Taxi Tales – The Curve

The ride from my village to Maseru is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s great, when I can catch a lift from someone in my village or a passing car (more on hitchhiking in Lesotho later) or get a speeding taxi with a nice conductor. Sometime it’s a nightmare and we stop every 100 meters for five minutes and it takes two hours to get 40 km.

But the ride from Maseru to my village is nine times out of 10 awful. I have to walk through the busy rank full of questionable smells and meats being cooked on open flames. Men will yell, “Hello mamma!” or “Hiiiiiii” in a high-pitched tone. I fake a smile and head straight to my car, where I may have to wait five minutes or an hour. (More on the rank later. Also, remind me of all these “more on that later” remarks).

The conductor often fills the car to the max, or more accurately, beyond the max. Once I was in a van that legally holds 14 people but had 19 people squeezed in the rusted parameters, not all sitting and excluding the conductor and driver. There was also several packages of cake flour that added up to 100 kgs, a few giant bags of corn, 20 2 liters of soda and several bushels of carrots. It was a packed house.

If I can help it, I try to pick the least uncomfortable seat: behind the driver or next to him because they always make me sit in the middle upfront. I put in my headphones and zone out.

The worse part of the ride is the last 13 km. We pass the last turnoff and must go up a steep hill with a sharp curve, the only one of its kind along my route. I am not sure the year of these vehicles, but they often sound and look as if Henry Ford himself assembled them, so I don’t have a ton of faith in their ability to get from point A to point B, especially when giant hills are involved.

I always take a deep breath when I see the incline ahead. The van slows down to 20 to 15 mph and everything with a decent engine zooms pass us. My heart leaps when the car stops as the driver drops gears. After our incident to Katse, I always envision the car stalling and rolling backwards off the cliff. I imagine what my last thought would be as I fall to be fiery bloody death. For the first month after that trip, I would mutter the Hail Mary and Our Father under my breath until we were in the clear.

It sputters, wheezes and nearly comes to the breaking point, but the car always makes it up and we return to our jovial speed.

After reading several Bible passages about faith, I’ve realized that I need to not freak out each time I go up that hill. Yes, taxi drivers drive worse that 16-year-old girls and the cars would not be deemed drivable in the US, but these guys really do know what they are doing. They’ve done it for years and multiple times a day. And if something does go wrong, they know how to stop the car. Also, I need to give more credit to the cars. There is a reason they’ve lasted this long, more than any car I’ve had but, then again, I like to drive my cars through flash floods and ruin the engines. (Nope, no more on that later. If you don’t know the story, then I am not going to tell it because I look like a fool in it.)

If I need more faith in climbing a mountain in van, then there are certainly other places in my world that could use more faith. Mostly, I could have more faith in myself. Sometimes, I just have to let go. It’s OK for me not to know everything or control each detail. Maybe it’s even better if I shed the worry and stress and ride along.

Now, each time we hit that certain passage, I fall into a meditative state and repeat, “Faith. Faith. Faith.” I steady my breath and try to focus on the beautiful trees outside or the adorable baby in front me. And those things are so much nicer than all the worry and anxiety that if we did plummet to our death at least I left the Earth with one last pleasant thought.

But that isn’t going to happen. I have faith.

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