Friday, July 15, 2016

Tanzanian Style

Its noon and I am biking in the middle of the African desert with Han and Scotty and they both have flats. We are at least five miles from our camping site where, after some brief consideration this morning before we left, we have decided to leave the bike pump in the car. The dirt road is a fiery orange, and weaves through fields of dying sunflowers and tall yellow grass. Mt. Kilimanjaro soars up ahead of us, disappearing into the clouds.

Exploring the roads by bike.

Just moments ago, as I was leading us down a narrow path that swerved in and out of a dried-up river bed, I hit the brakes hard to maneuver around a fallen branch. I heard a muffled cracking noise behind be, followed by “Shit!”. I knew what this meant immediately. At the campsite this morning as we put together our bikes, Han was riding around when one of his handlebars suddenly snapped off. In addition to the engine failure and the missing quick-release bolt, this only added to our transportation trouble, not to mention the flat tire we would receive driving out the next day.

Not a bad camping spot.

We went in search of a fix, but in the remote campsite a wooden dowel was the best we could find. We cut up the dowel into foot-long pieces and made a make-shift splint for the handlebar, held together by tightly-wrapped bicycle tubes. Han goes for a test ride, and we decide that our fix will do. As we are leaving on the rocky, dusty road, we stop by Mwambo. He points at the bike, “Hey, I like the fix. Tanzanian style.”
One month in, and one month to go, I have finally embraced my new way of living. Cold showers, dust on pretty much everything, running to charge all of the electronics when the power goes back on. I sit in a cold plastic chair instinctively switching back and forth between windows on my computer waiting five minutes for a google search result to load. I also drink warm chai when the weather turns a little chilly, and wave back to all the children playing soccer as I go by them on my run.
We walk our disabled bikes down the road a bit further happen upon a small shop. With limited Swahili and lots of hand gestures, we get the tubes fixed. We strap our helmets back on and continue down the path. Right around the corner, we find ourselves biking through a rock quarry. The white granite provides a stark contrast against the red dirt. “Where are we?” we ask the man taking a break from chipping at the rock. “You’re in Kenya!” he replies. “We’re in Kenya!” I exclaim and we all give high-fives.

Made it to Kenya!

As the sun illuminates us from behind, we head back towards camp. Through small villages, fields of sunflowers, and tall waving grass we bike with our eyes trained on Kili. The next day we wake up, kayak across the deep, clear lake to Kenya on the other side, and hike with the baboons. When the weekend comes to an end, I am back at Twende, supporting local Tanzanians that are making a real difference in their communities. I could get used to Tanzanian style.

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