Friday, November 30, 2012

School framing begins

Today was a day of completing one stage, and beginning a new.  After a little over two weeks of labor, the schools bathroom pit has been dug, and internally framed, the schools perimeter fence was completed (except for a small section surrounding the bathroom), and we have begun the primary framing of the school. 

With an hour left of the day, the bathroom work was finished for the time being, and Tamesgin and I lead a group of 8 workers through the initial steps of creating a level roof line.  We cut, hoisted and positioned the first tiers four corner studs.  With the aid of our (should be patented ) 4 person ladders level was found at exactly 4 meters, and posts were anchored for the projects first cement pour.  Workers and community alike were stunned to see Tamesgin and I standing comfortably 15 feet in the air, though everyone shared their excitement for the beginning of the schools primary framing being placed in the ground.   

The bathroom pit, was… well a lot of digging: imagine a circle with a diameter of 9 feet that goes another 18 feet in the ground.  The pit’s framing was a relatively quick, a single day of work, though a muddy one.  It rained the last three nights, leading to some slippery and dirty work.  Ill speak at length on how and why we build our bathrooms the way we do in another blog (not exactly puppies and kiddies but important none the less).

The fence was a pretty big undertaking. Over 500 feet of fence line, 6 and a half feet high, and held together by hammer driven nails… thousands of them.  It looks great, unlike my hands, that were finally broken in with a 10,000 or so swings.  Bout time I got the leather back on these mitts :-).  

The following provides a few photos from late in the day.  Its tough being the photographer  when your responsible for most everything else.  I think I am going to hand over my old point and shoot to Ejigu tomorrow and see what he comes up with.  

Temesgin securing Azedebo KG's first timber.

Sallamnesh leading a large portion of the work crew in gathering stones for cement filler for tomorrows post pours.

Check out that fence.  Ill breakdown what it all is in a following post.

Behold, the perimeter of the KG's 2 of a total of four large classrooms 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The school design

Photos of the school design have been floating around on facebook, but ER has yet to make a formal announcement of the final design.  The following is just that.  Thanks to Troy Gallas, yet again, the lead architect behind each of the three schools I have/will build in Ethiopia, we have another remarkable school/library design. 

The school is positioned on a 45 meter x 45 meter plot of land within a massive existing 1-8 school compound.  The four classrooms are 8 meters x 6 meters, the office and storage  is 4 meters x 5 meters, the library is 10 meters by 10 meters and the outdoor reading/meeting space is 6 meters by 10 meters.  This L shape design allows for a wealth of land in the middle of the sites space to be used for playground equipment and a field for volley ball and soccer.

A few things to note: Because of the lands slight incline The buildings have been flipped, and the downward facing portion of the "L" shape is broken into two levels... Imagine Kololo's building set up, on a smaller scale. There is only a 60 cm difference in Azedebo, Kololo's is close to 2 meters.  We also reduced the amount of windows by  about a single window per classroom.  That still allows for at least 5 per room, not to mention the 4 skylights overhead.  The bathroom is not pictured within this rendering. It is located in the bottom SW corner, or just below and inset from the downward facing section of the "L" shape.  We also added a fence to the schools perimeter due to governmental KG school standards. 

There's plenty other great elements to Troy's design, but Ill wait to showcase those in individual blog posts. 


Library, office, storage and outdoor meeting/reading area on the left.  Four equal sized classrooms on the right.
Sheltered walk way allowing for a weather protected walk from one class to the next. 

Outdoor meeting/reading area and library.

Plenty of transparent roofing to allow for great of natural lighting.

A view of the class rooms from the back. You can also see the single drainage canal.

Inside view of the office/storage, library and outdoor meeting/reading space.

