Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guest Blog: by David F.

What an adventure we had on Saturday! We drove out to Jungle River Lodge and took the opportunity to take a canopy tour through the jungles of Honduras. Who knew that flying over the river and through the jungle on a wire and pulley could be so much fun?

After putting on our harnesses and safety equipment and listening to a quick set of instructions, we were off flying over the river. After the first two zip-lines we hiked a little ways through the jungle where the guide showed multiple plants and animals and told us about some of their uses. A few of us even had a high protein snack; termites really do taste like wood. We then continued through the jungle going from tree-house to tree-house, dodging limbs on our way. The ninth and final zip-line was the longest and fastest, returning us from the jungle back across the river. Here is a video of our adventure.

Update on Noemi

We received word from some medical missionary friends here in Ceiba that the hernia operation should be less than $1000, probably a lot less. We are going to be in Pueblo Nuevo today anyway, so we will talk to her mother and see if we can bring her back to the city for an evaluation.

Email me if you want to take part in this, financially speaking.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Exceprts from an Email from The M

Friday morning we needed to be back in the village, in the river at 8:00 am to work with some local men. So, the day began at 3:38 am for me. I had gone to bed early and by 3:30 I was awake and couldn’t turn off my mind. I was taking the team and both my little boys back to the village to work for the day. So, I got up packed lunches for three, changes of clothes for three, first aid stuff for three, water bottles for three. Pretty much anything me or the boys might need for the day. I then made scrambled eggs and toast for all of us (15 eggs and a loaf of bread) and we ate breakfast at 5:30 am. We were out the door at 6:00 am in the taxi and the truck headed to the bus station.

MAFG needed the truck that day so we had to take a bus out to the village. What that means is that we get on a bus going east and ask them to let us off at the dirt road that leads to the village. The bus that we got on at the station was a schoolbus. They use school buses here instead of the greyhound type buses. So, we hopped a bus and they let us off an hour later at the dirt road leading to the village. We then walked, I mean hiked, I mean seriously walked up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down this dirt rocky road for about 45 minutes. And I was carrying enough stuff for three days in the jungle for three people and it was a pretty difficult little walk for this girl. The students and the boys were great. They just skipped on ahead.

Jono took pity on me and stayed back with me. I mean, he walked slowly taking in the scenery with me. He told me that he didn’t want me to be lonely so that’s why he was walking with me. I kept telling him he could go on ahead with the others, but he just stayed by my side. Such a little love. We met Walter in the river and worked for several hours moving rocks to make the channel in the middle of the river deeper for the generator something something something something. I’m not completely clear on all the engineering technical stuff. But it was hard work. Like tear-up-my-hands-and-exercise-all-my-muscle-groups hard. It was absolutely wonderful. So stretching. No pun intended. And seeing my boys playing on the rocks in the middle of the river. Like little jungle boys. Wow. Amazing. And every so often I would look up at the jungle around us and think “am I really really here?” because it seems kinda surreal.

Oh, and I have to tell you about the local men and how they work. First of all, they work hard. Really hard. But they also work really smart. Several of the men were trying tomove three huge boulders out of the middle of the canal. As they would work along, at times they would stop because they needed a certain tool. So they’d go over to the side of the river and, get this: CHOP DOWN A TREE AND MAKE THEIR OWN. Not kidding. They use a machete like nothing I’ve ever seen. They chop, chop and down comes the tree. The trunks are about as big around as a softball. They cut off all the branches and most of the bark. Then they kinda whittle it down into what ever they need. Spear? Here ya go. Ax handle? Ok. Chopping blade? Not a problem. It was like watching the Discovery Channel in real life. So impressive. Completely cool.

When we were finished, we walked back to Walter’s house where we changed clothes and his wife, Mayra, fixed us this warm shrimp soup with rice and home made tortillas for lunch. Served with lemonade. On a little plastic table with a piece of tarp as a tablecloth and it was perfect! We sat on pretty much all their “chairs” and used all their dishes. It was such an honor to eat at her table. Walter and Mayra and their children sat under the shade of the tree while we ate. I think it is part of their culture to serve guests and then let them eat on their own. But I’m not sure because so much is left unsaid and all the stuff that is said I can’t understand anyway. I’m trusting that the Holy Spirit communicated for us. Lots of smiles and “muchas gracias” and “perfecto” and stuff like that. Not any hugging. I wish they did that more in this culture. But I totally respect it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Miscellaneous Images from Pueblo Nuevo

At Santos's brother's house, this dog was lying in a bed of rice in the sun. Arroz con perro.

