I just realized as I sat down to put QWERTY to pixels that today it is exactly one year from when I arrived in Deanville to see the first trench digging of our warehouse foundation –
Phase 1 construction had begun. In just one – uhhhh, short year – we’ve gone from an overgrown cassava field in the bush to a school campus with running water and electricity. HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! I guess the traditional one year gift of paper has been supplanted by the gift of water.
Today was another very exciting day. I spent some time running water lines to the new kitchen so they can be captured in the foundation work instead of re-digging and breaking through concrete later. Because we were cutting into an existing 2″ line trapped in the trench, fitting a new TEE in place and reconnecting both sides would be impossible without a “repair coupling”. Basically this is a coupling that allows you to slide over the
existing pipe, fit in the TEE, then slide the coupling back to bridge the gap. Since they don’t have repair couplings in Liberia, I had to make one. By simply taking a standard coupling and scraping/sanding out the “ridge feature” at the center, I had a homemade part. Life in Liberia requires a combination of genes from Rube Goldberg and MacGyver. After capping the line off with a valve, it occurred to me that everything was ready for water from the tower. I double-checked all the valves, fittings, toilets, faucets, etc. and concluded we were prepared. The switch was flipped and solar-pumped water began filling the tank and flowing down hill, slowly but deliberately filling all
sections of PVC pipe. I needed to open some valves because so much air was trapped in the lines. As I turned the main valve for the guesthouse (the lowest point in the system), air came rushing out like a small wind turbine until the clear sweet water displaced it and came spraying out with a force I never would have expected without a pressure assist by an auxiliary pump. Here’s a brief video of the exciting moment (actually a reenactment so I could video!): https://youtu.be/7XiMzpJdEEs
There were a few leaks…to be expected. Some leaks were the result of one the construction guys “helping me” do the sink drains only to discover he had not glued one of the drain pipes…not to be expected? or perhaps expected? You’ll see in the photo some puddling on the floor as a result. Note that I used three stainless steel kitchen sinks with integral side drain boards embedded side-by-side in concrete to create a long stainless steel “counter top”. Since they made an error in measurements, the wall needed to be chiseled in order to fit the sinks, thus the plaster patching along the back wall…soon to repainted blue (yes, we’re in the boys’ room). Crowds began to gather as the faucets were turned on and the toilets filled by themselves. The biggest pain was having to redo a few fittings because they were cheap junk from Gbarnga and didn’t seat well on the valve threads. If I could only remember everything when shopping for parts at Lowe’s life would have fewer drips in Liberia.
After flushing the lines, fixing some leaks, and testing the chlorine levels at the tank, all was copacetic for me to drink directly from the tap. I’m still here so I guess this guinea pig (Liberian pig?) will live another day to tell about it. One of the benefits is having cold water come from the well depths…a nice change from the hot water I’m used to when my water bottle sits in the sun too long.
With a satisfying milestone reached, it was time for some playing! One of the difficulties around the work site is trash. It sits, gets picked up occasionally, then the same trash is seen on the ground again. I often put trash and scrap pipe cuttings into small cardboard boxes only to find people have gone through my trash boxes and scattered it looking for “treasures”…it’s like a bad nickel (Actually in Liberia, the worst kind of cash you can have is any US bill with a “small head”. Since the last two rounds of graphic changes at the Federal Reserve, all new bills have “large headed” presidents. No one will take a “small headed” hundred dollar bill so I’m stuck with a bad Benjamin until I return to the States.) Back to trash… I decided to put some scraps to good use by making a toy. As a kid we would take old metal juice cans, cut two holes and feed a rope through to make “stilts” to walk on. I made a modified version of this by using some plumbing cutoffs of the toilet flanges I couldn’t use because they didn’t match the Liberian toilets. Here is Dusu trying to use them to walk on the school porch. It’s a joy everyday to have her around the work site with her big smile and awesome morning hugs.
John 2 has not been feeling well over the last couple of days and looked terrible today with fatigue and severely bloodshot eyes. Pray for him as he’s staying home from work tomorrow and probably going to a clinic. Tomorrow is Wednesday which means “market day” and the Deanville women have gotten accustomed to me picking them up along the roadside with their bounty of cassava and potato greens as I pass by for my daily rendezvous with John 2 at “Iron Gate”. Today, several women reminded me tomorrow is Wednesday and they needed a lift. I told them to be prompt since I don’t wait if they’re not ready at 8:00am sharp. It’s not that far out of the way in Gbarnga and it makes a bunch of women happy (and saves them taxi money). I used to say “happy wife, happy life” but I’ve gotten used to just saying “happy women, happy life.”