Inside view of the four classrooms.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Look whos back

Sallamnesh was able to join the Azedebo team yesterday morning.  Due to work obligations in Addis, she was delayed by a few weeks, we are all happy to finally have her out.  Sallamnesh will work alongside Temesgin as an onsite assistant manager.  Each is expected to lead through actions, and provide additional monitoring support to Ejigu and I.  Sallamnesh has the potential of being a critical part of the project management team.  She explained yesterday that she was very excited for the opportunity to work with ER, and even more so to be a role model for the woman in the community.

 Upon her arrival we ran through introductions as well as her role as an onsite assistant manager.  She was welcomed by each of our workers, though the young woman took special notice.  Most of which were very shy, though a couple attempted to take Sallamnesh aside and ask her about her having position in almost male dominated field.  Sallamnsh seemed to take it in stride, smiling saying a few short words  (from what I understood her response was long the lines of “oh its nothing”), grabbed a hammer, called upon a male assistant and confidently began swinging away.

I am really looking forward to working with Sallamnesh in creating leadership workshops that focus on empowering young woman through  building personal confidence just as much as skill sets.  

Sallamnesh looking over the nearly completed  perimeter fence. 

The crew.  Were all a bit tired after a long day.  And yes i know I have what looks to be soot all over my face.  We earn our pay out here ;-).

Sallamnesh and Wendumu working together to finish the perimeter fence line.

Swinging away.

Where we are.  Thats 4 dump trucks of boulders in the middle.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dusty. So very very dusty.

Azedebo sits on the foot hills of a large mountain range called Ambareecho.  Theres plenty of greenery, waterways, and animals throughout, but the community knows it best for its  incessantly blowing wind.  That wind soars down from the 3,000 meter peaks and flushes the arid soil  from all the lands and roads into the air. Like the rain, it inevitably falls; in your hair, on your clothes in your eyes and of course into your home.  The small town is perpetually covered in dust. You brush it off, but seconds later another gust blows through, or a another giant truck thunders by and the air is thick yet again.  I have already grown accustom to the barren taste, and I think that Ill continue to manage just fine, but then again, I have some help with doing my laundry.
The usual scene walking home after a days work.  Kid doing the splits is always there.

One of the culprits.  6 inches of feathery dirt  and tiny stones makes up the road through Azedebo
(Durame- Mudula thoroughfare).  Of course it all kicks up with ease with every passing car.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A day ends and new day begins

Not so fortunate me is still sharing a pint sized cot with my quickly growing baby gal.  Lolo and I get along pretty well in the late evening, we are both exhausted,  so its easy getting comfortable and knocking out.  Sleep has been working fairly well.   There is the occasional bathroom break, or awkward late night rollover, but we manage…  it’s the mornings that are little unnerving.  Lolo, like clockwork starts playing tug-a-war with my sheets at  6:30.  In an attempt to make the most of my fleeting opportunity for rest, I let her win, and snatch another 10 or so minutes.  Shortly after, were both up, I horridly find my work wear and take Lolo out (puppy potty training is not for the impatient). 

Like my mornings most anywhere, its just going through the motions.  Stretch, hydrate, email if internet allows, and then its breakfast and ginger tea with a welcoming morning read (Azedebo motions are a little nicer than usual).  Right now I'm flipping the digital pages of the Talking Heads’s old front man, David Byrn’s Bicycle Diaries.  Its good. But wow do I miss my bike. Kololo has some fresh milk, with a side of the same bread, and scraps of eggs if my appetite allows.  It’s just the two us at the table, me beside it and her below. The morning is refreshingly quite, my father and mother are often still snoozing, everyone else is getting ready for school or taking care of chores, so outside of a couple rooster flare ups, Lolo and I enjoy in peace. 