This is my village breakfast of corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, refried red beans, and some kind of cheese.

This is a new type of banana that I have never had before. It has an almost rectangular, not circular, cross section. It is sweet and meaty and delicious.

David has a peanut butter, Nutella, and rectangular banana sandwich.

Here is Santos (micro) and his father. His father is the oldest person I have seen in the village, and is the founder of the village. Many years ago, he came and settled this area from virgin land, hacking through the jungle with a machette. He sold land to many of the land owners and made donations for the school.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Need from the Village

Wednesday morning Jason, Elizabeth, pastor Santos, and I went around the village marking the various homes with our GPS and talking to the people. We told them that we believe that prayer can be effective, and asked if there was any way we could pray for them. Several asked for us to pray about their sons making their way to the United States in search of work. The father of a 17 year old was worried for his son, and the mother of a 20 year old broke down and cried. We prayed with them and for them and our presence facilitated pastor Santos to shepherd and comfort them.

One woman brought us into her small home with an uneven dirt floor and corn stored in a pile on the floor. In a ten foot by ten foot room, laying on a home made wooden frame and a worn out, dirty mattress, was six year old Noemi. She is sick, we believe, with two conditions. The first is a recent hernia, and the second is a virus going around the village. The mother has taken Noemi to a clinic of sorts that diagnosed the hernia, but she does not have the money to take her to the city hospital for the surgery to repair it.

We were concerned that her fever and body aches were associated with the hernia, and that it might be infected, but the mother thinks these symptoms are caused by a virus. There were several other people ill with a virus in the village, and this gave us some relief that the mother was correct.

I asked her if we could take a picture, and share it with my friends back in the United States, so that they might join us in praying for her. And this is what I am asking you to do.

Lord God, you are a loving and compassionate father and we ask for your healing hand on Noemi. We ask that you would restore her strength and health, that you would repair her hernia, and that you would enable her to again do the things little girls do. Father, if it be your will, I ask that you touch the heart of a donor, perhaps from this post, that would pay for her operation. We know this is important to you, because as you taught us,

"And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward."
If you would like to help, please send me an email. We can make this happen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pack it in, Pack it out

Our summer in Honduras is never short on adventure. Last Friday as we journeyed to Pueblo Nuevo for our first attempt to install the canal liner, we were turned back by rains and muddy roads as soon as we arrived. And as you may have read in an earlier post, we got stuck in the mud several times. That was a little too much adventure for this middle-aged fat guy, since I didn't want to use my grant money to pay the insurance deductible on my rental vehicle. Oh yeah, that and I didn't want the students to get hurt either.

So we found an easier, er... strike that, more vehicle-friendly way to get to the village. The M drove us out on a different road, a flat one, to a point about three miles away from Pueblo Nuevo, and then we walked the rest of the way on a foot path! It was really a fantastic experience and my only regret is that Nicole and Kim didn't get to experience it. We miss you girls.

The journey begins with the suspension bridge. It is locally made, mostly from long lengths of rebar tied and/or welded together. It was reasonably sturdy and passed perhaps 15 or 20 feet over a river. Then it joined a foot path that was remarkably well traveled like an interstate highway for pedestrians and horses, but not for cars and trucks. It was eye-opening to me because I got another glimpse at the day to day operations of village life. "Roads" such as these were the capillaries of rural life, and I realized that until this point, I had only been in the arteries of Honduras because my destinations were limited to places I could drive.
At first our trail passed through a village with houses on either side of the packed earth path. Barbed wire fences lined each side and delineated the small bits of land belonging to different families. After a while, we left the people behind and the path wound between farmers' fields, pastures, and untamed places.

Here we stopped for a water break because we were sweating like pigs. It was sunny and humid and mostly uphill (the net climb was 700 feet). We were rewarded with beautiful views and earthy smells and curious passers by greeting us with "buenas".

Shown above is our team, except for me. The back row is Jason, Ryan, and David, then the middle row is Lisa, Elizabeth, and one of Santos's many sons who had been sent to meet us and be our guide. The little guy is another of his sons too, but I cannot remember either of their names at the moment. I know my students would remember their names because they are all brilliant, but they are all asleep now so I can't ask them. Let's just call them both Sacagawea.

