Friday, January 7, 2011

As reported by myself and Garrison from our room in Obodan. More to come!

We woke up this morning around 6:30, which by college student standards would be extraordinarily early, but in Ghana it'sactually considerably late. The sun has been up for at least an hour and this is definitely the latest we've woken up sincearriving in Obodan. Life continues normally as we brush our teeth outside and take a trip or two the the nearby borehole tofetch water. Garrison and I try to carry the large buckets of water back to the room balanced on our heads the way allthe locals do. Although some water is spilled, most successfully reaches the room. The borehole water, which we are doing tests on, is by no means safe for us "obronis" or foreigners to drink, but the locals are used to it and have strong enoughstomachs to drink it no problem.

The three of us are looking forward to today's work because we can finally start on the latrine. Upon arriving on the firstday, we had a chance to tour the village and see both latrines we built with the community. It turned out the second source-separated latrine had been out of order for a while because the urine pipe had been completely clogged by fecal matter. Suraj left this morning with a plumber to purchase materials that we can use to fix the latrine, both by unclogging the pipe and by installing an improved, solid pipeline instead of the pliable pipe that is there now.

(Quick aside: Mike and I (Garrison) are dancing with Ebenezer and Gregory to music from my laptop. Ebenezer's killing it.8:42 am)

The trip to Ghana was as enjoyable as any 16 hour journey by plane can be, though when we arrived at the airport in Accraat around 5am our bodies were sufficiently confused by five hour time difference and spending an entire day on a plane. Wewere greeted at the airport first by festive Christmas and New Year's decorations and then finally by our contact and friend Sammy Gamson. Suraj, our experienced traveler knew what to expect and how to handle himself around the group of fourmen that chatted with us and even carried a bag to the taxi, but Garrison and I were at a loss and were almost tricked into giving them a tip for the minute walk. We drove out of the airport towards our destination along dusty, bumpy roads that were partially under construction and paved, while the rest was in disrepair and made of dark orange dirt. We alsolearned that Sammy had just ran for village Assemblyman (or Mayor) of Obodan and won just two days before we arrived.

After reaching Sammy's house in the town of Nsawam, we put our bags down, took a walk through Nsawam and then another taxi to the village of Obodan. Obodan was active with many villagers preparing for church in theirSunday best. Although logic told us that it was about 7:00 in the morning, it felt as though it was almost noon because of the lively buzz floating through the village and the heat of the sun, not yet overbearing but sufficiently present.

(Quick aside: Mike and Suraj are going postal on an infestation of ants with bug spray and their sandals. Ants 0, EWB Ghana 1. 11:46 am)

We went to a local satellite village that is slightly north of the main center of Obodan to meet some of the people there,take a look at their sanitation/latrine system or lack thereof and to present them with a soccer ball because their previous one had either disappeared or been beaten up so severely that it couldn't be played with. We proceeded to walk toanother satellite village on the west side of Obodan for the same purpose, except they didn't need a soccer ball. As we passed through it was exciting to hear the loud, melodious voices and chants that were emanating from the nearby church that we could tell was filled to capacity. Religion, mainly Christian, plays a major role in the lives of Ghanains and almost all of the taxis and trucks have stickers with phrases like "No Jesus No Life" or "Amen."

It was great to walk around such a beautiful land with lush green plants growing everywhere that a house or road wasn't present. Great trees scattered the horizon, popping up high in the air against the hazy horizon that weakened the glare ofthe sun. We continued to travel for the rest of our first day in Ghana as "Assemblyman" Sammy had many people to talk to. We made sure to inspect the old latrines that EWB Ghana built previously and we examined the problem with the clogged latrine, but there was little that we were able to do without calling a plumber to decide what materials we needed and we were extremely tired. No matter how bumpy our taxi rides were, each of us would fall asleep and I even fell asleep at a local restaurant before getting our chicken and rice. By early afternoon each of us had taken our fair share of naps and although we were still tired, Garrison and I decided to join a local soccer game to end the day while Surajstayed behind. The soccer game was Obodan vs. Fotobi, another nearby village. We arrived late to the game so we didn't get in the game until the second half, but we had a blast! To top everything off, Garrison made a perfect cross pass tome and I shot and scored over the goalie's head for the winning goal. The first day ended with us setting up camp in an administrative conference room near the village center, tired yet excited for the days to come.

Getting up early on Monday morning wasn't easy, but we knew we had to be at the borehole at first light to be able to catchthe early birds that made their first water pickup as early as possible. Our goal was to determine how much water the villagers took from the borehole each day as information to help us know how much water we would need to pump into the water tank that we plan to build in the near future. At first we needed to pump water into our 17 liter bucket and then pour that into everyone else's buckets in order to determine how much was being taken out, but as the day progressed itbecame easier to identify buckets and remember their volume gave us reprieve from pumping everyone's water for an entire day.

Sitting at borehole 2 all day doesn't seem very interesting, but it is a popular hang out spot for the kids,especially with us "obronis" around. We had a great time with all the little kids, including Ebenezer and Kwobe. Even though we had made lofty plans for the day to take a trip to the money exchange location, buy a phone that works and topurchase materials to fix the latrine, we were only able to focus on borehole information which included total volume for day, the maximum flow rate from the spout, the time lapse between five minutes of pumping and the restart of the Artesian flow and the Artesian flow rate. Our other goals weren't met because we were now on Ghana time which is much slower than New York or Columbia time.
By day three we were moving at a decent stride. Mike, Suraj and I began the day at borhole 1 around 6:20 am, while Sammywas off tending to business on his farm. At around 7:30 am Suraj and I took water samples from borholes 1 and 2 to test for total coliform. When Sammy returned he and Suraj left to exchange money, purchase a phone, and send emails. In the meantime Mike and I performed the same tests on Borehole 1 that we had performed on Borehole 2 the previous day (with the exception of timing the return of Artesian flow after 5 minutes of pumping, since Borehole 2 doesn't leak water). During our downtime we began Twi lessons with a student from the girl's school, Dora. Dora also helped negotiate some space for usin the shade with two women doing laundry. At their invitation Mike and I tried our hand at washing, but we were quickly asked to resume our tasks counting liters of water. Several hours passed, full of photoshoots with the children, handball, and broken conversations in Twi and English. Eventually Suraj and Sammy had returned with their tasks completed, and Mike and I collected a second set of water samples from Boreholes 1 and 2. By sunset we were both tired and hungry, facts that weren't lost in translation on our hosts in the shade. To our amazement, Mike and I were presented with dishes full of jalarice with chicken and an orange Fanta. Eating that rice was the best minute and a half of the trip so far. That night I began the test for total coliform on the water samples. After a brief power outage we decided to call it a night with Pirates of the Carribean 3.

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