Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Off Road (Jeremy)

It’s 7:30 on a Saturday evening, and I’m driving 12 kids home after a visit to the mall. We’re heading down a narrow dirt road, bordered by trees to the left and a drainage ditch to the right. We drop two kids off at their aunt’s house and are looking to head back. I try a three point turnaround, but only make it to point number two. The VW van is a lot longer than my VW Gol, and I’ve backed us into the drainage ditch. The front two tires are about two feet in the air. Some of the kids scream in panic; others in delight. We get the kids out safely, and the neighbors begin to congregate around the van. I don’t even try to explain. There are certain acts of stupidity where you lose your right to excuses. But instead of just standing around and taking cheap shots at the gringo, the locals got right to work. The men started pushing on the back of the van, while the women put rocks under the rear tires to generate traction. Two guys put on their knee-high rubber boots so that they could get down into the ditch and push more effectively. They refused to let me do the same, concerned that I would get my clothes dirty. Meanwhile, more people are streaming in from the community to help, as some of the older women have got the story in circulation. Six strategies and thirty minutes later, the van surges from the ditch, amidst a shower of rocks, mud and applause. Embraces are exchanged, and I’m invited to visit more often - under different circumstances. The crowd still lingers in my rear view mirror as I consider what it is like to live among people who need each other.

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