Fixing Things in Tanzania

Fr. Jim Donohue.

The Formation House in Morogoro is about seven or eight years old, but there are many things that need repair. Unfortunately, the quality of the building materials is not what we are used to in North America. The water has a high mineral content so there is much corrosion of any water piping, faucets, showers, toilets, etc. Consequently, there is hardly a day that goes by without someone telling me about something that just broke and needs fixing.

For instance, the rubber pipe that moves the water from the well to the water tower is constantly in need of repair. Since is becomes brittle, the pipe will crack and then there is not enough water pressure to move the water up to the tank.

This is a photo of our well…the well is over 40 meters deep. The water is pumped from here to the water tank on our highest roof, where it is dispersed to the different buildings. Mario is usually our “go-to-guy” for fixing the well…he knows what to do and manages to get us back online in a day or two.

You might remember that some our repairs are needed because of self-inflicted wounds, such as the gate being knocked off its moorings by a new driver!

Repairs 4

Other repairs are of a more creative nature. We had a large garden that looked terrible. Francis volunteered to take the garden on as a project. He has really transformed it into something that is quite beautiful. Thanks, Francis!

Plants grow so quickly here that we are always cutting back and trimming trees, and then disposing of the branches.

The other major area of repair are the vehicles. The Canadian Province of the Congregation of the Resurrection bought us a new Toyota Landcruiser and a new Toyota Hilux (pickup truck). Both are in good shape, but the two older vehicles are in constant need of repair. First and foremost is the need to repair and replace tires because of the poor roads.

Unfortunately, you cannot leave your car and let them fix it without you around. Too many people will try to “fool” you by either using poor quality parts or inflating repair costs. This means that you have to “hang around” to watch over things, and even go to buy the parts yourself for them to be installed. This creates, of course, much wasted time. Sometimes I will go with Mario just to accompany him because this is a rather tedious job.

We all appreciate the time and efforts that Mario puts into keeping the vehicles on the road and keeping us safe when we use the vehicles.

By the way, we only use the Nissan pickup and the van for local driving.

Unfortunately, we had an accident with the new Hilux a few weeks ago. Mario and I drove to Dar es Salaam to take Fr. Toby to the airport. On the way back, Mario and I decided to pull into a rest stop so that I could take over the driving. Mario did everything correctly: he signaled his turn, he slowed down, and he looked. But just as he turned right—remember we drive on the opposite side here—someone decided to try to pass or “overtake” us. So, he crashed into the right side of the car. He also hit another car that was pulling out onto the highway, but that car left because the damage was small.

You can tell that it is a government car from the red license plate. At first the driver admitted that it was his fault, but as time passed, he started to waffle. I had no idea what one does in these circumstances. Mario told me that we should try to get money from them so that we could fix the car. At first, they wanted to give us 150,000 TSH (about $70 USD). We were asking for 300,000 TSH (about $130 USD) even though I figured that it would be closer to 500,000 TSH (about $230 USD).

None of the people spoke English and when they went to their car to consult, Mario told me that I should look very angry and keep gesturing at the car and pointing to the damage. As they walked over to us, I went into action. Before they made it all the way to us, they turned around and got more money: 300,000 TSH. In any case, I took it to the Toyota dealership the next day and they fixed so that it looked as good as new. Cost: 500,000 TSH. So, we had to pay some money, even though it was not our fault. But, under the circumstances, it seemed to work out as well as possible.

This experience reminded me that I cannot drive alone when I go on a longer trip to Dar es Salaam or to our parishes in Butiama or Buhemba, even if I know the way, I just do not know enough Swahili or even the ways that things get resolved. I have even more respect for the Polish men—Fr. Andrzej, Fr. Daniel, and Fr. Maciej—who are so enculturated that they can handle these situations.

An editorial note: speaking of repairs, my iPhone was giving me trouble and, finally, last week, it died. Well, I should probably say that it was killed. I took it to a repair shop in Morogoro. The man assured me that he could fix it, but after two days, it hardly worked at all! This means that it is difficult for me to take photos now. I might only have one or two more blogs before I return to North America when I can get a new iPhone in late August or early September.

More to come on

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