Leif was here, so together we came up with a brilliant plan to fly across the country to Iriba where we are drilling some bore holes. Then we would spend the night there and then drive to Abeche (about 8 hours drive on unpaved roads) the next day. During the drive we would have meetings with the other passengers, innoncent people who we coerced into driving us around, as all our cars were in use in the field. Then upon arrival in Abeche, we would have more meetings with local staff there before getting up at 4am to take the bus back to Ndjamena. If this seems like a crazy schedule to you, note that this was over the weekend after we’d been working all week, and Leif had a flight out the night we arrived back in N’djamena to attend a conference in Ethiopia the next day. Also, yes, it was my idea, but I would never have pitched it to anyone but Leif because anyone else would have laughed in my face. But I know Leif, and I knew he would be just crazy enough to be up for it.
Overall, the trip was fun. We hung out with some cool people, road in the car with a live goat given to us by a grateful community, visited our drilling team, had successful meetings that actually were productive, and made it home alive. Of course, we had to take the bus back, and that wasn’t ideal, though not as bad as it could have been, had we broken down half-way or run into a herd of cows or had to sit in the floor.
|A great name for a menstrual product|
A few hours into our 900km bus trip from Abeche to N’Djamena, I started thinking about how all the missionaries act like riding the bus is such a good time. “I just sleep the whole way. It’s so relaxing!” or “I can get so much work done. It’s great!” Our bus ride started before 5am with Arabic sermons blared through the speakers to help everyone think about their mortality while journeying together, probably. Being the hard-hearted heathen that I am (comparatively), I remained unmoved and tried to stick my earphones all the way into my head so I could hear my music instead. I was not very comfortable in a slippery seat with a bulge that should fit behind an average-sized adult’s head, like a pillow, but which fits just low enough so that my head couldn’t fit over or under it. I started to think that most missionaries just say they like it because either they want to see if they can convince other people that it’s great by the power of a positive attitude or maybe, once they get off, they are so happy, their happiness blurs over the pain of their recent past, so that they forget their sufferings and remember it as actually being a good time (It’s not Stockholm Syndrome, but it is some kind of official delusion, I’m pretty sure). I was happy to admit to myself that I’d prefer to go in our own little Toyota corolla, stopping anywhere there is a convenient bush if I need to pee and skipping the obligatory hour long lunch break in Mongo while everyone eats a pile of greasy roasted goat meat. Though, to be honest, we rarely skip that stop and that meat is actually pretty good, as is anything you can cover in hot pepper.
But the second half of the trip they started playing the customary violent Thai movies. Last time I saw a movie about Thai gymnasts who save their village from evil gangsters, using back flips and uneven bamboo bars. Many people died horrible deaths, but we all learned the importance of gymnastics in combat. This trip the movie was about a young boy raised with elephants. His best elephant friend carried him to school every morning and let him practice Thai martial arts while jumping all over her back and doing pull ups on her horns. How do I know that she is a girl elephant? Spoiler alert: She has a baby. Actually, this whole paragraph is going to be a spoiler alert so stop reading now if you don’t want to know the entire plot of this movie, whose title I can’t remember because I don’t speak Thai. Also, if you recognize this movie as one of your favorites and I’ve gotten things wrong, I’m sorry. I was still listening to my own music and not trying to hear the dialogue, though I did hear a few of the French dubbed lines including: “Où est mon éléphant?!” Because, sadly, the mother elephant is killed by poachers and then later in the movie the baby elephant that the main guy raises from childhood is stolen by these same evil poachers who take him to Australia (because they are evil Australian poachers, of course). It actually took me a while to get that it was in Australia because I stopped watching for a bit in the middle. I was wondering why there were so many white people involved in this movie, and especially intrigued that the chief of police in Thailand was white. But when he finally frees his elephant and they walk past the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, I figured it out. I would have figured it out sooner if there had been more kangaroos. That’s a tip for setting the stage next time, Thai movie makers. Anyway, the main guy DOES defeat all the evil Australian poachers, using the power of martial arts and also elephant bones. He frequently uses this move where he traps someone’s arm under his crotch, twists his hips and the crunching sound effect signals a broken appendage. Since the guy himself doesn’t make the traditional high pitched scream indicating pain to his favorite body part, I’m assuming that is what the crunching sound meant anyway. At any rate, it always vanquished the enemy.
|My new toilet paper. Probably made by an Alanis Morissette fan.|
While tracking down his elephant he also comes upon a Chinese establishment (in Sydney’s Chinatown) where they are selling illegal animal meat. There is a very sad part that Sarah McLaughlin should never find out about where the audience is shown many miserable endangered animals in cages. The Main Guy also thinks his baby elephant has been eaten, but of course, he is wrong. Additionally, it seems there is a sex slave trafficking ring happening out of this place too. He uncovers that, but seems less concerned. The audience is left to assume that the police guy who is with him handled the situation while he went off to go save his baby elephant. Baby Elephant, meanwhile, has been kidnapped by a Chinese witch who has a decorative skeleton of an elephant in her office/lair. Main Guy immediately recognizes it as the skeleton of his friend and calls on her elephant powers to help him beat 3 extra-large evil Australian wrestler-type guys. I’m think if you’re too big for a surf board in Australia, you probably just become a thug because what else can you do? These guys are beating him until he is thrown into the skeleton of his old friend and he remembers the power of elephant bones. He then grabs some bones and starts beating on people with the bones. They cannot withstand the power of elephant bones no matter how many steroids they have taken during the course of their Australian Wresting Careers so the Main Guy wins. He stands over them triumphantly yelling “Où est mon éléphant!!!” Anyway, he is ultimately reunited with the elephant baby, the evil Australian poachers are dead and his original elephant friend is avenged. The only loose end left for us to wonder about is why weren’t there any scenes of Australians eating endangered animals dipped in vegemite? I mean, how about a little realism, Thai movie industry, ok?
|My new neighbor. Can you see him?|
I am feeding him whenever I'm home.
Eventually we will be best friends.
It worked with the TCKs. I'm nice and I'm strong.
After the Thai movie, they showed a few Jackie Chan movies (he speaks great French, did you know?) And we ended up arriving before 3pm. And NOW I understand why the missionaries like the bus. Because I’ve never made that trip so fast. Corollas have to slow down for the potholes and buses don’t (or they don’t have to, but unofficial studies have shown that you still lose time changing punctured tires). So we made it in record time, and now, looking back, bathed in happiness as I’m no longer on the bus, I think it was such a great time. I didn’t sleep and I didn’t get any work done, but I watched some epic films and I got home early. That is a WIN in my book.