It's done! After 3 weeks of intense work the computer center is installed and being used. Here are a couple pictures to give you an idea of what it looks like. There will be more coming later as well as a general description of how the entire thing went.

Again, thank you so much to everyone that gave. This is what you paid for!

(NOTE: In this picture you can see our main display (32" LCD TV) and computer for the teacher. The cabinet holds one of our switches and decoder for the satellite dish. We are still finishing the center and everything is not 100% in place.)

Until next time!

Update: Picasa didn't seem to want to upload the pictures properly. They should work now. Sorry!

Flat Tires

A couple weeks ago I was traveling with a fellow volunteer on some back country roads in a bush taxi (read about bush taxis.) During the course of driving we blew out our front right tire (not an uncommon thing on dirt roads with pot holes you could get lost in.) After it blew our driver got out and changed it with the spare he had in the trunk. I am always amazed watching taxi drivers change tires here. They can honestly get the old one off and the new one on in less than 5 minutes. The speed comes from all the practice they have.

After a long day traveling we finally decided to head home (about 45 miles or 3 hours of driving.) Everything was going fine until the same front right side tire blew again. The hard thing was that we were so far in the middle of nowhere that we had no option for finding a new one. The driver drove the popped tire a good 5 or 6 miles until the thing was nothing but rim, shredded metal, and peaces of torn rubber. We finally reached a small village and stopped the now exhausted car.

My friend and I got out of the car along with the driver to survey the damage; it was bad. With our only spare tire already flat and no hope of finding a new one (the people in this village could probably not replace a bike tire let alone a car tire) we were fairly hopeless. The driver said he was going to look for a mechanic and took off down the dirt road.

After 10 minutes he came back with another guy caring a metal spike and a bike pump held together by electrical tape. By this time a couple other people had wandered out to the road to say hi and see if there was anything they could do. Our driver said a few words in local language and started hammering to separate the rim from the rubber tire. I wasn’t sure if he was planning on trying to patch the inner tube or what.

After a few minutes of hammering and good progress being made separating the tire from the rim a woman walked up with a bowl of a white pasty substance. I looked at my fellow volunteer and said, “Is that some sort of adhesive?” She looked at me and said, “I think it smells like pate.” (NOTE: Pate is one of the main staples of the Togolese diet and I think of West Africa as a whole. It is ground cassava and ground corn boiled into a hard grits like ball. It is usually eaten with a sauce.)

The driver took the now separated rim and tire and began spreading pate in the space between. He then took the bike pump and started pumping. I couldn’t believe it. Was he actually hoping to pressurize the entire tire with nothing but ground corn and cassava as a sealant? Everyone there took turns pumping. When a section of the pate seal would blow out and release air the driver would expertly apply more of the sticky substance. The entire time they were pumping I kept shaking my head and saying to myself, “This will never work! How could this work?”

Finally the tire started expanding. It got to the point where the pate was beginning to get squeezed out of the now closing crevice. Finally the last excess pate was squeezed out leaving only enough to seal the tire shut.

I could not believe it. The driver stood the tire up, bounced it one time to check its solidity and walked over to where it needed to go on the car. He put the tire in place, screwed everything in, and with a gasp of disbelief from me, lowered the car on the pressurized, pate sealed tire. I could hardly believe my eyes. Here was an entire car being help up by nothing but water, corn, and cassava! How was this possible?

With reluctance my friend and I slowly lowered ourselves into the car, fearing any added weight would blow the seal. The driver started the car, and with one final wave to our new friends, we headed out with nothing between us and the road except old rubber and someone’s dinner.

The driver stepped on the gas getting up to 65 mph. As we flew down the road every bump, every pothole sent images of the front tire violently blowing and all of us flying through the air. We drove a good 15 miles to where we were within site of the lights from the bigger town we were headed. All of a sudden the sound of rushing air and flapping rubber started coming from our once hard tire. Our driver slowed to a stop and let his exhausted head fall onto the steering wheel.

I looked down at my cellphone and realized that we were now close enough to town to get reception. We called a friend who brought another tire and we all went home.

Ps. I apologize for not posting in such a long time. I have been very busy getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas break. I also just got engaged to an amazing women who is also a Peace Corps Volunteer. We will be getting married when we get back to the US in September. I can hardly wait. :)

Thank you all for your support. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or just want to say hi.

Until next time…