Sunday, August 14, 2011

Simply Unforgettable

Gombe - 8/13/2011

Everything seems to be spinning faster and faster, yet it’s so hard to believe that we’re almost done with our work here! All our various projects – water sanitation, multiple stoves, fuel briquettes, wind power – have reached (and continued in) a state of crunch time, as we all try to squeeze in the final tests and finishing touches that we can. However, in the midst of this chaos, there was one niggling little detail.

We still hadn’t visited Gombe National Park.

Gombe is famous for being the site of Jane Goodall’s famous chimpanzee research and is home to three different communities of chimps, not to mention a plethora of other primates, birds, butterflies, and even leopards! Not that they’re seen – they’ve apparently got better things to do. Gombe is also notable for being about five or six miles away from Kalinzi, and about two miles away from Mwamgongo. Considering the closeness of the park, and the fact that we’re partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute, and the fact that chimpanzees are incredible, it was unthinkable that we not visit. So, in the middle of a weeklong spree of all-night stove testing and briquette burning, a group of four of us – myself (Colleen), James, Kim, and Dahms – took off for the forest. We took the opportunity to slip away after giving our group presentation to JGI in Kigoma. We caught a small boat going north for the roughly two hour ride, arriving at dusk on the shores of Gombe. After a slight misunderstanding with one of the proprietors of the cheaper lodging, we were directed towards the JGI research flats. We arrived to find Dr. Anthony Collins (Dr. Anton), a primatologist and researcher who has been working at Gombe for a great while, entertaining a group of grad students and professors from UC San Diego. Quite the pleasant surprise! As Dr. Anton said later, with our unexpected arrival we probably created the highest concentration of Americans in the entire Kigoma region. We were received very graciously, and spent the night in the comfortable flat accommodations.

The next morning, after being instructed on the rules of the joint (namely, don’t eat outside and watch that the door is always closed- baboons are everywhere), we went to get our tour arranged. We walked down the sandy path, weaving through the beach-tree thickets, greeted and scolded by robin-chats and birds too swift and flighty to be identified. Our guide, Gadison, led us off into the forest and not ten minutes later, we had our first sightings of chimpanzees. They were at the very tops of some incredibly tall palm trees, eating a palm nut breakfast. We squinted and craned our necks, snatching glimpses of huge dark forms shifting among the leaves, occasionally crashing to a different tree in a cacophony of swaying and bending palm fronds. As they moved among the trees, it was clear that their size and the noise of the leaves belied their skill and strength as they leaped between trees, grabbing the hanging leaves of an opposite tree and scaling up to its top. Soon, however, breakfast was over and the chimpanzees descended around us. Before long there was a male chimp not 20 feet away, eating wild mango and generally just exuded an air of complete nonchalance – surprising, since there was a group of gawking tourists right in front of him, but not so surprising when one considers that gawking tourists have been practically a daily event for many decades. We ended up following a group for about two hours, our guide narrating the soap opera lives of the chimpanzees. “That one, there, she is Gremlin. Her daughter Glitter had a baby, but Gremlin took it away.” Gremlin sits on the edge of a river, Glitter’s young daughter clutching her underside as Gremlin’s own two year old (Gizmo – you may begin to see a pattern with names) slides down from her back and tries wandering away. Gremlin pulls him back. Another one of Gremlin’s youngsters was a few hundred yards down the path. Suddenly he started calling for his mother, and Gremlin bounded towards him, passing within feet of us, as we had just been standing between mother and baby (whoops, breaking the cardinal rule of interacting with animals). Later, the family of chimps spots a troop of colobus monkeys high above – a favorite prey, but usually too fast to catch. The family begins sedately meandering through the forest following the troop above. Unfortunately for us, who were right behind the chimps, one of the key instincts of the colobus monkey when feeling threatened is to empty their bladder. We were gifted, then, by a light, warm, golden shower, the colobus’ greeting. How nice of them. We saw Frodo, the ex-alpha male who is famous for ruling with a iron fist and once killing and eating a human baby, now an old man wasted in his prime by illness – probably a good thing. His uncle Fudge decided to give a display charge, shaking trees and bellowing before crashing away down the riverbed “to remind the others that he is still a big man,” says Gadison, laughing. I was blown away by the ability of Gadison to not only identify each chimp at a glance but to, with the slightest provocation, chronicle the life and times of each of them. Eventually we had to with great reluctance say goodbye to the chimpanzee group and continue on through the forest. We scrambled up to Jane’s Peak – or at least, I scrambled; the rest of the group climbed. It was an incredible gain of altitude over a very short period, the path unbelievably steep and practically without traction. Added to the lack of grip, the narrow trail was bordered on one side by a sharp drop-off – great for views, less great when your feet slide out from under you. The view from the top was spectacular, and after a short break we took a second, far easier path down to a gorgeous waterfall. We relaxed there for a long time and spoke with a fellow visitor to the park, an Australian named Louise. [We later found that she was staying just up the beach from us, and she joined us for poker on the beach later that day. We played with rocks for chips, which was great if you ran out, since the entire beach was essentially rocks.] After a good while (which was still too short) at the waterfall, we headed back to the flats to feast on a wonderful meal prepared by Siwema, the flat’s housekeeper. It was a wonderful thing to come home to after a five hour walk and hike – food always tastes better when you’re hungry, and it was delicious to start with.

