Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday mornings - jumamosi asabuhi

It has been awhile since the last post. No, it's not that I have been busy. I have really come to hate that word. It seems like "stayin' busy" is almost an American greeting these days. It always seems like a vague excuse for not getting something done, while reassuring oneself.

The reason for the gap is that the road grader of my mind has had its blade set too deep, and a quick blog post turns into a five page essay. I forget what I wanted to convey, then I wake up and it is morning, the next day. Just like I'm about to do again here... my quick Saturday morning story turning into a philosophical introspection.

Saturday mornings for me offer a golden opportunity. From 9am to 1pm the hardware stores are still open deep in the bowels and just below the heart of the city. Because of traffic, the golden time is really 9 am to 11 am. During the week, they keep the same hours as I do at the hangar, so I rarely get a chance to get to them.

I whip out my PDA the night before and make a to do list.

Screen material for our windows
AC compressor for the car
Machine a flywheel puller for a BMW F650 motorbike
Look for a suit for a wedding in two weeks

This morning I got a late start. I have been wanting to slow down in my quiet time and spend more time with fewer Bible verses. Then I discovered a GREAT resource: It has a complete Strong's reference with quick links to click on and a tenth the weight of hardcopy! Then I felt inspired on how to write an end of year letter for AIM AIR, so I typed out a rough draft. By then, it was almost 10.

I drove into the industrial area. It is kind of exciting place, especially if diesel fumes, dust and vehicles going every direction seems exciting to you. I found General Engineering, the machine shop. I had to wiggle the car over a curb between a Mercedes and a pickup. I didn't want to drop off the curb and bump the Mercedes, so I left the car kind of angle out, ready for a quick getaway.

The machine shop supervisor saw my picture and instantly knew what I wanted. "I can have it ready by Monday," he said in a strong Indian accent. He assured me it would be made with strong steel.

As I walked back to my car, a city official in a yellow trench coat intercepted me. She was selling parking permits for the day. 140 shillings. Lucky it was her and not the trench coats with the tire boots. I pay my fee, and put the ticket in the window.

Because I really like my parking job, I decide to walk to some of the other shops. I walk from one end of the street to the other trying to find a good deal on a 12 volt air compressor to put in our car. Not on the list, I know, but I could really use it. One shop has a decent one for a higher price than I like. The other has a cheaper one made in China. It looks like it might fall apart in the first attempt at operation. While I look it over, Breanna calls me back. I had tried to get ahold of her between shops.

"Hey babe, I found some air compressors for the car, and I want to buy myself a Christmas present." She asks about my previous wish for Christmas. "I could really use this today!" I plead. It's true. I am trying to get a tire fixed on a Honda XL 600, another bike I am borrowing until... forget it, it's a complicated story.

I find a store with screen material. They also have foot pumps, so I decide to ask for the air compressor there. The owner sends a Kenyan boy out as a runner to some other shop. He returns with a Craftsman unit. For 7000 shillings, almost $100. I don't need one that bad. So he sends out another runner, and the guy comes back with a cheaper one of still decent quality. I take it. It will be a big help today, and provides peace of mind when we are driving outside of the city.

Time is running out, so I move down to Dar Es Salaam road where the used car part stores are lined up. A missionary gave me a tip on finding AC compressors. Traffic is getting bad, and I finally find the area he mentioned. The street is full, but I pull into a parking area made for about 5 cars. It is so tight, I crawl out the passenger side.

I find the shop. It is upstairs in what would work in the US as a small used CD shop. Here it is a junkyard. With shelves of car parts: stereos, mufflers, engines, wheels, rims, I squeeze in trying to find an employee. I explain what I am looking for. A guy comes downstairs with me and looks at the part on the car.

We run back upstairs. On top of the car stereos I had noticed a Fender bass guitar plugged into a boom box stereo unit. Apparently one of the customers was interested in it and a worker was showing it to them. I guess neither of them knew how to play it.

"Do you play this?" they ask me. I nodded, wondering what about me would have even made them ask. With grease and oil stained hands, I strap on the bass. The strap is so tight, I almost feel choked. We get it loosened, and I start pounding away. It is terribly out of tune, and produces sounds of perhaps a different culture's scale system. I tune it briefly, slap the strings a little more, then realize I am losing focus.

"It sounds very good, but the strings are raised way too high" I tell the guys.

Meanwhile, the other worker found an AC compressor of the same part number still bolted to an engine on the bottom shelf. I can't believe in this small of a shop he could find one.

"How can I be sure it will work?"

"You can install it. If it doesn't work, then bring it back."

"How long do I have to bring it back?"

"Maybe one or two days."

Hmm, not too great, but probably a decent deal for here. I ask for their number and promise to think about it.

Glancing at my watch, I realize I am let to get home and load up the kids for a small group Christmas party. With traffic the way it is, there is no time to swing by a taylor and ask about a suit.

I'll put it on the list for next Saturday...

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