Thursday, July 24, 2008

A day with Richard

Wednesday, July 23rd

By the time I got back to Moshi last night I was so tired that I just crashed. For the past two weeks I’ve been waking up before work to go walking which is great, but this morning I was just way too tired. There wasn’t a lot of food in my apartment because I had been gone for the past few days, so I packed up all my stuff and went out for breakfast. It was kind of chilly so I decided to follow everybody else and have chicken soup. It was pretty much like chicken soup that you would get at home, except there are no noodles or anything, and instead of little pieces of chicken you get one big piece that is still on the bone. So it takes a little more work to actually eat, but it’s quite tasty.

Then I met up with Richard, one of the new small-business owners, and we headed over to Exim Bank to open his account. He was really excited and the people at the bank were very helpful with everything which was great. He made his first deposit of 10,000 T. Shillings and his ATM card will be ready in two weeks! Walking/rolling back from the bank he informed me (through my translator) that having a bank account is a really good idea because if he keeps all his money in his house it will be too easy to spend it without thinking about it. I couldn’t agree more!

Last week I spent a day with Peter, getting to know his business and daily life better. It was really eye-opening, so I took the rest of the afternoon to hang with Richard and get an insider perspective on his business. We drove to his house which is about 12 km down a crazy road. He said during the rainy season some parts of the road are impassable. Luckily we made it through safely, and his wife was happy to greet us when we arrived. In the three weeks since Richard received his small-business wheelchair and start-up loan, he built a huge chicken coop and stocked it with 40 chickens! His original business was shining and repairing shoes, and although he is still doing that, he thought the chickens would be easy to take care of and would help him to earn more money for his family. If you remember how rapidly Peter’s business expanded, this seems to be a general trend.

Me and Richard infront of his chicken coop

Richard’s property is really bustling because along with his 40 chickens, he also owns pigs (which he had before the start of this project). He has about 6 little pigs that are in one pen, and then he has about 10 giant pigs each in their own pens. And when I say giant I really mean it. These pigs are huge! There are about 5 feet long now (no joke) and he said he will sell them when they get to be 6 feet long. Based on current market prices he expects to fetch about 3,000 shillings per kilo, and the big pigs will be about 180 kilos when he sells them. Next time I meet with Richard we’re going to do some calculations to see how much money he should be making, but it seems like it will be a lot!

Of course I wasn’t allowed to leave his house without eating something. His wife cooked up a big pot of rice and chicken with a special sauce. I had to work hard to chew the chicken, and it was a little awkward eating it when I knew the chicken coop was right outside, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Inside his house Richard had a bunch of posters of people playing wheelchair tennis. Apparently some guy had visited a few years ago and taught a group of them how to play, but at the end of his visit he took the special sports wheelchairs that he had brought back with him. Maybe one of the projects in this wheelchair design class should be to design a simple, cheap sports wheelchair that can be manufactured locally. Hmm…

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