By Dr. Christopher Darius Stonebanks
Remember the Crazy Canucks? Well, they are back and in Malawi. We had a bus breakdown on the way back from Cape Maclear and what would have been a quick call to CAA and a thirty minute wait in Canada became a six and a half hour “experience” living on the side of the main Malawi highway. Luckily, we all had our share of ideas of what was wrong with the bus and Linden did a great job of yelling out “Check the oil! Did you check the oil? I would check the oil” to make sure everything was covered. Equally lucky was that despite Linden’s gags, the problem was not with the oil…because if it was the oil, we would never live down the fact that we did not check the oil. Personally, I thought it was a problem with low windshield wiper fluid.
This could have been a very, very bad situation and the students did an outstanding job putting a positive spin on something we had no way of controlling. In all honesty, the best laid plans in Malawi can go astray; it’s just the way it is. It doesn’t stop us from trying to plan everything we possibly can, but we have to realize there are just some things out of our control. Fortunately, the bus stopped next to a small village with lots of trees for shade and a water pump. Local villagers had no problem with all of us spilling onto their land to find shade from the hot sun and gave us friendly smiles and simply went about their business. As the minutes passed, a call for a new society was laid out … just in case a rescue bus was never sent. At first Amy produced a mini broom made of discarded corn husks, proudly claiming that her skills would ensure that we had a means to sell a fundamental (and cute!) product that would economically sustain us. After the first hour, when people realized that the replacement bus had not even left the shop…things went all Lord of the Flies.
With a knife in hand, I declared myself “The Tool Maker” and fashioned two pointy sticks. Handing the sticks to Louisa and Barbara they became our military, ready to defend us against all things that feared pointy sticks. With security taken care of, spirits were high and people started accepting responsibilities left, right and center. Someone let out a cry, “What will you do for your new country” and people accepted the challenge. Elise took up the essential responsibility of fulfilling the role of “Book Critic” and continued to read her paperback novels. In response to the Champlain student’s noble sacrifice, Brave Arshad then took on the responsibility of “Movie Critic” and watched the arduous four hour film Gettysburg on my Itouch, but the batteries died after an hour and half (btw, I told him the South won, please keep this between you and me!). Roxy became our chronicler, furiously taking detailed notes of everything that occurred around her, so that future generations would know how they glorious new world was built. Jae sacrificed the comforts of our newly found utopia and acted as conduit between us and the rest of the world by staying on the bus, just in the remote chance rescuers ever came. Realizing that this could potentially take decades, Jae put herself in a hibernation like state to assure that someone would be there, a sleeping diplomat if you will, to show the way to what would certainly become a highly successful civilization. A civilization needs leadership and it was declared that whoever could climb the highest in the giant tree that was providing us shade would govern our people, so Corinne became president and Linden vice-president. With a proven track record of being able to make tiny brooms, Amy went on to be the “Minister of Eventual Industry”. Naomi sat at the bottom of the great tree and placed a book over her head, and by using osmosis became our intellectual. With the conjoined Hollywood name of “Rebel”, Rebecca and Annabelle were our counter-culture, “keeping it real”, while at the same time reminding us that our society was a precious thing that needed to be guarded against usurpers. I think Frank stood on the highway and shook his head at us…what purpose this served was a mystery…but nonetheless gave our society mystery, perhaps a new religion?!
Okay, about 43% of what I wrote actually took place.
Seriously, I am reminded of when Melanie and I were offered a short-term contract with a major university with a study abroad program. Our job was to teach basic classroom management strategies for the cohort as they were bound for China to teach ESL classes. Months later, when we ran into the director of the program he exhaustedly told us of countless phone calls he received from students, screaming over the phone that they had just seen a cockroach in their bathroom and demanded immediate evacuation. A lesser group of students would have been overwhelmed by the experience of being stranded on a Malawi highway for hours. This group simply carried on. Crazy Canucks!