My dad’s a morning person. My mum’s more of a night owl. If parental characteristics come a la carte, I’m picking off my mama’s menu. So when a digital cock heralded a quarter past stupid my enthusiasm for traipsing out in ice and snow to catch an early eastbound bus, was somewhat less than immense.
But immense or not, that’s exactly what I did last Saturday morning to meet up with several other Camara Galway volunteers on a fact-finding, factory-floor familiarising trip to the big brother that is the Dublin Camara HQ. We rendezvoused in the coach station to board a ten to ridiculous bus. And with James Bond like last minute timing, we left no man behind. Just a little less pliers-cut wire, a little more floated olive.
The world and its mother were on the bus, so this enforced displaced seating allowed some of the lucky ones to catch some M6 style zzzzs. The beautiful east-rising sun sparkled low over a magical snow covered greenness. We were a little concerned that the planned march in the city due to be taking off a while after we landed might pose us some problems, but as we arrived at Bachelor’s Walk, we spotted the crowds alright but were unhindered.
Straight to the hostel, via a brief yet leisurely perusal of the wares on offer in Saturday morning’s Temple Bar market, we checked everyone into their accommodation for the night and then continued up Thomas Street. Overlooking the starting point of the March, we paused to ponder what would become of it, but resisted its orbital pull to press on past Wood Quay and watch a smaller gathering working on a different goal. Eoghan welcomed us to the hub, and after signing in it was off on tour. I had been in the hub before but for most of the group it was their first time, and gave everyone a chance to see what happened the computers we had been collecting in the Galway hub on the next step of the journey towards their destination. They may not be all red and green patchwork suits, and maybe it’s the time of year, but there’s something of the Santa’s elves about the volunteers beavering away at their stations. Strip a hard drive out here, lash an ergonomic keyboard into a red bin there, fire a white mouse into a vat with its buddies there. A disassembling, disseminating, rebuilding, repackaging process. It’s impressive in terms of its scale, vision, ruthlessness and sense of a well oiled machine that it is.
Eoghan led us on the tour, explaining what’s done where why, and answering any questions we had along the way. If you haven’t seen it already, he has a five minute YouTube tour of it on Camara’s site. It’s a truncated version of what we got, but definitely gives you a sense of things.
Ruthlessness? Hang on, what did he mean by ruthlessness a minute ago? A lot of used computer equipment comes into Camara. Much from the private donation world and much from the corporate sector. Nothing leaves the workshop to head out to Africa if it hasn’t undergone testing and been deemed fit to serve five years more of its life out in Africa. And that’s where the discarding of unfit equipment seems ruthless. As Eoghan said, there’s nothing worse than sending a computer out to Africa and discovering a button on a keyboard doesn’t work. The minimum spec of a machine is constantly revised upwards to provide a better product and that which doesn’t make the grade, is stripped of what’s valuable, with its carcass sent off to registered recyclers in Ireland.
A post tour coffee, mini choc chip muffin and yapping session in the kitchen later, and it was off out of Camara and into the neighbour’s for a self guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Fifteen years of living in that town and I never once darkened its door. Merely mused at all the tourists pottering about with its branded paper bags. And what a class place it was too. It’s for a different site’s blog to go into that one, but suffice to say, next time you find yourself with a free hour after visiting the camara hub, pop into the neighbour’s. Have a gloak about and savour a pint of the finest in the highest pub in the city with a 360º view over all she surveys.
Conan Sweeny – Camara Volunteer, Galway.