Post-lunch, we tried heading out into the forest again only to learn that the park was deserted after noon, and we were unable to find a guide. We weren’t exactly crushed, however, because our temporary home was about forty feet from the beautiful blue waters of Lake Tanganyika. We spent the remainder of the day swimming and generally just lazing about on the shore, getting to watch a spectacular sunset which heralded the end of our day at Gombe. It wasn’t the end of our trip though. We still had to conquer (survive?) the water taxi ride the next day. You’ve already heard tell of the dreaded water taxi from the trip from Mwamgongo; this trip wasn’t nearly as eventful. Other than the truly extreme listing of the boat to one side, which resulted in everyone on the center planks sliding to the right and myself, on the left rim of the boat, nearly sliding into the belly of the boat, the ride was smooth and we reached Kigoma in good time. After a bit of shopping, personal and group, a visit to JGI to thank Dr. Anton, and lunch, we were headed back to Home Base, Kalinzi, to stay until we leave for good two days later.

To come full circle, I am still shocked to be leaving so soon, though we’ve been living here more than a month. I suspect I will remain shocked and disbelieving right up until the taxi comes to drive us south tomorrow morning. Currently the field station is in a state of complete disarray as people pack up, decide what to take and what to leave, and the last few tests finally get run. Things are definitely wrapping up here, and plans are becoming finalized for the final days. We leave for Kigoma tomorrow (Sunday), catch our twelve hour bus to Mwanza on Tuesday, fly to Dar on Wednesday, and on Friday the nineteenth the Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering summer trip, 2011, will be complete, as Emil, Thabo, and Kevin fly back to their respective destinations. The other four of us will stay an additional ten days to take advantage of the splendors of Tanzania before our marathon trip back to the States. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the trip so far, and foresee it wrapping up in much the same way as it has gone so far: unforgettably.


Back to the Old Stomping Grounds

Blog Post 8.9.11 – Mwamgongo

DHE’s involvement in Tanzania all started about 3 years ago, when DHE members went on an assessment trip in the Kigoma region of Tanzania. In search of an appropriate place for our student engineering projects, the group found Mwamgongo. This small fishing village is located on the northern border of Gombe National Park, site of Jane Goodall’s famous work with chimpanzees. The sensitivity of the park has lead to protective measures of the surrounding forests that have limited Mwamgongo’s supply of firewood. This lead to the first summer of work implementing the Rocket Stove and various sanitation projects in Mwamgongo, issues with the village’s gravity-fed tap system involving broken parts and subsequent contamination came to light. These issues gave rise to work last summer to create a system for documenting and reporting problems with the system. Since the first implementation trip in 2009, DHE has sent five additional trips and about 20 students to the region to continue and expand these projects.

Recently, Kalinzi has become our home-base village, since the Rocket Stove program in Mwamgongo has been turned over to a group of competent local builders. The focus of most of our work this summer has been in Kalinzi, but due to our long involvement in Mwamgongo, it was decided that we should stop by and see how things were going.

In an effort to save time and money, we decided to make the 8-mile hike from Kalinzi to Mwamgongo last Sunday. We set out with a good night’s sleep and with stale rolls with smothered with peanut butter in each hand. As we started our initial descent we passed a boy on a handmade wooden bike, complete with springs for suspension, zooming down a dirt path. Our request to take a picture was greeted with grins… and then with a dozen children following us for another 20 minutes. Eventually we were on our own and took our first break at the bottom of the valley. Visible outlines of each of our backpacks was apparent on each of our backs, where dark sweat patches indicated where evaporation had been inhibited. We thought that was a sign that we should drink some water, and so we did in the shade of a beautiful avocado tree.

Kevin contends that the hike is best defined as “a bit intense”, but Kim insists “brutal” is a more accurate term, at least for those who do not enjoy the throb of lactic acid in their thighs. Part two of the hike felt like a straight-up climb. Stan and Kevin took the “more pain for less time” approach while Kim kept a steady pace up the trail, which was evidently created by people motivated to find the shortest line and not the gentlest grade. From the saddle that marked the end our climb, we could see east back towards Kalinzi and south down towards Kigoma, with a sweeping view of the surrounding hillsides, cultivated with cassava and other crops on impossibly steep slopes.

Next we walked along steep cliffs and down through uneven rocks to wind our way through several large hills. The change from the lush and forested landscape to barren rock was drastic and an interesting visual experience. After almost three hours of hiking we stopped for lunch on the path – granola bars and water to rehydrate.

At last we passed through the saddle of two hills and reached a “road” that leads down into the valley of our destination. The view from the top was breathtaking. Steep hillsides flanking the valley were grassy and dry with the occasional plot of terraced land – how people farm up there is beyond us. Lake Tanganyika, stretched out before us, melted into the clouds, giving the impression that the horizon was a continuum extending from the lake to far above our heads. We didn’t pause long to appreciate the view because we knew that our destination was three thousand feet below us, and they day was certain not to get colder. The “road” leading down has likely not been traveled by any vehicle since the original bulldozer that created the path. The combination of sand, loose rocks, and tired legs led to many missteps and slips. Zigzagging across the stupidly straight path in the midday sun was a brutal task, perhaps matched only by the job of those we passed walking back up the hill with baskets overhead. How these folk manage to complete their daily work without food and water (they are currently celebrating Ramadan) is beyond us. At the end of a full hour of sustained leg-pulverizing descent and a four hour journey, we reached the bottom of the valley. Greeting us was the charming lakeside hamlet of Mwamgongo and scores of children whose sophisticated vocabularies are dominated by the word “Mzungu!”

