Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fixing a flat tire in Ghana

At the end of our beach holidays we drove back from Axim to Accra. Our friends had sent their SUV with a driver to pick us up at the beach resort. Suddenly, we were near the old capital of Ghana Cape Coast, our driver pulled the car in a filling station, telling us that he had noticed a strange sound. I then walked around the car, and noticed that one of the tires was flat. At the filling station, however, they told us that they were only equipped to pump gas and could not exchange our spare tire. Suddenly, and without comment, our driver disappeared, taking the car keys with him. We could do nothing but wait in the hot sun and make sure that our belongings left in the unlocked car stayed where they were. We were very relieved when 15 minutes later our driver came back, bringing with him a powerfully built young man in a mechanic’s overall. The young man then searched for our car jack, which, as it turned out, was not working. The young man disappeared again, and 20 minutes later, came back with an old car jack, and ten minutes later our spare tire was put properly in place, and we could resume our trip.

I then asked our driver if it would be possible to have our flat tire fixed immediately. He assured me that this would be no problem, and another ten minutes later pulled over at what appeared to me to be a tiny shack in the midst of a large collection of small market stands along the road. Our particular stand had four broken tires heaped in front of it. It turned out the wiry little man in the shack was operating a bustling flat tire fixing business. Only using the most primitive tools, it took him no time to plug the hole in our tire and put the tire back on the rim. Then, with the one sophisticated piece of equipment he had, a fuel-operated compressor, he put the air back into our inflated tire. It’s amazing how the swarm can fix things.

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