By about 745 I’m brushing my teeth and filtering the last bit of  few liters of water for the days consumption. Work and school  begin at 8, so we are sure to be on our way no later than 7:50.  I then have the pleasure of escorting Meta and Sahi (two of the young ladies I live with, one family, the other a house maid) to school.  The mornings are pretty brisk at 2,400 meters, so Lolo is happy to be ushered to the work site inside Meta’s sport coat.  It’s a symbiotic relationship; Lolo stays cozy while Meta absolutely cherishes her task. The school compound is but a short jaunt across the main road and the sports field, but after just a couple minutes the four of us are usually walking in a huddle of 40 or so curious and a bit envious students.  Lolo is the only puppy around, and the only clean dog for that matter, Meta, if she wasn't already, has definitely become one of the “cool kids.”  Once inside the school property Lolo, Meta and Sahi say their goodbyes, Lolo leaps to the ground and the two of us jog the 100 meters to the jobsite.  Most of the crew is usually already there, and happy to see the both of us.  Her more than I… of course.   

Freshly made habasha bread, eggs and potatoes with plenty of hot sauce, tea, and my ipad. Not exactly roughing it.

Meta and Sahi on our way to the school compound.

Those smile are for the little pup running their way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Where we are

Even though Ejigu and I were in the midst of a ridiculously long day of dealing with slimey build material providers, I was able to work with Temesgin and a couple of guys in the workcrew to set some 50 odd posts and get a majority of the fences framing up.  As long as the wood keeps coming it will be finished by Wednesday   Then its finally time to start framing out the buildings.

Meleces, Marah, and Arakin cutting the fence timbers to size.

Temesgin readying the first post.  Notice all the others ready to go, and the clay filler (awesome for a strong pack) being
toted into place by the workers behind him.

The primary structure of the fence.  Each post is placed at least 80cm in the ground.  That's nearly 3 feet.  Folks here think were crazy (in most cases, people dont bury their timbers more then 30cm into the ground), but with proper maintenance  we are planning on this fence being hear for decades to come.  

Sure its kind of boring but the right preparation, leads to a true, and level product.
Your looking at perfectly inline post holes for the schools rear exterior walls.  The
string on the left shows the ground at level.  We dug on average 30 cm. to create two
equal footprints of 12 mtr x 8 mtr.  The library, office, and outdoor reading area (not shown)
got the same treatment.

This is the view that I have been using and will continue to do so, for showing every day progress of the build.  In a few months the shots will make for an epic time lapse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A few shots from the last couple days

The work crew enjoying some down time with Lolo 
Usual scene during the mid afternoon water break.  

Azedebo essentials.  The formula is for the ever growing Lolo.

 The land is ready.  We are finaly working with timbers starting tomorrow.
The first of many orders of wood. 

Afterwork snack with the fam.  Warmed gudari (a purple potato like tuber), with a spicey garlic sauce.

My new habasha paents sharing a laugh with me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another day on the job with the community

Our days are composed of a mesh of sweat equity and community immersion.  One of the reasons why ER’s grassroots work is so effective is because our field team makes it our mission to become a part of the community we work alongside.  It is not easy, and by no means are Ejigu and I experts, but over the course of the last three years we have learned how to let the right walls down while still remaining comfortable in a foreign environment.  Butter salt coffee with village elders, volleyball with the teenagers, learning the local languages with the work crew all are small exercises of assimilation.  During this build I have moved in with an entire family, while Ejigu and Temesgin have moved into an unused building within the school compound.  Since, I have become the eldest son of loving habasha parents, while Ejigu and Temesgin now spend their nights relaxing with the teachers and administrators responsible for educating a majority of the community. 

These choices go along way with the beneficiaries to ER’s work.  By living as the community does, openly participating, and thought fully engaging those that we share space with, we become welcomed into the community. ER’s standing then grows dramatically as direct result of the connections we make, and the lives we live while here.  People begin to associate ER with our own actions, and lifestyles.  And I am confident that when I say that is a wonderful thing. Because even though many other NGO’s have come before us and faltered in KT, when the build is finished in Azedebo, the community will not only be empowered through ER’s development programming, but the community will know that ER sincerely cares on an individual level.  My team and I may be in Washo or Fundamo in a few months, but our actions and attitude will leave legacy that our ER programming will build upon into the future.