After setting up food and lodging with the housekeeper, we got in touch with Kambe Yote. Famous within DHE for his innovative and creative spirit, Kambe Yote has been instrumental in propagating the stove throughout the village. He and Habiba, the heads of the Technical Expert group, came over to discuss the project and to set up another meeting for the following day. Stan was itching to watch his favorite soccer team, Manchester United, playing in a championship game against Manchester City, which was being broadcast in town (which makes it very hard to figure out allegiances when everyone claims to be a Manchester fan). We partook of the game in a venue with a small TV run off a generator in front of stadium style seating made from boards three inches wide. The combination of these narrow boards and the just-not-quite-long-enough spacing between benches made for a bit of an uncomfortable experience. We were both struggling from dehydration and sore backs, but Stan was in high spirits – especially when Man U won the game in stoppage time. We finished the night with dinner: ugali samaki, otherwise known as a lump of flour paste and a whole fish. Bellies full and legs tired, we fell asleep as soon as the saggy foam mattresses interrupted our bodies’ capitulation to gravity.

Scheduled to meet with Kambe Yote early in the morning, we got up with the rising sun to enjoy a fantastic breakfast of chapatti, bananas, and tea. As Kambe Yote’s boat had departed late the previous night due to the breaking of the Ramadan fast at sundown, he returned equally late from his night out fishing. Returning with a boat full of three inch fish requires a lot of work, and it wasn’t until nearly 11 that he had been able to finish his tasks to setting his fish out to dry on the beach and tend to his equipment. Since he was running a bit behind, he sent Habiba and two VLAM members over to talk to us until he could finish up. We had the chance to talk about the evolution of the stove design that has been progressing on both their end as ours, as well as some of the issues they have encountered in spreading the design in Mwamgongo. Since the Rocket Stove has an inner chamber made of clay, the fact that the only two sources of clay in Mwamgongo are owned by individuals bent on making a substantial profit from their resources has been a significant hindrance. As we have learned to make the stove from soil collected from termite mounds (they grow back every year!), we shared this information with the gathered group. They were very excited about the prospect, and we are hoping that this will allow the stove to progress further throughout the village. We showed them the slight changes we have made to the design, and then set off for a whirlwind tour through the village. We found ourselves chasing Kambe Yote as he led us to kitchen after kitchen where women were cooking on the Rocket Stove, or one of the mud brick stoves modeled after the Rocket Stove. In the span of little more than an hour we visited twelve homes and got the sense that improved stoves are alive and well in Mwamgongo, and that Kambe Yote was in desperate need of sleep.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the Field Station for an afternoon of digesting what we had seen and learned and reflecting about the growth and development of DHE and where we see things going in the future. Sitting on the front stoop of the Field Station, we were two very conspicuous Mzungu’s (wazungu would be the appropriate term) in a very conspicuous location near the waterfront. Since children in the village roam free pretty much as soon as they can walk, we had an audience of roughly thirty children watching our every move. How watching someone write in a notebook can be entertaining escapes most Westerners, but these children were paying rapt attention to what was termed by the 2009 summer trip as Mzungu TV (MTV for short). Eventually, the sun hung low enough in the sky over the Congo that gradually the children heard their mothers and their stomachs calling, and trickled away.

A beautiful sunset crept downwards through the clouds, illuminated a blazing display of yellows, oranges and pinks that lingered after the final sliver of the famous big African sun had disappeared behind the silhouette of the typically shrouded mountains across the lake.

We ate a dinner of the staple wali-maharage (beans and rice), and made our way quickly to bed in anticipation of the next morning’s early departure.

Having selected to make our exit from Mwamgongo on the local water taxi rather than to hike back out, we woke up before dawn to throw our few things into our packs and head down to the beach. We watched a tantalizingly empty water taxi depart while we were waiting for the housekeeper to come by and collect the key, and then headed down to the landing typically used by the water taxis. The next boat in seemed promising, but after a few sacks and people had been unloaded and the growing throng of potential passengers pushed to board, a local began pushing the boat away. Shouting and pushing ensued, evidently due to the fact that this was not a Mwamgongo boat, and thus should not make any money off of Mwamgongo. Not wanting to incur the wrath of the local protectionists, we waited for the next boat. Easily twice as crowded, this hometown hero pulled in sitting much lower in the water, and we climbed on along with what seemed like most of the village. We found a seat on one of the many large thwarts running across the boat, and our dangling feet soon found sacks of assorted produce to rest on. Oil drums, fuel canisters, sacks brimming with beans, rice, dagaa (those three inch fish mentioned earlier), more sizable fish, and tattered burlap sacks bristling with scrap metal were all arranged by an agile crew. This task accomplished, the 55-hp engine came to life and began moving the 30 foot wooden barge. Very shortly after pushing off, we passed a sign on the shore announcing the beginning of Gombe National Park, and very shortly after that, the engine cut out. A few minutes of siphoning fuel and we were on our way again.

Watching the sun rise to illuminate the shoreline slipping by and seeing monkeys swinging in the trees was a very cool experience, and helped to take our minds off our uncomfortable seating arrangement. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the predawn coolness was appreciated, and the temptation to take a drink of water despite the many observers of Ramadan on the boat became severe. Eventually we succumbed, preferring the stares we received to the dehydration we were experiencing. When we finally got to Kigoma we pulled in next to a big wooden freighter named Nipe Kazi (Give me Work) and hopped off the boat. Neither of us made it without getting our feet wet, much to the amusement of the other passengers.

