Todayís opening ceremony (aka bullshit) day, and Iím less than surprised that itís running on Cameroon time. During the delay, I receive one of the best presents ever: an authentic African machete. Iíd mentioned my interest in getting one at dinner last night, so a guy who I think was some type of education minister took it upon himself to get me a nice, sharp, heavy one. He gets Steve a badass dagger; Steve wisely turns down my request for a duel. As long as I donít let it remind me of the box of machetes spilling while bound for use in genocide in ďHotel Rawanda,Ē Iím a big fan of my big blade. People were confused by the shirtless sunglassed cracker, but with a ďmatchetĒ Iím even weirder.
And then comes one of those discoveries like finding yourself fond of traveling or long workouts: my first solo ride on a motorcycle will result in me spending much time, effort, and risk on a new habit. I spend more than half my time trying to start from 4th gear, but I get it right and open the large engine up, revving quickly in 3rd gear down the bumpy dirt road. Onlookers seem any combination of amused, weary, and confused. My smileís so big that Iím sure to lose all my teeth if I wipe out. The motorcycleís old and broken, with both the speedometer and tachometer locked at 0 and several kicks required to actually start it, but the exhilaration of somehow flying along atop a large engine and little else comes through as bright and clear as if I was riding a brand new BMW.
I canít quite describe the feeling. Itís a high similar to what I felt skydiving, but I suspect the recklessness of it all is closer to Dr. Strangeloveís feeling as he rides the bomb. I canít have hit a fifth of the speed Iíll reach when I buy a bike and risk U. S. highways, but it still feels as though I shouldnít be able to move this fast. I now understand why Hunter S. Thompson waned poetically about his road test of the Ducati 900SP: riding these things really is an emotional high. Thompsonís also astute to worry about becoming a permanent human sausage: I manage to tip the bike and burn my leg on the exhaust during my brief introduction. I thank the village elder / photographer dude for letting me try his bike, but I should also curse him for reducing my expected lifespan.
The ceremonyís about what one would expect, and the dayís too warm for so much hot air. Itís ostensibly a public forum, but the closest thing to a piercing question is some woman asking if her kids can use the computers. My attempt to offset the shittiness of the mayorís announcement that adults will have to pay for access to the lab consists of a rambling minute in which I tell people to experiment with the computers and not be afraid of breaking them because we already dropped several of them during installation. Yeah: JFK I am not.
Lunch has a large side of budget bullshit. Not worth getting into detail over; suffice it to say there seems to be little relation between intelligence and ability to manage (or even keep track of) money. My jaw literally drops when I learn that people expected our project money to cover a $300 bribe that got our luggage into the country and that much more had been grafted during the computersí entry. Nothing like finding your charity supports a significant chunk of a countryís corruption...
Bamenda yet again for the rest of the day. We hit the internet cafť for some printer software as a finishing touch on the lab. This takes hours, as the satellite connection doesnít do well in the intermittent thunderstorms. I find the electricianís cargo crate shop to little avail: heís found none of the 16-odd cables we need to power up the full lab at once.
Dinner at the monastery then an attempt to install the printer. It works, and weíve installed it on ~half of the machines when a thick cloud of smelly white smoke erupts from the damn thing. Bringing 2 printers at 70some pounds each has resulted in a yield of 140 pounds of useless junk. Iím done: time to wrap up this damn lab and go sleep at the creepy monastery. Iím looking forward to finally making my way out of the armpit of Africa tomorrow.