Flashback to Julia’s trip: After we left Inharrime we headed back to Namaacha, and this journey is when Julia got to have her first true chapa experience. And an experience it certainly always is. We sat ourselves in the back two rows and waited for the chapa to fill up. I told Julia I recommended putting her headphones in and just finding a happy place somewhere far, far away for the next two hours. As the two rows in front of me started to fill up with six very “traditionally built” women, it crossed my mind that those last two people were very unlucky (rows seat four across, so each row was only missing one more person, though the leftover space couldn’t have been more than six inches across). When a woman who was both large and pregnant walked up, the whole chapa groaned. “Nuh uh, I can’t sit there” she said, looking at the spot and shaking her head. She tried to squeeze in anyway but with no success. Another man on the chapa called out “she’s too fat to fit in this spot, can anyone who is only medium-fat switch places with her?” I laughed in my head—who would ever actually volunteer themselves for that? The last lady to show up elicited another groan—though not pregnant, she was pretty large. After some unsuccessful attempts to get both of these ladies into the seats, it was decided that a man (bigger shoulders perhaps, but a smaller butt) would switch with one of them. As he settled into his new seat he kept grumbling about how tight it was. Another lady on a chapa yelled, “you think that’s suffering? Try having a baby! Now THAT is suffering! You’re having a tiny little taste of the pain we go through.” I translated all of this to Julia as it was happening so she could join me in chuckling (and truly appreciate being tucked neatly into the back row).
Once we got going the ride was fairly uneventful until one of the last uphills coming into Namaacha, which is up in the mountains. Our chapa had been struggling a little at this point and finally it came to a puttering stop on one of the steeper inclines. Well s***. It was nearing dark, otherwise I would have just jumped out and flagged down the next car to pass, but I prefer to do this only in broad daylight. So I crossed my fingers and luckily they got the car restarted after only a few minutes. I’m glad Julia’s first chapa experience wasn’t some halfhearted one!