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The First Day of My Vacation
 
My West African (Mis)Adventures      I spent the New Year's weekend with Peace Corps volunteers in a town called Man in the Ivory Coast.   When the weekend was over, five friends returned to Liberia, while Debbie, Amanda, and I began our West African vacation. 

Usually the first day of vacations aren't too eventful.  However, we were easily impressed.  After a year in Liberia, it was incredible to be in an air conditioned bus, with assigned numbered seats, a stereo, and a VCR.   We hadn't been on such nice public transportation the whole time we'd been in Africa.   We were set to enjoy a scenic view and a peaceful ride.  

Calm Before the Storm     After an hour or so, I snuggled down in my seat to take a nap.  I'm still not exactly sure what happened, but it took place just before Daloa.  All of a sudden I was thrown around in my seat and then showered by two waves of liquid and shattered glass.   For some reason, our bus crossed over into the other lane, hit and oncoming truck that carried bottles of soft drinks and beer, ran down a steep embankment, and plowed through a briar patch into a grove of trees.   When we finally came to a stop, the first thing I remember was Amanda screaming, "Am I bleeding?" She didn't wait for an answer. Amanda climbed over a dozen seats and several people to escape out the back of the bus before it exploded. 

We were lucky to be alive.  Most people were uninjured except for those seated near the driver.  We were two seats away from where he should have been.  I never learned what happened to him but there was a tree where he had been seated.  A ten foot section of the bus was ripped off the driver's side.  The woman sitting in front of me was thrown out of the bus and into the trees.  Her arms looked broken.  There was someone dead on the road.  There could have been more.

Debbie and I climbed out our shattered window to locate the missing Amanda.  She was going spastic -- a safe distance away from the bus.  Her glasses were missing.  Glasses?  As soon as she said that, I realized that mine were missing, too.  I went back into the bus to find them.   Amanda's were broken in the stampede out of the bus.  I found one lens.   One a second trip I found the other.  Mine were nowhere.  I searched around the wreck.  Nothing.  I made a third check in the bus and found them -- unbroken -- where the driver's feet should have been. 

Great Post Card Material   Being the only white victims at the scene (and the only victims covered with shattered glass and beer), we stuck out in the crowd.   Some people invited us to their village where we cleaned up and ate before finding a bus on to Daloa.  It was a few days before we could think of anything else to talk about, but we knew no more disasters could possibly beat this one.  We were sure.   We were fools.

Copyright 2000, revised 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.

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