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Monday, November 13, 2006

Feature Presentation: Brutal Beauty, or Scott&Jennifer's Bday Adventure, or Motorcycle Blogs

Saturday evening our team surprised us with a little video whipped up in honor of Scott’s Birthday, entitled “Feature Presentation”. The inspiration came from Michael, Josh, and Scotticus, with the non-Myhre kids and Annelise providing more ideas (no theme was rejected, as Michael said) and most of the acting. The story involved Scott and Jennifer heading off for the Birthday Trip to the Semliki Safari Lodge. Joe played Scott and kept saying “the security risk is very low” in reference to Scott’s reassuring assessment at last team meeting. Acacia played me with a wild wig of hair, and all the smaller children were an assortment of leopards, panthers, princesses, and kids coming to the rescue from Michael, a fire-breathing dragon who captured us en route. In the special feature cast interviews, they explained this symbolism had to do with Scott’s intimate and sometimes disastrous relationship with fire. It was hysterical, and we felt very loved by the effort involved and the community event of everyone coming to the screening the night before we left. Well, we did not encounter any fire-breathing dragons on the real trip, but it turned out the drama did foreshadow the real thing. This is November, which means rain, which means mud. Twice in the last week to ten days the road has been closed due to huge trucks stuck in the mud on hairpin mountain turns blocking other vehicles from passing. Being good, stubborn, can-do, frontier missionaries, we said to everyone “We desperately need a break and we ARE going to get to the lodge, come hell or high water.” Well, it turned out that we encountered quite a bit of both. To avoid the truck-clogged mountain pass road, we decided to adventure forth on Scott’s motorcycle and take a little-used route that runs through the Semliki River Valley north to Rebesingo, then cut back down towards the lodge. We had tried this route twice before, coming from the other direction, and it had always seemed a bit vague and tentatively even passable. But coming from the southwest, and using a motorcycle, we were sure it would be a good idea. So Sunday mid morning we headed off, packing tools and spare tubes and a change of clothes into a heavy back-pack, wearing gum boots and raincoats and zooming away. Much of the trip was lovely. The road skirts the mountain range’s northern roots, and winds through a cattle-strewn grassland. About a third of the way into the less-traveled part, we began to follow behind another small motorcycle which gave us confidence. When the road was cut through by a river at one point we stopped to eye the steep banks and the herd of cattle lower than our feet drinking the river water . . . When our guardian angel boda drivers waved to us to show us a more gradual path down and the best place to ford the river. We felt optimistic and well cared for. But the road kept getting smaller and smaller until it was barely a path, and we came upon the boda pair again. We could not find a shared language in which to communicate more than the fact that they were heading in the same direction, and they advised us to skirt the swamp they were enmired within. So for about half an hour we tried to find an alternate route while they struggled through the quagmire, but eventually we came to the conclusion that there was no way around, and that we’d have to follow. If they could do it couldn’t we? Well, their machine was half the weight (or less) of ours. We both managed to get through, but barely. I knew we were in trouble when the mud sucked the boots right off my feet, and it took all my counterweight and strength to pull them out with my hands. By that time I had given up on boots and we were both up over our knees in mud, a gooey, slippery, bottomless, quick-sand like mud that threatened to swallow the motorcycle. It stretched out as far as we could walk in every direction. If Scott were any less strong we might be there still. A few inches at a time we pushed and shoved and pulled and gasped, until we made it through the worst hundred yards or so. We were exhausted and coated with mud, but we pressed on. Then it started to rain, and the track we were following became as slippery as snow. We wiped out twice, bruises but no serious injuries. Our short-cut turned a 2 1/2 hour trip into a 5 1/2 hour survival odyssey. If you have never sat on a motorcyle for over 5 hours (and not more than 30 seconds of that time on any smooth or firm road surface) . . . Then don’t. Many times the road petered out into a confusing crossing pattern of cattle paths, or disappeared beneath ponds of water. Many times we were so sore and tired we weren’t sure we would make it. The brutality of the trip made the beauty of the lodge even more dramatic. There were only two other guests whom we barely saw, so we had a wonderful evening to reconnect as a couple, read, talk, eat, sleep, and sleep some more. Our tent had a wooden floor with oriental rug, firm poster bed, warm shower, and a view of multiple species of monkeys and birds cavorting in the trees. We heard the breathy, throaty call of lions in the early morning, then went back to sleep, secure in our house-like tent. This afternoon we came back by the road-more-traveled . . No picnic amidst the muddy tracks and stony jolts, but nothing like the challenge of the day before. Was it worth it? Definitely. We will read some verses (like Psalm 69) about rescue from the miry pit with new feeling now. Will we do it again? No, or at least not until we forget the pain of this trip! We are thankful to our great team for caring for out kids while we got away, thankful to the unlikely angels who offered us the stay and the others who guided us on the path. Thankful that there are evenings of respite in this life of struggle. And mostly thankful that we were in it together.

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