Aye, Another Loovely Day in This Fair Country

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Engineering school creates good problem solving skills, but does not do much for my imagination and creativity. My brain is a bit rusty, but I have here attempted to boot up my old sense of rhythm. It’s slowly coming. Check back by the end of the summer and maybe I’ll have something good.

Anyway a description of Thursday’s activities in the finest and most elegant poetic form, the Limerick:

 

First we’d mark out every five feet

And set a slope with finest technique

We’d prop up PVC

Eye it and agree

Our success was slow-coming but sweet

 

We only finished one building today

Half another is now under way

We worked like 10 hours

Past what the sun would allow’r

We might have to work on Sunday

 

Today we rented a drill

That had concious emotions and will

It ran free and clear

Whene’er Julius was near

But when with us, pretended its current was nil

 

Today Joey built our first flush

From glue, his brain might turn mush

He sealed all the joints tight

All the angles were right

So that with rain, dirty water will gush.

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Totally Tubular Torrential Time in Titus’s Tenacious Tubur!

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This morning after a short meeting with some folks at Pilgrim, the MFP team went to the Tubur site and the water team worked on first-flush systems.

In Soroti on our way out to Tubur, we stopped so that Julius, the engine operator/mechanic, could pick up a big hammer. The goal with Tubur today was to replace a bearing seal for the main journal bearing, which meant that we had to remove one of the massive flywheels. When Julius began working on getting the flywheel off of the axle we realized exactly how big the “big hammer” was… it kind of resembled Thor’s hammer. In fact, we have decided that Julius is Thor — or stronger than Thor because he broke the hammer’s head and then fixed it by smashing in a nail. In the end, Joey and Julius got the MFP running! Parts still need to be replaced and they need a new fuel tank (right now they’re using a plastic jerry can), but the MFP is finally up and running. I’ll update pictures tomorrow of the site so you guys can see.

Rohan and I were able to take a little side trip to the top of the tallest rock in Tubur, a whopping 25 feet. We took a roundabout route because we thought the rocky way up would be too difficult, but then we saw all the kids from town climbing up and down (some of these kids were also carrying babies) and decided that we could handle it on the way down.

Joey would also like to comment that he predicted tonight’s torrential downpour via his collarbone.

BTW FYI… If you couldn’t tell by the title, Titus grew up in Tubur and Joey’s middle name is James.

Skittles and a Lazy Sunday

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Joey’s First Post

So Joey is our professional EWB mentor. He works with us throughout the year, giving us advice for our projects, and then volunteers to travel with us over the summer

**Disclaimer: We had to edit Joey’s post for content, this is a family blog people, gotta keep it PG

After a 12 hour flight to Dubai with a 12 hour layover and another 5 hour flight to Entebbe, Uganda, I finally have made it to Soroti for the second time.  It has definitely been a long awaited return since 2008.  Today, we played with children, and not in the creepy Michael Jackson type of way, but with a Frisbee.   It was a ton of fun.  I found a lizard in my suitcase today, I will name him Skittles and I will care for him until I leave.  I hope he enjoys crushed mosquitoes, because that is all I have to offer him at this time.   The team was also able to give me a quick tour of the progress with the rainwater harvesting system, and I have to be honest, it needs work.  But, I am proud of their progress.  They have made their mamma duck proud!  All-in-all it was a great day, except for the part where I almost died in the car on the drive from Kampala, but I am here and alive so, a great day.  Oh yeah, I already have a mosquito bite and I am pissed!

The actual post:

Sorry for no posts yesterday, but David was our resident blogger and now he’s back in New York, so I guess I’m going to have to pick up the slack and actually write my first post.

Today, while Joey and Harrison were on the road from Kampala, Rohan, Allison, Bethany, and I explored Soroti. We stopped at a video store to pick up some questionable copies of DVDs, and then went to visit some of the bookstores in town. We’ve all spent a lot of time reading, so by now we’ve gone through all of the books that we brought with us. In Soroti, there are a bunch of stores that are called bookstores, but they don’t actually sell any books. But on the recommendation of Grace, the manager of our guest-house, we tried two bookstores. Most of the space in the store was dedicated to textbooks and paper, but they did have a small selection of classic novels and works by African authors.

