Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Weekend and Beginning of Week 2

On Friday we started our interviews with the community members and the Chiefs of Kumponda 1 and 2. With Mr. Masamba we visited some of the community members in Kumponda 2. We drove to the house clusters and Mr. Masamba chose the households we could interview from there. Each interview went in depth and we learned a lot of new information about the community from them and we can't wait to come back to share it in detail. After spending time in the community we went to Levison's shop to share some new parts. 

Once we finished at Levison's we left for Lake Malawi, and after a long bumpy ride we made it. After we arrived we enjoyed looking at the stars (THERE WERE SO MANY) and went to sleep. The next day we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and planned what we wanted to do that day. We all decided to rent some double kayaks. Tristen and David, Brian and Thompson (our driver) and Sydney and I shared double kayaks. We attempted to paddle out to an island in the lake but the island looked way closer than it actually was. It took us about an hour and a half to paddle there, but once we got there it was well worth it. We swam in the beautiful warm water around the island, while Brian climbed up the hill side making very believable bird calls. Once he came down we found the perfect rock to jump from. By the time we had jumped off a few times we were tired and ready to head back to the shore. On the way back Sydney and I paused in to jump off the kayak into the water to cool off. Tristen and David on the other hand took lots of breaks. It seemed like every time we turned around to check where they were, they were laying down in their kayak resting. After our adventure, the whole group grabbed a late lunch at a local restaurant, lounged by the pool, and played UNO (I will not reveal who won). We were exhausted by the end of the day and went to bed to be ready to leave the next morning. On our way back to Blantyre that day we first stopped at "the Northern stretch of the Shire river on the border of Liwonde outside of the nature reserve"(as described by Brian) to look at some hippos. Then we stopped at a big game nature reserve to observe more wildlife. At the wildlife reserve we were lucky enough to see some monkeys, warthogs, sables, and kudus.  The animals as well as the landscape were beautiful however, we had to continue on.
When finally made it back to house in Blantyre Dan prepared us some delicious homemade spaghetti sauce for dinner.

Today we first stopped at Levison's to pick up our materials. Most of the parts turned out well but there are still some parts that may need adjusting. Then we stopped at the market to pick up ingredients for our special Christmas lunch in the community. We bought a vegetable called "Chinese", rice, and some chickens. In the community we worked on sanding down the ends of the rollers so they would fit perfectly into the bearings. David, Brian and I also interviewed another committee member, and found out more interesting things about the community's needs. Our lunch today was so delicious and filling that we weren't even hungry for dinner, so we have just been playing some board games and resting for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Nsima is Delicous!

Yesterday we spent the day materials shopping. We were able to find everything we needed for the maize mill and also spend a good deal of time looking into different options and pricing for the components needed if we decide to do a solar project going forward. It was nice to finally be able to wear a clean pair of our own clothes since our suitcases had just arrived the day before. So all in all it was a long and tiring but successful day. 

We began our day today by heading to a local market on our way to the community. Walking through the market to purchase goat and vegetables for our lunch (more on that later) was a cool experience.  

Upon arriving in the community, we split up into two groups. Brian, Torrey, and David walked to a borehole so they could map it via GPS while Sydney, Dan, and I worked with members of the committee to assemble the mill and grind corn. Since none of us besides Sydney had seen the mill operate in person before, this was important because it allowed us to see for ourselves how it operates and what the problems are. In addition to the known problems we have been troubleshooting back at Cal Poly, we also found a problem with the fit between the pipe and the inside of the grinding rods which meant that we would not be able to grind the corn into a fine enough consistency. This was initially very demoralizing since it seemed that because of this problem we would be unable to leave the citizens of Kumponda with a working mill that satisfied their needs by the end of the trip.  

However there's no better way to brighten one's mood than admiring the beauty of Kumponda, spending time with some of its cheerful children, and enjoying a delicious meal of nsima. 

