25/12/2009

Read Along: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer)

"Yet William refused to let go of his dreams."

Having a dream and facing a reality in the other hand will always be in everyone's life. Either he's a Nelson Mandela or a high school student. So does with William Kamkwamba. He was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery (seems not-so-strange-situation in Indonesia, eh?). And also a land, where drought and hunger collide. In other words it's just simply a place where hope and opportunity are hard to find. This William had read a lot about windmills in a book called "Using Energy" and he dreamed of building one, so that he could bring electricity and water to his village. As we know, a road to good is always paved with bad intentions, William's neighbors may have mocked him and called him "misala" (or crazy, in English), but he was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

As a boy he's easily attracted by the workings of electricity, so he set a goal to study science in Malawi top boarding school. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated (this is how his family gain some money for a living). Unable to pay William's tuition fee, which costs them 80 dollar a year, he was forced to drop out and help his family gathering food to eat as thousands slowly starved and died. Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of corn meal in his stomach, a small pile of science textbooks and extra curiosity, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries. In the meantime, only 2 percents of Malawian could afford what west world considers a necessity: running water and electricity. Using only scrap metals, tractor parts and bicycle halves, William succeed in built a crude yet operable windmill. This small miracle could powered four lights, completed with a home made switchers and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. Then came a second machine that turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine in every season. William called his little magic: magetsi a mphepo (electric wind, they may say).

(photos taken from http://blog.goods4good.org)

Soon, his little magic spread beyond the borders of his home and the boy who was once called
misala became an inspiration.

xxx


What I like about reading a memoir, is their wits that closely related to their daily life or even a specific culture. This is what I considered (sometimes) hard to find in fictional works. Or if they existed, it may sounds a bit artificial or being pushed in, so they could go along the stories. But, here's what I found in "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind"

"One of the seasonal workers Uncle John hired to help with planting and harvesting was named Mister Phiri, a man of near-heavenly strength. Uncle John didn't even use tractors to clear the land and trees. Instead he sent Phiri, who was so powerful he'd walk from tree to tree and rip them from the earth as if they were weeds.
Everyone knew Phiri's secret was mangolomera, a form of magic that delivered superhuman strength. Mangolomera was the ultimate self-defense, a king of vaccine against weakness. Only the strongest wizards in the district could administer this potion -a kind of paste made from the burned and ground bones of leopards and lions and mixed with roots and herbs. The medicine was rubbed into small incisions made on each knuckle, usually by a magic razor. Once mangolomera was in your blood, it could never be reversed and was always gaining strength"(p.39)


The story about the windmill is now made into a full-length documentary. Can't wait to see them, hope it would turned out like Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars and Black Gold, which I like it so much.

 
I watched this videos on Mr. Kamkwamba's blog, he showed us how he built the windmill and I watched it over and over and over again. I don't know why I feel the same, as if we shared the passions of struggle to get something we really wanted.

He said "maybe someday you watched this on the internet. I said to you: TRUST YOURSELF AND BELIEVE, WHATEVER HAPPENED DON'T GIVE UP."

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