When we arrived with the container rig at Erasmus' homestead in Mutjiku, we were blown away by what we saw. His entire extended family and many friends and neighbors were gathered outside waiting for us. Groups of children gathered in the shade to witness what was happening.
The offloading process with the truck's built-in lift was amazingly smooth, and so much easier than we had expected from our trials in trying to find a working crane and operator in Botswana last year. There were two moments of panic on our part when the drivers had trouble with an air line fitting and then couldn't get the hydraulic motor started. Both were solved, the box was placed down next to the small office hut that Erasmus and Ludwig had built, and we were ecstatic.
Almost immediately everyone dove into a flurry of activity. While the container was being opened, Erasmus and I rounded up the youth organization that he had founded, Mutjiku Youth Against Crime, who were to be our hired help for the day. As we returned to the container site, we saw that the crowd had grown and grown. Matt, Ken, Ludwig, and Mukena were offloading the bikes at a dizzying pace, and the crowds of local men, women, and children had made a game of matching bikes to their front wheels (removed to pack more into the container). Once both wheels were on, the bikes were then rolled down the path to a store room (formerly a family gathering place) in the middle of Erasmus' homestead. Many of the young boys made a race out of getting the bikes back and forth down the pathway to storage, with ensuing cuteness and hilarity.
I find it hard to put words to what happened that morning. To see the bikes bring such joy on the kids' faces, and excitement to the adults'—it was just indescribable. The whole activity of unloading and matching up bikes and wheels with us trying our best to help instruct the flood of people that were eager to help—it was raucous, chaotic, and one of the most utterly beautiful things I have ever witnessed or been a part of. I can only hope that pictures will do some small amount of justice to the story.