tour the experimental farm, stop somewhere where local woman had prepared a traditional lunch of rice pilaf and a sauce and vegetables. Then on to the Slave Cave, a place slave traders held slaves by a deserted beach after slave trading became illegal in Europe. When we finished all that we had an hour or so to lay or an undeveloped beach or swim. It sounded like a very pleasant day, but things changed soon after leaving the spice tour.

When we got to the main road, at the intersection, we stopped to let one of the Tanzanians out and another one in, the one that had first picked us up in the morning. Off we headed to our lunch awaiting us. Maybe our driver felt we were a little behind schedule. Maybe he had been told-off by our guide about not being right on time when we finished the spice tour. I had noticed in the morning our guide seemed a little on the bossy side when talking in Swahili.

We were barreling down the road when the driver hit the brakes hard. I looked up from my seat right behind him. One of the Italians in the front seat yelped, there was a thud. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen the top of the black head of a child. It had sounded to me like we had driven right over him, but the boy was on the pavement in front of us.

Immediately I started begging God for mercy. I think the driver was a little anger. I remember him throwing his hands in the air in disgust. Some of the out group were saying, “Don’t look!” Others were getting out saying, “I know CPR.” The cry not to look tempted me. What I saw in a very short glimpse was a small boy lying on the ground. I didn’t see any blood nor did the boy look crushed. He only looked as if he were napping on the road.

A crowd was already forming and quickly closed off my view of the boy. In another few moments the crowd was shouting into the van at the rest of us inside. I couldn’t make out a word and thought they were angry with us for some reason. Our guide called from outside above the voices and in English for us to get out of the van. In seconds the boy was scooped from the pavement and our van was making a three-point turn in the road. It looked like about 4 people were in the van when it howled away. Our guide was standing with us on the roadside along with the crowd that had amassed.

I heard one man in our group say to no one in particular, “Shouldn’t we get off the road?” I turned to our guide, “Can we get off the road?” We were all so bewildered, but I think he realized how hot the sun was once I asked about moving. He said yes and started walking several feet away from where we were to the overhang of a small building. Not all of them followed. But eventually some noticed we weren’t all there and turned to the others. I motioned for them to come and stand in the shade. The crowd now of mostly children packed in with us. They probably came because wazungu are so strange but maybe they wanted to comfort us too.

The Italian that saw it happen was very shook up, but also the German college gal that had been traveling with the American gals. She couldn’t have been more than 21 and had been working with children in Arusha. She burst into sobs a couple of times. She had been one to get out seeing if she could help. Eventually another van came to pick us up. I offered to ride in the front, the Italians were all too happy give it up. My offer came so they wouldn’t have to sit there. A young British gal named Helen climbed in with me.

The rest of the day was quite somber. Lunch was hard for everyone to eat. I was next to the German gal on the floor mats where we were eating. She seemed not to be able to go on. As she started to cry again I put my hand on her shoulder. I hoped to somehow comfort her but I didn’t know how. I said nothing. She did finally eat.

Our guide made several phone calls throughout the afternoon. He heard the boy had regained consciousness and had a fractured arm. They did not have the results of the x-rays yet.

God have mercy… on that boy, on his parents, on that driver, on the tour company director/owner, on that community. May they all come to know Your true mercy.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

How traumatic. I hope the boy is ok. I'm glad that you guys weren't hurt though. Stay safe!