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!

1 comment:

  1. You were right, Kim, my first response did get posted. Now that I know it worked I'll keep responding. We love to keep track of your adventures. I check every morning and evening for updates. I know it's location dependent mostly but I check anyway! Since this posting we have spoken so I'm up to date but I love to read in detail all of everyone's experiences! Uncle Dave and Aunt Karen, Paul, Holly and Grandpa, Steve and Millie, etc are following along as well. I know it takes a long time to write these blogs but do what you can when you can.