i recently took the two visitors to a manyata (village) to see first hand how “typical” karimajongs are living–and to meet some of the family members who live in this particular village.
my vehicle was in the shop getting a fuse changed, so i had asked my friend israel if i could borrow his land rover for the evening. in true hospitality he complied, leaving the keys to the vehicle at his home.
so, david and bruce (those visiting for the tour) and three of my friends piled into the land rover and drove out to the manyata for our visit. we had a tour, talked with a mama…the fellows took pictures and such. it was dusk, and therefore time to get out of the bush–so we headed back to the vehicle.
david and my friend grace decided to ride in the open back part of the vehicle, so they climbed up and i performed a lovely three-point turn (it was perfect, dad. perfect.) and was slowing moving toward the road when david started yelling from the back of the vehicle, and banging to get my attention. rolling to a stop, i stuck my head out the window to see what the problem could be. we had a flat tire. it was so flat that it was actually coming off the rim!
thankfully, the prior week israel had brought this vehicle over to jump-start my vehicle, so i knew where the tool box was…if i hadn’t had seen it i never would have guessed its location. (to reach said tool-box one has to take the actual driver’s seat out of the vehicle (yep out) and the box is underneath the seat. israel was well prepared and had a jack as well as the proper tire tools in said tool-box. praise the lord!
after some finagling the jack was finally under the proper axle and bruce was pumping away to raise the vehicle so we could change the tire. sadly, none of us had taken the size of the spring/shock into account. its quite large. we had pumped the jack all the way to the top to only raise the tire about a centimeter off the ground!
typically, one would just lower the jack, raise the extension and try again. which was totally our intention. however. we couldn’t get the jack to reverse motion. i was really sure that there was a switch, or a screw to release to reverse the motion (down!) but david and bruce weren’t finding one on the jack…
so i did what any self-respecting daughter would do: figure out what time it is in the midwest of the united states, and then called my dad. 🙂 i asked how to reverse the motion on a jack, and he confirmed that there should be something to switch or loosen or something. (you are welcome for a great story to tell as you walked into your meeting, by the way…”my daughter just called from africa…”)
instead of getting down on the ground myself, i peered between the flat tire and the vehicle through to the jack on the ground. i saw the little nob we were aiming for, and promised my companions that we needed to turn that little nob and the jack would lower. i was somehow able to persuade david (who is ugandan, by the way) to climb on under and tinker with the nob until he was able to loosen the nob and lower the jack. we thought we had really achieved something great and were congratulating each other on our brilliance. but we weren’t out of the [bush] yet…
we managed to raise the extension of the jack and get the car back up in the air–and a workable height–david was working on getting the lug-nuts off the tire (yes, i realize that we should have loosened them BEFORE we had the car up in the air. i know, i know) but they were sort of stuck so he was actually pounding on the tool with a rock. (this is as bad of an idea as it sounds.)
all of this pounding, unsurprisingly, had caused the jack to shift and was now precariously sitting at an angle that was threatening to crash at any moment. our celebrations of genius quickly came to an end…
as quickly and safely as possible we lowered the jack (this took longer than perhaps it should have. we may have had a small discussion/debate regarding if we should have all those gathered help us push on the vehicle and remove the jack that way, or if we should really put someone’s head under this large vehicle that could potentially fall… we decided on the latter somehow.).
another debate ensued on how to move forward. one person wanted just put the jack back under the vehicle and try again, one wanted to put a large rock between the sand and the jack, one wanted to put a 2×4 between the axle and the jack. (this 2×4 that was brought to us was a mama’s pillow. yes, they use 2x4s as pillows in the village. comfy.)
at this point, i was no longer being listened to–and was getting frustrated but trying to enjoy the moment of surprise, enjoy the hospitality of the ENTIRE village that had gathered to watch the goings-on (i was given a cup of very fresh milk to drink in the meantime. yum.) and so i walked away with my friend martha.
grace had called a friend in town to come and help us out, and she had walked toward the road to flag him down and show him the way to the village, so we made our way towards her to keep her company. we found her a few dozen feet from the road with a few young men/older boys who were guarding her/keeping her company. so we joined the group and stood around in the dark looking towards town–watching for headlights.
yes, i walked away from my visitors and left them to mess with the car. in my defense, i don’t think they noticed i wasn’t there anymore. grace’s friend paul arrived in his truck and we all rode back to the scene of the flat-tire. paul was in possession of a better jack. he was able to quickly get the vehicle in the air, and get the tire off–and the spare tire on.
lets take a small break to discuss that even well-intended helping can have negative results. grace and david had taken the flat tire and THREW it in the back of the vehicle. which made the jack shift and everyone panicked.
the community flew into action and all hands were applied to the vehicle. it was quite easy to keep it off the ground with just a little effort from each of us. paul and bruce were able to get the jack back in place and the rest of us were relieved to not be holding up the land rover.
the new tire was navigated into position, the lug-nuts were tightened, and the vehicle lowered back to mother earth. we thanked our audience for joining, and for lifting the vehicle…(i also thanked them for my cup of milk) and we were off back to town.
after the fact i learned two interesting things: 1) with the headlights of both of our vehicles in the area, the mzees (older men/elders) thought that the updf (ugandan army) were coming to “disarm” them. they were frightened and were literally running away. (the updf, who is in karamoja to “protect” the people has a bad reputation for “disarming” unarmed persons–many people have been killed. we’re talking old persons and young children. ugh.)
2) israel knew that the tire was bad before he allowed me to borrow his vehicle, but had sent it to be fixed. (he was actually out of town, making things more complicated). in my conversations with israel later, he said that the boy who was to fix the tire is still learning. and here is proof of that fact: there was a nail in the tire the first time it needed to be fixed . said boy patched the tube of the tire but failed to take the nail out. yes, you read that correctly: he failed to take the nail out of the tire. it was inevitable that it was going to go flat again.
as we say around here: TIA.