Friday, June 20, 2008

"A business without a sign is a sign of no business"

Monday, June 16th to Wednesday, June 18th

What a busy week! I arrived in Arusha on Sunday afternoon so Monday morning I was ready to get to work. I picked up Jake (another MIT student) and we headed to MobilityCare. They had made great progress on the wheelchair frames, and were just waiting for the small-business “accessories” so they could weld a few final pieces. I brought the completed drawers and tables, and we got to work designing a track for the drawers to slide on.

In the afternoon we went into town to look for a signwriter to paint the tables that will also serve as signs. When I was telling my dad about the design for the small-business chair he reminded me of a sign we saw in Antigua (a favorite family vacation spot), that read “A business without a sign is a sign of no business.” Which is exactly why these business wheelchairs need signs!

The first signwriter we went to gave us a price that was much higher than I expected to pay. I thought it was probably because I was a “mzungu” (white person in Swahili) but even when Joseph went by himself to another signwriter the price was still high. Now I’m certainly not an artist—in fact I have probably have the arts and crafts skills of a 3rd grader—but I wasn’t expecting anything too fancy for these signs. So I decided to do it myself. We went on a crazy goose chase around Arusha and finally tracked down the right kind of paint and brushes, and large stencils for the letters. The best part was that the shop reused glass Konyagi bottles for dispensing paint! Konyagi is a local Tanzanian gin which they are very proud of. And now I have a collection of bottles in my apartment.

On Tuesday we painted the tables white which took forever because the sun kept hiding. The weather has been kind of crazy. It’s supposed to be the dry season but it’s been kind of drizzly and very cold. It’s not a Boston winter but I’ve still been wearing two fleeces to dinner.

On Wednesday we stenciled in the words for each of the businesses and prepared them to be painted. We had set up a table outside in the shade for the stenciling operation and it was really zen sitting there, methodically plodding across each table and penciling in the letters. I almost felt like doing some yoga.

… …

When Daniel visited MIT in March he had a burrito from Anna’s in our student center and he loved it! He kept telling everybody back at MobilityCare about burritos and asking me if we could make them. Jake is a much bigger burrito eater than I am so we decided to make Wednesday “burrito” day for lunch. We went all over town getting avocados, rice, beans—the only thing we couldn’t find were tortillas so we used chapati which is a round, flat bread they eat here that is similar but thicker and sweeter.

We set everything up outside and showed everybody how to fill their burritos. The only problem was that we all put way too much inside and then it was impossible to roll them shut! But they were really delicious and everybody seemed to enjoy the afternoon. I wonder what else I could cook for them… any suggestions?

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