Monday, April 18, 2011

The beauty of simplicity

Borrowed from iStockphoto
Today has been a beautiful day in all its simplicity.

Business-wise, it was a slow day, meaning that there were not many customers. Although we made a good weekend, rented out several rooms, organizing trips to Mole, organizing the Open Mic night in Sparkles, today there was simply not much to do. At the lodge I mean, Sparkles was of course booming.

The weather was hot, and I mean: boiling hot. Never been so grateful that my current environment is an open restaurant with a thatched roof where we can enjoy the cool breeze, else the rivers of sweat on our backs would litteraly have glued is to our seets. I think we served only one customer every hour, most people must have been to heat-striken to even leave the house or airconditioned-cooled offices.

In the afternoon, when the sun cooled off a little, I brought my motorbike to the vulcanizer. The backtire had a puncture and I don't have the right tools (nor necessary dexterity for that matter). The guy his little shackshop is closeby and, although I don't know his name, he apparently knows very well who I am. He hardly speaks English, so communication was very hard, but amicably he pulled a plastic chair towards me so I had a good view on how he would repair my tire.

It is at those moments that I notice that my technical knowledge limits itself to software and that I regret to hardly ever get my hands greasy. I would even call it beautiful, the way he was working. Beautiful in all its simplicity. Of course I have been repairing the innertubes of my bicycle when I was younger, but I never had put a screwdriver on a motorbike before. I almost regretted not to have brought a camera, with that smiling face getting so much satisfaction out of helping me out, kudos to him.

After finding the puncture, he spent some time filing both the inner tube and another piece of rubber (probably an old tube) that would be used to patch the hole. When it was all clean and smooth enough to his satisfaction, the spare piece of rubber was to be cut in the shape of a rounded rectangle and this was done with a lot of precision. The shape reminded me of the old ready-made rubber parts in my grandfather's toolbox back at home and the question popped in my head: "are those ready-made parts shaped like that because it is indeed the best shape to repair a rubber inner tube, or is it just the easiest way to fabricate it without wasting too much rubber (and therefore making this action of my vulcanizer friend futile)?".

Yellow glue was applied to both parts and while it dried, we interchanged some smiles and tried to converse a bit, but the lack of a common language limited us. The rounded rectangle got put on the cleaned out puncture and my exhaust pipe was used as an anvil while a hammer got wielded to 'help' the glue stick.

After fixing, the nice guy wanted to check whether the tire was still 'aligned' correctly, so he asked my keys. I must say that I hesitated for a small second, but he only rode a few meters and was satisfied of his own work. There is only one thing in all his actions that I couldn't quite place, before 'checking the alignment' but after putting everything back together, my new friend got a kettle of water. "To drink", I thought, not unusual in these parts where people are mainly islamic. But then he started spinning my rear wheel and spitting water at it at regular intervals.

I was in no way offended, only a bit puzzled about the meaning of this.

Later today, I didn't feel like eating something from the menu, so I found my way to the kitchen myself. It is difficult to get tasty milk products here in Tamale, there is some yoghurt and (massively expensive) cheese, but fresh milk you can only get during the raining season when the cattle has had enough grass and herbs to digest. I felt experimental, so I mixed some evaporated milk in an attempt to get something custardy, and lo! Easy and cheap Ghanaian based vanilla pudding was born.

As I am typing this in evening time, I am enjoying a beautiful show of thunder and lightening, very refreshing after these hot hot hot days. I am still sitting under my thatched roof enjoying a wireless internet connection. In front of me, only darkness, sporadically interrupted by a flash of lightening, and the reassuring sound of rain on the roof. Rain that can't reach me.

Tomorrow, the weather will be cool...

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