Soon the trail turned from packed earth to rocks and mud. We were able to hop from rock to rock with reasonable speed, although the Sacageweas were continually having to stop and wait for us on account of them being mountain goats.

Views like this were one after another, and we soon got tired of taking pictures.

It took us about 2 hours to go about 3 miles, but we were heavily loaded with food, hammocks, and tools, and it was uphill most of the way. I love this shot of David under the fallen tree. You can see his hammock hanging from the strap of his backpack.

For those of you concerned about the chronology of the blog, you're going to have to let it go, because this post is about the hike in and the hike out. The work we did was described on the last post, and the overnight story and the story about visiting lots and lots of people will be on subsequent posts.
Here we are on the way back out. We trimmed 40 minutes off of our time because we left our hammocks behind, ate our food, and used gravity in our favor. At first it was really easy because it was cool (a relative term) and breezy. However, after a while it started raining on us which made us cooler but the path slippery. The students said later that hiking in the rain was one of their favorite parts. Apparently "brilliant" is over rated.

Since I had the only rain poncho, I kept several of our cameras in my pack in an attempt to keep them dry. Unfortunately, I fell in the mud because I was talking on my cell phone like an idiot; the cameras were fine but my pride was bruised. Behind me you can see the hills obscured by the rain.

Here we are picking our way from stone to stone in the mud. This is not as fun as it looks.

In my last post, I said that we traveled to Pueblo Nuevo with three goals. Goal number two, to grease and/or replace the bearings in the generator, was not realized. We didn't have the right tools, despite dragging in 20 pounds of tools on our hike.

We decided the best thing to do was to bring the generator back to La Ceiba where our house is and where there are hardware stores and mechanics for hire. But this generator is large, bulky, and unbelievably heavy. I am not exaggerating, it must weigh 200 pounds. There was no way we could carry it back on the crazy trail.

So Ryan, who has been having lots of good ideas lately, suggested we try and get someone with a horse to help us. Santos knew how to make that happen. Before long another fellow, whose name I can't recall, brought his horse down to the river and we tied the generator to its homemade wooden saddle and went off like Juan Valdez crossed with MacGyver! Yahoo!

And at last, we arrived at our rendezvous point where The M came to pick us up. We were wet and tired and some of us were chaffing severely, but we had the satisfaction of a hard and productive 36 hours work.

Pueblo Nuevo Project Repairs

I promise a separate post on the hike we took across the suspension bridge and through the back country of rural Honduras, but I'm going to post this one first just to keep you coming back.

Tuesday we arrived at Pueblo Nuevo and met Santos, our primary partner at the village level. His wife made us lunch of chicken (fresh from their front yard) and rice and yucca. Delicioso! Then we gathered our tools, changed into our water clothes at the church, and went down the hill to the river bed. Our goals were three-fold:

1) to line the canal with a plastic liner to reduce the leakage and get more water to the generator. For a glimpse of what it looked like before, see this post.

2) to grease the bearings in the generator, or if needed, replace them with some that we brought.

3) to determine the functionality of the dump load controller, a little electronic control circuit housed in a water proof box on the bank of the river.

We had great success on goal #1 and made progress on goal #3. Goal #2 gets a post all its own later.

Here we began to implement an idea to stop the leaks of the canal. We had considered simply tarring or caulking the cracks, but since several villages downstream use this river as a source of drinking water, we wanted to try this option first. We used a garden hose sliced up into 1 inch pieces as a flexible, water-sealing washer.

David and I were nailing down the liner. The canal is about 45 feet long, and we were able to use a single piece of liner, about 15 feet of garden hose, and several pounds of nails.

This is a close up of the holder-downer. The mechanical engineers with me say they are really called "fasteners". Whatev.

Here the liner is installed, and the cool, uneven, village-crafted braces are remounted on top. The water was resumed, and it worked swell! Now it does not leak at all, and with some repairs made to the dam, we now have more than enough water for the generator.

The villagers constructed a good screen last year, but it was on its last legs so we made a new one with them. Ryan had a Gilligan's Island moment and decied they should make the frame out of bamboo. I must say it looks cool in an appropriate technology kind of way.

This was a great shot except it showed a little more than we wanted to see... butt I fixed it.

Lisa and Ryan get help from one of Santos's many sons.