After leaving the bookstore we were walking to lunch when we stumbled upon what looked like an alley lined with small shops and stalls, but actually led to a huge market. Although we got there a little late in the day for a typical market there were still a ton of people. As we weaved our way through the canopy of stalls, vendors were constantly trying to attract our attention, and of course the little kids would scream “muzungo hi” constantly. There was a ton of produce, and huge sacks of rice and beans for sale. There were also a bunch of seamstresses sewing clothing. Allison tried to hire a woman to make her a skirt, but there was a bit of a language barrier, and none of us trusted our drawing skills enough to sketch the type of skirt she wanted, so no luck there.

We finally met up with Joey, Harrison, and Edward, who drove them up to Soroti from Kampala. After grabbing a quick bite in town, we headed over to the school to hang out with the students. While Allison and I tried to get some Ateso lessons, the guys played some version of ultimate Frisbee with the students. I’m not really sure who won, but Joey was complaining that the kids lied to him about the rules, so who knows what really happened.

Tomorrow we’re splitting up again, half of us will be going to Tubur to visit the MFP site, and the other half will be at school working on the downspouts and first flush systems.

Downspouts Can’t Keep Us Down!

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While yesterday work seemed to move smoothly with the completion of the three tanks, today work was a bit rougher. Now that we had the tanks and the gutters up, we were trying to put up the PVC pipes that would take the rainwater to the storage tanks. First we had to create the downspouts, which connects the gutters to the pipes. This turned out to be harder than expected, and it took us until lunch to make the first one.  Luckily though, after making one, it became easy (for Julius) to make the rest and we got them made and installed by the end of the day.

On the way to lunch though, we had another memorable moment. We decided to take some Boda-Bodas to the restaurant in town. Boda-Bodas are pretty much bicycle taxis that have an extra passenger seat on the back of them. So while we making our way to town, Bethany’s skirt got caught in the bicycle spoke! The “driver” had to stop, and another man had to cut a patch out of the bottom of her skirt’s outer lining to get her loose! Luckily  Bethany, except for some embarrassment, was perfectly fine. But from there Bethany decided that it would probably be best for her to walk the rest of the way.

Today we made an important decision: Instead of our daily trek to Marisa Fast Foods for lunch, we were going to try Sipi Falls Cafe. It was about time too, because we have been eating at the same three places in Soroti since we reached, and it was really nice to have a little diversity. Though when our orders were being taken, diversity was not on our minds. They only had one menu item available, which was the chicken. They didn’t even have “Chicken Oriental”—just plain chicken. So we ended up with four plates of chicken and fries. It was good though, so I’m not complaining! Another exciting thing about the restaurant is that our food came in less than ten minutes, instead of the usual 30-40! I just hope it’s not because there was only one thing on the menu. lol

So after lunch, we kept on working and, as I mentioned before, made good progress with the downspouts. I was able to sneak away for some of the time though, because I have been working this week with one of the students, Baker, on a project. Baker wants to be a journalist and had asked me on Sunday to teach him how to edit videos. Luckily, I had taken a TV production class and I’m able to do him one better. I’m showing him how to put together a news segment. So this week we have gone over the basics, written a script, done some filming, and got some interviews. Right now we are working on editing all of it and putting it all together. Hopefully, we’ll have it all finished in a couple of days.

My personal favorite part of the day was a soccer match the students were playing in. It was the students who came from one district (which includes Soroti and Tabur) versus the students from another one (which includes Orungo and Usuk). All the students who were not playing were watching the game, and they were really into it. There was constant cheering throughout the game, and whenever there was a save by the goalie or even a goal, the kids went crazy. They would start screaming, jumping up and down, rolling on the grass, and just running around the field in celebration. It was so fun to be there with them and not only watch the impressive play, but feel the excitement and intensity the students had for the game. The cutest part was that at the end of the game, the winning team got a “trophy” which was a large water bottle decorated with paper and made to look like the World Cup trophy. The winning students ran around the field holding the trophy high in the air!

Tomorrow is our day off, and I think we are all looking forward to getting  a chance to relax and explore more of Soroti, and maybe even do some shopping. So we’ll be sure to keep you updated on all of the adventures we have tomorrow!

The installed taps

The Trophy Cup -- er, Water Bottle!

Football fans, camera fans, muzungu fans

Mission Accomplished, June 3

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Yesterday, we learned that the Pilgrim Office would be closed today because of “Martyr’s Day.” With a Ugandan accent, this sounds alot like “Mother’s Day,” which spawned some confusion. According to today’s issue of the “Daily Monitor” (Truth Every Day), the holiday commemorates the deaths of 45 early converts to Christianity in Uganda.

