Friday, June 6, 2008

Off to Arusha

Thursday, June 5th

I got up early this morning and set off for Arusha. Last summer I spent almost all of my time in Arusha so I was really excited to be going back. When I pulled up at MobilityCare everybody was sitting outside enjoying their morning tea break. It reminded me of so many times I had spent with them, sitting outside on our breaks talking about everything under the sun.

Hugs all around a lot of jambos later, we went inside to get to work. Last year it took a few days of getting to know each other better before any real work began—interesting difference between the working styles of each culture. So I was surprised when we pretty much got right to work today. If this is a sign of things to come, this is going to be a really productive summer!

Daniel wheeled out the prototype small-business wheelchair that we had finished up in January and we all crowded around. We pulled out the drawers and played with the table, checking to see if we wanted to make any changes. We all decided that the table was performing well, but the drawers needed to be tweaked a little. Lucas, who as the affectionate nickname Mr. Excellent, had a really good idea to take the drawers and desk to town to a woodworker who would be able to make them more faster and better than we would be able to at MobilityCare. We took everything apart and loaded it into the car, not wanting to waste any time.

We went to three different stores looking for a special plastic that we wanted to make the desk out of so that it would be waterproof, but nobody had what we were looking for. So we decided to stick with wood for now and we can change to plastic later if we need to, after all this is an experiment. We went to another store to get 35mm diameter pipe to make the stand, and then to the fundi (in Swahili you can use the word fundi to describe anybody who makes something with their hands, so in this case we called the woodworker a fundi) to drop off the drawers and desk. There was a lot of back and forth in Swahili and I did my best to keep up, but it was kind of like watching a tennis match with the ball going back and forth really quickly! The fundi is going to call us tomorrow with an update, but he guessed that he would be done by Saturday and he gave us a great price. So I was happy!

With everything finished for the day it was time for a break. Last time I was in Arusha they had been busy building this enormously tall building that was covered in shiny blue glass. Word on the street was that this new hotel, called Naura Springs, was being funded by the President of Uganda, and when it was finished it would be one of the best hotels in town. So of course I wanted to check it out.

Plus, there is a huge conference going on in town this week called the Sullivan Summit, which has brought over 3,000 American business people—mostly those with African roots— together to try to solve some pressing problems. A bunch of famous people like Jesse Jackson and Chris Tucker were rumored to be there and I was hoping to catch a glimpse!

The Naura Springs Hotel is quite spectacular and it was so nice to sit outside on their patio, having a cold drink and doing some people watching. I swear I saw a famous basketball player. I couldn’t tell you his name but he was enormous. It was a really nice place to relax in the evening and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

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