Monday, June 4, 2012

Days 16 - Infinity: Mike and Christine Edition

After bidding farewell to the rest of the travel team, we (Mike and Christine) spent the day with Steve Forbes, mentor extraordinaire, and Sammy in Accra.  We had the opportunity to meet up with EWB-Ghana members at the MTN (one of Ghana’s major cellphone carrier companies) building. After a blur of hospitality in which mugs were brought in and taken away twice, tea cookies were spread out, and an assortment of drink mixes were offered, EWB-Ghana, Steve Forbes, and EWB-USA CU talked about different means of collaboration for the future. Mike and Christine agreed that the Ghana Program will definitely be reaching out to EWB-Ghana in the future for mentorship and networking.  Sammy, Mike, and Christine dropped Steve off at the airport, and the goodbye was cut short as a security guard obstructed Mike and Christine from going into the actual airport after Sammy sneaked by.

5/31 and 6/1 (These two days have become one muddled 48 hour period)

The next two days were spent finishing up the work needed to be done on the latrines. Instructions (in both Twi and English) were painted next to the stencil drawings we had put in the latrines during prior days. After struggling a little bit with the idea of manual center alignment, Christine started getting the hang of painting and 6/7 latrines were finished, the walls of Anoff being too wet to paint still. Additionally, we had noticed that some of the jerry cans meant for urine collection had been stolen from one of the latrine sites so we decided to label them all. We imagined it would be difficult to steal a jerry can that had “PROPERTY OF OBODAN” and “URINE COLLECTION” plastered on its sides. Mike worked on installing ventilation pipes in the remaining latrines (which our awesome carpenter Bempo did in half the time that we took and without a need for a wooden bracing) along with the side pit doors.

We tried to gather water collection data from the two boreholes to gauge Obodan's water usage. After a few setbacks, we were only able to get a vague range of daily cedis collected from one of the boreholes. Money collection is definitely something that needs to be looked into during an assessment trip. Last, but definitely not least, the pits on the pilot latrine were switched! Turns out said awesome carpenter Bempo is also a mason (keep in mind for future trips) and he completed the job for about 1/4 of what the other mason was asking for. The toilet seat was taken off from the right pit, sawdust was added, and the pit hole was sealed shut with cement while the toilet seat was attached to the left pit hole. After a quick celebration, Mike and Christine ran to pack/clean up/ingest all the things left in our living quarters (ex. Kabir’s shoes, lonely socks, Nutella, etc). We left Obodan under the cover of darkness, which Mike noted made things easier (albeit sadder) since the kids were asleep and we couldn’t say goodbye. The night was spent at Sammy’s house, enjoying Sammy’s wide taste in music and his wife, Beatrice’s, jollof rice. However, the past two weeks must’ve taken a toll on all three of us since Christine left the dinner table to curl up on a couch before she pancaked on a plate from exhaustion. A few minutes later, Sammy leaned back and fell asleep, which prompted Mike to lie down on the other couch and immediately pass out. 

Everyone woke up on 6/2, fully rested, and after a quick bite to eat, Christine and Mike were off to Accra. We attended church service in the morning, then headed to the same crafts fair that the other group visited before they left. Between Mike being a self-proclaimed “man of jokes” and Christine’s last attempt at dancing a little Azonto (the popular Ghanaian dance for the year) with the shopkeepers, we got away with some serious steals. Afterwards, we had a late lunch at KFC, and Christine was dropped off at her hostel, while Mike continued to the airport to continue his adventures for the summer in Germany. 

Anti-Theft system of Jerry Cans

Poultry House that another EWB Chapter built

Instructions on the Latrine Walls


(Pictures of Pit Switching on Christine's Phone which is currently not cooperating. To be Posted ASAP)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Days 14-16: Final Days in Obodan

     Our travel team, with the exception of Christine and Mike, who will be staying an extra couple of days, has now returned home to the United States. We accomplished a lot in the past few days, leaving just a few tasks for the remaining travel team members to finish up in our absence.

