Monday, August 17, 2009

The African A+

Finally. Luke's birthday care package finally arrived. For those of you keeping score at home, Luke turned 23 on June 30. Seeing as how our mother sent this package about two weeks before his birthday, and it just arrived today, some might wonder what took so long. Furthermore, since one of the girls who got here in July has already gotten a package and several letters, some might even be irritated and bitter. Not us though. Because the package actually arrived without being torn open, soaked through or crawling with rats and roaches, we will happily award the Ugandan Postal Service what we like to call the "African A+."

(America in a box. Real America, that is.)

The African A+ is a funny, funny thing. Like any A+, it is awarded only when someone or something really exceeds your expectations. On the other hand, though, it is definitely a qualified A+, along the lines of, "that overhead shower you installed today is everything I asked for and I love that you did it quickly, but now there isn't any water pressure. Oh well, job well done."

Another example? Sure why not. The other day we were taking a taxi back from Gulu. Amazingly (if somewhat forebodingly), the taxi left when it was still basically empty, so we had all kinds of space to stretch out in without fear of being attached by chickens, pawed by curious children, puked on/near, etc. This was a nice surprise, but all in all, simply not exceptional enough to warrant the coveted A+.


(Sweet there's a dumpster right in our neighborhood. No more trash fires. African A+)

Then the taxi pulled to the side of the road and told us to get out. Apparently, something got lost in translation and because there weren't enough passengers, they decided to head for Kampala instead of Lira. No worries, the driver assured us, laughing as he pulled away, lots of cars heading to Lira will pass. Good thing we didn't award that A+, by the way. I'm not sure if it can be retracted retroactively.

Before long, a pickup pulled up next to us with a few people in the back. After it became clear that we were heading in the same direction, we jumped on board and took off. Because the guy insisted we ride up in the cab with him ("this african sun is too strong for you. you whites are so fragile"), we decided to award the whole trip home an African A+. It exceeded all our expectations by being comfortable and relatively fast, yet it has to be a qualified A+ because (1) we had to hitchhike and (2) the cab was really only built for two people, meaning Luke was basically sitting in the driver's lap while I was pressed against a door that was too dented and bent to close properly. Sans seatbelt, naturally, on a seriously bumpy road, so there was a real risk of falling out and getting run over. Plus I got a sweet sunburn on one side of my face.

(Do you think this is going to peel?)

You've exceeded all my expectations. You've thought about what I might like, and went out of your way to be helpful. All the elements of exceptional service are there, so even though there are a few things I wasn't expecting, I really can't hold it against you. African A+.

("Nope, the room looks great. Thanks.")

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