At the first traffic stop, about an hour and a half from the center the driver got fined for not having the right paper allowing the bus to leave the city. And by “he got fined,” I mean, he told me to give him the money for it. What can you do? So I did. 20 minutes up the road we got stopped again. Asked who we were and where we were going. The police wanted some sort of paper making it official that we were a group from the church and going on an outing. No one had any such paper or church identification. Musa wasn’t answering his phone. So we sat for 45 minutes while the police decided if we would be allowed through.
During this time a man that was clearly crazy came and sat on the bus for awhile. He was very reluctant to get off. The boys thought it was hilarious. We were still all smiling. Then, Mama Shama told me she needed to pee. I said great, me too. Of course, we were in the desert and in the desert exist only pitiful thorny shrubs. So we walked at least 1/4 mile away from the road. There were two young guys shepherding a bunch of goats and were pretty keen to stare at us until Shama was like “Hey! We need to pee! Look away.” Moments that it’s great to be with a local, a woman, and her in particular.
|Mama Shama and I|
When we got back to the bus we were told it was a no go; we’d have to turn back. The other teachers asked me what to do now and I said for them to figure it out and I was happy with anything. As we were on our way back the driver seemed annoyed. (It is so hard to tell, though. If he was actually mad or just being…loud.) But when he suggested a place for us to go I said “Fine, anything. Up to you guys. I’m happy with anything.” He laughed and shook my hand and told Shama I was very nice. Then he bought us all guavas.
|Enjoying a guava on the bus.|
I have to say, for some reason I felt almost relieved when we were sent back. I guess it just felt like whatever we would end up doing would have to be easier than the other uncertainties that were going to lie ahead down the road. Though, I really did not/do not understand how the country can prevent their own people from traveling to see their own country. One of the teachers told me that the officer at the checkpoint asked why they would want to see the ruins. It is not a thing people do here. I did tell Musa in the beginning, though, that I would handle my own travel permission and I didn’t know what they needed, so they would take care of that. It is just slightly absurd to me that a bus of nationals can’t travel freely even in areas where there are no problems.
Anyway, everyone decided to go to some park in the city. It was actually pretty nice. There were rides and stuff but it was Friday, the holy day, so all of that stuff was closed. Of course. But we found a shady spot and Shama and I set up for lunch. I liked helping her because otherwise I just sat around feeling little useless. It was a nice lunch, chicken, carrots and cucumbers with lime, bread and bananas. We were there for a couple of hours and I think the boys had a good time. It’s unfortunate that none of the fun stuff was open but they seemed happy just to be out for the day. One of the oldest boys was whining a little, he just does sometimes, and I said “We have food. We have each other. What’s not to be happy about.” He laughed.
We hung out for a few hours. Did a little walking around but mostly sitting around. It’s definitely a cultural difference. People here do a lot of sitting around together and are happy with just that when I’m in my head like, “What could we be doing? Let’s do something.” At one point I guy I don’t know came over and was chatting me up in English. It was a couple of minutes before I could break away but in that time he told me that he heard the best places in the US are California and Canada. Nice.
Late afternoon the driver came to fetch us. By the time we we left I was tired. Ready to get home and give my brain a rest from speaking/understanding just in Arabic all day. But, unfortunately, just getting back to the center and heading my jolly way home would not be that easy.