Yesterday John 2 and I finished welding the second of two wedge-shaped solar panel racks, both of which will hold three panels on the pitched roof of the school building at a net angle of about 6 or 7 degrees (Liberia’s latitude) so we can maximize the effectiveness of our photovoltaics. As the welding came to a conclusion close to noontime, the warehouse became increasingly dark as rain clouds gathered outside. I began walking to the guesthouse as big droplets hit my head and I entered the porch as it began to rain in earnest. The once-hard red clay ground seemed to instantly transform into a slick red creamy peanut butter that stuck to every crevice of my work shoes, leaving a trail of muddy tracks behind me. A heavy downpour and wind ensued as I scurried from room to room, closing windows to batten down the hatches. Within seconds there was a deafening downpour lasting about five minutes. Work comes to a halt whenever this happens so I can imagine the drag an entire rainy season must have on the Liberian economy.
The din of the deluge was soon replaced by the cooler, drier air of the passing front and a steady light rain remained for the afternoon – a soothing respite for my muggy New England body but a chilly torment to my tropical friends. Soon coats and hats were donned as the mercury dipped to a bone chilling 75 degrees! Since darkness had still engulfed our campus, it was difficult to work inside without flashlights so I decided the best alternative was to lie flat on my back (on the floor) and take an afternoon siesta.
I eventually slipped out of my satisfying slumber and headed to the principal’s office “solar closet” to assemble a sort of “battery bench” cut from plywood and painted the previous day. I paint or polyurethane everything to prevent bug infestation, if only for the perceived barrier I convince myself it provides. Of course when a cordless drill comes out, so do the onlookers. There must have been six guys holding flashlights on the work area, watching me drill holes in the block wall and drive masonry screws to assemble the bench. I let one guy try driving a screw with my impact driver and it felt like handing a chainsaw to a toddler…he had no idea what to expect once he pulled that trigger and the screw almost went through the other side of the plywood. You gotta learn somehow!
I couldn’t do much more between the rain and the darkness so I retreated to the guesthouse to make some phone calls and plans for the next day. After several days of communication with our shipper, the 16 boxes sent in late February finally made it out of the port.