Thursday, December 28, 2017

Expecting Something Unexpected

Our goal was to beat the four blog posts so we could be doing better than last trip. That obviously didn’t work out as planned, but we are going to get this last one in as we sit in Chileka Airport, which is about the size of the airport in SLO (like two rooms), for 3 hours.

This week did not go as we originally planned, which we have now come to expect. We started off the weekend, as Torrey said, in Mulanje.

We stayed at the Kara O’Mula Country Lodge with our driver, Thompson.

Forgot to mention we were woken up by monkeys
jumping on our roof the first morning 

We also got to hike to the waterfall! We were escorted by our guide, John, who sprinted after our minibus up two pretty steep hills so that we would choose him. He showed us the spot to jump off the rocks into the water.

This is John. (We also saw Geoffrey again, our guide last September.
He was too obnoxious to be chosen again).

We wanted to tour the tea plantations in the area (what Mulanje is most famous for) but they were too busy to host tours, as it is their peak season for harvesting tea. Instead, we got real pizza (they had a brick oven!!) and learned about some of the well known peaks and landmarks in the area. There we learned that there is this meteorite that is supposed to bring you good luck on your travels. It has a name that I can’t remember that Thompson translated to mean toolshed (not sure if its correct but we like it).

The story behind the meteorite is that this rock was in the road and these workers moved it to get it out of the way. That night everything flooded and when they returned the rock was back in the same location. They moved it again and it came back. Finally, they decided to crush the rock and the next day it was back. That’s my terrible rendition of the story I can’t completely remember without our book. When you get to the meteorite, you are supposed to walk around it three times, tapping it with a small rock that is perched in a crevice on the meteorite. If you do this when traveling north, it will bring you safe travels. It doesn’t work if you’re travelling south. If you happen to involuntarily whistle, something unexpected will happen to you. (We read this in Philip Briggs’ Bradts Malawi Guide Book, to avoid any plagiarism accusations).

Brian decided to test our luck and walk around the rock three times backwards while voluntarily whistling. (He wanted our tires to blow out on the ride home or something). Torrey went next and did it the correct way and then Thompson and I followed. I guess some unexpected this followed suit this week but who knows if that’s related.

I also forgot to mention that we passed the meteorite on the first try and had to drive back like 15 minutes. This picture of it on the side of the road hopefully helps explain why.

It was very small and not very noticeable, like even when
we were right next to it we were very unsure that we were
in the right location. (It was confirmed for sure by a man in
a minibus who yelled something in chichewa and gestured in a
circle motion to explain what we already knew to do)

The next day, we were invited to celebrate with Molly, the owner of Kameza Lodge (where we have been staying), and her family. She first took us to church at the oldest building in Blantyre. Torrey and I wore dresses made of chitenjes!

We then returned back to the lodge to prepare for the day of celebration. Molly’s entire family meaning her six children and their spouses, their thirteen children, plus her brother and some of her great nieces and nephews. We joined them for a Christmas lunch and lots of dancing! We made a lot of new friends and enjoyed the company of her family on this holiday, which was really nice because all three of us were missing our own families for the second year in a row. We finished the night off exhausted but ready to head to the community in the morning.

Originally, Tuesday was supposed to be our last day in the community. But we received results from Polytechnic, stating that the borehole had coliform bacteria in it. At first we were confused by the results, especially after the drillers results that said that there was 0 coliform and streptococci bacteria. We took another sample of the borehole and had it tested and these results confirmed that it did have high levels of bacteria in it. We were frustrated that we had received such inaccurate results from the driller and contacted Steve to see how to move forward. Unable to communicate this to the community without our translator, we prepared a conversation to explain this to the committee first thing when we arrived Tuesday morning. We told them that they could not drink the water until it was treated and planned to arrive the next day with chlorine for a very short time to sanitize the borehole.

With that plan in place, we enjoyed our last full day with the committee and the kids in the community.

Wednesday morning, we arrived with chlorine powder and calculations to determine how much was necessary for the well. With the research we did the night before, and help from Steve, we figured out how much to dilute the chlorine and the proper procedure used to clean the water. The community members who live close by learned that it would not be usable for the next couple of days and all filled buckets, which we confirmed would not be used for cooking, drinking, or washing their dishes.