We started the morning a bit late, as we were still saying our goodbyes to David and our “see you soon”‘s to Harrison (David’s bodyguard, as I told the students today when asked why Harrison had gone with him).  We worked on finishing the gutters on the window side of the longest building, S1-S4, 127 feet long. We are sloping the gutters to have their lowest point 50 feet from the tank, and plan to connect the downspout to the tanks with lengthy PVC pipes.

Pilgrim has also hired a plumber to help us with any of our tank/pipe installation needs. He works for the plumbing store where we bought almost all of our supplies. While we worked on gutters, the plumber carried around a miniature stove of hot coals, and used heat and properly sized pipe fittings to melt his holes through the tank. He melted holes for the overflow at the top of the tank, the tap stand, and a wash valve. The tap is about 5 cm higher than the absolute bottom of the tank. The plumber says that that will let dirt stay at the bottom and not come out in the drinking water. We had thought that having the tap as low as possible would allow us to completely empty the tank, and thus minimize bacterial growth, but we deferred to the experience of the plumber. (In our trip preparation, we had known very little about the structure of the tank, and whether or not it would come with suggested faucet attachments, so our plans for the faucet in our report are a bit vague, because we didn’t know what we would find).

He explained that to clean the tank, he would climb inside the tank, shovel out most of the sediments, and wash the rest out through the wash valve. To me, it sounded like this regular cleaning service was a benefit that came from purchasing the tank from this company, but I mean to confirm this with the plumber.

I interrupted the plumber’s work for a bit to show him the drill bits we had bought to make the tank’s water level gauge, an unnecessary component of the rainwater harvesting system that I had spent loads of time planning for.

After lunch (and a trip to MY Supermarket to purchase bottled water, a newspaper, and candy), our plumber finished up the tank attachments. We worked one tank at a time to get all the fittings in, and then would call all the students around to help us to lift the tank onto its concrete pad. Having the tanks lying on their sides on the ground had caused me a bit of anxiety. Even I was tempted to roll the thing around, and I’m sure the children hanging around on campus were even more so.

When the final tank was set onto its base, I gave almost everyone around me a high five. I was received with varying levels of enthusiasm, but my own spirits were quite high.

The only holes left to drill in the tank will be to connect the PVC piping from the gutters, to the first flush, to the tank.

After we finished working for the day, Rohan and Allison played “football,” and I played an intense game of better-than ultimate frisbee. Perhaps penultimate frisbee.

Quite a productive day!  Tomorrow, we will be setting out long stretches of PVC, and hopefully providing the MFP team some time to talk with Julius, the school handyman, whose time thus far has been monopolized by the water project.

Allison:

Another note — after we lifted up the third tank, Bethany was running around giving the entire crew high-fives and these kids were like, “But Bethany… how is the water going to get INTO the tank?” Premature celebration, check! As our team decided, it was quite the ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment.

Shout out to David, who left this morning, from all of us: Thanks for saying such nice things about us; we miss our tireless photographer!

and HI, EWB COLUMBIA! Thanks for reading and keeping EWB in your thoughts through the summer (NERW kids I love you all so much. so much… so much.). and of course, special shoutout to EWB Uganda! As I’m sure you can already tell, the plans we worked on all year have been changed a bunch during implementation, but the decisions made were much easier to do keeping in mind our previous reasoning and logics from our Friday meetings.

and now picture time!

Final Blog for David

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NOTE: Our trip is not over! Just David leaving early.

Just a week ago I had been in Uganda for about a week and it felt like it had been a month. Now, after two weeks, it feels like it’s been a flash of a dream.

After a bit more than two weeks in Uganda, I’m bringing back a few things. With me I’m bringing back the same shoes I wore here, except red with the ever-present red dirt of Uganda. I’m also bringing back my camera which has a cracked screen after all that hard work. I’m bringing back emails, numbers, and names of the people I’ve met, and perhaps most importantly, I’m bringing back memories. Memories through my pictures, memories through my experience.

