This journey has proven and disproved many thoughts and ideas I had about the world. Many of the ideas I have come from movies I have seen. Most of the time when I see an American Hollywood movie about a place I just assume that everything is dramatized and most likely adapted to make the movie more exciting.
“Blood Diamond” with Leonardo Decaprio is one of those films. In the movie the reoccurring phrase was TIA, which stands for This is Africa. When I saw the film I knew Africa would be different. I figured this phrase was just some Hollywood BS. I first heard this phrase when we entered Mauritania, and it seems to ring true at least once each day. In Mauritania we changed some money and when the man exchanging the cash gave us the local currency, it was tattered and ripped to the point that we could not believe that anyone would accept it. In Central Asia sometimes they would not accept bills that had even a small mark on them, so we argued with him saying we wanted better bills. He responded by saying, “Man, this is Africa, they will take it.” We agreed and moments later they accepted this battered currency without a second look.
Later when we arrived at the Senegalese border from Mauritania we were having trouble with the border guards trying to charge “taxes.” At the border we met a French Fish Scientist living in Dakar named Antoine. He helped us deal with it, loaned us some money to get in as we had no local currency and escorted us to St. Louis to a hotel as it was getting dark. We talked with him later and asked him what he thought about the bribes we were being asked pay. His response was, “You can try to wait it out and not have to pay, it is all just a matter of time, but it depends on how much time you are willing to give up to save $10 or $20.” He went on, “Once, out of principal, I decided I would wait over $20, I waited all night long, this is Africa.”
Since we have been here we have had trouble finding water, food, a place to exchange money, a place to get money, a place to get gas, and more. Just the other day I was fixing a leak in the tire on Little Pepe. It was a particularly bad hole, so it took well over an hour in blazing heat to repair. Then I needed to get air for the tire, before putting it back on the car. Just for a little adventure, I decided to roll the tire down the street to find a place myself. Immediately, I found a better more African idea…get someone with a pushcart to help me.
A young man was eager to make a little money, and with the dirt in my face and more difficult rolling through the dirt than I expected, I was ready for some help.
We made our way down to the closest tire shop and the kid working there dropped everything to help. Unfortunately, the setup he had for filling the tires led to a much more involved process than I expected. He had to remove the inside of the valve put air in and then scramble to get it all back together before the air leaked out. At 60 PSI this is a very interesting process. Diligent as he was the tire is now full and back on Little Pepe to a perfect 60 PSI. The tire is full, this is Africa.
It is Michelin, how can you go wrong.