…which end will you lift on?

Archive for the month “October, 2012”


I just got my African driver’s license. Although this wasn’t something I was planning or hoping to accomplish during my stay here, necessity required it. My colleague has a Land Cruiser, and she was forced to return to the States because of family matters. So my teammate and I have joint custody of this vehicle until further notice.
My teammate needed to renew her visa, and I thought it would be as good a time as any to get my African driver’s license. Thus our trip to the state capitol, which is about a 3-hour drive, depending on road conditions. We hired a guy named Mamout to drive us there.

When we got to town, Mamout dropped off my teammate Leah at immigration and took me to the State Police Station to begin the arduous process of working my way through African bureaucracy. Mamout needed to run some errands, so he left, telling me he’d be back shortly.

I squeezed into a small office with two desks and two uniformed officers and began the process. I presented all my documents, offered information when asked, and generally felt like I was getting somewhere. I was feeling pretty confident when the officer handed me all my completed forms and documents and said, “Now you must go to the hospital.” Huh?

Yes, the hospital. I needed a stamp on my form (which is VERY important in African bureaucracy) from a doctor which verified that my vision is good enough to drive. And therefore I must go to the hospital before proceeding further.

With documents in hand, I stepped out of the office and didn’t see Mamout anywhere. I remembered that a colleague had given me some phone numbers from her phone, so I scrolled through my phone contacts. Relieved to find Mamout’s name in my phone list, I dialed his number. When Mamout answered, I told him that I was at the police station, and needed him to pick me up. He said he’d come right away, and we hung up.

Some time passed, and people at the police station were looking at me doubtfully. I assured them that someone was coming for me. Just as I was starting to get worried, my teammate Leah called me. I told her that I was still waiting on Mamout and asked that she give him a call. Moments later, she called back and told me that he was on his way. However, he hadn’t received my call.

That’s right . . . I didn’t call driver Mamout. I had called some other Mamout. So, I called back the number that was in my phone, apologies ready. When Mamout answered, he said, “Where are you? I’m at the police station and don’t see you.” Yes, that’s right. He was in an entirely different town, looking for me, whom he doesn’t even know. At the police station.

I explained my mistake, apologized profusely, and hung up to wait for the right Mamout. When he picked me up, we had a good laugh when I told him about calling “the wrong Mamout.”

However, the “wrong” Mamout’s reaction made me think. This guy, whom I’d never met, who didn’t have any idea who I was, got my call for help and responded without question. This speaks volumes for the type of people here. They are kind, selfless, and helpful. They are the most gracious, friendly, welcoming people I have ever encountered.

I can’t wait to meet “the wrong Mamout.” When I do, I’m going to thank him liberally for rushing to my aid, even if it was in the wrong town. You never know when I’m going to need his help again!


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