The entire time we were working on the maize mill, a few of the committee members were hard at work cooking lunch. Today's lunch was nsima, a staple food in Malawi made from corn flour and water, served with goat and vegetables which can be seen below. 

The nsima is rolled into small balls and then dunked into the vegetables or into the meat juices. However the nsima is scorching hot so most of us were lucky enough to have our committee member eating partner roll the nsima into balls for us. 

I preferred dunking mine in the meat juices but all the food tasted amazing. We ate so much that we were more stuffed than at Thanksgiving. In fact, we had so much that we were still full the rest of the day and didn't even make dinner. We're definitely looking forward to our other lunches with the committee going forward, though we probably won't eat quite as much next time. 

Although the temptation of succumbing to a food coma and taking a nap after our tasty lunch was far too strong, we resisted as there was still work to be done. We cleaned up after lunch and then headed to Levison, our machinist. There we worked with him for a few hours to determine fabrication plans for a tensioning system that we designed at Cal Poly as well as to find a solution to our newly discovered 'fit' problem. We are hopeful that the solution we came up with will allow us to develop a successful mill.

Other thoughts:

  • Sydney thought that Frozen was released during the summer but she was wrong, it was actually released on November 27th (basically the winter). 
  • Always pack a full change of clothes in your carry on in case your checked bags get lost.
  • While we would've preferred to make our first flight to Malawi, we really enjoyed the opportunity to explore Addis Ababa and experience a different country.
  • The people of Malawi are some of the kindest and most helpful people that I've met.
  • Thanks to the efforts of Sydney and Torrey, we will be spending the weekend at Lake Malawi which we're very excited about. 
  • This might just be the cutest baby ever:

  • And just to reiterate, Sydney was WRONG about when Frozen came out.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

This Took a Little Longer than Expected (Plus Cliff Bar Series #1)

 When they say getting there is half the trouble, they really mean it. With our original flight to Washington D.C. delayed by two hours, we figured we would barely make it to our connecting flight to Ethiopia. However, upon arrival, icy conditions forced us to ground in Virginia, before we could get to D.C. As a result, the Ethiopian flight was pushed back and we missed our flight to Blantyre. So we ended up with an unexpected night in Ethiopia before we could fly out the next day, without our luggage. And if things couldn’t get any worse, they couldn’t even find our bags so we had to go to Blantyre without any equipment or clothes.

But we finally made it to Malawi! With no fresh clothes and no idea when the bags would come in, we had to go into the town and buy some news ones until our bags arrived.  We ended up going to a kids store where the whole team all bought matching shirts and shorts like one big family. Minus the bickering. Which I’m sure is coming.

After buying food and supplies, we moved into our living arrangements in a nice little townhouse outside the community. Exhausted, we all went straight to bed and got to experience a typical Malawian thunderstorm, complete with lightning, thunder, and literally the loudest rain I’ve ever experienced.

The following day we met our translator Ruth, by the far the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She always has a smile on her face and we’re super glad she’ll be working with the team again. We drove out to our first meeting with the committee prepared to detail our plan for this trip and our goals for assessment. After speaking to and conversing with the members and Chief Kumponda, it became clear that leaving them with a mechanically sound and safe maize mill was the primary goal of the community. We also reiterated our commitment to understanding their needs and collaborating to find a new solution. The community is super excited to work with us, and we are looking forward to as well!

 And ending on a good note, our bags came in today as well! Tomorrow we go into town to speak with the machinist and buy supplies for the maize mill. Thanks for reading!

Cliff Bar Series #1: Cool Mint Chocolate

In addition to my blog posts, I will also be providing a rating of the various Cliff Bars we brought on this trip. Number one: cool mint chocolate.

A common flavor found in many types of cookies, ice cream, and protein bars, this one is a classic. With a flashy white icing drizzled over a mint chocolately chewy bar, it’s a perfect sweet pick me up when one is feeling hungry. The only downside is it melts easily under the heat, and becomes quite the handful to eat when trying to eat it discretely.

8/10 would recommend