Monday morning the roosters woke us up at 7 AM. Chef Ken prepared us a delicious breakfast, and we loaded up the combi and headed for Giithu. On the way, we had to travel along a treacherous “road” (pretty much a dirt path). The bumps in the road gave us what Paul (our fantastic driver) likes to call “the African Massage”. Once we arrived at our destination, we interviewed three different persons with disabilities. We gathered valuable information, which helped us with our design project. The project is to design wheelchair attachments to reduce the difficulty of pushing someone up and down hills. After we left Giithu we headed to Athwana Youth Polytechnic, a local school. There we established a relationship that will last a lifetime. They agreed to construct anything our hearts desire. In this case our hearts desired a charcoal press and a wheelchair attachment, which is TBD (to be designed). After a long day in the sun, we returned to another exquisite meal prepared by the one and only Chef Ken. We hit the sack early at 9PM.
Tuesday and Wednesday we stayed at our residence to design our attachment; essentially, a lot of silent thinking, sketching, and eating Chef Ken’s food.
Thursday was quite the adventurous day. It all started when we heard the roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing at dawn once again. We got up, ate a fabulous breakfast, and finalized our design, or so we thought… Around noon we met Lloyd and WALKED the long, hot, dusty, 2 kilometer road to the Polytechnic. Lloyd works for the Mikinduri Hope Community Development Organization and is extremely knowledgeable, responsible, and trustworthy. This will become very important later on in the story. During this lovely stroll, we passed by a primary school that was just going on lunch. The students gathered on the sides of the road, laughing and waving at us. As we kept walking they formed a giant army behind us and followed us the rest of the way to the school. This felt a lot like a scene from the movie 300. Anyway, we met with the director of the school to present him our design. He assured us that it could be done. This was a relief to hear because Tuesday and Wednesday were very long and frustrating days. Although, the spaghetti, samosas, mandazis (African donuts), cookies and chips, ice cream, pancakes and other food items that we cannot remember because of the copious amount of food, made the days more doable. (Notice how Chef Ken’s food is becoming a common theme here). After meeting with the director of the school we backtracked the desert-like road into the heart of Mikinduri. This is where the real story begins.
Once in Mikinduri, we jumped into a Matatu, which is like public transit except a whole lot more violent and squishy. Violent, because people are constantly grabbing and shouting at you to get into their Matatu. Shout out to Lloyd who was looking out for me (Peter) and picked a Matatu with a high ceiling. So this Matatu had 11 seats which in mine and Brady’s head meant 11 passengers. Lloyd quickly informed us otherwise. As the three of us were comfortably seated in the three back seats, Lloyd told us we would need to make room for a fourth person. There was no room for a fourth person. By the time we left, the matatu contained 15 people; four in the back, three in the third row, 5 in the second row (one was on the floor), and 3 in the front. Calling the inside of that matatu sweaty is like calling the recent snow storm on PEI “a few light flurries”. During the rather uneventful 45 minute stuffy journey (note that time), Peter had a lovely afternoon nap on either Brady’s or Lloyd’s shoulder. When we arrived at our destination in Meru, we were all very hot, to say the least. We walked through the bustling streets of Meru to a hardware store to purchase materials for our device. We left our purchased materials with a pal of Lloyd’s who looked after them while we went to do other shopping. We walked to another matatu which we would take to the Nakumatt (Walmart). The matatu was much smaller than the previous as it was a regular compact sedan. The three of us got in the back seat after more pushing, grabbing, shoving, and shouting and took a deep breath. There was no way we could fit anymore people in that vehicle since all the seats were full. You’d think we’d have learned otherwise by now, but apparently we were still learning. The driver motioned to two people looking for a matatu to get in. He opened the side door where Brady, who was seated quite comfortably, looked up at him, thinking “There is no freaking way you can fit back here.” Apparently there was.
**UPDATE: a preying mantis just flew by and landed next to us as we are typing this. Brady and I summoned our inner bravery and quickly got up and swiftly walked away. Francis the security guard got up and shooed it away with his hat. We returned to our seats trying to recover our lost pride.**
Back to the story. Brady grabbed the front seat to pull himself over Peter and Lloyd. The newest passenger then took a seat half on Brady’s knee, half on the small space of seat that Brady gave up. After multiple attempts at closing the door, it finally shut, locking all seven of us in this five passenger vehicle. When we arrived at the Nakumatt, we piled out of the car like a bunch of clowns. We purchased supplies for Chef Ken so he could continue feeding us scrumptious meals. Lloyd called a cab and we waited in the Nakumatt for it to arrive.
**UPDATE: Everytime something flies by Brady and I cry a bit inside.**
After several stops including a trip back to the Nakumatt to retrieve our forgotten supplies and nearly hitting a kid on a bike, we headed home. After 20 minutes we arrived back home (notice how the way home was a lot quicker). Let us explain. The drive through the city streets of Meru was pretty normal with the usual crazy traffic. However, as soon as we left the city and got on the main road to Mikinduri, the tempo changed quite considerably. Before we knew it, we were travelling at 120 kilometers an hour, weaving around motorcycles and humans and various animals. Our driver did not believe in the brake. Instead he preferred to lay on the horn to any poor soul who happened to be going the speed limit in front of us. As soon as there was a microscopic opening, he would take it and speed by them. The drive was made even more interesting by the very profane selection of hiphop and rap we listened to all the way home. After arriving home and unloading our supplies, Peter quickly informed the rest of the group that “I felt really dirty after listening to that music”. Luckily all of our sorrows were washed away when we saw the stupendous meal that Chef Ken prepared for us. Shout out to Chef Ken for saving us afternoon snack of fish sticks, which were delectable. The evening was very relaxed, which was nice after such an exciting day.
Friday was a working day. We went to the polytechnic at 8:30am to commence our building process.
**UPDATE: A flying worm that looked like a beetle landed on my (peter) arm. I nearly dropped the Mac. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing since it’s a Mac.**
The device is an ergonomic handle, which increases the amount of force you can use to push a wheelchair up a hill. The device also has a handbrake system, similar to a bicycle, which can be used to control its speed while going down a hill. The morning was spent cutting pieces of metal, most of which ended up being the wrong size, to prepare for constructing the device. Using the hacksaw to cut the metal while wearing our safety glasses, resulted in swelling tricep muscles. After a tasty packed lunch from Chef Ken, we set out to start building. The afternoon consisted of cutting the right lengths this time, more tricep swells, welding, grinding, sweating and painting. We had our safety goggles on the whole time, which we were taught to do at the UPEI School Sustainable Design Engineering, the pinnacle of engineering safety. We made quite of bit of progress today and we’ll hopefully finish the project on Monday. At the end of the day we called Paul to come pick us up in the combi. We got home and ate a splendid supper and started writing this blog. You are now caught up on the exhilarating story of the past week from the eyes of Peter and Brady.
**UPDATE: THE MANTIS HAS RETURNED and suffered an untimely demise!**
TO BE CONTINUED…
Disclaimer from Libby: The boys were in great hands with Lloyd – he lives in Meru and travels that route every day. This fantastic and colorful story leaves out all the ways they were safe – such as seatbelts, in constant contact via the cell phone, and the fact that most people here drive 120km/hr when they get the chance….