Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meters and feet

This week I'm starting my big new experiment in the field. We've been prepping for it the last few days. Unfortunately, I realized about 5 days ago that I didn't have enough of one of the supplies that is essential to this experiment. I thought I might be short, but I thought I had enough to start and then I could ask Sam to bring more when he comes in a few weeks, but it turns out I was way too short- I had about 1/3 of what I needed. When I calculated how much I needed before I left, I calculated it in meters, but then I bought it in feet. What a stupid mistake!

So, this put me on a mad hunt for more of this stuff, and fast. This meant going to the nearest city. I got the name and number of a hardware store from someone in Nyota, and it sounded like the guy had something suitable. I asked around to try and get a lift to town, but I had to go the very next day since there was no flexibility in my schedule and this was now urgent. I didn't find a lift, which meant getting up well before dawn to catch the !#@$*^%$ Nyota bus. I hate the Nyota bus.

It took me 3 hours just to get to the nearest sealed road on the Nyota bus (that's about double what it should take). Once there, I had to get another bus to the city. Before that though, Jon and I talked on the phone for a while and he was having a terrible day and I was trying to be supportive but I hadn't eaten breakfast yet and he was crying and I was crying in this narrow corridor between two buildings at the bus stand. I was feeling so overwhelmed. But I sucked it up, put on my best don't-mess-with-me face and then caught the next bus to the city.

I haven't really been to this city before, in spite of its proximity to Nyota as the nearest place for things like fast internet and western food. Cam drew me a map, and I navigated my way to the shop that said they had the supplies I needed. The shop owner was extremely kind and helpful, but it turned out they didn't have exactly what I needed or have enough of an alternative. By the time I left that shop, it was after 11 am and in order to catch the Nyota bus I had to leave the city by 12 or 12:30. There was no way I'd make it.

I spent the next 2 or 3 hours going from shop to shop asking where I could get the supplies I needed. I rode on the back of bicycles all over town, going in circles and criss-crossing my path. At each shop they helped direct the next bicycle driver to the next one. I was determined not to leave until I had found something I could use. Finally, I ended up at a little shop that Cam goes to frequently for his supplies, and they had something suitable. 

At that point I had missed my chance for catching the Nyota bus, so I decided to make the most of my time in the city. I got my lost phone number replaced,  drank some cold, fresh juice, withdrew money, and shopped at the used clothing market. Only then did I start heading back towards Nyota.

There's just one bus to and from Nyota every day. It leaves Nyota before dawn and drives to the nearest town, then leaves mid-afternoon to come back. If you miss that bus, then your options are 1) hire a taxi or 4wd- very expensive. 2) catch a lift with a car or lorry headed to Nyota, 3) hire a motorcycle to take you, or 4) wait until the next day. I was really hoping to catch a lift, but it was too late in the day for many vehicles to be headed that way. I called people I knew in Nyota to ask if they knew anyone coming back on a motorcycle who I could ride with but no luck there. In the end, I hired a motorcycle to drive me for about 5 times as much as the bus ($10). The 70-minute trip on the crappy, narrow, curvy road (without my helmet) is probably the most dangerous thing I've done in Ukenzagapia.

I arrived back in Nyota 12 hours after I left. It took an entire day. All because of stupid meters and feet... and the Nyota bus.


Megan said...

Sorry you had a crappy day. Know that all of us at home are still rooting for you! *hugs*

African Fieldworker said...

Oh, one of those days...they suck, sorry to hear it and hope you're able to get what you need! Is this something that may be in a city further away (like the big city with the international airport)? if so, you could probably pay someone to go and pick for you (although you would have to trust them to get the right thing)

Karina said...

I was able to find something suitable. Not exactly what I'd hoped, but it'll do!