Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12 dump trucks of rock and 150 bags of cement later, we are nearly finished with the school site's excavation and retaining walls.  By my rough calculation, we have moved over 3,400 rocks larger than a breadbox (and thousands of smaller rocks) to form the three tiers of retaining walls. The walls are 50 cm thick at the base, reinforced with rebar and a cement mixture much stronger than what most Ethiopian contractors use. In short, the school will not be going anywhere soon.

The excavation required 11 days of 32 villagers digging, carrying, and sweating in the Ethiopian sun. The community worked diligently in highly coordinated teams to excavate the three tiers of soil needed to properly level the land for the school's foundation. 16 interchanging workers traded off on carrying loads of dirt for entire 8-hour work days. Without expensive wheelbarrows, dirt is transported in two-person conveyances, little more than trays between two poles.

The bathroom pit has been completed – about 260 square meters of earth – and a majority of the approximately 170 post holes have been dug. I am happy to announce that much of the hard labor and toil is behind us, and the school framing will begin next week.

It hasn't been easy. But as the school site starts to take shape it's fair to say that everyone from the community feels great sense of gratification in the work.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Awe Shhhhh...

Woe is me.  So just when I think all is well, I woke this morning to discover that my Kindle (a handy digital device that allows one to easily carry and read a multitude of digital copies of written work) decided to fizzle out on me.  Up until now, I have been enjoying the ease of toting around 200 books on the  notebook sized devise, and even got a little cocky, and neglected to bring any actual books along with me to Kololo.  It’s a shame, I was just getting into Bill Bryson’s Home.  A good, and appropriate read. It is a well written and thorough history of humans development, use, and personalization of homes.  Fortunately, Daniel brought two actual books,  one of which is Huxley's Brave New World.  I am surely happy for now.  But once we run out of the decent reads we can find in Hawassa and I am reading Newsweeks from 1998 (old news magazines are all over the city  streets,) the bitterness will surely set in.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Digging the hole

3x3 meters and hopefully 8 meters deep.  We are planning for the future with this hole.  The community looked at me a little skewed when I joked that we were digging until we could not dig anymore.  Since last Wednesday, six men have worked in two shifts to excavate about a half meter of dirt (in overall depth) a day. The photo shown is the result of the first 2 days of digging.  In preparation for the very deep depth, we cut down a couple Eucalyptus (a tree that grows like weed throughout Ethiopia, and is used for a majority of residential building) and built a 7 meter long ladder.  It looks a bit ridiculous sticking out the 5 meters it is currently, but the ladder will be a must by next week.  

So those familiar with building toilets in rural places are aware that there are a few options to choose from.  To name three of the common choices...  

1. A pit latrine.  A large hole in the ground, that allows for some leaching of material into the surrounding soil.  When the hole is filled, the bathroom holes are plugged.  The housing is raised from the foundation and placed on top of a new dug hole.  Pit latrines can be drained and reused when drainage trucks are available. Supposedly, there are no such trucks available in Kambata. 

2. Septic . A carefully balanced plumbing system largely used in rural locations around the world.  Simply put, bacteria and PH levels are monitored for the most effective material management.  There are large leaching fields to allow for pr material to dissipate into the surrounding earth.  With general maintenance and system monitoring, properly designed septic systems may last well into the future.

3. Organic options.  Human waste is hygienically managed to be recycled in farming use; similar to manure.  Bathrooms that are usually used in smaller populations.  Solid and liquid contents are separated for different uses. Solid contents are mixed with ash and or Lyme and saved in removable collecting bins.  While liquid is saved through a variety of storage means. Depending on the population size the contents are utilized on daily, weekly, bi weekly, or even monthly basis. 

Because our school is sitting among numerous farm plots (we do not have the proper amount of space to allow for effective leach fields, and do not want to negatively affect local crops), and the population using the bathrooms is over a few hundred (we would have to collect material much too often with such a large population), we are forced to use pit latrines.  We estimate that the current pit, without being drained, will be functional for the next 5 to 7 years, and will reuse the housing structure (it is designed to be removed and transported for future pit latrine use).  

Sure its not a fun topic to imagine.  But it is certainly important.

A few reasons why I do not always sleep well

If its not the flies its surely the fleas.  And that is damage done while equipped with an insecticide treated bed net, permethrine soaked sheets, and a bug bombed room.  I shudder to think what sleeping on the floor would lead to. 

Work contracts signed

Before work could get started, we conducted a variety of meetings detailing Ethiopia Reads and my own expectations of the community during the build.  The dialogue concluded with each of the community members (who were interested in working) signing a  temporary employment contract/ liability waiver.  These photos are of a few of the community members assisting us in translating (the docs are written in English and Amharic, though some of the village elders only speak local Kambata languages) and obtaining signatures from all interested parties.

