We trekked through villages separated by less than a quarter of a mile. Each one had a distinct personality which seemed to communicate a class structure. We noticed that the wealthier villages were on higher elevations. The homes were better constructed and perched grandly above the other communities. We wondered if they were the homes of the plantation owners.
Zig-zagging through alleys and streets, we continued to make our drops. It all felt very clandestine.
Six to seven hours from the time we started, our routes were completed. The long foot march to a main road began. We had to find transportation back to our base. The first day had been an adventure. We were feeling good!
The day, however, wasn't over yet...
At the main road we flagged down a bus. We got on the bus and were surprized to see two other Roadmakers. We pretended that they were just a couple of backpackers from the states and introduced ourselves. We settled into our seats for the ride back.
The bus lurched to a stop. I drowsily looked past the driver through the windshield. There stood two soldiers in fatigues. In seconds, the bus door slid open, and one of them was on board. I was now fully awake!
I will try to describe what happened next. To quote a line from a great story teller, "I am not sure this is exactly what happened, but it is the way I remember it."
My partner is an Army Ranger; he has seen it all. Coolly appraising the situation, he indicated the soldier and said quietly, "This guy is a rookie. He will want your visa. Don't give it to him. I will pretend I can't understand what he wants. He'll get frustrated and leave."
I distinctly remember thinking, "He's not looking at you, he's looking at me! He wants my visa! He's getting frustrated with me!"
The coaching coninued, "Just be cool. Don't give him anything."
Will you think less of me if I am completely honest? I would have given him the deed to my house! The situation then became more intimidating. Outside, the second soldier paced along in step with his comrade inside; this soldier had a machine gun! The only thing separating us from him and a spray of bullets was the thin wall of our bus!
"He has a machine gun!" I said to my partner in a hushed voice. He sat up and craned his neck so he could see the other soldier. He reponded to me with no emotion, "Don't worry. He doesn't have a magazine in it." I make no claims to be the smartest person who ever lived, but I immediately thought, "He can put a magazine in it!"
Eventually, we gave the soldier the documents he wanted. My partner handed them to him upside down, and the soldier pretended to read them. "He can't read," Bill said. I thought, "Great! They give machine guns to guys who can't read!"
Finally, the soldiers left, the bus cranked up, and we bumped down the road toward our rendevous point. That night we would get little sleep. Tomorrow, I'll tell you why...