Monday, March 28, 2011

A First In 10 Years In Uganda!

For Such A Common Occurrence ...

It was a day filled with great expectation.  Sunday was the day of a concert featuring the Dove Voice Band that would release their recently produced DVD and CD.  It was scheduled for 2 PM in Kampala. Ten of us squeezed into a 7 passenger van and settle in for the two hour drive west from Jinja.  Why is it that I always feel like the "big size" when everyone suggest that I ride in the front seat with the driver?

Pushing some unwanted suggestions aside, I assumed my copilot position and suggested to my 21 year old driver from Tanzania that we were not late and we were not in a race.  After asking him why some drivers feel compelled to pass any driver in front of them, he replied, "I think I'm one of those."  I quickly committed myself to more prayer than observation.

Just moments after leaving our compound, as we were able to finish crossing the bridge, a car passed us on the right.  Everyone knows that it is illegal to pass on the bridge that sits atop the Jinja Dam of the River Nile.  But, somehow, this reckless driver thought himself above the law and whipped past us ... only to find that a man on a bicycle coming directly toward him.  Without slowing down, the vehicle clipped the bicycle, ejecting the rider over the handle bars and onto the pavement.  The rider jumped up and looked in the direction of the speeding car as it drove on overtaking more slower vehicles.  Nothing new here.  I've witnessed too many collisions and near collisions to think it unusual.

That mishap confirmed my need to once again pray for our safety as we made the two hour trip to Kampala.  My granddaughter told me that I slept on our way to Kampala, but I was begging heaven for safe passage.  About 90 minutes later I opened my eyes as we entered the capital city of Uganda. Soon after, I spotted a motorbike lying down and in the middle of our side of the street, which happened to be about four lanes wide.  Lanes, of course, are not something that are recognized or used by most drivers in this country.  Open space is what they look for and whoever gets there first owns it.  The rider of the bike was still down and as I looked for and at him as we drove by, I saw that he was still woozy, but attempting to stand up and face the traffic coming at him.  There was no attempt to slow down or stop to check on him.  My youthful driver had his eyes on the drivers in front of him; he must overtake them!

Investigation officer with Joshua
Now I was worried.  I had carried an uneasy feeling about traveling with me all the way from Jinja.  First a bicycle and now a motorbike.  I could only wonder how big the vehicle would be in the "next" mishap.

Finger pointing ... yelling
Then, suddenly, and from out of nowhere, as we were turning left instead of going around the roundabout, I saw a man on a bicycle parallel to my window and then he crashed into the front fender and bumper and disappeared out of sight.  I yelled, and then felt sick to my stomach as I felt our van drive over something.  I slapped my hands together with a dreaded sense that we had just killed him.  Joshua came to an immediate stop and I jumped out of the van.  The rider was sitting in the middle of the street next to his twisted bike.  I quickly assumed that it must have been his bicycle which we had run over.  I wondered about the extent of his injuries.  Were there broken bones?  Internal bleeding?  All I could observe was a bewildered look on his face and torn pants and skin.  He was holding his knee tenderly.

Damaged bicycle
Within seconds a loud and boisterous crowd had gathered.  People were pointing fingers, yelling, and foot soldiers and police that patrol this particular roundabout where soon on the scene.  It wasn't even organized chaos .  It was just chaos.  I quickly concluded that I would not understand the cultural resolution to this accident, would refrain from adding to the chaos, and returned to the van.

Victim on the way to the clinic
New friend in Room 36
Four hours later we made it to the concert.  Among other negotiations, during that time, I explained that our van was not disable and did not need to be towed to the police station.  (I had to pay the tow truck driver $5 to disconnect his truck!)  Joshua and Raoul took the injured man in the back of a truck to a medical clinic for Xrays and treatment.  I hired an unknown man to drive us to the police station as we followed a motorcycle cop, winding his way through the typically snarled traffic of downtown Kampala.  I refused to surrender the keys to the van.  I called my lawyer for some off the cuff advice.  I bought water for the passengers of the van who chose to remain in the van while I enjoyed meeting new "friends" in Room 36 on the second floor of Central Station in the heart of Kampala.  Statements were taken.  Mostly we waited.  As we waited we thanked God that the injuries were discovered to be minor. Joshua was issued a $20 citation for failure to use his mirror to notice the rider on his left.  Payment at the bank on Monday would enable his driving permit to be returned to him.  . The victim agreed to take $50 for any future medical concerns and repair of his bicycle and the issue was resolved.  And, we realized this was the first collision we had been in during our ten years of life in Uganda.  Amazing, really amazing! Lots of close calls, but no answers.  Until today.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you all are safe. Love and miss you guys!


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