by Marijke Hillmann
A Border Post – 1975
On a sweltering Saturday morning we have to cross the Congo Pedicle in our camper van before catching the ferry across the Luapula River to reach Lake Samfya in Zambia. The child is whining and my swollen belly aches in its eighth month of pregnancy. A large red wasp hovers above the curtain in the van ……I turn the window down to let it escape.
Driving towards the customs’ shack, a flattened piece of steel is wired onto a rusty pole on the road in front of us. As we swerve around the sign and switch off the engine we notice that the sign reads S.T.P., crudely written in red paint.
The door of the customs shack is slowly opened, making a squeaky noise.
The customs officer yawns and scratches his head as he makes his way towards the vehicle. “You did not stop – ignored the traffic sign”. He does not wait for a reply ……instead he leans into the car and grabs the keys from the ignition before sauntering back to his corrugated iron office.
Turning around he stops in his tracks: “you will pay me a fine of 20 Zaire for the return of your keys”.
Wordlessly my husband folds him arms, clearly indicating he is not giving in to this outrageous demand.
I swallow – the spare car key is burning a hole in my handbag whilst I weigh up the options. Adrenaline and hormones join forces to jostle their way out of my body, and I shriek: “I do not want to give birth in this car!!!!!” The child starts to cry.
A few expletives -my spouse runs after the khaki boots – money exchanges hands.
It is rumoured that border officials have not received their salaries for some three months now.
Marijke writes a monthly story for us. She write our segment Stories in Africa, and her stories will some day become a novel. For now please enjoy them, we are honored to have her work on our site. You can find more of her work here.