After a quick supply run through town, we grabbed a taxi to Kalinzi and thoroughly enjoyed the cool breeze blowing through the windows as we climbed the road back to our home in the highlands.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Time Flies When You're Having Fun... (8.3.11)

…Or when you’re working so hard you forget to look at the time. It’s incredible how quickly time passes here. Monday marked the beginning of our 14 day countdown until we leave Kalinzi and begin our journey eastward to Dar. Seeing the days on our calendar getting crossed off one by one has pushed the throttle to the floor, and we’re pushing hard to get as much as possible done by the 15th.

Instead of slowing down last weekend, we filled it with SODIS testing, performing burn tests on various coffee husk stove concepts, and smashing up biomass in preparation of our final batches of briquettes. We each tried to take a bit of time for ourselves so that we could come out of the weekend with a full charge, but it was certainly no cabin retreat.

Sunday was a handful, to say the least. A bemused local pausing to watch from the front of the field station might easily have thought that they were looking at the center of an enormous wazungu circus. James and Kevin Dahms, having traveled to Matyazo and learning that many farmers near the dry mill have been building their own coffee husk stoves out of termite clay, set about building one of their own. Being the multi-tasking maestros that they are, they managed to run preliminary emissions testing on the metal CH stove while also experimenting with various ways to construct and light their mud brick creation.

While fluctuating wafts of clean air and smoke indicated the respective success or failure of the CH testing being performed outside, the rest of the crew worked to make preparations for the upcoming rocket stove training session. To prepare for teaching the women how to use the updated modular mold set, Kevin and Kim designed notecards that depicted how to use the molds and assemble the completed bricks.

Though our Sunday had kept us all busy, we had a relaxing evening of dinner (Tuma’s delicious cooking), a great round of Karata Moja, and conversation below beautifully bright stars.

Monday was an early morning for James and Dahms, who headed out to Matiazo to meet again with Prosper. They returned triumphantly with pictures of the clay coffee husk stove whose construction they had observed. We learned that many farmers had previously owned metal stoves based off the sawdust-style stoves used at the German mission, but had grown tired of the frequent breakages due to the intense heat created by coffee husk combustion and it’s destructive impact on commonly available metal. Since it is difficult and expensive to get metal of the quality used at the mission, they began building stoves out of clay. Seeing this innovation and creativity is really inspiring to us, and has led us to the conclusion that a metal stove such as we have been designing for the past year or so may not be the answer for this community, as the clay stoves are a good alternative to the high cost and low quality of metal stoves built here. We hope to be able to share some of what we have learned with the farmers building the clay stoves so that they can build stoves that are both inexpensive and clean burning. The boys will head back on Friday, once the stove built Monday has dried, to fire it up and assess how it burns. Since we still think we have the best coffee husk-burning metal stove design out there, we intend to continue optimizing it. Pursuing this end, James and Dahms spent today, Wednesday, sculpting hourglass-shaped flow materials from metal mesh so they can conduct emissions tests tonight. …Quite literally, they are planning on taking several-hour shifts to conduct tests for the next 24 hours. I think we have just enough Africaf√© to get the through the night!

Today marked part two of our clay-tray rocket stove training session with our stove women. We had hoped to show them both how to create the bricks and construct the stove at our first meeting on Monday. Unfortunately, the bricks we made last Friday were not quite dry yet, prompting the second session. This was just as well, because the first meeting was productive but long – many of the women had to run back home to break the fast for Ramadan. The highlight of the meeting was our discussion with the women about how to set up the rocket stove program in Kalinzi before we leave. These women essentially formed their own union right in front of our eyes – we are anxious to see how the program turns out when DHE returns to Kalinzi. Today, the women showed up again to see how to assemble the stove bricks. Our snafu of not having enough clay to cement them together turned out better than expected, as Faida suggested that they use the loose bricks to practice putting them together properly. Our productive afternoon ended by socializing with a few of the women.

SODIS testing has taken a unique turn lately. Thabo and I have been running out of ideas for testing different sources and variables, primarily because we’ve found that the water sources here are actually pretty clean. We needed a way to really prove the efficacy of the SODIS method. On Kevin’s suggestion, we created a “super positive control,” which is a nice way of saying “poop samples.” I’ll bypass the gritty details of how we achieved our E. coli-rich sample, but the upshot of it all is that SODIS has been super effective at eliminating fecal coliforms. This is great news!

While we’ve been busy with our projects, we’ve found some time to have fun as well. Yesterday morning, before Kevin, Dahms and I headed to Kigoma for a short meeting with JGI and to run errands, we jogged to the nearby soccer field to play Frisbee. As Tuesday is a market day, numerous people passed us on their way to the market, slowing or stopping to watch our crazy antics. In the evenings we’ve continued to play Karata Moja, but have also become interested in stargazing. Not that we know any of the Southern Hemisphere constellations (although Dahms claims to see Orion’s belt and his bow and arrow…), but we’re having fun making up our own and looking for shooting stars.

Unfortunately our work ethic and fun breaks have been dampened by many of us feeling under the weather the past few days. Perhaps the fact that we haven’t had a day off in over 10 days is catching up to us… Everyone in this group is a trouper though and we’re pushing on through the weekend. With one final push of meetings, presentations, and last minute tests, we’ll finally be able to go to Gombe and Mwamgongo next week.

