Thursday, February 04, 2010
At the Border
The Uganda-Kenya border, a brown-water creeping creek traversed by a single-file creeping line of masive transport trucks, women with baskets of bananas, scruffy kids peddling water, belching buses. We sit now in the border zone, pounding sunshine at 10 am. A woman passes with a large red duffel on her head, enterprising young men try to talk us into samozas or chapatis. Our border agent Salim haggles for Kenyan road permits and car insurance while Scott leads the flock of fellow-missionary-first-time-over-the-border friends through the immigration process, and Jack, Julia, and I watch the cars. We have left Uganda behind for a while, but only after a merciful miracle. SW's visa had expired, and in spite of attempts to update it our time in transit was too short to accomplish that. So it was with trepidation we approached the Uganda exit-immigration counter. We could have been asked for anything from the full fee to a huge penalty to refusal to let him go to who knows what, . . .arrest? Scott prayed. Just as they put their passports on the counter, a big red safari-bus of Africans in transit pulled up, and disgorged a hundred passengers who pushed into the line. The weary clerk did not even look at SW's dates. Stamp, stamp, next please. Hallelujah. Now for more lines and paperwork and permits and money and questions and stress on the Kenya side, the usual ambiguity about price and procedure that always keeps you a little off-balance, a little unsure. The zone is crowded, active, the rip tide of two countries' loose citizens milling, crossing, looking for opportunity, passing the day.