This is what the screen looks like now. The Skipper would be so proud.

And here is a little video of the water spilling over the sluiceway because we are now capturing more than enough of the river to generate full power (1 kW).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Hike

I don't want to repeat our day in the mud, so we have been considering other options. Ryan remembered that when he was here with me 18 months ago, someone told him that there was a "back way" to Pueblo Nuevo. Are you kidding me? A back way? Could the road be any more "backer"?

It's a foot path.

So The M is going to drive us to an easy drop off point in a village called Belaire, and then one of Micro Santos's sons is going to meet us...(dramatic pause)... at the suspension bridge! It cannot possibly be as cool in reality as it is in my mind right now. Humberto called it a hammock bridge, because it hangs like a hammock, presumably. I try not to think about how many times I have fallen out of a hammock.

We are bringing food, clothing, and hopefully some sort of bedding (still working on that part), and we intend to spend the night in the village and return tomorrow afternoon. This should give us enough work time to complete the Pueblo Nuevo upgrade.

Our intent is to improve our work-to-commute ratio, as it is too low as of late. I will let you know how it goes when we return... if we return (dramatic music).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Atollar: to get stuck in the mud

Friday was the last day that Nicole, Kim, and Dr. Jordan were going to be in Honduras. Dr. Jordan, in particular, had never seen the microhydro generator in the river near the village of Pueblo Nuevo. I wanted to get them before they departed, and to try an put down a plastic liner in the canal to slow down the leaks.

We got up early and packed our things. Dr. Jordan shared a scripture with me from his daily readings.
Psalm 69: "Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me."

Then we went to the hardware store to get nails and other items. It was cloudy and overcast on Friday, and it looked like it might rain. Red flag number one. I have been stuck in the village before because of rain, and I didn't want our three teammates to miss their Saturday morning flight because we couldn't get back to the city in time.

We traveled the paved road for an hour or so, listening to a recording by Dr. John Patrick about Christian development work. It was intellectually stimulating, but sobering. We turned off the main road and dropped the transmission into four-wheel-drive low. The first couple of miles are the easy part, yet I felt the SUV slip in the mud once. The area must have had rain the night before. Red flag number two.

Then we got to the big river. It's about 40 feet wide, and usually about 1.5 feet deep at the deepest. I could tell that it was higher than usual (red flag number three), so I stopped to get out and "check the sitch". Walking across, it was to my knees at the deepest point, maybe a little over, but the rocks at the bottom gave good traction. The locals that showed up said it would be fine as long as we had a four-wheel-drive, but we prayed a little anyway before driving across successfully.
We climbed the hill on the far side and laughed off the nervous energy we all felt. Continuing on, the roads got muddier, ruttier, and steeper. How badly did I want to get these folks to the village, anyway?

When we came to the second river that you must cross on the road to Pueblo Nuevo, it looked much less formidable than the big river. This time, however, I made a mistake went to the right of the big boulder, not the left. The left side of the river bottom is rocky, the right side is sandy. We were unable to climb out. The students and Dr. Jordan got out and took pictures and pushed, while a few little kids told us we should have gone to the left. Thanks for that, muchachos. Eventually, we were able to go backwards into the stream, remove a rock that was blocking one of the front tires, and then get enough momentum to climb out. And still we kept going.
We arrived at the village and hiked down to the river bed (Yet, another river. Honduras has lots of them.) I felt my first raindrops within minutes of arriving. We took some hurried pictures and a voltage reading. The generator was not working at all: zero volts. Hmm. No time to figure it out, we had to leave.

Thankfully, it stopped raining for the 20 minutes it took to hike back to the SUV, but started again as we packed our things and said goodbuy to the village pastor, a man we call Micro Santos. Amusingly, he calls me "Herminito" which means "little brother". By my estimate, I am double his weight and 6 or 8 inches taller than he is. His sense of humor, however, is muy grande.

The next village on the way out is called Berlin. Frankly, I have not liked it in the past. It is dirtier (with litter) than most other villages, and the people don't wave back at me when we drive through. Obviously, they must be communists, or so I thought.

The worst part of the entire road is in Berlin. It has more clay and fewer rocks, which makes things worse when it's wet. There are ditches on either side of the road that make me nervous too. Oh oh, one of our tires slipped into one just as we were beginning to climb a hill. We couldn't get enough traction to climb up, so we tried to back up and give it another attempt. That didn't work either, and it took us a while to find out why.