Friday, July 29, 2011

All Together Again

A lot has happened since the group’s last post, much more than I could ever write between various coffee husk stove tests, bashing clay with pipes, and juggling a soccer ball. Tuesday was a day full of preparation as our incomplete group of seven would reach the maximum number of residents the field station here in Kalinzi could bear. The one and only Kevin Dahms would be returning from his adventures in the lands north of here and finally rejoin the work and people who needed him. And of course, the long anticipated duo, Rita and Tuma, would be coming up from Kigoma to join the ranks among the DHEers. Rita would be our long needed second translator for our expanding needs and her cousin, Tuma, would be the long needed cook for our shrinking stomachs. Both have of course been wonderful additions to our family.
In anticipation of our three travelers, the group sacrificed a morning of ‘science’ and project related work for more crucial matters: cleaning up the field station. I think it would be safe to say that apart from the days the foundation was laid and the walls raised, the field station has never received such dedicated attention. Everything besides the table and beds found higher ground as a water and soap cleaned the ground. Shelving, constructed from an old bed frame and failed metal stoves, quickly filled up with electronics and a communal library. Mats were purchased replacing the dining room table and opening more space in the main room. To say the least, the field station became a home.
Dahms almost immediately jumped right into working on the coffee husk stove with me when he arrived. Rita and Tuma came and after a very warm welcome headed to the market for food and bedding. That night we had pasta and played cards. It was nice to have a full house.
Wednesday was filled with testing, briquetting, and preparing for the ‘rocket stove summit’ that would be held during Thursday lunch. A work day though and through. We had a few side projects that came together: a brick pot skirt and a hay-box we hoped to share with the women the next day.
Thursday morning the group split in three. Kim, Thabo and Stan woke early to meet Revocautus for a hike to the pseudo-wind-tower. Emil and Collen left to investigate available bio-mass in Kigoma Town for future large scale briquetting projects. Kevin M, Kevin D, Rita, Tuma and myself stayed here at the field station, preparing the stoves, the house and lunch. The guests were invited to arrive at noon. We eagerly waited their arrival.
We eagerly waited for anyone’s arrival for an hour and a half. By that time the wind hike had returned and we outnumbered our guest seven to one. We showed her our stoves, the hay box and talked about cooking in the region. We refused to start our lunch without eating with our guests (or guest) but she wanted to wait for her friends. And so we waited and another hour and half for two more. Food was served and a very fruitful discussion about the rocket stove developed. Kevin’s clever idea of offering brick molds to the women in exchange for them constructing four stoves for needy homes was successful. As the afternoon moved one, all the women arrived, and few extra friends as well. Our house really became a center of talking and laughter. It was decided that the women would come back on Monday to learn how to make the clay tray stove. Over all a very successful lunch, but exhausting.
This morning we all woke to the sound of thunder and rain on the metal roofs above. An unheard of storm during the dry season graced us with its presence, causing Kevin and Collen to run out in the early morning to bring the drying briquettes to safety. After a novel breakfast of French toast, Emil, Stan, Dahms and I took a ride to Matiazo to see the German orphanage, the coffee mill, and a very stove oriented secondary teacher named Prosper. We learned that people have been making coffee husk stoves out of clay which has spurred a frenzy of experimentation on the back deck with some extra mud bricks we have. The frenzy was not very successful but both educational and entertaining. Dinner is soon upon us and everyone is working to finish before the plates are out. A final crunch time before munch time.

Dahms' Blog Post

28 July 2011

I have arrived safely back to Kalinzi and reunited with the group
could not be be happier; it was such a relief to see their familiar
faces and the incredible work and progress they have made with the
projects. For the past ten days I have been in transit to Nairobi
after an encounter with a bat in the field station on our first night
here. After waking up, I was folding up my mosquito net and realized
there was a bat hanging on the outside of it right next to where my
head had been resting all night. Initially, I did not see any bite
marks or anything so I thought nothing of it, but after looking on the
internet I found that most of the time one may not see a bat bite and
to seek medical attention if one thinks they have been exposed to a
bat. Since I had been sleeping on the floor and was brushing up
against the mosquito net for most of the night I was quite concerned
that the bat may have bitten me during the night (I have even
convinced myself that I did feel something nip my head that night).

Due to this paranoia I went to Kigoma Regional Hospital with Stan and
Colleen to receive the vaccine; however, the doctor was not in and I
had to wait until morning. We ended up spending the night at Stan’s
sister’s house in Kigoma, which was absolutely beautiful and the
family was so incredibly hospitable. The next morning I went to the
hospital and received the vaccine and we headed back to Kalinzi.
I contacted Dick’s House that afternoon to alert them of the incident
and they recommended that I contact International SOS to confirm that
the vaccine I received was sufficient treatment for my potential
exposure. After contacting ISOS, I was told that I needed to receive
the Human Rabies Immunoglobulin (HRIG) injection within a week of
exposure in order to give my body the antibodies to fight the virus
before the vaccine I received started working. The HRIG injection is
apparently quite expensive and very scarce medicine everywhere in
Africa and so ISOS had to call to various hospitals as far as South
Africa to see if they had enough of it to administer to me. HRIG was
eventually found in Nairobi, and ISOS set about planning my travel
arrangements to get to Nairobi. I should take this time to point out
that ISOS, Dartmouth (namely Jessica Friedman, Lisa Adams, and Carrie
Fraser), and my friends and family were unbelievably patient and
helpful when my unnecessary paranoia was really getting the best of me
during this time of arranging travel plans, thank you guys so much.
ISOS was super efficient in arranging my transportation to Nairobi,
and I cannot thank them enough for it.

