One of our daily joys (or nuisances, depending on the day) is biking. Our house is situated a smidgeon outside of Mlandizi, so even if we aren’t biking to the villages, we usually have to head to town to pick up veg at the market. We have come a long way from that first day the whole team headed out on our fleet of cruisers. They’ve picked up names along the way: Pink Lady, Ricky Ross, Cash Money, Red Rocket, Fromage (aka: Cheese), Cyclisme, and Greased Lightning (or the Bright White Sports Car…it’s a working name).
We came to Tanzania with ample warning of the potholes, sand patches, pikipiki’s jetting by uncomfortably close, and the ominous Mwanabwito hill. While mentally prepared for what was ahead, our physical skills took time to catch up. The first ride was accompanied by a string of curses as we rattled along the roads. The team has had only a few minor spills and as our confidence increases, we are able to enjoy our daily rides and the entertainment that follows suit.
My favourite bike experience came yesterday, on our third day of bed net sales. Myself, our translator Issa, and Margaret (a member of MEC, a local CBO that will be taking the reigns of bed net sales) were stationed in Kidai. Lunch was had in Mwanabwito, a 10-minute bike ride away. I was on my own, as Issa was fasting for Ramadan and Margaret had to pop into town. After a hearty meal of fish, at least 3 cups of rice, and mchicha I was set to bike back to Mwanabwito. We toyed with different options for getting lunch to Margaret, all relatively unviable: Stella packing it in a bucket and riding side-saddle on a my bike; putting it in a plastic bag (none were to be found); riding one hand on the handle bars, one hand with lunch (not public health).
The handy man’s secret weapon held the answer and we opted for duct taping it to the rattrap on the back of the bike. Some met the idea with hesitation, but I watched Red Green as a child and had faith that, if fastened securely, Margaret would receive her lunch in one piece. How wrong I was.
The road to Kidai was a lovely route: smooth dirt roads, relatively few sand patches, and small dips you can coast along. A few weeks ago, they took advantage of a bout of rain and tore up the road leaving a jagged, rocky, and sandy road in its place. The perfect route to bounce along with a tinfoil container full of rice taped to your bike.
I don’t blame the roads. I don’t even blame my reckless biking. I blame a flimsy lid compromised by a banana. Had it been a cardboard lid rather than a piece of shoddy tinfoil, the banana wouldn’t have entered into the equation.
Our presence while walking or biking through the villages is widely exclaimed by children and adults alike. “Hi” “How are you?” “What’s my name?” or “Mzunugu!” follow us everywhere. Cruising along I noticed two things: I was getting a significant amount of particulates in my shoe and what they were yelling at me wasn’t our customary greeting. After a few bouts of responding “Poah!” to confused looks and my curiosity regarding the particularly sticky dirt in my shoe growing, I looked back to see rice and mchicha spraying out of the doggy bag strapped to my bike. The lumps and bumps had cause the banana to indent the structurally unsound lid, letting the contents squeak out the sides. It was in the wheel well, the spokes, and the chain. The backs of my legs were covered in tomato sauce. I’m not even sure I want to know what happened to the fish.
Morally opposed to ditching the package on the side of the road I had to keep on keepin’ on, hoping
Margaret wasn’t there when I got back. Fortunately she was still gone and Issa engrossed by other work. I subtly tried to pull the container off the back of my bike while some children sat nearby, perplexed by my actions. The duct taped proved that it was an effective means of fusing the container to the bike, despite being void of it’s former contents. I opted to scrunch it up and pretend nothing happened.
Then the chickens came. Chicken’s run around about pretty willy-nilly. A bike covered in rice, tomato sauce, and veg gave the chicken’s purpose. They flocked to my bike, sitting on the pedals, rattrap, and seat. It’s very had to play it cool that there isn’t anything going on with your bike when it’s become a feeding frenzy for rogue birds. Needless to say, my cover was blown.
Melkiory get’s phone calls when we do stupid things. I can only imagine this one: “The silly mzungu was riding through the village, spraying rice higgledy-piggledy about. There was rice everywhere you hear me, EVERYWHERE! And you know what she had to say for herself? ‘Poah!’ ”.