We then got started mixing the chlorine and pouring it into the borehole. We quickly learned after pouring in only half of the first of sixteen buckets, that pumping did not help the already high level of water, and that we would need to wait until the water level dropped. It also didn’t help that we had come to do this treatment after an entire night of rain.

We reached out to Steve and he directed us to the government. We safely wrapped up the borehole after waiting a few hours and seeing no reduction in the water level at all and headed to the Blantyre district council office to discuss our options.

We informed them that we were leaving the following day and did not have time to wait for the water level to drop to insert the correct amount of chlorine. They told us that they are happy to take over but would need the help of the contractor and his agreement to follow their standards (which they did not currently have without having a direct contract with him).

We arranged a meeting for this morning and luckily got everyone into the office. There we agreed that the driller would complete the sanitation of the well (which was in his original contract) under the supervision of the government! We were super nervous going into the meeting, but think that we came out with the best possible solution.

Hopefully we can post an update on the sanitation progress which will be starting on Tuesday. We’re getting ready to board! Can’t wait to see you all back in the US!

Title creds to Brian

Sunday, December 24, 2017

In My Humble Opinion, It’s Pure Genius!

The past few days haven’t been as action packed but it was nice to be less rushed. On Monday we went to the community to complete some borehole related tasks. First, Sydney and I walked to all of the new boreholes and the boreholes we haven’t been to before in the community to mark them with the GPS. We had a lot of help finding the boreholes from around fifteen children that walked to them with us. We ended up walking in some areas in the community we had never been to before which was exciting. Afterwards we had lunch with the committee members back at the community center. Everyone seemed excited about the new borehole. We talked about how the committee members wanted to put up a sign next to the borehole that had the EWB logo and stated the date it was implemented. They asked us to write what we want on the sign and we came up with a sentence that stated that EWB, AfES (Action for Environmental Sustainability), and the community of Kumponda worked together to implement the borehole.

On Tuesday we dedicated time to both the borehole and the maize mill projects. We first met with the committee around 10:00am and gave a water safety presentation while they snacked on cookies and soda. This was our educational lesson for the project that the team at home worked on before we left. After this we went to Mr. Masamba’s house, where the maize mill is being stored. There we took some measurements of the mill and we took some detailed pictures based off of what the maize mill team asked us to look into while we were there. We also took water samples from the community center borehole and our new borehole and we took them to the Polytechnic University in Blantyre to have them tested for bacteria so we would be able to compare the results with the driller’s. After, we went to KFC for lunch/dinner because we were all craving American food and we saw a billboard that says “In my humble opinion, it’s pure genius –Kanye Banda”, so how could we not if it has Kanye’s approval?

Wednesday we didn’t go to the community. We first dropped Brian off at the library so he could explore all of the books they had on Malawi. Then Sydney and I went to our favorite place again, the National Bank. One of our friends at the bank who usually helps us wasn’t there that day so we had to get help from another guy. He didn’t know what we were trying to do (a cash advance). So it took twice as long just to fill out the paperwork. Once this was done we took our seats and waited for it to be processed. After two hours of waiting we went to the desk to check on it and we eventually found out that he had made a mistake. So we had to wait another two hours for him to fix and and have it ready. That was the longest amount time we had to stay at the bank but we are hoping that our friend and the bank will be back next time. We also met our driller's brother to get our final paperwork and give him the final payment. He gave us the test results and everything looked good but we'll be looking forward to our results from Polytechnic. After this we went to Levison’s (the machinist we go to in Malawi) to see if we could ask him a couple of questions about the maize mill but he wasn’t there so we arranged to meet with him on Friday and we left to go pick up Brian from the library. Later that day we went to dinner with Molly, the hotel owner and some of her family. It was fun to meet some of her family members and it was nice to eat different food.

On Thursday we went to the community for the “opening ceremony” for the borehole. We ended up giving a short speech along with Mr. Masamba. Everyone who came was very happy and excited to use the new borehole! After we finished speaking they sang a song and danced together. Then we went to eat lunch with the committee members and to ask them some questions about the maize mill. For dinner that day we took Steve, our mentor, out to dinner because he ended up being a great mentor and he really helped us when dealing with the driller. We ended up taking him and his wife to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and had a good time.

This weekend we are going on a trip to Mulanje and we will be having a Christmas lunch and final meeting with the committee members on Tuesday. We hope everyone is having a great break!

P.S. This post was written on Friday but we didn’t have power for the past few days and the laptop died so we couldn’t post this until now.