I left on Thursday the 14th and flew to Mwanza in a small 8 row single
prop plane, which was quite a thrilling experience. I arrived in
Mwanza, and our good friend and translator Revo was there to greet me
with a hug and a smile. I spent the night in Revo’s room and got up
the next morning with him to figure out the issues he was having with
his school results for the semester. Revo got everything corrected
that morning and we headed into town for a little where we picked up
some awesome sandals made of waste rubber products before I flew to
Nairobi. Revo set me up with a taxi to the airport and at 4:30 I was
on my way to Nairobi. I was driven directly to the hotel in Nairobi
where I ate dinner and went to sleep relatively quickly.

I had my appointment with Dr. Saio at Nairobi Hospital at 11:30 the
next morning, where he gave me a thorough examination and made an
assessment to begin a new vaccine schedule. He said that the malaria
medication I was taking may have hurt my immune system and made the
vaccine less effective, so he prescribed me Malarone and put me on the
reduced Intramuscular schedule of Verorab with an immunoglobulin
inject ion as well. I was sent to the emergency room after meeting
with Dr. Saio, where I was given the immunoglobulin and my first two
doses of Verorab. They decided to keep me in the hospital for 24 hours
in order to monitor me, so I spent Saturday in a hospital bed but was
given very sufficient meals and excellent care throughout. I was
brought back to the hotel after the hospital and began speaking with
ISOS about my transportation back to Tanzania.

Unfortunately there were no flights until the end of the week so I
would have to spend several extra days in Nairobi, which was not ideal
considering I wanted to get back to group and the fact that I had only
brought one set of clothes with me and had already been in Nairobi for
3 days. While waiting for my flight back, I began outlining a bit of
the report and did some exploring of Nairobi. I met up with Kiko Lam,
a Dartmouth ’14 working in Nairobi and Nakuru for the summer. We got
lunch and then met up with Kathy Vaughan, a Dartmouth Alum, who Kiko
was staying with in Nairobi. Kathy and her husband Tsila were
incredibly generous throughout my time in Nairobi, having me over for
dinner a couple times, and even taking me around Nairobi for a day.

Since my flight at the end of the week got cancelled I was able to
explore a bit more of Nairobi, especially the Upper Hill and Westlands
area, along with center city. Kathy was even gracious enough to
contact Technoserve, an NGO in Nairobi that has a coffee growing
initiative, telling them about DHE’s projects and putting me in touch
with them. The day before I left for Tanzania I got coffee with Kathy
at the Ole Sereni, a hotel that overlooks Nairobi National Park. We
then stopped by IHUB, an exciting tech based community center that
gives members opportunities to collaborate on computer programming
projects and other academic endeavors. I then had a meeting with
Alice, the Sustainability Advisor with Technoserve’s Coffee
Initiative. Though our meeting was brief it was very informative and
encouraging. She said that coffee husk briquetting has been going on
for nearly 3 years in Western Kenya on a variety of scales, from small
individual hand briquetting, to marketable 5 kg packs. She was also
interested in our coffee husk stove project, stating that currently
people in that region use sawdust stoves but do not have a means of
burning raw coffee husks. Hopefully we will be able to maintain
contact with her and gain more knowledge about the briquetting process
and setting up a market for the program, while sharing information
regarding a coffee husk burning stove.

It has been awesome being back in Kalinzi with the group, getting up
to speed with the projects and hanging out with this unbelievable
group again. Of course the paranoia I experienced for that first week
was almost definitely unwarranted, considering two of the doctors I
saw in Tanzania had never heard of people getting rabies from bats
(one said that he would prescribe me whiskey to relax), I truly
appreciate all of the precautions that Dartmouth and ISOS took to
ensure that I was treated properly. I once again want to thank
everyone here in Kalinzi and Kigoma, our advisors back at Dartmouth,
the people at ISOS, all of the doctors, and my family and friends here
and at home for all their support and help throughout this process. It
was really incredible how smoothly everything went.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blog Post 9


So, a busy week (as always) since our last post! And a memorable one, indeed. Kevin and James have been going hard at getting efficiency tests done on rocket stoves, and Kim and Thabo are well into their testing of different SODIS methods. Emil and I (Colleen) spent Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for our briquetting meeting with the directors of JGI and the stove project, and left Thursday afternoon for Kigoma. The rest of the group stayed in Kalinzi an extra day to continue work. We got settled into the room at Zanzibar Hill, got unnecessarily paranoid about people coming into our balcony, and went to sleep early for our 10am meeting. Our 10am meeting started at 10:40, which was about when we were thinking it would, and it went rather well. Mr. Mtiti invited us to a cookout/picnic brouhaha which was to be a few hours later. I was pretty stoked- we hadn’t had lunch yet, and wali maharage (rice and beans) can get…familiar…after a few weeks.