The following photos were taken today during the course of the usual work day.   Ill take the time to craft individual blogs to showcase the wonder that is coffee spiced with salt and butter. Of course none of the photos related to this post were able to load.  Expect those tomorrow.  As well as some shots of the freshly ordered timbers.  

Ejigu and Lolo looking over  Agoat and Meleces' work.  

A view from just beyond the bathrooms SW corner 
Loading up one of thousands of barrelas to level the land and gather soil for the cob.

Daniel assisting in clearing the compound of weeds for a an eventual lush grass field for the community

Finishing leveling the land for the framing and foundation of the library space

Temesgin catching up with Sallamnesh over the phone.  She will be with us by the end of the week. She is currently finishing u a construction gig in Addis this week.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where I lay my head

So I've been in Azedebo for almost a week and a half, and have yet to share where I lay my head.  So here are a few shots of the family's home and compound that I am happily staying in.  Its Sunday, so most of the family is either at church or seeing fam and friends in the area.  But be sure that Ill have another blog introducing you to my new family.

Most folks that are familiar with how we usually do our builds probably were expecting my crew and I all to be living under one roof.  The house is usually donated by the community, or we pay a small, but fair amount to the homeowner (who usually ownes another property that they then move into).  That wasn't possible in Azedebo.  The small town, didnt have to many places to offer, and those they did, were owned by some not too kind people.  Rather then providing us a fair rent, they saw an opportunity to make money, and proceeded to try to make a ridiculous amount.  In addition, the community rests on a main thoroughfare, and with that comes many of the passerby's and young men with idle hands that love hanging out on the road.  As result, well its not the safest place for a few foreigners that are assumed to have plenty of cash and fancy stuffs laying about.  

Safty is of the upmost importance, and unfortunately its not always the wildlife we are forced to worry about.  So we worked with the local officials and community leaders to get Ejigu, Temesgin and Sallamnesh a place within the school compound that overlooks our build site.  There are two security guards, and it known that unless you farm on rented school property, strangers are not welcome in the schools compound. While Lolo and I, and all of our fancy stuff moved in with a village elder and his family.  His house is literally across the blindingly dusty road from the school, so its plenty close, we have a big wall, and my "father" is very well respected so I am plenty safe.  Dont fret.

The basic set up is, Lolo and I live in a spare room in the main house.  The family was using it for storage space, and now I get to use the old cabinet and broken fridge for my own storage. Because my days (7am-6 pm) are spent at the job site or at at my crews place of living, I really am only around for the evenings.  But as one can imagine they are usually short lived.  8 hours of 34.5 C heat at 2500 meters wears you down a bit. I do manage to make it to family dinner every night, which the mother and father especially enjoy.  And its great for my Amharic, and local languages, because no one speaks a lick of English.

Ill share more about my life with the family in future posts.  For the time being welcome to Lolo and I's new home.

My bedroom.  Notice... I have a socket on the wall.

My families swanky dinning area

Lolo and the 40 or so chickens are working on their relationship.  The family and I always get a chuckle from the spats.
My not so secret garden, the chicken coop and the families farm hand

Family compound: Their convenience store on the left (faces the road) cooking area, animal and food storage, in the front and the living quarters on the right.  Its a nice spread.

Lolo, the compounds new guard puppy

Sunday = loud churches, me typing, and lots of laundry being done.

The families mango/coffee/banana grove.  There's also a few types of tubers and guards packed in as well.

My Sunday place of business.  Under the shade of a mango tree. Doi. I am still looking for a suitable set up for my hammock.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Readying the land

Just a few photos of the first couple days of digging and moving land.  We dont have nearly the amount of work we had in Kololo so its going fast.  The land should be completely leveled, and all the holes will be positioned and dug to proper depth by Wednesday.  Here is a few photos of the work and progress thus far.

A panoramic view of the job site.  Ill be tking plenty of photos from this point to show the build progress

Temesgin working on one of the 200 or so post holes

Prepping the land for taking proper bathroom measurements 

Community working together to level the land before building can begin