Sunday, 3 July 2016

Car Trouble

I've had my fair share of car trouble in the UK - a cam belt which broke just out of warranty, a tyre that blew on the motorway, and even being driven into by a lorry on a one-way system! At home, the AA have always come to my rescue but unfortunately in Zambia there's no AA or RAC. The roads are in a much worse condition here so they also cause more damage to vehicles.

We are very fortunate to have had a 4x4 donated to the Arise project. This means that we are able to visit people supported by Arise who live out in the bush. We're also able to use the vehicle for personal use, as long as we pay for the petrol and maintenance. The car is a real blessing because buying a vehicle here would cost a considerable amount of money. It also gives us a bit of independence and stops us feeling claustrophobic or lonely whilst living in the compound in Kaniki.

The Arise vehicle in the workshop

In Zambia it is a legal requirement to carry two warning triangles in your vehicle in case you break down. I have been stopped several times by the police to check this. If people don't have warning triangles, they often lay large branches out in the road instead. This works until someone then forgets to move them and they become an obstruction.

When living here the best thing you can do is to take care of your vehicle and learn the basics of vehicle maintenance. Our friends who live nearby and run a charity called Mechanics for Africa were recently offering a two-day course on vehicle maintenance and basic servicing. My sister Rhi was keen to go and so I somewhat reluctantly agreed to join her.

Rhi the keen bean

It was an excellent course and I would recommend it to anyone living here in Ndola. It pushed me out of my comfort zone because although I usually feel reasonably confident at school or on courses, it was a different kettle of fish when learning about transmission fluid, suspension and differentials. We spent some time in the classroom learning about basic servicing and how things work, and then we had time in the workshop trying it out. We were assured that there was no such thing as a stupid question, although my friend Holly and I may have tested that theory!

Our instructor

Holly in the workshop

Little did I know how useful the first day of the course would prove to be. The course was on Saturday, and on the following Monday Rhi and I discovered we had a flat tyre. We were determined to change the wheel ourselves and although it took a while, we did manage it in the end. Unfortunately my skinny arms didn't quite have the strength needed to remove the nuts from the wheel. Despite being somewhat impractically dressed in a pencil skirt and flip flops, jumping up and down on the lever eventually did the trick.

Changing the tyre

On the second day of the course we learned how to change brake pads and transmission fluid. Although I’m not too sure how many of the advanced skills I will be able to put into practice by myself, the course has been really helpful in teaching me a bit more about what a mechanic might mean when they explain something about the car. Girl power lives on!

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