There was a large rock partially buried in the road, and our rear differential had gently come to rest on it. We could not get it over the rock, and yet it's presence kept our rear tires from getting good traction. So we unloaded and began the dirty process of digging out the SUV with a shovel, a hammer, and a spoon intended for our peanut butter sandwiches. It was slow, dirty work. A crowd, perhaps most of the town, gathered to watch and stand too close to us. Finally, Ryan overheard one of the men comment to his friend in Spanish: "I think they should use the jack, but I don't know how to tell them because I don't know the word for it." Funny. The word he used for "jack" was "jack". So we got the hydraulic jack out from under the water bottles and travel toilet paper, and began to formulate a plan.

(This is me digging with the hammer and spoon. The SUV was not on a jack at this point. Don't worry Mom, I aint dum.)

(While it was Jason's turn to dig, I played with the kids. I kept shaking hands and giving fives to this boy, until he got scared of me and went and stood somewhere else. Gringo freak.)

We found a good location on the frame of the SUV, and a suitable rock to keep the jack from sinking into the mud. Taking care to stay out from under the vehicle, we were able to raise it on the jack enough to pull out the rock causing the trouble. For this we used the shovel, as crawling under a jacked up car, especially in mud, would be dangerous.

When we finally got the rock out, I yelled "Es un tortuga!" (it's a turtle) because it sorta looked like one. To my relief, the villagers laughed. I never know if I am going to make sense when I speak Spanish. The photo below is one of my favorites.

Well, our troubles were not over, because there were several more muddy hills to go. In all, we got stuck five times that day. Four of these times, we were helped out by the villagers, who seemed to be getting a great deal of fun out of the situation. (Whose technology is better?) The last time, the road had deep ruts in it, so we stopped to try and fill them with rocks and branches to gain traction. A couple of guys with machetes cleared the shoulder so we could try and avoid the road as much as possible. In the end, we spun tires, pushed hard, braced with rocks, and eventually, one foot at a time, got to the top of the hill! Everyone cheered in celebration.

During this crazy ordeal, we took lots of pictures and some videos too. I tried to compile some of the best videos that summarize our day. Enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Note from The M

The M wrote an email to her friends yesterday. I thought you might like to read it too.

Hi Friends!

