Thursday, June 26th
I was really nervous today. Mostly because I was afraid the wheelchairs wouldn’t be finished, and their delivery was the reason for the party in the first place. Joseph drove me to the workshop early in the morning so we could help them put on the finishing touches. He didn’t know the word “nervous” but I couldn’t really figure out how to explain it!
I was in charge of putting the rubber stoppers in all the exposed pipe ends, which resulted in me getting my hands completely covered in rubber cement. Then I started moving some of the small pieces into the car and ended up with black paint on my arms from a piece that was still a bit wet. At that point I decided I would be more useful at KASI, helping set everything up and greeting people as they arrived.
The hardest thing about the party was figuring out what time to tell people it started. Seriously. At home if I said the party started at 11am, people would probably come around 11:10 or 11:15, just a little fashionably late. In Tanzania if I told people the party started at 11am, the first guest might trickle in around noon. This usually drives me crazy but today I really appreciated it because we needed all the extra time we could get to finish up the chairs.
The party that was slated to begin at 11am officially got underway around 1:30. Another reason it started so late was that Tanzanians take forever to greet each other. It’s really quite sweet actually. I think I talked about this in another entry so I won’t go into too much detail, but in the schedule of the event that Dr. Nyamubi and I made we allotted 30 minutes for “greetings.”
Dr. Nyamubi welcomed everybody to the event and then I spoke for a while, introducing the relationship that MIT has developed with KASI and the local wheelchair workshops, and then talking specifically about the small-business wheelchair project. Everything I said had to be translated which was actually nice for me because I could think about what I wanted to say next while my translator was speaking. Next our VIP guests spoke—the Moshi District Administrative Secretary was there, as well as Annarose, the Siha District Commissioner who is giving us a piece of land. Everybody spoke in Swahili so I don’t know exactly what they were talking about, but I heard it was good.
When everybody was done speaking I called Hilda, Peter, and Richard up individually to give them their new small-business wheelchairs. It soon turned into a photo frenzy with everybody wanting to jump in and shake hands and congratulate each other. Good thing I had a clean MIT t-shirt to wear today! When all of that was finished lunch was served which was really tasty, and people had plenty of time to mingle and talk about what had just happened.
There were two journalists in attendance—one was a radio presenter and the other works for ITV which is the main news channel here. I don’t know if we’ll get any coverage but they did take me aside after the event for a special interview. I probably sounded like a blubbering idiot in my Swahinglish but it was fun!
I was too buzzed with excitement to head home after the party so I headed over to the Kindoroko Hotel which has a really cool bar on its rooftop. There’s no elevator and let me tell you, after 5 steep flights of stairs I was some thirsty! It was a little cloudy so I couldn’t see Kilimanjaro, but I did have a good view of sprawling little Moshi. And the mango juice I ordered was so fresh that I could see the bartender crushing the mangoes behind the bar. A perfect way to end a perfect day.