If folks are curious to see the contents of the contract/ liability waiver, I can post the doc as well.  Just let me know. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Tiger" ate some goats

Egads!  They exist, or at least something just as deadly as a tiger!  So the communities chatter about the so called waterfall tigers was more than just talk.  According to numerous eyewitnesses, last evening, two tigers made their way into the village and ambushed a herders stock of goats.  The circle of life surely showed its self on our little bit of pride rock, as a Kololo farmer lost two of his herd to a well coordinated ambush.  In a startling blur, the creatures tore through the riverbanks tall grass, and swiftly made off with the animals as if they were but a fourth of their actual size.  The hearder, and all other community members were unscathed, but all were put an alarm of the lurking menace. Daniel and I were at home resting when Ijigu came back early from a failed shower attempt .  The community filled him in (possibly embellishing a bit) and advised Ijigu to forgo bathing that evening.  I am pretty confident that from now on, the three of us will always be a bit weary of late afternoon, and early evening  trips to our local bath.

A few photos from our favorite water way
 Ijigu posing for the ladies.  Well, really just his mom and wife.  This photo will be on his wall in Addis, no doubt.

 The view upwards from our bathing lagoon.  We usually have some company lining these rocks.  Mostly kids, but also elderly woman and men washing clothes, and cattle herders bringing there animals to drink.

 A nice view into the Kololo valley.  The school is only a 8 minute walk down and to the right from here.

 Our infinity waterfall pool.  We bath here daily. 
 Look mom I have a furry face.

The view from up top.  Though remember, this is only the medium sized fall.  The large one is further down the river.

Some of our tireless fans

 This is Ishetu and his little sister.  The owner of our rental lives with his family in their back house, directly behind us.  As a result, Ishetu family and friends are constantly perched on our lawn. Usually sneaking peaks through open windows and doors.  Or waiting for Daniel and I to go outside and juggle, dance, play our harmonica's, or simply just sit there.  The two of us are the closest thing the community has to a T.V., and they never care what is on.

 The beginings of a dance off.

 Resting between shoulder shakes and foot work.

The kids are terrified of Daniel. This guy is the brave one. He bolted when Daniel reached out for some hand jive.

What we are eating

Since first arriving, we have each shed a few pounds.  And it is certainly not do to not eating enough.  We figure that on average, we each consume in the neighborhood of 5,000 calories a day. And plenty of protein.  Yet no matter how hard we try, swinging shovels and pick axes in the African sun keeps melting away the fat. Here is a few examples of our usual meals.  
Moo powder and chocolate syrup to start.  Followed by eggs, onions and hot peppers.  And capped off with a few avocados.  

 Plenty of oats and peanut butter.  And of course bananas, lots ant lots of bananas.


Me playing with my soon to be dinner. Also sporting my new hat.  A supremely functional fashion statement. Which is happily worn daily.

What was left of our Sunday night Dorro Wat.  An Ethiopian favorite, and adored by ferengies and hababashas alike. 

 Messages from food
 Sometimes our food speaks to us. I kid you not that avocado was not carved, I scooped out the meat like all those before it, and this time was told No.  A little weird, especially on Halloween.  There is a oven i n the nearest town with electricity.  We order a few biscuits almost daily. 

 Ijigu, being Igigu
 Ijigu proudly showing off his daily breakfast; bananas and avocados, washed down with scalding hot sugar laden tea.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How much dirt was excavated

The almost final product.  And a few rocks from our first of 10 truck loads. The rest should be on site by the end of next week.
 The first step of removal is breaking up the top soil. We have two teams of three "diggers" working all the live long day to loosen up the ground for our shovlers to load up the barrelas. This is the third tier.
Our barrella's  hard at work.
 Daniel wrapping up our level line after digging our first level trench, two to go.  You can also see our solar panels in the background.
Daniel standing over the beginnings of our second trench hole.  While the first tier is still being dug out.

The work began Monday the 23rd and finished two days following a neglected Halloween.  After 11 days of 32 people digging, carrying, and sweating in the Ethiopian sun,  the three tiers  have been completely excavated… by hand.  The community worked diligently in highly coordinated teams to excavate the soil needed to properly level the land for the schools foundation.  16 interchanging workers carried 8 barrelas (two person material transporter) for the entire 8 hour work days.  The foot powered transporters made upwards of 30 drops an hour (because of the exorbitant cost, and low quality of Ethiopian wheel barrows, barrellas are an economic, and effective substitute)  while two teams of 4 diggers, utilizing a variety of pick axes, inverted pitch forks, and hoes, continuously loosened and dug the compacted earth, while two teams of two to three fillers shoveled the earth into the barrelas.  

With the pit latrines, drainage ditches, and retaining wall foundations yet dug, there is still plenty of excavating to go.  However, with a little rough math, Daniel and I figured that the approximant amount of earth moved to be in the neighborhood of 260 square meters.   That’s a sperm whale or so worth of soil. Not bad right.

What we are building

This is the design that we are bringing to life in Kololo.  Because of some land restrictions, a few of the room dimensions have been roughly modified to fit the alotted space. We decided on this layout based on the land that was donated to Ethiopia Reads for the build.  It makes for a lot of digging, but it will be a beautiful school with gorgeous view. And a big thanks to our architectural consultant, Troy Gallas, who created this computer genrated model and assisted on the design concept.