Wednesday, July 13, 2011

First days in the village

Blog Post 7, 7.11.2011

At long last, we are finally settled in Kalinzi. Our arrival on Sunday attracted a great deal of attention – especially because the bridge to our side road is gone so we had to unload 2 packed taxis right on the main road. While we were waiting for the housekeeper to let us in, James entertained the gaggle of village children with his juggling and harmonica-playing skills. On the other side of the house, Kevin and Dahms* discovered that our store room had been broken into and ransacked. (*Note- this is now how we’ll distinguish the two Kevins in blog form, because that’s how we distinguish them in real life!) This was a disappointment, as the winter group had left us a good deal of supplies, but most of the items can be replaced.

It was a team effort to get the house in order, but the field station soon felt quite homey. The housekeeper made us ndizi (bananas) for lunch – boiled with tomatoes and onions, they taste like chunky mashed potatoes. The stove boys (Emil, Dahms and James) had time to run a few tests on their stoves. Encouraged by the great results they were getting, the whole group was in high spirits when it came time for dinner. Our housekeeper cooked us up heaping piles of rice and beans (wali maharage) and then Stan taught us how to play “Kadimoja.” It’s pretty much like Uno with playing cards, but the few twists in the game made for exciting times. James was victorious for the first round of Kadimoja but we’ll try to avenge that soon!

After a fitful night due to the loud music of a wedding nearby, our morning was eventful when Dahms found a bat in one of the bedrooms. As every other DHE trip staying in Kalinzi has had an encounter with bats, we were simply being “initiated” into the tradition of field station stays. Unlike the large breakfasts we’d been used to in Dar and Kigoma, breakfast consisted of moldy bread, peanut butter and nutella. We didn’t have time to dwell on this dietary shift long because we had lots to do. Thabo and I gathered our first water samples from a local tap to start testing the SODIS method. Kevin ran around to the market, village government, and pretty much everywhere else within walking distance to make sure we were properly introduced and settled in the village. The local children, however, did not need such a formal introduction – it seems as though their new favorite pastime is watching us toil over the stoves in the back yard. We were fortunate enough to have Joram, an expert on building rocket stoves with the new clay-tray design, visit us to teach us how to build our own stove. It was a long and exhausting day, so dinner was quiet and we all went to bed early.

Colleen pointed out this morning that we are about a quarter of the way through our trip. With that thought in mind, we jumped right to work with stove testing and our new pet project, the briquette press. Most of the day one could find Colleen elbow deep in buckets hand-mixing cassava paste, water, and some form of biomass. It turns out the briquette press we commissioned in Kigoma works well – we’re now just waiting to see how the briquettes hold up to the drying process. Thabo and I were unpleasantly surprised to find that our incubator, an important part of the water testing process, was not holding heat as well as it should. It has been a slow but necessary day of monitoring the heat of the “magic balls” so that we can ensure accurate testing for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday is a market day, so some of the group got to experience the bustling market culture and tested their haggling skills. I had my own adventure. We asked our neighbor if she could collect us some water. Excited at the prospect of seeing another one of the protected springs in the area , I asked to tag along. I also thought I’d offer to help collect the water, though our neighbor tried to discourage me. I can now understand why she was so skeptical… We walked about 10 minutes on small, uneven, downhill paths to a water tap. On the way I realized that wearing glasses was a poor choice because I had no peripheral vision. I should have known by the laughs (and trailing children) as I walked past that I was in over my head. We filled up the two jugs and then it was time to place mine on my head. Mind you, this jug holds about 5 gallons, or approximately 40 pounds of water. Using a piece of cloth we had brought along to make a flat spot on my head, she then hauled the jug on top. I stood up with some difficulty then looked up the path ahead. Our neighbor immediately told me “no” and carried the jug up the hill herself. Water jug - 1, Kim - 0. By this point there were about 5 children following me, all with smaller buckets on their own heads, and they waited with me at the top of the hill for our neighbor to come back with her own. Again she situated the jug on my head and we walked for about 5 minutes uphill before I needed to stop and rest. At this point, realizing how weak my head, neck and arms are, she gave me a smaller bucket (from the head of a girl around the age of 6) and left mine in a bush. Determined to regain a little dignity, I charged along the path with this lighter load until we got to the market and the main road. She stopped me again going down the steep path to the pavement, but I convinced her to let me carry the large jug by hand the rest of the way. Amid many stares, calls and laughs, I made it to the field station and promptly collapsed in a chair for lunch.


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