Some of my most hilarious moments happen in minibuses. It’s about 45 kilometers from Agaro to Jimma, and I’ve made the trip dozens of times for trainings, on the way to Addis, or to meet up with other Peace Corps volunteers. It never fails on these trips, if I’m in the front seat, the driver will have something to say. Most recently, my driver thought it would be best for me if he played American music. He had two songs and played each one on repeat, as loud as he could, dancing as he drove. When we would stop, people on the street would call out to me, “Farenji! Where are you from?” Before I had a second to answer, the driver would respond, “She’s Ethiopian! Speak to her in Amharic, she doesn’t know English!” Then we would speed off singing, Where is the Love?
In another recent minibus experience, the driver and I were familiar with each other. We had had a short talk on another ride. He told me his name was Reagan, which is a strange name in Ethiopia. I asked him what it meant (names almost always have meaning here) and he said that his father just liked President Reagan. As his assistant was filling the seats, he insisted that the middle seat next to me remain open because I was his regular customer. (For anyone who has ever been packed in a minibus, this is a small gesture that makes a huge difference.) The driver would lose fare on the seat he left open.
As we were driving, we stopped near someone selling bananas. He asked if I needed any, because they were good quality. I did need some, and was glad to skip a trip to the market. Before I knew it he had purchased a kilo, and refused to take my payment. The cost was roughly the same as the minibus ride. He said my fare was enough.
When we got to Agaro, I said thank you and good-bye, and left with an overall feeling of gratitude for the people in this world that make me smile, for the acts of kindness that mean more than their monetary value, and for the laughs that are shared with complete strangers.