Saturday, October 6, 2012

Infrastructure: Part One

I never expected great infrastructure in Africa, but in a post colonial country I knew it would be better than in most surrounding places. The colonial whites that ran the state up until a little over thirty years ago set standards higher here. Paved roads in the cities are expected.  Water systems, electrical grids, parks, etc all set up years ago allowed the city to operate closer to a first world nation status than third.  But the thirty years since with no maintenance of its infrastructure has left a 1970s city crumbling and sent the nation back to the third world.

This past week we visited the only fire station in this metropolitan area of approximately 3 million people. (Note to self, do not require the fire department during your time here.)  In 2011 the fire station had only 2 operational fire engines; this year a wealthy man donated two more.  While my little boy was tickled with the fire engines, I walked around shocked at the overworked operations of a single department for the entire capitol.

We often joke that we are living in the fifties or sixties here.  Driving laws, safety of playgrounds, the use of carseats, etc, are all about where they were fifty years ago in the US.  Above is the "control center" of the fire station.... two telephones sit on a desk, with maps (so old they do not show any of the city's growth from the previous 30 or 40 years) taped on the surrounding walls.  Blurred out some faces for privacy.

Here Jonas poses next to the city's crest, which can be found painted on each fire engine.

Behind the station sits an empty five-story building used for training.  

The fire station is famous for owning one of the oldest fire trucks in the world. From approximately 1920, there is only one other fire truck like it in the world, located in France.  Rumor has it the French have tried repeatedly to buy this truck, but the government will not sell it because it is valuable.  So it sits outside rusting behind the fire station.  

 The firefighters were extremely friendly.  Jonas and I got to take a ride on the street sitting on the front seat of this wailing fire engine.  (There is no such thing as liability here. Carseats, what?)