Emil and I decided to try to get some of our group shopping done before the cookout, so we loaded up with peanut butter and nutella (food of the gods), plus other odds and ends, and headed back to the hotel. Zanzibar Hill, by the way, is gorgeous – covered in winding tiled staircases framed by beds of African flowers and foliage, each block of rooms its own little unique, partitioned house. Our balcony’s view was mostly screened by the canopies of the trees surrounding the house; not wonderful for city viewing, but great for bird watching! But boy, is the name “Zanzibar Hill” appropriate – stairs and stairs and more stairs as you climb and weave your way up the hill. We do a fair bit of walking here, but every time we went to our room (located at the very top) I felt completely out of shape. But oh, the horror, the horror! My hopes were dashed, for we were never to reach the hoped-for cookout. Upon reaching the hotel and taking a moment to relax, I discovered that in all my walking around, through, up, and down Kigoma, I had been walking for two: I had a little parasite friend in my foot. Well. Let’s put an end to that.

Emil and I spent what felt like the rest of the afternoon (in truth, only two hours) trying to find a place to remove my little friend. The first medical institution we visited first tried to convince me it was an inflammation (it was not), and then a bacterial infection (it was not). I decided that if the doctor couldn’t tell what it was, I may not want medical advice from him in the first place. The second stop, a dispensary/clinic, was far better- the doc knew the scientific name with a moment’s glance. Far more legit. In under five minutes I was out and passenger-free, to my very great relief. The rest of the group arrived from Kalinzi an hour or so later, and we met them at the hotel to recount the tale. The evening was by far more relaxing than the day- we chilled at Zanzibar Hill for a bit, reveled in the wonders of running water and showers (not heated, not that it mattered), and laundry detergent – that stuff is magic, I swear.

After a leisurely walk and dinner, we returned, and treated ourselves to a movie off Thabo’s computer. The six of us stuffed onto one bed to watch “Howl’s Moving Castle”, which was great. Kim was out cold before it was half done, and the stove guys (who have been staring at fires for the past few months and are probably crazy) insisted that Calcifer the talking fire was in fact very accurate. I, for my part, admit to having watched that movie more times than I remember, so I am in no position to judge. Saturday was filled with absolute madness as we checked out, got all our commissioned works picked up from the metalworkers and carpenters (yay, a compound press! I’m so excited!) and tried to get reasonably priced transportation up the road to Kalinzi. We were back in good time, with enough of the day left to even do some work. Emil and I got together a rough outline of what’s left to do in our 3 weeks left here (yikes!). I can’t believe that’s all that’s left- it seems such a short time; I just got here! In just two days Dahms will be back here from Kenya, and Ritta and Tuma will be joining our field station as well. It is going to get quite cozy here, no mistake, but having two translators will make a lot of tasks seem more manageable.

Today marked our first testing of the compound press and char making machine, with varied results, as Kevin and Kim went off to talk to various stove users about how the rocket stoves are doing in people’s kitchens. They had been gone for a while when suddenly Kim sprints up to the field station, dashes into her room, rifles through multiple duffels grabbing things and stuffing them into her bag, breathlessly says something about a guy on a bike, and leaves just as fast as she came. Or at least, that’s how it seemed on my end, so I’ll turn it over to her to explain what actually happened more accurately than I can.

 Colleen’s description is pretty accurate, although I had more on my mind than thinking about how crazy I looked to the group at the field station. Kevin, Stan and I were just finishing up our meeting at Nasura’s house, which is conveniently located on the main road. There was a scuttle of activity from the children who were watching cords being placed in the ditch that crisscrosses the town (Kalinzi is getting internet!), and then we heard a crash. An elderly man, riding one bike and somehow carting another bike alongside his own, had fallen on the pavement. Kevin, who is Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified, and I, the only pre-medical student in the group, ran into action. My job was to run back up the hill to grab first aid supplies, while Kevin helped assess and stabilize the man. That’s when my path crossed with those at the field station, and I was indeed quite breathless and incoherent (both from adrenaline and from my lack of strenuous exercise this summer). By the time I returned to the scene the man had been boarded onto the back of a large truck. With the permission of the locals, Kevin, Stan and I hopped on for the 10 minute ride to the hospital in Matyazo. I finally saw the extent of the wounds: scrapes on his toes, knee, hands, and, most severely, open gashes on his upper lip, cheekbone and brow bone. The ride was *extremely* bumpy, so our original plan to flush out the wound with fresh water and a sterile 60 mL syringe was impossible without risking squirting water all over the man or poking him in the face. Ten minutes of attempting to stabilize the man’s head (he was mostly unresponsive) while also stabilizing ourselves and wiping around the wound ensued before carrying him off the truck and into a bed in the hospital. Having explained as much information about the incident as possible, through Stan, to the nurses, we headed back towards Kalinzi.

With everyone back at the field station and evening setting in, our various tasks of the day are winding down. Dinner ought to be done before too long, and I plan on spending the evening reading and wishing I had more to read- these will be spent before too long, and I just know that I will be wanting other books very, very soon…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back in the City

Blog Post 8, 7.18.11

After a busy and productive week in the village, we decided we needed a change of pace. A trip to Kigoma was in order so we could get better internet for research and communication, commission a few more instruments for the briquetting and stove projects, and take a little bit of a break.

Our daily schedule throughout the past week was pretty consistent yet not mundane. Breakfasts have been consisting of bread (we're lucky when it's not moldy), bananas, chapatti (think of REALLY greasy fried crepes) and copious amounts of Nutella and peanut butter. Then we set to work on our respective projects. Lunch (always ndizi, sometimes with beans) is in the early afternoon, then more work until we wrap up in time to see the incredible sunsets. Our cameras cannot possibly capture the beauty of these sunsets, but we try every time. Dinner is often rice and beans, although the night we had spaghetti was a real treat. Then we play cards, discuss our work, share "Highs and Lows," or simply crash on our beds.

