Saturday, October 2, 2010

One of those days

Some days just don't go the way you planned. You know those kind of days. Everybody has them, but some are more interesting than others. Take my day yesterday. It was Friday, so we only work until 12:30 pm so that our Muslim employees can get to 2:00pm prayers. As I was getting ready for work, I thought to myself, "Ahh, Friday...I should be able to be home by 1 PM and taking a nap by 2 pm. It had been a busy week and I was tired.

When I got to work, my co-worker reminded me that one of our temporary employees was naming his child today. If I wanted to go, we could go together right after work. OK, so my timetable adjusted a little. We could go briefly, pray for the baby, give our gifts and still be home by 2pm.

After work we get in the car to go to the naming ceremony. I knew that the family's houses had all fallen in the rains so they were renting somewhere else, but I didn't know that they were renting in the area where my co-worker got stuck with the car a few weeks ago. I found out on the way and had an immediate dread of what might be coming. My co-worker assured me that we would be fine if we used the other road. Famous last words. The road was bad, but with the car in 4-wheel low, we got through with no problem. As we pulled up to the compound all of a sudden the car fell sideways and we were in up to the bottom of the car on one side. Yikes.

All the men from the naming ceremony came out to see if they could help. They pushed. They dug. They jacked. They pushed some more and dug some more. My side of the car was leaning toward the ground so I couldn't open my door, but all the Gambians thought that I needed to get out of the car. I decided that my life was not in danger; I wasn't going anywhere! Picture trying to scramble over a gearshift, going uphill, wearing a long straight skirt in a car that has 30 men and boys surrounding it! NO WAY! They offered to pull me out, but Deb and I assured them that I would be fine in the car. Of course at that time we didn't know how long this adventure was going to last. Deb was able to get in and out of the car, so I sent her to go take pictures.

From my ringside seat in the car I got to listen in as the men discussed their options. They tried every plan they could think of, but no success. I was also watching the children playing behind the car. They were jumping on the ground which was undulating like a waterbed mattress, but not falling through. Where they punctured the ground with a stick, they could insert their arms
up the the elbow or deeper. No wonder we fell in! (No, I'm not covering my eyes in despair! More likely the sun was in my eyes.)

The man who was naming his child that day went to the man who owns a tractor (he had pulled out my colleague a few weeks before). Unfortunately he was sick, but he would send his younger brother. He came and went home to discuss their options. Ultimately, they decided that they couldn't risk bringing in the tractor for fear of it getting stuck too!

We had called Keith as well (the only male missionary working with us in NK) and told him what was going on. He had been having his own adventures that day, but we didn't know that. After a while, the men decided that we needed some metal truck ramps and a winch. So Keith went and brought the equipment in the pick-up. By this time we have been in the hole about 3 hours.

They attach the winch around a big tree about 75 yards away and attach the wire to the front of the car. Then the slow process of hand winching us out begins. Inch by inch the wire tightens. It takes a while before it's taut enough to move the car at all. The metal ramps are positioned under the front wheels and the process begins. Meanwhile Keith decides that this is slow. Maybe the truck could get close enough to pull us out. The only road to us is the road where Deb got stuck before. We could still see the hole that she had left. Keith saw it too, but thought he could get past it. As Deb saw the truck moving, she said, "I hope Keith doesn't get the truck stuck too." Just then we see the front end of the truck drop. Whoops, 2 missionary cars stuck.
So the men who had been helping us all day went to help Keith. He had to do some digging and then they could push him out. Whew!

Finally the winch did its job and got us out! The ground was so soft though that when we thought we were out, the men saw that we were sinking again. They all yelled and grabbed the car to help it forward a little ways where fortunately the ground was firm enough to hold. So we were out of the hole, but now how do we get the car out to a better road?!

We can't turn around and go out the way we came. The other road was where Keith had gotten stuck. We were fairly close to the main road, but there were 2 soft places we would have to get through. Bring on the ramps! We drove a few feet at a time as the crowd of men around us grabbed the pieces of metal from behind us and put them in front. Finally, as it is getting dark, we pulled out onto the paved road! We were in that mud hole for 6 hours! (A few hours into the process we turned on the car and enjoyed some air-conditioning! The things we'll do for air-conditioning!) Not the way I planned to spend the day, but it was fun watching the problem solving process going on around us (often at full volume!). Praise God for the Gambian way of helping out anyone in trouble.