Friday, March 6, 2009

Dzuwa Traffic

Traffic. You can’t seem to escape or rid your life of it. It slows you down when you want to get somewhere and inevitably always makes you late. People sit in it for hours on a daily basis, or better yet wake up at odd hours of the morning just to avoid it. It’s a plague and frustration and I’m sure is most likely one of the leading causes of cancer!! Traffic makes you wish and long for a simpler life somewhere else. A place with fewer people, fewer cars, and fewer causes for accidents, and of course less frustration at the end of a long workday. Maybe a place in a remote and far away land like…. Dzuwa!
Dzuwa, may be a decent-sized village for Malawi but very small compared to a booming metropolis in America. Fourteen small individual family-sized villages exist with dirt roads leading from one set of adobe houses to the next. Between the villages and alongside the roads are lush fields of maize, peanuts, tobacco, beans, and tall standing grass making the area beautiful and green against the bright blue sky at times filled with white puffy clouds. You would think this would be the kind of place to be lucky enough to escape the plague of traffic. A place you would like to go to escape traffic!!
Oh my dear friend….here is where you are so very wrong!!! Dzuwa, a quaint village in the middle of nowhere has managed to create its own traffic! Who would have thought? Although Ronald and Ulemu I’m pretty sure are one of the few, if not the only, family to own a car in Dzuwa there are plenty of other road hazards to slow you down. Not that Ronald and Ulemu are a road hazard at all!! They’re wonderful drivers!! Ronald says Dzuwa does have traffic… “Goats, Cows, Dogs, Bikes, Ox Carts, and women with big loads on their heads.”....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Ox Cart

Dzuwa's traffic is unique and something you don't see everyday in the states. One of my favorite modes of transportation...THE OX CART! This would be a cart, much like you would see in the bible times, on wheels pulled by two oxen with a wooden stick between their necks. On the cart a man sits on the edge with a stick to spur on the team and guide them to their destination. It’s a village truck, a vehicle used for hauling things like corn! Of their many diverse features one of my favorite is the ability to speed up these rather large animals…a simple process of yanking on one of their tails while hollering out words of encouragement…or at least, while riding one of these last weekend, were what I assumed to be words of encouragement! When meeting one of these modes of transportation on the road you would think that the best idea is to back up to let them pass. After all how easy is it to back up a team of oxen? Yet these creatures are fearless and feel no need to stop but veering right or left will plow over anything on the side of the road to make way for you! Very noble if you ask me!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Village Bikers

Another great mode of transportation in Dzuwa is the bike! Most of the villagers use this as their way of traveling and some are even lucky enough to have a metal plate-like piece on the back just small enough to fit the rear end of a passenger who may or may not wobble enough to throw both the driver and themselves right off! I know this from experience. While riding on the back of a bike from church to home Ronald reminded me to not be scared but just relax and enjoy the ride. I think he may have been fearful that I would take us both down!! It was a definite possibility. Yet I’ve noticed that with or without a passenger these biking villagers are just wobbly in general. On the small roads going to and from Dzuwa we pass many, many bikers and their attempts to gracefully exit the dirt road in order to let our car pass is often a comical situation. I think they seriously believe that we will hit them…they might not be too far off base.
One instance in particular still makes me chuckle! A group of four “village bikers” were traveling along the left side of the road towards us as we were in Ronald’s truck driving away from Dzuwa. The road, not being very wide at all, didn’t allow for much room for error, or even space to really ride on the shoulder. One of the first bikers was struggling to keep his balance in keeping on the road while also keeping on his bike. Just as we approached him his eyes widened, we heard a, “woah, woah, woah….” and down he went. The poor guy toppled over, bike and all, down the embankment into the tall, thick grass. As he disappeared we could hear his friends and hopefully he laughing...we also laughed. Poor fella! I don’t think he was hurt!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Women With Big Loads...and Stuff

Other than ox carts and the local village bikers there are also the typical goats that mindlessly run out into the road as you are passing, the typical cow who just looks at you with a blank stare, a few dogs here and there that think they are SO brave as they chase you…just waiting to get caught up in your wheel wells. Then there is Dzuwa’s Little Ark (the boat ferry that transports you from one side of the flooded road to the other) ...and of course then there are the women carrying, in the words of Ronald, “big loads on their heads”. On the way home from Dzuwa Tina, Funa, Ronald and I discussed the issue of African women carrying rather large things on their heads. My excuse as to why I couldn’t manage to do it was that my head was not flat enough to carry anything. To which my dear friend Tina responded with encouragement, “Every head holds something!” I thought about it and then replied, “My head holds a ponytail pretty well!”!!!!!! Maybe one day I’ll learn the ways of an African Woman! However, oddly enough, and with much respect, what you think would be the most awkward of all these and most dangerous were actually the least of a drivers worries! It’s actually quite amazing how much strength and grace they have as they hold on their heads anything from a big bucket of water (that I struggle to even pick up), to long bundles of sticks, or bags of who knows what. All of these things they seem to carry with easy and grace. Women of America…you have no idea how easy we have it!!
During our last visit to Dzuwa I was lucky enough to experience all of Dzuwa traffic and was thrilled enough to ride on three of these wonderful modes of transportation! Another trip on Dzuwa’s Ark, a bike taxi ride, and yes….even a ride on the back of an ox cart! That was probably my favorite, I wish I had a picture…I guess I’ll have to do it again!! Hehe!!So there you have it. Traffic is indeed everywhere. You can’t escape it, you can’t confine it, you just have to embrace it!!! So go on….give traffic a hug! Maybe while it’s at a dead stop though!! Just to be on the safe side!!!