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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A flat tire

It’s always an adventure. Today we were supposed to swing by a remote health center to drop off a list of children we sponsor whose health insurance we’d paid for before meeting up with other colleagues at a cooperative training in a different, slightly less remote sector. We of course started the day delayed, and we were very late by the time we left the health center. Rather than passing back through Gisenyi to get to the second destination, we attempted to take a remote back road. The roads in this part of the country are hazardous; volcanic rock juts out everywhere and makes for a bumpy ride.

Soon enough we had a flat tire. Although it seemed like we’d just left the town with the health center and the only bike mechanic around, it was a 50 minute walk back. My coworker paid a teenager to push the bike. I wasn’t about to take out my camera in the middle of nowhere and prolong our hike, but some images stick out for me: a hill that was completely cultivated in neat rows until the top, where there was an afro of trees. The crazy drunk lady who followed us for 10 minutes trying to talk to me, telling my coworker to “shut up, Satan” when he intervened. Kids “helping” to push the moto by hanging onto the back of it and running.

Fixing the flat involved: using a piece of volcanic rock to jack up the motorbike; using a metal rod to pry the tire from the tread; inflating the tire with a rubber tube that had no needle or clasp to attach it to the tire with, but somehow worked; finding the leak by sight and sound; patching it by irritating the tire with a saw, spreading some super glue, and slapping on a piece of an old tire; inflating the tire to test the patch; and finally wrestling it back inside the tread. Of course my skin and ridiculous helmet attracted much attention, and I let the assembled crowd of teenage bike repairmen and curious villagers gawk and talk for the whole time, letting on only at the end that I spoke Kinyarwanda when I uttered a complicated goodbye. I had to entertain myself somehow.

I didn’t get any pictures, but here are some more recent pictures of a car tire being patched; the story of that epic adventure will be told by email upon request.


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