So what could possibly make these memories so important? First and most importantly, the people, the friends. Through this travel, I’ve made some awesome friends within our travel team and learned some interesting things about them. Rebecca, our awesome and tireless travel leader, never sleeps in the car! Whenever we travel to far MFP sites, Rohan, Allison, or I doze off for a decent amount of time, but Rebecca is always vigil, perhaps looking out for the team or maybe just daydreaming, but she’s a strong leader. Rohan, the only college (non-SEAS) kid in the group, is a smarty pants who does physics and has a great sense of humor & addresses our technical questions very well. Allison is the freshman of the group, and she’s a very bright person who lightens up the mood of the group through various…unique ways. One of those includes…. barking, literally like a dog. Haha. She does quite a great imitation and I told her she might be a dog if she reincarnates. Bethany is the amazing work horse of the group. She does a lot of planning for the rainwater system and she never gets tired of working in the field. One day Harrison and I were working the whole day and we got exhausted, asking/whining for a break, and Bethany just wanted to keep going! And finally Harrison, the popular kid of our group. Haha. He is just talented in so many ways… rapping, breakdancing, singing, guitar, and he knows tons about just so many random topics… quite an interesting character. Often our group got into heated discussions about religion, science, faith… and we have had our differences and haven’t reached consensus on many topics, but we have accepted our differences and we have gotten quite close. I think this is one of the beauties of EWB trips: bringing people from such different backgrounds into one trip where we have to cope with each other and hopefully we learn more from each other.

I’ve also made some more local friends: the supermarket guys who often gave us free stuff whenever we buy conspicuously large numbers of water bottles; the villagers at Orungo/Usuk who’ve been quite cooperative and their simple hospitality and relaxed attitude; the people at Golden Ark, Esther, Grace, and Eve; the officers at Pilgrim who have a positive attitude and has done a lot to help out the community; and finally, the kids at the school who are so bright and encouraging for us and perhaps gave me the best memories in Uganda. There is a pair of brothers whom I have especially gotten close to, Baker/Emmanuel, who aspire to be a journalist/economist respectively and whom I hope someday will make a great difference in Uganda.

When I wake up from this dream and look back, there will be things I will and won’t miss. The most obvious is the people, people of simple and positive attitude here who despite the oppressive history have strived and often seem so much happier than people in the US. What I won’t miss: some hygiene issues, especially stomach issues… which I’ve suffered the worst of in the group. And most of all, mosquitoes/bugs and all the misery they bring. Because of these bugs we have to paste ourselves with DEET everyday in addition to the sunscreen, and it’s almost as if we add another layer of chemical skin to our bodies… I definitely won’t miss this extra layer.

When I wake up, one thing I would have wished to do would be spending more time with my team and the kids, and being able to see more of Uganda, the beautiful landscape, mountains, waterfalls, safaris, animals, and nature. But when I wake up and get working at a lab for 10 weeks, I wouldn’t have regretted any of it because even though it was short, at least it was sweet and it let me experience the other side of the world.

Uganda is a beautiful country and it has beautiful people. If all goes well, I hope to come back once, if not more, to see more, meet more people, and learn more. Thanks everyone for reading these blogs, and good luck to my travel team for the next two weeks in finishing up the project!

Peace out.

P.S. Some departing picture gifts ahead.

Stories

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Today was another typical day: MFP going to Orungo to get more information and water team staying back to do gutters. MFP team basically explained to the village about the vibration counters & power measuring system which will be used to monitor the MFP activity, and we also asked the villagers more questions about MFP’s performance, etc. The water team did great today installing gutters on one side of the longest building, teaching kids a class, and getting started with the last side of the biggest building.

A couple funny stories & observations from today:

So this was actually from yesterday but there are these turkeys at the school that just go around and make their bird sounds regularly. One is a black male and the other one is a white female (I think?). So yesterday as Harrison and I were walking around during supper time, we passed by this classroom and we were just about to walk past it when we couldn’t believe what we were seeing and had to stop. On the front desk, there was that white turkey standing firmly on it, acting as if it’s the teacher! It wasn’t talking, but rather simply standing there, assuming its authority, looking completely confident as it stared back straight at the class. While it’s a random story, it goes to show how closely humans/livestock interact around here. Goats, cows, chickens, turkeys… they just roam the streets like any other human being and it feels really natural in that sense.

Speaking of livestock, at Orungo, we were waiting for more of the villagers to arrive to talk to us, and as we were waiting, older Julius started to talk about chickens, and there was this one big one that was quite noticeable. So I said, “That’s a big chicken.” Then Julius says that in Uganda, chickens are usually only reserved for those small chicks. Then Rebecca chips in and says, “In the US we call them roosters.” Then Julius says, “The male ones we call them cocks.” Then somebody who couldn’t resist the impulse finishes it up quite beautifully: “Well, then that’s a big cock.”

Here are some pictures from today, as well as more star pictures we took:

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