Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fixing cars with superglue

The last 2 days were very African days. Yesterday I was supposed to go and visit the closest health center, which is apparently way overloaded. I have been assured that they (that Health Center) will be thrilled when we open as it will reduce their workload. We intended to leave at 10AM. But the clutch on the van was out. So we decided to work on that, since we needed the van to get there (remember the SUV is sleeping and uninsured and the truck was recently rolled—an update on that in a moment). The plan was to work on the van clutch, and if we finished by 2PM, then to proceed to the meeting.

You guessed it. At 4PM we were still working on it. I had never expected to get off the ground once I'd heard that the van was having trouble, so it was not a let down. But the day was so African: I was supposed to go to an important meeting, but what I did instead was: try to replace the hydraulic line for the clutch on the vehicle I was supposed to take to the meeting, clean up and reassure t., who puked in his bed, in the upholstered chair, and many other places, and who knows what else I did. The bottom line is that by 5PM I had worked all day, most of it at fairly dirty jobs, and had “accomplished” little to nothing. That's just how things go in Africa. The most fun part of it is that when working on the hydraulic line, our fundi “mechanic” did some truly African mechanical alchemy: I will not reveal his secrets, but I will allow that he used materials such as thread and superglue. That part of it actually seemed to work, but when we drove the van this morning, the clutch problem was still there. For now it is solved by a little clutch acrobatics including double clutching every time you shift and also pulling the clutch back up with your foot every time you shift, which is hard when you are trying to double clutch quickly.

A quick aside about the pickup: the windshield is shattered but still hanging in place. It's impossible to see through—a spiderweb of fissures. The truck has to drive about 9 hours away to get it replaced. So our plan? Remove the whole windshield and drive the whole 9 hours with motorcycle helmets on (personal windscreens)! Luckily, I don't have to actually do that job. If I did, being a white guy, I'd get stopped by the police every ten minutes. I imagine it would be funny to try to act like there really was a windshield there and insist that it was super clean—convincing them by acting out cleaning it. Silly, I admit, but it's funny to imagine.

Today continued with more of the same: We went to meet some government officials. One of the two we were supposed to meet with was in a different town for the day, despite the fact that we had made an appointment with him for 10AM today. I was so unsurprised. On the way home we had a flat in the van. Also unsurprising. But we had the spare on and were on our way in less than fifteen minutes. You know, I don't even have a spare for either of my vehicles at home? I haven't had a true flat tire in twenty years. And I drive at least 40K miles per year!

t. seems better, but now J. is sick again. Please pray for her quick recovery. And pray for discernment for us on how to move forward.

Thanks-Big T.


  1. What very African days indeed! Great perspective – I am glad you are able to roll with the unexpected, familiar enough with the culture and how things go there to be unsurprised be such a string of events (which, admittedly, are indeed comic when you retell them here!). I am so glad t. is feeling better and hope J. is again by now too.

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  3. Well, that is just pleasantly unheard of, isn't it ? Heh. Superglues could fix just about anything. Much as it probably isn't wise to rely too much on improvisations when dealing with the well being of the car.

    Yvonne @ Georgetown Exxon