I’m burning up with an email inside me and I’ve just got to share it. I’ve been cleaning house today. Undeveloped country style. So, I’m just saying…let’s keep it real. So. I went to sweep my bedroom. I’m sweeping, sweeping, and thinking “man this is a lot of dirt that I didn’t even really know we had in here”. So then I get the dust pan with a long handle thing and fill it and go to dump it in the trash can and I get most of the dirt in the trash and the rest of the dirt falls out of the dust pan and onto the floor. See, I’m trying to wrangle the homemade broom and this dust pan with a long handle thing and very carefully get the gunk into the can. With no real coordination. And totally sweating the whole time. I mean sweat pouring off my forehead and dripping off my nose. And y’all know I love to sweat. And clean. And let me remind you there is no sonic here. So I’m minus one route 44 diet coke and I’m just saying so we can keep it real. I’m loving being here and all. So then, I go outside to get the laundry gathered up because apparently I’m way too much of a white girl to keep 9 people’s laundry clean when I have to wash it by handand line dry it. So we are hiring it out. Good thing. Really good thing. We are hiring a lady who needs some work from Humberto’s church. He’s the pastor and agreat friend of Brian’s. So, I’m outside gathering it up. And I find the towels that have been “soaking” now (for two days) in the wash tub and realize that Ihave to wring them out before I can pack them up. So I’m wringing out these towels and sweat is pouring off my nose. And I’m not even washing the clothes. I’m just gathering them for someone else to wash. I’m such a wimp!! So, I cameinside to wash the dishes. By hand. And we have no running hot/warm-ish water. So I go to heat up water on the stove in our stock pot. I go off to let it come to a boil and about 20 minutes later realize it’s totally boiling on the stove and has been for a bit now. So I pour the boiling water into the right side of the sink that I have prepared with a stopper and some liquid soap. I fill it and then put in some of the dirtier dishes to soak (because no one did the dishes yesterday while I was at the beach getting the truck stuck in the sand; true story and for another time…I’m just saying). So, I walk off feeling great that they are soaking and they’ll be really easy to wash in a bit. Off to see what’s going on in the front room and I spy a guy outside at the front gate. He’s standing there like I need to go see what’s happening. So I go outside of the house but I’m inside the gate and he’s on the sidewalk outside the gate and he looks nice enough, but he’s speaking Spanish (of course) really fast. I keep telling him I don’t know where danto lives (because I think that’s what he’s asking me) but finally I go out of the gate and follow him and he is asking if he can have the floor fan we have out by the trash can. Of course he can have the broken-we-bought-new-we-thought-until-it-broke-the-first-time-we-used-it-fan. So I go back around the house into the front gate and inside the house to get the keys to the locked gates and back out through the back door and walk out to the curb where he is waiting and hand him the fan over the back gate. Now the gates are locked all the time because I am a fraidy-cat white girl with two kids at home alone. So, the nice guy goes off on his bicycle with our broken fan and I go back inside. And I’m so thankful that he didn’t hit me or rob meand that he could probably fix that broken motor and I’m thinking I really like it here. Right in the middle of God’s will and all. I walk in the kitchen through the back door to finish up the dishes and see that ALL MY WATER DRAINED OUT OF THE SINK. All my freshly cleaned and boiled water has gone away. Seriously. And so I started this little email in my head. Because I started to get a little frustrated. And because I started to see there was some humor in my situation. Because I’m such an extrovert and such a verbal processer that I’m totally talking to myself about how this is really so hilarious and would be even more funny if I could share it with someone. So I’m sharing it with y’all. Please hear my heart. I love it here!! I am so thrilled that God has chosen me and my family to do this work here in Honduras. So thrilled. But even in the Psalms David often wrote of all the rotten things going on and then right after that he wrote, “BUT I will still praise the most high God!!!”. And that’s what I’m saying. I’m so thankful I get to be here. I’m so thankful that I get to give this opportunity to my kids. I’m so thankful that as a family we are making such amazing memories. I’m so thankful I get to return home to a washing machine (amen) and a dish washer (amen) and a honking huge air conditioner (canI get a big amen?). I’m so blessed. I’m so rich. I’m so spoiled. I’m so thankful. And I’m so thankful that y’all are out there for me to share this with.

I love each and every one of you! The M (I changed her name)

PS) Things went smoothly at the police station yesterday. Really smooth. Just like God had paved the way or something. Thanks for praying friends.

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.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taking Data in Rural Villages in Northern Honduras

Today our team split up. Dr. Jordan, Ryan, and Nicole went to Danta Uno, while Kim, Jason, my son D, and I went to Pueblo Nuevo. The first group was surveying the area to determine the best way to build a canal and/or locate a pipe to direct water from the river to our small hydrogenerator. Their tools were primitive for the task: a carpenter's level and a 100 foot tape measure. Ryan came up with some fancy triangulation methods to determine the placement of a few large boulders that could be used for support. All that math is paying off after all.

My group went house to house with GPS receiver, recording the latitude and longitude of each home. Most of the men were working in the fields, but we spoke with many of the women about their use of flashlight batteries and kerosene "candils" like the one shown below. It is essentially a tin can with a wick that they fill with kerosene. I have also seen small glass containers used in the same way. The trouble with glass is its fragility, of course. When lit, they are essentially a molotov cocktail.

{This reminds me of a story about The M. When we were first married, we were discussing the Jewish wedding custom of stomping on a glass and yelling "Mozal tov!" which means "good luck". She got the two words confused and made a reference to thowing "Mozal tov coctail". We have laughed for years about that.}

This lady has been using electric lights powered by the hydrogenerator we helped them install last year. She says she is no longer using kerosene for lighting at all! I looked at her candil and it was empty and dry. I found this very satisfying! She was terribly patient with my Spanish too.
This was D's first visist to a rural village. He came with us to survey the area and enjoyed the sights and smells. This home had been recently painted with flower decorations and swirly designs around the front door. The broom by the door was home made, and this seemed to be of great significance to him.

This lady and her son posed for me at my request. When ever I take someone's picture, I try to show it to them on the display on the back of my camera. They almost always laugh when I show them. I have no idea why, perhaps it's the novelty. Behind her is a wood burning stove and above her, hanging from the rafters, are plantains (left) and something I do not recognize (right). Also notice the home made mini blinds in the window.