     Monday was an interesting day, with nothing going completely as planned. We were supposed to supervise the pumping of Kwasi Doi at around 6 or 7 in the morning, but when we arrived there around 7:15 (we were getting used to Ghana time), there was no sign of the pump. We couldn't get in touch with the foreman we were borrowing it from either, so lacking information about the pumping, we waited around at Anoff to watch the masons work on the stairs. At noon we headed over to Borehole 2 to meet the guy who would be taking apart the pump for our second borehole test, only to find him already working. Since when are things ahead of schedule? We tried to help disassemble it, only to find that the threads on one of the pipes had rusted away, forcing us to buy a replacement. Another unexpected event was the height of water in the borehole. Almost immediately, water flowed to the top of the pipe, threatening to spill over. We had to do a bailer test instead of a slug test because the water level was too high to measure with our water meter. The recharge rate was even faster than that of Borehole 1, and we did multiple trials to confirm this. In the afternoon, we got a hold of the pump and removed the water and trash from the pits in Kwasi Doi. We needed to send some men into the pits to dig out dirt and garbage that remained at the bottom. By the end of the day, the access doors were sealed in place, so hopefully this will not be a problem again. We got some bad news that day too, unfortunately. We got the results back from our water quality tests. They indicated that the borehole water contains coliform including E. coli. This was very disappointing information obviously and it means that before implementing our water distribution system we will have to decide on some treatment system. A biosand filter might be our best option, but we have many alternatives to consider as well, including chlorination and UV treatment. Luckily we have a lot of dedicated Ghana members who can work on this issue. We finished off the day with a trip to a Chinese restaurant with Steve and went home to prepare for an early start the following day.

     On Tuesday, we left early in the morning for a day of tourism. We headed to Cape Coast which was about five hours away. We first went to Kakum National Park for a canopy walk. After a short discussion of some native plants and the park's history, we took to the rope bridges. 40 meters above the ground, we could observe the structure of the rain forest and observe some birds and butterflies. It was a beautiful view, but not for someone who is afraid of heights. Afterwards, we went to Elmina Castle, which was one of the most important stops on the Atlantic slave trade. It was a very haunting experience, seeing where the slaves were held and the passages they took to board the ships for the Americas. The castle is now a historical site; it is right on the ocean and very beautiful, though this could not distract from the eeriness of the place. On our way home we stopped for a quick dip in the ocean. The water was very warm, unlike the Atlantic Ocean we're used to in the Northeast.

     On Wednesday, we collected soil samples in the morning from the hill we plan to put our water tanks on for the distribution system. We need them to determine how strong the dirt is to ensure that our system will stay in place. Afterwards, we all packed up to get ready to leave for the airport. We left early so we could go to the craft market in Accra to get souvenirs. The merchants were selling everything from fabric and clothing to carved bowls and metal figurines. They were very eager for our money, but there were plenty of good deals to be had provided you haggle well. This concluded our trip, but we look forward to hearing how the last two days went from Mike and Christine as they finish up the remaining work in Obodan.

All the best,
Caitlin, Mira, Kabir, Kerri, Andrea, Mike & Christine

CUEWB on a rope bridge canopy walk. Look moms, no hands!

CUEWB takes a rest from hiking, posing with other hikers

We spent a drizzling afternoon at the sobering tour of Elmina Castle, a former slave castle

Days 12-13: A Busy Weekend

     The past week has been really busy as we tried to finish everything before our departure, which accounts for the lack of blog posts recently. So here is a quick recap of last weekend in Obodan.

     For the majority of the weekend, we continued our latrine work, painting instructions and supervising the masons. We also went to Nsawam to pick up the remaining supplies we needed and conducted household surveys in Kwasi Doi to assess their need for latrines and guage their opinions on our source-separated one.

     On Saturday, we witnessed a Ghanaian funeral in Akwakupom. They are large events with loud music and dancing that look more like parties than ceremonies. We stopped by for a short time to observe, but didn't stay long for fear of looking out of place. We had our own celebration that night for Andrea's birthday. We made garden egg stew with coco yams and went to Fotobi to hang out with Sammy. We played our iPod on the big speakers there and talked for hours.

     On Sunday, we met with the elders, chiefs, and queen mother at an Obodan community meeting. We discussed the latrine usage and maintenance instructions as well as the water distribution system. Afterwards, some of the community members showed us locations that they thought would be good for the spigots. These locations seemed more reasonable than those in our original plan and are closer to more homes. We surveyed the spots and for now, they look promising.

Signing out,
Mira, Mike, Kerri, Andrea, Christine, Kabir & Caitlin

 The chiefs, including Steve Forbes, who is a chief in Obodan

The EWB team listen attentively