Our windscreen a.k.a. windshield was a mess. It got it’s first rock some years ago and that gouge has slowly grown into several cracks. In fact the original ‘injury’ looks like the source, and all the cracks look like rivers flowing out from it. Since then, we have run into a few more rocks, but that wasn’t the final straw. On our return trip from Maradi for children’s camp in June we went through what one could call some ‘rough spots’. There is road repair going on, so there were some suggested off-road detours. That means driving off into the bush. But it’s rainy season. So that really means driving through mud. And the mud is thick and deep so that means driving fast enough to get through. That means spinning tires. And that means flying mud. Everywhere. By the time we got through that mess we had to stop the car to create a square in the window with which to navigate. I was so desperate to see that I even sacrificed some of my drinking water to try and loosen the mud. Why, you say, did I not just use the wipers? I wasn’t born yesterday! They just smeared the mud around. We were only a couple of hours from home and eventually arrived. The white car was completely covered with red/brown mud. Completely. I mean you could no longer tell it was white. We hosed down the car for immediate use, but the next day I asked our guard to give it a good scrubbing. The guard is a great guy, but only works for us part time. He speaks 2 or 3 languages and we speak 2, but none of those languages intersect. So…communication is done by sign language. I brought out some vinyl spray for the inside of the car. I very demonstrably explained where to use and where NOT to use this spray. Picture me doing cleaning motions inside the car on the dashboard while pointing to the spray and nodding my head while saying ‘Yes’. And then pointing to the glass, then the spray, and vigorously shaking my head while saying ‘No’. Apparently I was not demonstrative enough. He worked very hard all the while smiling but in the end, the greasy vinyl spray ended up on the windscreen. If it adheres to vinyl/leather as it does to glass, sign me up for a case! We used window cleaner, vinegar, laundry detergent, dish soap, scrubbers etc. The film wasn’t going anywhere. It was far worse than the cracks. We have been talking for a long time about replacing the windscreen and this was the straw that did it. We replaced the windscreen. I can actually see clearly when driving, particularly in the rain and at night. Oncoming headlights are no longer just a blurr. It almost gives the car a ‘new’ feeling. All thanks to a guard named Kashimu.
Something else I now understand. Driving in Niamey is quite an experience. It challenges many of the fruits of the spirit that I’m supposed to be demonstrating. Maybe I’ll write about that some time….Anyway, Trae is working on getting his drivers license and he’s taking ‘drivers training’, Niger style. That’s not supposed to be available until one is 18, but apparently at 16 he ‘looks the part’. He already has his motorcycle license – just had to take a written test for that. For a 4 wheel vehicle license he has to take a written test, drive with someone a couple times, and take a road test. He took the written test long ago. Passed that. He’s been driving with us for some time now – practicing. So he drove 2 times with 2 different instructors. The other day we were out driving and he told me that the driving ‘instructor’ had basically undone everything that Dad taught him about driving. You NEVER turn hand over hand when you’re turning but always keep your hands firmly on the wheel. And the cardinal sin seems to be when you don’t use your blinker properly and often. But the thing that brought the greatest revelation was this. I have always been frustrated by the fact that people drive down the middle of the road. If there are 2 lanes going in one direction, they literally drive down the center line. I have jokingly commented that they must teach them that in driver school. It’s no joke! They told Trae that he needed to drive down the middle of the road! Noooooowww I understand! I can see clearly.