To get out there, we have to cross this river, which is about fifty yards across but fairly shallow, maybe only two feet deep at most. But, it is obviously sandy and muddy. You can see where this is going. On the way to Witamhiya, we get across just fine. We do some practice family planning consultations with the three wives of one man who had about twelve seemingly malnourished children and then begin to make our way back. We start across the river and get one third of the way across before the truck gets stuck.
So, we get out of the truck and start to push. This includes me, Loi (field assistant, driver, friend), two distributors with babies on back, and the family planning training facilitator, who is a nut. A handful of Witamhiya residents are standing around at the riverbank watching us, washing, watching us, watching their cattle. So we ask someone to go get village leader. They send the traditional healer. He is pretty useless. His friend, however, gets two oxen to pull the truck and one more strong man. We try to push while the oxen pull (literally attached to the tow of the front of the truck). Oxen=Tanzanian AAA? Not exactly. It still doesn't budge and the front tire is getting deeper into the sand.
Also, there is a lot of cow poop. We are basically standing around in a warm poop-green river. They send for two more oxen. We sit around the river talking about Obama. Four oxen pulling and eight people pushing does nothing for the truck. No cell service in Witamhiya. More sitting around and looking at the oxen. By now, it is 6pm and as if on cue, a dark cloud appears upstream. Huge and growing. The sun is setting and the awesome yet ominous wind that smell of rain starts to blow in our direction.
So Loi calls it and says he is going to run towards bigger village until he gets cell service, call the distributors friend with a pikipiki (mo-ped), then pikipiki around until he can find
someone with a land rover. I lie down on the riverbed and take a nap because this could be a while. When I wake up, it’s getting cold and dark, so the other distributor (with baby) and I walk back to the car in the middle of the river and get inside. The truck is warmer, so we sit there with the nut training facilitator who is soaking wet and in his underwear from failed attempts at digging under the car.
Eventually, the other distributor returns and says Loi found a pikipiki and that we should come to her house to rest because the storm coming. I know that leaving the car means that we might be spending the night in Witamhiya, but staying in the car in the middle of a very wide river during a brewing storm seems like not the best idea.
So the babies, mamas and I walk about a mile to her home on the other side of the river. There is a small room with the traditional stick/straw roof, chairs, charcoal and wood. I'm dehydrated by this point, so I ask for tea, thinking at least that's boiled water.
However, there isn't any tea, and she I think she doesn’t want to admit it to me, so she goes to milk a cow and tells me to sit down while we wait for Loi to return. But I can’t sit down inside, because outside is the most unbelievable lightning storm I have ever seen in my entire life. Out in the middle of nowhere, there is a lot of sky to see. My hosts kept encouraging to get me to stay inside where it was warmer, but all I wanted to do was watch this lightning. Plus, if it starts to rain, and the truck is washed downstream, I want to know immediately.
Then, we see lights in the distance and Loi comes towards the river past the house on a tractor with a few men from the next town. We're so far away from city lights that tractors are identifiable from miles away. They head towards the river to try to tow with the tractor, which is basically the last hope or we give up until tomorrow. And pray it doesn’t rain.
I am worried about losing the car in the river or staying the night in this very small home without much food, but mostly I was just stunned by the beautiful lightening. I finally get myself some boiled water, which I drink from a metal bowl outside in the lightening. Dangerous? Upon reflection, perhaps. But despite the vivid light and sound in the sky, there is still no rain.
As the thunder begins to move to the northern sky, the tractor returns to the house. There is only one set of lights, one vehicle, so I'm ready to give up. But then, Loi is not with them!
They say that Loi is 'mazunguku' which is like 'mazungu' which means white person, but it only means white person because it means ' to go around.' Loi is going around! In the truck! The truck is saved!
He picks us up from the Witamhiya hosts and we journey back to town in the truck. Every single village that we drive through on the way back has had rain. Trees were down
from the storms and crops had been damaged from heavy rainfall. We are so incredibly lucky it didn’t rain in the river.