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3/1/09 Shuttling Sheep

Happy March!

This weekend, I visited a friend in the north, for her birthday weekend. :)

As I was leaving her site, though, something unexpected happened...

At first, everything looked normal. Grands taxis in various states of disrepair, drivers loitering... As we approached, one of the drivers came to meet us. We explained that we were heading towards my friend's souq town, the jumping-off point for all further travel. Since taxis and tranzits are the only way in or out of her town, the taxi driver runs a regular shuttle between her village and her souq town.

So far, everything was perfectly routine.

My friends and I walked to the trunk, popped it open, and started to lower our bags in. "No, no, keep your bags in the car with you," the driver said hurriedly. The other visitors and I exchanged confused looks, but the birthday girl pointed over her shoulder. We looked: some women were walking up to the taxi stand with their sheep.

I see people with sheep every day, so I didn't immediately catch the significance. But then I caught a whiff of eau du trunk, and the picture snapped into focus.

These women were going to be sharing the taxi with us.

So were their sheep.

The women on their way into their souq town, just like us.

In a Mercedes-Benz taxi.

The sheep get the trunk.

That's why our bags stay inside, with us.

As I stood there, considering the ramifications of this, I became downright *thrilled* at the idea of having my hiking pack sit on my lap for the 15 minutes or so it would take us to get to town.

After a surprisingly uneventful ride, during which I tried hard to ignore the series of thumps and thuds from the trunk, we got to my friend's souq town. We unloaded ourselves and our bags from the body of the car, tried not to watch as the sheep were hauled out of the trunk and off to animal-souq, and looked around for a taxi to the biggest town in the region, aka the next stop on all of our journeys.

We found a taxi whose driver was shouting our destination. Ah, sweet return to normalcy.


As we approached his taxi, the odor wafting out of his open trunk was so much stronger than it had been in the first taxi that I almost recoiled. But this guy didn't want us to have our bags crowded on our laps for the much-longer ride. Instead, he had someone else put in wooden brackets and a layer of tarp, and indicated that we should put our bags on top of that.

A wide, gaping, yawning gulf of at least 2 inches separated our worldly goods from the urine-drenched lining of the trunk. I looked forlornly at my abandoned waif of a backpack. Then I gritted my teeth and stepped away.

The smell wafted into the body of the car, too.

I won't elaborate.

Suffice to say that I have a whole new appreciation for my tranzits, where the livestock are transported - very occasionally - on top of the minibus/van, in the open air, but never, ever, in the vicinity of the passengers. Well, except for those poor overcrowded souls who are stuck up on top of the tranzit. Since Peace Corps forbids us to ride up top - ride afla, as it's known - I've never had to ride this close to sheep before.

Just think of how much I'm learning to be grateful for! I've never thought to give gratitude for my freedom from the smell of sheep pee, but now I know that I should. :D


  1. I love the new picture. is the dark shape on the brush just above the ridgeline a bird?

  2. Yes! In fact, I took this picture just so I could blow it up and try to identify the hawk, but it didn't work. I only realized after the fact that I'd captured Berberville's alpenglow. :)


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