"Transport is necessary in achieving a wide range of objectives including economic growth, personal welfare, governance and empowerment as well as security." ~ P. Njenga & A. Davis, Drawing the Roadmap to Rural Poverty Reduction

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Almost Done!

The past few weeks have been busy. The power went out again for some time, halting the project (it's hard to run a welder on no electricity), but we're back on track now. Jess and I took a bike trip to Tokembere to see our friend Jamie, and we made it home in record time - 12 kilometers in 50 minutes over rough terrain with an average grade of 4%. Run those numbers with a 30 lb. bag, typical specs for a mountain bike and our bodyweights, and the fact we were both wiped at the end of the ride (had to sit down for a half hour), and it looks like we're right up there with the 'healthy men' curve on the human power capability charts. Not bad! I took some pictures on the way down, here's one of my favorites (we followed a rainstorm most of the way there):

The last time I posted we were finally buying the materials for the cart part of the vehicle, and I had worms. Now, Jess has all the same nasty infections I just got over (but she's on the mend), and we're buying the last few bolts and steel needed to turn the cart into something truly unique. Here's a picture of the cart portion of the vehicle from a few days ago:

The guys we've been working with have been amazing, and seem like they're excited to learn about the vehicle. We treated them to peanuts and soda after work one day, and we got to have some more normal conversation with them than usual. Turns out, people have been asking to buy this vehicle or a copy of it since the first days of production a few weeks ago. Apparently the prospects of the vehicle's design are so promising, the people are excited about it without even seeing a picture. I'm happy the guys might have business after I leave, hopefully the final product will have the same effect :)

I've found that I'm to the point now that I can explain things I need to to the guys. Last week, for the first time, I felt like I was helping them solve problems, even in French. Welding together complex 3-dimensional shapes can get really difficult based on the order in which you construct things. Especially when you're trying to be as accurate as possible, it can get to be an interesting puzzle to put together. I felt really good when I was able to help solve some of these ordering puzzles, and talk about the geometry. They started to resort to the jigging on their own, because, in their ownn words, they're finding it easier to use. At least I taught them something :)

I hope to have the vehicle done either Friday or Monday and ready for testing, although I believe at this point I've learned most of what I came here to learn. If we finish it Friday, Jess and I plan to take it to the market (Friday is Meri's market day) and give people rides up the hill with their market bags for free in it (and, of course, let them drive it if they so desire). Seeing the picture that's been in my head and on paper for the last few months turning into a real frame on real wheels in a real Cameroonian garage is really exciting!

Jess and I are getting to the hard part of the trip, where we have to start planning my trip home. It's always really hard to think about leaving - it's just too easy to get used to having her around. Coming home is bittersweet, because while I get to come home to my family (my new nephew rolled over!), running, drinkable water and flushing toilets, I am leaving Jess behind. The one thing we have to look forward to, though is that this is the last time we'll ever have to do this. Is it sad that the prospect of being apart for the next three months seems easy (compared, of coruse, to the five and a half at the beginning of the year)? When I get home, I get to go shopping for reception halls for the wedding! I can't believe that it's only about a year away.

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