Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to fix a tire, Ugandan style.

This is the morning I had, going to a bike shop to get my tube patched for my bike. Repairmen in general have a very good mix of Incredible Mr. Fox and McGuiver inside of them. They have all kinds of clever tricks, some which work, others that don't at all, to fix whatever item you bring in. This is no different, and perhaps especially so, for bicycle repairman of Uganda.

These steps below took around 75 minutes to get through. Future Ugandan Bicycle Repairmen, pay attention closely. This is the way to do it.

Step 1: Go get some maize. Corn on the cob is going to come in very handy later.

Step 2: Wait for silly muzung with the "feminine" hair to come down and speak about his problems with his broken Ateso

Step 3: Laugh heartily, while continuing to eat your maize and show your pearly whites. Those that are left, that is.

Step 4: Tell silly muzung to sit down. Tell him it is going to cost (exorbitant price here), then smile your best "i'm an honest man" smile.

Step 5: get the tube out of the tire as haphazardly as possible, ideally causing another problem in order to fix, thereby being able to double the (exorbitant) price.

Step 6: Finish your maize, lay it beside you.

Step 7: Pause to talk about the Muzung's bike, make jokes about him in Ateso that you are positive he can't understand. Laugh heartily.

Step 8: Make sure there isn't a kernel left in the maize.

Step 9: Blow up the tube using something only slightly resembling a bicycle pump. Put the tube to your mouth, so that you can hear if there are leaks. (not a mistake.)

Step 10: Put the tube inside a bucket of "black black" water, checking for bubbles

Step 11: Talk about how much money mzungus have. Smile.

Step 12: Find the hole.

Step 13: Pick back up your corn on the cob, and use it as an abrasive to scratch up the surface of the tube, thereby making the glue stick better. Do this for no less than 10 minutes. (do NOT throw away your corn on the cob after this. You can use it for a week, at least. Anything less would be, well, wasteful.) (side note: you should have seen the corn on the cob that was finally thrown away, after my guess of a weeks use.)

Step 14: Glue on patch, quickly put the tube back into the tire, pump up the tire with one hand, put your hand out for money.

Step 15: Leave IMMEDIATELY after muzungu bikes away; no need to be there when he's back in 15 minutes for the same problem. On the same tube.

When I arrive back, said 15 minutes later, the workers understand that Opolot is madder than a wet hornet. Having just spent over an hour and 1000 shillings (ok, it's only 40 cents, but still.) on this, only to be back where I started...yeah. Another worker comes over, pushing others aside (his legs are there, but seem to have no use; they are dangling below him, turning 270 degrees in either direction. He walks over with his hands). This is clearly the man I should have asked for the first time; everyone gathers around to watch him work. 15 minutes later, I have a tube that is in all likelihood stronger than when I bought it brand new. I take note of this man, and make sure that I'll be able to find him the next time. He even told me not to pay. "No problem. I get money from other man. He no good. Nice Day." I shake his hand (you'll never see an arm more rippling with muscles), and bike away with new appreciation for Ugandan's adaptability, for my amazing bicycle, and most of all, for corn on the cob.

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