Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flat Tires & Bad Internet

For most things in life, I would defer to a Rwandan/man…tilling a field…fixing a broken pipe…bucket flushing a toilet…changing SIM cards in a cell phone…but I’ve recently decided that there are two things I am just more confident doing myself: changing a car tire and fixing an internet connection.

Simply, I think I just have more experience with both. Most Rwandans haven’t really grown up driving cars or dealing with wireless internet. I’m not going to pretend that I have THAT much experience with either…but enough. This has become strikingly obvious on 2 occasions:

First, we were driving back from the health center when we got a flat tire. Elie pulled over onto a hill. He seemed to know what he was doing, so I felt that I shouldn’t say the obvious point: that you’d have to jack up the tire twice as high to get it off, since the flat was on the uphill…and that the jack would probably sink into the dirt. Ten painful minutes later, I suggested that maybe he should pull onto flatter ground, maybe on the pavement.

And then we ran into the problem with the bolts. In classic chauvinistic Rwandan fashion, the men could not let the women near the car to help. So I just watched as the tightened the bolts, and tightened them more, and more…and just continued to make it harder on themselves for once they finally got around to turning the bolts in the correct direction. Finally I broke down: “It’s an American car: righty tighty, lefty loosey – turn it the other way!” I only got skeptical, critical scares, but Rene did try the other way, and the bolts did come loose.

By the time we got around to putting on the new tire, I felt it might be best to hold my tongue and not point out that they should tighten opposite bolts to keep the tire aligned. But by the time we got back to the house, we were back to taking off the tire and re-aligning it.

Second, the internet never seems to work. Our administrator always calls the MTN guys who show up and walk around the house for a bit and then tell us that they need to check all our computers because one of them is creating a block on the internet (what?) and they blame my computer because I refuse to let a random person with no credibility take over my computer for half an hour. Finally, we set MIT grad on the mission to figure what was wrong with the internet: “well that’s strange,” he says, “the input was plugged into the output. It should probably work now.”

Americans: 2, Rwandans: 0

Other teams: 5 (6?), Bills: 0

Republicans: Tea Party, Obama: Daily Show

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