The sun is an amazing thing. We finally got enough fencing up today – plus my patience was also up – that we could install the solar panels and get the water pump running as intended…harnessing the power of the sun! After crimping a set of connectors on the solar wires from the pump house in the wrong order, we corrected course and plugged everything together. After a brief double-check of serial versus parallel wiring schemes, we felt satisfied our serial configuration of six panels (producing about 42 watts DC each = 252 W) fit the power range of our equipment. By starting a small fire of scrap paper, we
slipped on some heat shrink tubing to protect the connections from the elements. With the combination of fear and anticipation that can only be experienced awaiting the results of a pregnancy test, I flipped the power switch on the control module and waited what seemed like hours. Within seconds, the digital display showed an array of increasing numbers while a pictogram of the submersed pump illuminated a sequencing of green LEDs representing the flow of water from our subterranean storehouse. A swirl of bubbles could been seen momentarily through the clear sediment filter housing as our liquid gold streamed through the arteries of our pump house and up into the storage tank (sorry Texas, water is gold in Africa!). Unfortunately, the Achilles heal of our system is the two plugs that came with the tank which are used to close predrilled holes. These existing holes from the manufacturer didn’t fit our piping scheme, thus needed to be closed off. I hope to avoid resorting to the Liberian plumber’s helper….white cement…to solve our incessant leak but either way, the tank needs to be emptied.
I’ve had all the exposed PVC pipe painted with white latex paint to limit UV exposure which will degrade the pipe (primarily making it brittle). This was one of the tips acquired during our trip to Nicaragua during the Ebola crisis where Doug Larson and I learned most of what we’re implementing in Liberia…at least I did! I spent time training a couple of Deanville residents in the proper system care, chlorination testing and upkeep, etc. and have created a log book for documenting weekly and monthly inspections. Chlorine levels will be tested monthly using a simple color-changing test strip with the data recorded to watch for trends since we need to calibrate the proper mix. Word is getting around about the pumping system and Sibley, the grandfather of my little friend, Moses, ambled through the bush and up the long hill to investigate, smirking with that “these-teeth-have-never-been-near-a-dentist” smile as he tried to fathom the technology before him.
At the request of my wife (I think to prove that I’m actually alive and not having this blog ghost written), here is a photo of me with Sibley, sitting against the security fence while we watch a welder assemble gate parts. For those of you who have seen the animated movie “Up!”, you’ll understand that the following is a “squirrel” moment…I just realized the pants I’m wearing are 15 years old. I bought them in 2001 when I joined my brother, Drew, on a spontaneous trip to Egypt. It was my first time landing on the African continent, although a very different experience than the sub-Saharan world I’m living in now. Trying to build a school in this heat only makes me appreciate the sacrifices made by slave pyramid builders!
Finish plumbing continues in the guesthouse with pedestal sink installations and inaugural “royal flushes” happening in both bathrooms. Since construction funds are running low, the shower floors will have tile but the rest of the bathroom floors will have to wait. Edwin’s father was ill so our electrician had to leave work early today, cancelling our first planned power test in the guesthouse. The trench for the generator wire is nearing completion so hopefully Edwin will return tomorrow to complete this task.
After my discussion at Deanville regarding the “small dreams” residents had for themselves and their families, Sumo came to me with a drawing for a school “kitchen”. Since our plan is to provide a meal to students and staff, the current “wooden pole and zinc roof” structure we currently use to feed the construction crew won’t be sufficient. I said I was impressed and he replied, “Well you challenged us to dream big dreams!” I’m so glad someone is paying attention to me besides the cute 3 year olds. I took Sumo’s drawing and created a 3D computer model of it, which I’ve presented along with a proposed budget to a potential donor. With no definitive commitment at this point, Sumo persuaded me to, at minimum, dig the foundation since the ground is soft right now. 3-4 months from now the soil will be like cement at the height of the dry season. Digging, pouring footings, and building the block foundation using our Hydraform blocks will cost about $1,000 for materials and labor. If you’d like to contribute to this “kitchen project”, please click the link below to make a PayPal contribution! Thanks.