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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Missing Number Plate

Fida International asked me to drive them up to Abim last week since the Soroti office is missing their Land Cruiser at the moment.  I didn't hesitate to join my friends on the field - driving north to my favourite little town tucked in the hills of Karamoja region.  Leaving at 8 am, I was slightly nervous about the road because the skies were grey and rain was pouring in the north.  Who knew what kind of roads we would be traveling over. 
Arriving in Lotuke at 11:30 am, I was delighted with how well the journey was going.  Two men - CAAF (Children Affected by Armed Forces) committee leaders, joined in my car and we continued north to Abim.  The locals were beginning to think we would never make it.  The roads were sheer mud, but my Subaru Forester handled it well.  Thankfully I have 20 years of driving experience and lots of time spent in snow and ice, so I loved the mud. 
After a three + hour meeting in a tiny grass thatched roof, cow-dung floor church, there was some discussion as to whether or not we should stay in Abim over night, because the rains had been pouring all day.  But then we decided that since we had to bring the CAAF leaders back to Lotuke, we would just continue home.  The mud was fierce going back south, but so much fun.  The music was blaring on the ipod and all my passengers wanted driving lessons.  :)
Continuing south the road changed shape.  It was now a winding path with huge water ditches.  11 times we had to cross a body of water. Most of them were half a foot deep or so and quite easy to plow through in first gear, but one of the last overrun water spots started out shallow, but quickly became too deep.  Water gushed over the front of the hood and poured in on my passenger's feet.  I prayed, continued pushing on in first gear and we survived all the rivers.  Then we had one spot where two seriously stuck Lorries (huge trucks) we blocking the road.  There was a track in the upper bank showing that vehicles had been passing around, so I geared down to up and around also.  The track had turned into 5 inches of mud.  Muck flew everywhere and the truck drivers just smiled as we successfully passed by.  At 8 pm we pulled into Soroti.  Comments like: "Wow, Karen, you are a senior driver!" or "We have seen miracles today" were coming from my passenger's lips as we exited the car at Sipi Falls Cafe.  I was truly ready for local rice and beans before heading to my house for the night. 
It wasn't until the next day that the kids in my yard noticed my front license plate was missing.  Neighbours advised me to go to three radio stations and put an announcement out that plate UAQ 226S went missing between Abim and Soroti.  Many people have heard the announcement - I know, because my name is not a typical Teso name so everyone in the north knows it's me.  :)  But, I haven't got the plate back yet. I think it is washed away with that deep river I crossed.  So then, two days ago I went to the police station to report my plate missing.  They wrote the complaint in a log book at the front desk and then handed me a scrap piece of paper that said:
CPS Soroti
Complaint 19-07/11/12
Lost Number Plate
It was written in chicken scratch and apparently it means I now have a file with the police.  I had to laugh when the officer was taking my information - she asked for job, address of residence, my tribe.  I guessed Canadian and people in the waiting room just chuckled.  From the police station I went over to the URA (Uganda Revenue Authority).  They are the ones who deal with licenses and plates and vehicle registrations... so I went to them to report the plate missing.  They laughed when they saw my police report.  "Sorry Mam, the police were lazy today - you need a real report with official police logos on it, along with a newspaper announcement that you have lost the plate... and then we will issue you a new plate."
So for now, I'm waiting to see if my plate still comes to Soroti from the nice people in the north.  The newspaper suggested I wait for two weeks before placing the personal announcement and since I have the chicken scratch note from the police - it's okay for me to drive around.  :)  I'll let you know if and when I get a plate back on the front of my amazing Subaru!

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