September 11th, 2013
Bikes Fixed: 12
Bikes/Day Average: 0.75
Note: If there’s been a lack of photos in previous posts, I did my best to make up for it this time.
Note (written after posting): I hope you like them, uploading alone took me an hour. Hey WordPress… get on this pls?
Whoa! I fixed some bikes! I’m still at less than one a day, but to be fair, I wasn’t expecting to fix any bikes at all while in Macha. Also, one of them was a wheelchair, and I wasn’t expecting to fix any of those… ever.
– – –
First thing is first: Business.
British Airways is suspending all service to Lusaka starting October 25th, 2013 for “Commercial Reasons.” The last flight out is October 26th. I was scheduled to depart on the 30th, but because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here (sorry Sue), I had to bump up my flight.
The other option was to depart another country (say, Kenya) via BA, but I’d have to “provide my own transportation” to Kenya… that is, fly there via Emirates or similar. While regrettable, I decided the extra four days wasn’t worth $600 (especially since the original ticket was already more than I expected it and budgeted it to be).
Long story short, I’ve now only 60 days to fix 90 bikes. We’ll see what happens.
– – –
Anyways. Macha. For those of you who missed it, the Zambikes’ guest house is full. Without staying in the guest house, I’d have a 3-hour commute one-way to Zambikes. So when my aunt Sue offered to let me volunteer with her in Macha until the guest house opened up, I jumped on it.
There are, of course, some other stories between the days in Lusaka and Macha that will go in a “Small Stories” post. That aside…
Poor lighting brought to you by the sun being wrong.
As I mentioned, Sue’s husband Joel (Sue is my aunt) works for Flying Mission, a Christian aviation ministry with various locations around the globe. The idea is that, with a small plane (you might call it a “bush plane” here), you can cut transportation time by a significant amount, enabling doctors, aid workers, and volunteers to reach more patients, students, etc. In this case Flying Mission had been hired by Macha International Christian School (MICS) to fly Gil and Ronda, the MICS founders and owners. It’s a 6 or 7 hour drive with some one-way traffic and plenty of dirt roads, or a 30 minute flight.
We took off from the FM airfield just as the sun came up over Lusaka. I’ve got a thing for airplanes – if I logged all my hours in Microsoft Flight Simulator as a teenager, I’d probably be good to go for a license – so it was a treat to sit in the front seat. My headset wasn’t the best quality, so I couldn’t hear everything that was said, but I still got to ask Joel all sorts of stupid questions about his flight instruments. Namely, the GPS unit. Microsoft didn’t put any of those in their flight simulator…
So that’s how Garmin makes all their money.
On the way there I saw a lot of bush, but I also saw a lot of modernity. It was a nice reminder that even though I was in a developing country, there are people with money and nice things. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.
Is that… a suburb? *gasp!*
It was an eight minute flight to Lusaka International, where Gil and Ronda were just disembarking from their British Airways flight. The teen inside me was squealing and gawking as we made our approach on a huge paved runway designed for Airbuses and other huge aircraft…
We will take approximately none of the runway to land our airplane.
…and after taxiing to the visitor parking area (ha), I got to watch the few commercial planes do their stuff. It was pretty cool.
This guy’s job is to be ready with a fire extinguisher.
I also had a brief stint as an air traffic controller.
He can totally see me.
(we had to do that photo twice. The first time, I handed the camera to Sue and ran for the pose. “Did you get it?” I asked.
“Replace the battery pack,” she replied.
Sadly, that was the only opportunity with a big airplane we got. Less sadly, I had a replacement battery.)
Anyways, after about a 45 minute wait Joel strolled out of the airport with Gil and Ronda. They are swell folks, but hey had a lot of baggage… literally. Joel did “the balance test,” which just means he pushed the tail of the plane to the ground and waited to see if it would come back up again. It did. If it doesn’t, we’d have had to shuffle things around a bit to get the balance of the airplane right. It’s a great test, if you ask me. I’d like to see an airline try it… *ahem.*
Gil and Ronda were pretty jetlagged, so they slept in the back on the way to Macha. This left me with the front seat again – plenty of time to pretend like I was flying us there.
We landed in Macha after doing a flyby to scare aware the cows. Welcome to Africa. In small airfields like these, the runway is often the taxiway, so we turned and went back the way we came, parking at the start of the runway. Shortly thereafter, the people came.
All the people.
Out in the bush, airplanes are apparently the most exciting thing that happens. So for the entire time we unpacked the plane and loaded up the truck (someone had driven to pick us up), people kept arriving and crowding around the plane and speaking to each other in Tonga as if mystified. As we walked away, I asked Joel if anybody had ever ruined the plane or anything.
“It’s usually okay,” he replied.
The car took Sue, Ronda, and the driver, Ms. Dubois. Joel, Gil, and I walked to the school – just past a treeline. After some time to relax, Gil and Ronda gave us the tour.
MICS uses a lot of donated material. A lot of donated material. It was pretty cool to see the end result of some of the donation programs in the States – I’ve probably given notebooks, pencils, etc. to kids in Africa, but it’s different being there and seeing the final result. It means something.
Hey, kids actually use this stuff!
Apparently, in some schools U.S. schools they put boxes out at the end of the year, and some kids will just put their whole backpack in. So in places there were “student kits –” backpacks complete with notebooks, pencils, calculator, etc.
– – –
This was all on Saturday, the first of September. On Monday the teachers would arrive; the first day of school was Tuesday. This would be the third semester of the year. Semesters are three months long, and there’s a month-long break between each one. So Gil and Ronda had been back in the states for roughly a month, and needless to say, we had some shopping to do. In Africa, your nearest supermarket isn’t always that close. We drove two hours to the nearest “city,” Choma, and loaded up.
I was the designated loader/don’t let it fall while we drive over these bumpy roads/guinea pig.
Okay, so mostly the guinea pig.
It was pretty cool to be in a “city.” I put that in quotes because Choma is probably a typical African city. It’s not as big as a capitol city like Lusaka, but there’s a supermarket, among other things. On the other hand, it’s not a village, like Macha.
We saw, among other things, various modes of public transportation.
The high-occupancy version.
The low occupancy version. Don’t look now, but it’s complete with a breastfeeding mother.
(I did not mean to take a picture of her and only noticed after. Sorry!)
Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
What is it with developing countries and Cadbury’s chocolate?
On the way back we passed something that reminded me of India. I call it “the truck stop.”
Except instead of “I give you good price sir!’ they just put it in your face and look sad.
I’m not sure what village this is, but it was basically a market village. There were stalls for many things, but it seems like the big attractor was the vegetables. We bought some vegetables ourselves – much to the dismay of the people crowding our vehicle though, we only bought from one person. But yea, they just surround the truck, hold up their goods, and wait for you to ask them how much it costs.
Also, Gil and Ronda have two cats and a dog. The dog is a yippy little fellow, but the cats are pretty swell. I caught them on top of the truck while we were unloading:
– – –
When I asked Sue what all I would be doing while in Macha, she sort of said, “Well, whatever needs doing.” As I type this I’m back in Lusaka, and I don’t think I could have answered it any better. A school has complex needs, and with a small school, it’s not like you can afford to have one person for every task. MICS has a few cooks, a groundskeeper, and a mechanic, and it’s up to the volunteers to fill in the rest.
…which is exacty what my next post will about… later this week.
In the mean time, here’s a picture of the MICS courtyard.