No, not introducing to the catechumenate a fellow
passenger on the bus from Shinyanga to Maswa in Tanzania but my own conversion
from compliance to surrender. Huh? Yes, accepting the slogan from my
forefathers in Africa, I had taken the cotton out of my ears and put it in my
mouth. Receptive to all the positive and negative reinforcement offered to me.
You might say that I lived the dictum When in Rome do as the Romans do. I may
have got a passing mark in doing, but I was not feeling like the Romans.
For some weeks before that fateful journey I had already
been letting go of my own way of viewing this or evaluating that. Phlegmatic,
apathetic? No, rather a step from compliance toward surrender. You see, some
kind soul gave me a lift from Buhangija to the bus stop. Arriving there for the
11 a.m. bus half an hour ahead of departure, I took my seat on the Ally Bus. I
felt relaxed, secure about being well in time for the schedule. Well, 11 a.m.
came and went. I was not amused. I only breathed a sigh of relief when the bus
chugged out of the depot at 11:30 a.m., rolled on down main street past the
market and (awk!) pulled into the Total filling station to load cargo into all
the space underneath and down the back third of the aisle. An hour later, 12:30
p.m., saw us headed to Maswa via the Mhunze route.
Most of the passengers were joking and laughing as we hit
the open road. I was not: My puritanical streak leads me to resent people "out
there" having fun. The only one in my line of vision that helped me was the
40-50 year old grandma who sat looking straight ahead. All I could see of her
face was half a side view. Without a twist or a turn she shifted one grandchild
at a time into her lap– equal time for both. She sat as serene as an ebony
Queen Nefertiti of Egypt. Silent. A mood of a brighter hue stole over me. By
the time we stopped for refreshments at Mhunze and reboarded a new and alien
thought entered my mind: "Say, I’m the only one on this bus who is not enjoying
Take it from there. The first domino had fallen;
others followed suit until now I am not only doing what the Sukuma do but also
being like the Sukuma be. I must confess that there was one other grace-full
factor which gave my journey a positive and pleasant twist: no one, not even one
of the young bloods on the bus trip, was wearing his baseball cap backwards.