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2010 June 29
Posted by chrisgezon

It’s been a busy week.  My last post left off on a sort of “to be continued” moment where we were waiting to hear where the elders thought the filter should go.  Our meeting Monday was one of the shortest I’ve ever had—maybe three minutes tops—in which the Chief basically said that he didn’t care where the filter went, but that any water committee meetings should be at his place.  That, and he said that we should bring some beer for him next time we come.  Seriously.

We broke ground Tuesday, and the digging (there’s less weight on the outer walls if they’re buried, and it makes maintenance easier if you don’t have to climb 2.5 meters to scrape the surface) started quickly.  By lunch some people were saying that we could finish in two days, putting us a day ahead of schedule.  The ground was amazingly rocky in most places, and we were exhausted at the end of Tuesday, but on schedule.  The Black Labels in the photo were returned to us when we were informed that the Chief prefers Castle…no point letting them go to waste.

Wednesday rapidly bogged down as our rocky “patch” became a layer of boulders too big to move, and generally even too big to break with sledge hammers.  By lunch it had become clear that we were not going to be finished digging Thursday, and realistically not even within a week.  It was at this point that one of the volunteers from Tshapasha mentioned that he knew a guy that could get us a TLB (we had no idea what it was either, but our guess was that it was a bobcat) to do the work, but it would be “expensive.”   They usually would charge 600R, but they thought they could get it down to 400R.  Our massive 7.5 x 4.5 x 1.8 m hole that was going to take a week of 20 men’s labor could be done for roughly $80 USD, and they only mentioned this after a day and half’s back breaking labor.  TIA

Problem solved.

Friday we leveled the hole and poured the gravel (so the water leaking through the cement doesn’t erode the soil under the foundation, eventually causing it to break) and while we had hoped to pour on Saturday, the sand and gravel we received were neither sand nor gravel.  Despite the fact that we explicitly ordered them for use as concrete aggregates, the “gravel” was a sandy mix full of large clumps of clay (unacceptable in concrete) as well as some chunks of rock over a foot wide, and the “sand” was more a fine dry dirt, complete with roots and twigs.  TIA

By the time we got sand and stone from another supplier (our brick manufacturer has become a total boon to us, supplying bricks, sand, stone, a cement mixer, and all kinds of great information), and put up enough of the forms and rebar it was too late to pour.  The community workers were mostly busy Sunday so we just finished prepping the rebar and forms for the pour Monday.

On Monday we finally poured the concrete for the foundation, which started well but led to its own difficulties.  It has been hot and sunny every day almost every day so far, but yesterday it had to rain.  Not only did it cause some issues with the concrete, but the water started causing the mixer to shock us.  To add to it, the sand and stone we ordered (6 cubic meters) was clearly going to run out about 2/3 of the way through, despite the fact that we had a 6.92 x 3.46 x .2 slab (you can do the math).  Eventually the rain picked up, as well as the voltage, and we had to call it off and just put in a cold joint.  Fortunately it’s the in the middle where all of our rebar overlaps, so there’s about 40 pieces of rebar crossing the joint.  Today we sat around for most of the day waiting for a truckload of sand that never came…TIA.  Eight days into work we’re four days behind.  We still shouldn’t have any problems finishing on time (though our testing window keeps shrinking, we definitely won’t witness the growth of the biological layer), but I’m getting worried, after all, This Is Africa…

One Response
  1. dave gezon permalink
    June 30, 2010

    love your progress reports. TIA could also be This is America, where the mail gets lost (or burned) by civil servants earning $80,000 a year. like your villages, even the U.S. government is difficult to understand. You’re doing a wonderful thing for these villages… even if they don’t know it.

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