I haven’t told you about my friend Ahmed. I met Ahmed one Saturday, right in the middle of the weeks when I would say that our dear old friend Murphy was visiting – everything that could go wrong was going wrong, or so it seemed at the time. Ahmed is from Pakistan and he repairs cell phones. And I happened to meet him because my nice little Ferrari phone that liked to jump out of my pocket and hit the ground from various heights, decided that it had one too many thrills and died on me. I went to sleep one night, plugged and tucked it in only to wake up the next morning to a cold, expensive paperweight that still made the cool engine sound but was otherwise useless. I couldn’t let myself get too emotional, it was inevitable but of course it wasn’t a convenient time, it never is really but was worried because it was the end of the pay period (read: no money left in the bank).
So my plans changed and Nick (the new PCV working for my organization – not sure if I’ve introduced him yet) and I headed to Tzaneen with less than a plan, only hope that something would work out and I could have a working phone at least by the end of the day. Well, town proved to be a challenge – Nick had to eat as soon as we got there and I said I would but shouldn’t have, considering I was having serious intestinal problems (all day long was dealing with that unpleasantness). Then it turned out Nick ended up leaving his card in the atm machine and so we ran around trying to figure out a solution to that issue as well. We attempted to solve the phone issue but ended up running from one end of town to the other chasing a store that kept changing locations, depending on who you asked for directions. By the time we found the Vodacom store it was closed and all I could do was sit down and cry for a moment. Nick was sweet and let me do my thing and then he suggested we find one of those hole in the wall stores that advertise cell phone repairs. The first one was a bust but the second one we found proved to be the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day.
Enter my new friend Ahmed. He said that he would look at the phone, right then and there and he even asked me how much I could pay. I warned him that I was a broke volunteer and then suggested R50. He laughed and said that if he could fix it, he would only charge me R100. I pinned my hopes on this very nice Pakistani man and proceeded to wait and chat with his friends for about an hour. When he finally came back he didn’t have good news but my spirits were lifted because he said there was a chance he could fix it if I came back during the week when his shop was actually open. When I asked him where I could go to buy a cheap phone so I could have something for the weekend, he said that I shouldn’t worry, he had a phone he could loan me but we would have to go to his apartment above his shop to get it.
Now I know what you’re thinking because I could see it in Nick’s face but I agreed and decided to trust my new friend (and hoped that if anything went wrong, Nick would help protect me). The 3 of us proceeded to an un-chartered territory of the city, right above the Checkers grocery store. Along the way he asked if I was a Christian and I said I was undecided at this point in my life (whole different story) and he was surprised to hear that. We talked about his Muslim faith for a little bit and he promised to give me some reading materials. We got to his apartment and chatted with his friend while the phones were being sorted out and he again expressed his surprise at an American that did not claim the Christian faith. He showed off his phone gadgets and I listened to some of the prayers that are beautifully changed. Before we left, I promised to come back in a few days to bring his phone back and actually get a new working phone.
He called a few times to make sure I was fine and reassure me that whenever I could get to town it would be fine (and also to assure me that he was not trying to hit on me). I finally got to town but was unsuccessful in buying a new phone (but I did get a modem for work so at least I was going to be connected again) and he assured me he would help get me one for a decent price and that I could continue to borrow the other phone until I actually found a phone I wanted. His hospitality and generosity were amazing and renewed my faith in humanity. I made a promise that I would be back soon and that we would have dinner with him and his friends.
I don’t know why I trusted him immediately but I didn’t get a bad feeling about the situation – he said that he knew he could trust me because of my smile (Nick says that he’s a bit enamored with me and that probably has something to do with it). Maybe it’s the women’s instinct or maybe not but I do know that we can’t be too afraid to open ourselves up to new people and new experiences. That’s what I want my life to be about and it would be a shame if I never trusted the world and people every now and again.