Our story begins on August 27, 2011, a day that will go down in Elder B's mind as his day of infamy. He set out early on the ROAD TO BANDUNDU with a man and the man's two uncles, a couple of their close friends, and a very heavy load of who knows what but what filled the truck's bed. BANDUNDU is about 470 km away, so Elder B was told later-- not before -- the cursed trip. The purpose of the trip was to look at a possible Humanitarian farming project (and to get our friend off Elder B's back). Five hours into the promised 2 1/2 hour trip, and after multiple promises that the destination was "just over that hill!", Elder B became frustrated. (Can you believe that?) But he persevered, mainly because he had a heavy load of who knows what in the back of the truck and he wanted to UNLOAD it soon. But the poor truck couldn't take it, plus by this time they had picked up 5 more stragglers perched on the back of the truck on top of the very heavy load of who knows what. The truck died a horrible death attempting to drive though sand, sand and more sand. Elder B ended up sleeping that night in the truck's cab in the middle of Africa in a small village of curious people who peered in the windows all night long to get a look at a mundele (who, by the way, was peering right back at them). And he had one of the uncles and the snoring friend also in that cab. (Africans can sleep anywhere, anytime.) An uncountable number of bodies also slept in the back of the truck which was now empty of the heavy load of who knows what, as it had been unloaded in a small village that was then to be hand-carried to an unknown destination "just over the next hill". Late the next day Elder B returned home to Kinshasa without the truck, and has loved every minute of the saga of the truck replacement that finally ended January 27, 2012.
The first step in getting the Humanitarian truck replaced was the approval from Salt Lake, which took a couple of months. Then Elder B excitedly picked out the new truck here in Kinsahsa: 4-wheel drive a NECESSITY!! And a canopy to prevent theft (that's another story). But did Elder B get to drive it out of the lot??? Oh no, no, no. First you must have license plates. Then you must have auto insurance. Sounds easy, right? You just go to the local DMV to get the plates. But our travel guy, who will remain unnamed (well, ok, we named the new truck after him) informed Elder B that "there are no license plates in all of the DR Congo." For some reason there is a shortage of license plates in a city of 14 million people. Hmmm. But being the patient man that he is, Elder B accepted that fact, and only bugged the travel man once or twice an hour to see if some license plates had magically appeared. In the meantime, the truck was somehow, without license plates OR insurance, driven to our office parking lot. Elder B got pretty excited about that!!! He ran in to the travel guy's office to get the new truck keys. "No no no! Still no license plates available." said the travel guy. Elder B was crushed, but he knew without a doubt that those plates would soon appear. And they did, 10 weeks later!!! Now is that a lesson in patience, or what?
But the story isn't over. (You can just put a bookmark right here and come back next week if you'd like.)
This is what happened. Elder B went to one of the 3 amigos, who doesn't work at our office but knows everybody and everything and how to get things done. He went to bat for Elder B, in addition to taking care of his own heavy load of mission work. His first call revealed the sad truth: there were license plates, and there had always been license plates. All Elder B needed was a form to fill out and that wonderful amigo went down and got the plates for him. !!!
The long-awaited license plates shown off by the proud papa. Aren't they cute?
Next step: insurance.
An insurance lady came to our office to "expedite" the process. She met with Elder B, who was expecting the cost of the insurance to be around $200. She wanted $445. Elder B asked to see the bill. She wouldn't show him. She wouldn't show it to the translator, either. Elder B smelled a rat. (sorry, a hippo -- after all, we are in AFRICA!) He declared, "I will go down to the office with you and take care of this. I will not pay you." So they set off. Amazingly enough, the cost of the insurance was $262, not $445. But hey, everybody has got to make a living. The woman was being resourceful, right? It just didn't work this time.
So now we have the plates and the insurance. All Elder B needed: the keys to the truck, and he would be home free, with a truck that would hopefully have decent air conditioning. So he presents himself to the travel guy, but wait!! The travel guy has just flown to Johannesburg, and the keys are in his locked safe in his office. Not to worry, Elder B just gets on the phone and calls this guy, who says that another man at the office has his safe keys and combo. Yippee skippee -- we're getting close! But the man with the keys had just left the office. Elder B made another phone call and this man said he would be back in several hours. Elder B disagreed with him!! "No, you are coming back right now!" And he did after a few well-chosen threats. Poor little man -- he couldn't figure out how to use the keys and combo. So another man was called in to help. Finally, they keys are in Elder B's hand. But he wants TWO sets of keys (that's thinking way outside the box -- planning ahead, etc.) That really threw them. "You can't have TWO sets of keys!!" Elder B got two sets of keys. Then he and our translator hopped into the brand new truck to take the plates down to have them mounted on the bumpers. (he didn't have the tools to do the job himself). Elder B noticed that the fuel tank was below empty (diesel). So first stop, fueling up. When that was completed, he put the truck in first gear, and before he could pull out of the station, a taxi zoomed in behind him and rear-ended him. First dent. Would you like to know what Elder B's blood presssure was at this point? Me, too. A nearby policeman came right over to see what he could do. He listened to the raving men and finally said to Elder B,
"Just forgive the taxi driver and pound out the dent." Dents don't mean much to drivers here. Elder B's comment right here is that the policeman's suggestion was certainly the Christian thing to do, but Elder B, at that point, had pretty much left the Christian religion and adopted something else. The taxi driver then said that Elder B had the truck in reverse and backed into him. Not so. But hey, the excitement at finally having the truck overruled a negative reply. With license plates in hand (ok, they were sitting on the dashboard), Elder B drove towards the place to get the plates mounted, and another little glitch got in the way, namely a bunch of policemen who stopped him and pointed out the fact that he was driving without license plates. Elder B patiently pointed out the plates on the dash, plainly visible from the front of the truck, explaining "We are going right now to get them mounted!" That just wouldn't do, they wanted money. Clearly, they were NOT getting any from Elder B. He'd had enough!! With a threat to call their boss, they cops decided to let him go. While waiting for the light to turn green, Elder B had second thoughts and called the cops back over and apologized for yelling at them, shook hands, and promised he would be back to show them the mounted plates. And he did. The cops laughed and pointed and thus ended a potentially ugly situation -- with smiles all around.
Elder B had to return to the mission office to tell his good friends about the dent. Here he is going into much detail (similar to this blog today?) You can see they are feeling his pain at his having a wreck on the first kilometer of driving.