On my return from Africa I had a yearning to get out on the bike, the call of nature was strong, my body was telling me it wanted to assume the position. So, I've managed to clock up over 500 miles since last week, including demo rides of the new Triumph Tiger 800 XRT and BMW F 850 GS.
The Tiger is a lovely bike, but the GS has pipped it for me. Riding the GS I was hardly conscious of my body moving at all, it seemed that all I needed was to think about where to go and that was where I went. I really like it when that happens, it feels like the machine and I are not separate but one and the same. On reflection, I think that statement is quite true.
In my former life I used to be a bit of a process improvement nut and even qualified as a Lean Six Sigma green belt at one stage. You could be excused for thinking it’s some kind of martial art practised on skinny people, but no, it’s a methodology with super complex statistical analysis built in at each stage (for Brainy people, which is why I never got to Black Belt) which aims to Define, Measure, Analyse and then ultimately Improve and Control a system (DMAIC for short).
In the Analyse phase, there’s an approach you use called the ‘5 Whys’. It’s just as it appears, you posit a statement and ask Why? five times to drill down to the root cause. Although more strictly a problem-solving tool, I like to use this whenever I’m trying to understand better the reasons for anything. If you follow this metaphorical piece of frayed cotton thread you often uncover rich detail and see things with a whole lot more colour, as well as often understand yourself and other people better.
As I write this it is the Muslim celebration of Eid and I’m in Tanzania. There’s a definite air of holidays about the day. Call to prayer started at the usual time of 5am but this time went on until 7am, with about four Mosques competing audibly within a square kilometre. In terms of denominations, there are more Christians here but a sizeable number of Muslims as well so the Government acknowledges important events on both calendars with official holidays.
Bikers are worldly. They’ve seen things, man. They have perspective, probably the result of always looking farther ahead than most people. Well, you know, the vanishing point and all that. It may seem like a tenuous connection, but it’s actually not.
I mentioned in an earlier post that where you look is where you go.. not only on the bike but in your head. If you look towards the negative, that’s going to be where you end up. I live by that rule.
Tanzania does not have much of a culture of prevention yet. This is what businesses are up against here, the ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ mindset. Trouble with that and motorcycle maintenance (or any kind of maintenance of course) is that to ignore a problem that is developing is to prepare yourself for a bigger problem and potential accident in the future. It’s this culture that meant that the eRanger ambulance motorcycles, donated by the Tanzanian government to hospitals around the country, stopped working after 1000 km. They were not maintained, the locals didn’t know how and they didn’t assign a priority to the task. That's how they ended up in Claire's workshop to be repaired.
So, unfortunately the Pikilily project as it stands has to be shut down. I won’t go into details here, this video post – raw and totally unscripted – gives all the details. What it does not show you is the events of the last 48 hours which demonstrated the strength and resilience of the human spirit and the determination of a lady who will never give up.
Shit happens. It happens a lot here, every day. Big shit, not the kind you and I are used to, like leaving your phone charger in a hotel room you’ve just checked out of, but the kind that determines whether or not you and your kids will eat today. Seeing that first hand is a pretty humbling experience, listening to wages being defined not so much in money but in food purchasing terms. When the girls at Pikilily ask for wages, it’s food that is always the primary reason they’re asking for.
I had the privilege of joining a camping safari here in Tanzania with four strangers, at least that’s how they started out, now they’re good friends. That’s what happens when you rough it for a couple of nights – you’ll ether want to hug or stab your companions after sharing just a few hours in a small confined space. It’s the combination of the closeness, lack of showers, only very basic toilet facilities with … umm.. interesting odours and night sounds coming from predatory animals and humans which, let’s face it, are sleeping practically next to you with only a thin bit of tarpaulin. That’s the humans by the way, to the best of my knowledge…