Thursday, July 17, 2008

Interviews at the Village

We have been hard at work doing the preliminary designs of the water canal and the electrical lines this week. Everybody has got into the action, as you can see below. I have asked Jason to stay on an additional 10-12 days to help with the electrical design, since he hasn't been able to fully train Jono yet. Today several of the team went with Jason to the airport to change the tickets, but they were unable to do it because the computers were down. It's just too boring to write the details, but they ran around doing this for several hours. Ug. In the end we had to just buy another one-way ticket for him.

We have determined that the houses are too far apart to transmit power at 120 volts, even though our power levels are so low. We think we can deliver about 90 Watts to all the houses simultaneously, as our peak output power is limited to about 3000 Watts by the inverter. In order to keep the transmission losses down, we had to either use HUGE wires (like jumper cables) or use transformers to boost the voltage. Making the voltage four times higher decreases the current by the same factor of four. But it decreases the lost power by a factor of 16!

So we bought some small transformers and ran some tests in the living room. Here you see the 20 W fluorescent light we plan to promote, along with the transformers (black cubes), and various tools and wires. It looks like a lab here!

Dr. Jordan and Ryan have been working on designing a canal to bring water to the generator. It requires 63 liters per second and about 10 feet of vertical drop. We are probably going to use two, 12 inch diameter pipes running for a horizontal distance of about 30 feet.

Here we are doing an important part of any engineering project: sketching ideas. It helps us to visualize each other's ideas, to communicate, and brainstorm.

Today we split into three teams. The M and the boys stayed home and cleaned the house. Though this is the most monotonous, it was greatly appreciated by me when I returned this evening.
Dr. Jordan, Nicole, and Jason ran all over town trying to get Jason's ticket changed and looked for plastic to line the canal at the Pueblo Nuevo site. Their day was also rather monotonous.
The last team was Kim, Ryan, Sergio the translator, and me. We went to Danta Uno to interview families that wanted to be a part of our project, to run, maintain, and manage the business. We had four families scheduled to come and talk to us, and we had a list of questions we thought would help us identify the best three.
We met them in the construction site of a new church that Humberto's ministry is building there. It had no windows, doors, or floor other than dirt. The metal roof and lack of ceiling made the afternoon rain so loud that we had to yell our questions and answers at each other at times.
Below is Clotilde (on the left). His appointment was at 1:00 p.m., but he didn't show up until 2:15. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to "cultural differences".
He is a subsistence farmer that rents his land from someone else. He mostly grows maize (corn) but also beans and rice, but he sells very little at the market. For the most part, he grows his family's food. He also performs construction in the region, sometimes walking to the main road to catch a bus to a jobsite. He seems to have lots of the construction skills we are looking for.
This is Walter and Mayra (and Ryan). He has lived in Danta Uno his entire life, and knows a little about electricity because he owns a small generator. He is relatively well off, compared to most of the village. He has a great personality, and Mayra brings us fresh pineapple that is delicious.

This is Fransico and Alba and their oldest daughter (and Kim). We found out they don't actually live in the village, but in an even smaller village, two hills over. There are only nine houses in their village, compared to the metropolis of 29 in Danta Uno.

We are going to interview more families on Monday with a new team of students. Dr. Jordan, Kim, and Nicole return to Texas on Saturday, and David, Lisa, and Elizabeth come on Sunday.

The team has been doing a lot of preliminary work, and hasn't been able to see many tangible improvements yet. Tomorrow we are going back to Pueblo Nuevo, however, to line their leaky leaky wooden canal with a heavy plastic liner (see Nicole above). We have been looking for the right material for several days, but only found it today. We are going to get an early start tomorrow, go buy some roofing nails at the ferreteria. {A ferreteria is a hardware store, not a place to buy ferrets.} The red color should go well with the blue generator.

Since our Phase I team is about to phase out, we went to dinner at Ricardo's, probably La Ceiba's nicest restaurant. Jono took this picture of Kim. He was happy to get to sit between the girls, and has generally endeared himself to the college students.
Here is a picture of The M and I at Ricardo's. She is getting darker and darker and will soon blend in to the mestizo crowd around us. I, on the other hand, will continue to be the Gringo Conspicuoso.

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