Thabo and I have traveled to a few protected springs to collect water for SODIS testing. Then we wait for 6 hours while the bottles soak in the sun, testing UV exposure and temperature every 2 hours. Though we do have a bit of free time, we spend it doing group emails, write-ups, market visits, helping the others with their projects, and a bit of personal reading and Swahili studying. After the 6 hours, we set to work filtering the samples and preparing the incubator of "Magic Balls" for the night. These Magic Balls are a curious substance. When cool, the clear plastic balls are white on the inside because they are filled with a glycerin which is essentially a type of animal fat. At this point they look a bit like pearl onions. When boiled, though, the insides melt. The phase change from liquid to solid takes quite a long time and occurs at about 37*C, which is precisely the optimal temperature to grow coliforms and E. coli. So, we put our filter papers in petri dishes, give them a sugary broth, then let them grow in the incubator for 24 hours. We've had a few small setbacks but the results look good so far! We are looking forward to testing more sources and different variables for the SODIS method.

Colleen and Emil have taken up the task of concocting briquette recipes. These include all sorts of materials, from newspaper pulp and coffee husks to clay and cooked cassava (those of you who've had ugali would understand that this may serve as a great binder material for briquettes!). They are consistently found elbow-deep in buckets of muck or sitting on our briquette press, squeezing water out of the mushy mixtures. While they are getting better with ratios, pressing and drying the briquettes, it remains to be seen how well these briquettes burn. Our whole shower room floor is filled with them though (after being fed up with chickens trampling them on the concrete slab in the back yard) so we have lots of testing to do now that we're back in the village.

James has made himself at home in the storage closet with his coffee husk stove design. I suppose that's a silver lining about the storage closet being ransacked - we have a good place for testing the stove. A great deal of fine-tuning can still be done, but we've been having some fantastic flames and burn times. Everything looks quite promising.

Kevin has been getting involved with all of our projects as well as orchestrating meetings around the village and communicating with others involved in our projects. This week's big tasks include a round-table discussion about the rocket stove project in Kalinzi and preparing a presentation on briquetting for the Jane Goodall Institute. There is a chance that Kevin may also be traveling to another region next week to visit the village of Mpanda, where JGI has had great success with the rocket stove program.

Emil and I spent most of Friday afternoon checking in on the wind project with our friends Revocautus and Frederick. Molly Wilson and the winter group organized the construction of a tower upon which we placed two anemometers and a data-logger to collect information on wind speed and direction in Kalinzi. If the data is promising, we'd love to harness that wind power for either an electricity or water-pumping project. The hike to the tower took about an hour, but the view from the top of the hill was incredible. Unfortunately we had difficulty accessing the data from the data-logger, but we will be back this week to figure things out. On the bright side, at least the tower is still standing! Apparently there was a fire on the hill one night and Revocautus and Frederick had to organize an impromptu fire-fighting squad to direct the fire around the hill rather than over it, thus sparing our equipment. We are very thankful that it's still there.

Because our last "day off" was the previous Sunday, which we spent traveling and settling into the field station, we felt as though we needed another break. We packed up after lunch on Saturday and grabbed a taxi down to Kigoma. When Kevin was here last summer the road was still dirt, but now the paved road makes it extremely quick and easy to get back to the city. Saturday was still a work day, as Colleen and Emil stopped to buy supplies at the market and the rest of us ran errands. Eventually we all met at JGI to utilize the internet. We were all curious to see the driveway at JGI packed with cars, and at one point a large group of people came out of one of the conference rooms. As it turns out, the event was a screening of Jane's new documentary. Though we didn't actually see the film, we can still say we were there for it, right? The rest of Saturday was relaxing, and we decided to sleep rather than go to Kibo Boys, the local dance hall (well, turns out they were closed).

I will take the time to say that this group is amazing in many respects. Many times we've commented on how lucky we are to be here together with such interesting, motivated and intelligent people. That being said, I can find just one fault - we don't know how to take days off! Our Sunday say off turned into a "well, let's utilize JGI's internet while we can for just an hour or two," which stretched into 5+ hours at JGI, working us right through lunch. Needless to say our plans to spend the afternoon at Jacobsen's Beach didn't pan out, but we are happy with our work and we'll visit Jacobsen's another day. We treated ourselves by having a pre-dinner snack of chips mayai (literally, it's a French fry omelette with mostly fries) then walked right over to another eating establishment claiming to have real Indian food, pizza, and air conditioning. We were forewarned that food would take a while to make which was fine with us; we sat there digesting our snack and reading. To the chagrin of some, we didn't get our food for about 2 hours, but it was definitely an experience worth having. The night ended with the Women's FIFA World Cup game. Some of us stayed up until the bitter end, then promptly fell asleep as it was after 1 in the morning.

Today we woke up early to get started on our last few tasks in the city. Part of the group visited the carpenter with a design for a compound lever press while the rest of us returned to JGI. We saw Jane Goodall! ... from about 40 feet away while she was hopping into a truck to take her to the airport. Oh well. The group met back up for lunch then grocery shopping before meeting our taxi back to the village. Perhaps the best purchase of the day was a soccer ball, and we were eager to play with back in our yard. Colleen counted upwards of 30 spectators, some of which joined in and followed the group to the local soccer field for a full-on match. Too bad we don't have enough water for a round of showers!