Monday, January 4, 2010

mchizi kama ndizi

Arusha is a neat place: a friendly little town sitting in the lush green shadow of Mt Meru, Tanzania's second tallest mountain.
I arrived in Arusha, Tanzania to cheers of "Bruce Lee! Bruce Lee!"

Alright, so it didn't quite happen that way. Bernard picked us up in his lovely sky blue beetle and whisked us off to begin three weeks of mystery and adventure, volunteering at GCS in Arusha.

Global Cycle Solutions
is the brainchild of Jodie Wu and Lisa Tacoronte, MIT alum and student, both D-lab veterans and entrepreneurs. We soon settled into a comfortable routine of hopping onto dalla-dalla's (vans) each morning and riding out to Bernard's dad's house to document the tech development of a top secret! GCS product, doing some work in the afternoon on an instruction manual and cooking rice and beans for dinner.

The first night, we met Jodie's next-door neighbours - Mic and Mas, two members of Contagious (or was it Contagiouz?), a band of young men who:

- breakdance
- rollerskate
- don't drink
- don't smoke

On the second night, we watched them perform a show and throw down some serious moves at a local bar/club.

We seem to be surrounded by Arusha's most exceptional people. Bernard's father moved to Arusha from Moshi when he was young, starting small with just a simple provision store. Over the years, he began to buy cars from junk yards, fix them up and then sell them, earning enough money to buy tools, sewing machines, a flour mill, land.

Today, he's a local celebrity. Dalla-dalla's in Sinoni will know where you want to stop if you say "Mwamba's house". Bus drivers recognise Bernard by face as Mwamba's son. They live in a spacious three storey house with a yard always full of vehicles in line for repair work and the largest accumulation of Volkswagen spare parts in the country...maybe on the continent! Bernard and his brother Peter are both accomplished mechanics from growing up working on cars with dad.

Bernard bought his lovely sky-blue beetle from a scrap yard where it was rusting away, for about four hundred dollars. He spent three months to fix every single part in it by hand, and then got it painted sky-blue. It's beautiful.

Their house is a really happy place; Bernard's sister Stella sewing clothes, his brother Peter fixing cars or radios, both of whom are always happy to talk to you if you walk by. They have a yard full of chickens and tons of Bernard's neat inventions, like homemade solar water heaters and a pedal-powered drill press(!!!) Bernard's two nieces are the sweetest children I've ever seen. Melinda sneaked up on me one day whilst I was eating lunch and poked me in the small of my back with a tiny finger. I jumped two feet into the air from my seat.

Oops, took a video instead of a picture