Monday, July 17, 2006

Asante Sana Wazungu!

With only a few days left in Tanzania, I thought it was time to begin to recognize all of the wazungu who have volunteered their time and efforts while I was here. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of interest and support shown by so many of the people I have met along my travels. Whether moral, financial or artistic each contribution made a huge difference and at times kept the project going along much more smoothly than had I done it alone.

I want to thank Joe, Becca and Nikki for showing me what a difference a coat of paint can make. Their work at Patandi in Mary's classroom paved the way for the painting at Oloseva. I also want to thank Joe for coming up to the school to visit and taking the time to learn more about disability education in Tanzania. His excitement for the project and for disability education in general helped to remind me why building St. Dymphna is so important.

Since I last posted pictures of the classroom at St. Dymphna a lot of progress has been made. The white coat of paint and the red letters made the classroom look better, but after seeing the mural at Patandi I knew that I couldn't stop there. To move further though I had to recruit some help as my artistic talent is rather limited. I had dreamed up an idea of an under the sea theme but wasn't quite sure how we were going to accomplish it, I knew it would be difficult to find someone to paint fish, so I had to figure out a way around it. It turns out that a coloring book, lamination and velcro can solve many problems. Once the fish problem was solved I still needed some help with the painting, thankfully, Mandy and Rachel came through and helped to paint the ocean and color the fish. They went a step further when they came up to the school a second time along with Michelle and added sand, seaweed, and a fantastic sun. I hope that you agree with me when I say the room looks fantastic. It is so much fun to see the children inside working in a bright and inviting environment.

I also need to thank Ingrid (who I don't have any pictures of other than of her dancing with Said and I won't do that to her). When I was stressed and having problems with the bank and dealing with all of the frustrations of getting things going here, she kept me calm by forcing hamburgers down my throat. I don't know that I would have been able to emotionally get through it as well as I did if she hadn't been my mom from the land of Oz. I also have to thank her for lighting a new fire in my heart and soul and brainstorming with me for our next venture. This trip is certainly not the last of our collaborations.

And finally of all my mzungu friends (and I'm sure I'm leaving some out so pole sana) I have to thank Bryan. Bryan came along on this trip with little knowledge of what he was getting himself into. He didn't know the language, he didn't know the culture, and he certainly didn't know about the copious amount of food he would be eating while he was here. And while he hit a few bumps along the way, for the most part he was a phenomenal volunteer/partner to have with me. He deserves the most thanks for putting up with the brunt of my frustrations and for keeping me sane in my most insane moments. He also deserves much of the credit for my survival of dysentry and my subsequent illnesses. He was there every step of the way whether it was taping the outlines of letters, cutting out fish, video taping the progress, entertaining me with his drumming, refusing to force feed me thirty potatoes when I was ill, or reminding me that all of this was worth it--he made everything a little bit easier for me. I will forever be grateful for his support, understanding and patience.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Upward Movement

The buliding process has continued smoothly. I feel as though I can finally take a deep breath as it seems we have worked out all of the major kinks. I am more certain than ever that when the time comes to leave in six very short days that things will continue to progress without a problem. Below I am inserting pictures of what has happened in the past week at the site. The most exciting part for me was to see the columns rise above the ground level. It was fantastic to know that not only had I seen the ground breaking but I had also seen the school rise above the dirt. I constantly find myself taking a step back and realizing just how amazing this whole process has been. I feel so lucky to have seen it first hand. I only wish that Kari could be here with me to share in the small victories.
Steel Grids were made to fit into the bottom of each pit.
After the grids were in place, the steel columns were attached to the grid
Once the columns were in place the grids and the bases of the columns were covered with cement. (Bryan and I loved this guys shoes...empty cement bags!)
Wooden boxes were made to fit around the steel to serve as molds so that the concrete/cement could be poured and formed around the steel structures.
The concrete was then poured and left to dry overnight.
The next day the wood was removed and the holes were backfilled with dirt leaving the tops of the columns above ground!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A more complete building update

The power has returned for the day and so now I sit with a cup of filter coffee, a full hour of internet time, and every intention of writing a proper building update.

As I said in the previous post, work started on Monday. The crew arrived bright and early. They spent most of the day surveying the land and framing out the building using four by fours and a few branches from nearby trees. I was assured that our building would not in fact be constructed of these materials rather they were an easy and efficient way for the engineer to measure where the column pits were to be dug the next day.

On Tuesday, the work really began. The work crew arrived at 6am to start their day. They knew it was going to be one of the more labor intensive days. They had to dig fourteen pits that ranged anywhere from four feet to five and a half feet deep. These pits would serve as the foundation for the building. The ground was by no means level when they started so every hole had to be dug at a different depth. As I hope you were able to see from the pictures it was by no means easy work. It took a full five hours of non-stop work to dig three pits with one worker at each pit. We were amazed at how quickly they dug the very deep and very wide holes and with great precision as well. I cannot say enough good things about the people we have working with us. They really never stop, unless of course we force them to take a coca-cola break which we learned after the first day they really do enjoy.

On Wednesday we arrived later in the day to find that all but three of the fourteen pits had been completed. I'm not quite sure how that amount of work was completed in such a sort time, I joked that they must have found a bobcat while I was sleeping, but they somehow managed. I was convinced that they would have finished the job completely on Wednesday except for one slight problem the last three holes had to be dug through a three and a half foot deep layer of cement and boulders. When the original building was built they extended the foundation further than neccessary with the thought that they would just be able to use the same foundation for the new building. What they didn't know at that time was when the time for the second building came along that the new building would require column pits for support. (I have learned that the first engineer was sub-par and we are now working with someone who is much more professional and well respected) So, unfortunately for our three hole diggers they had a lot more work cut out for them than they expected. They left on Wednesday without even attempting to get through the cement. I cannot say that I blame them.

Thursday was another early morning. They had to get through the cement before Friday when they had to pour the new cement into the column pits. They toiled for nine straight hours on Thursday to dig out the final three pits. It was not only painful to watch them work so diligently but it was also quite painful to stand by and literally not be allowed to do anything. So, Bryan and I continued with our painting project. We still have been unable to solicit an artist to help us with the mural so we continued on with the things we could do. We decided to paint the alphabet around the room in bright red letters. Easier said than done! We first measured the space we needed to evenly space out the letters and after we did that we realized we did it incorrectly and only had space for twenty-five letters so we had to start again...good thing we did the math and measuring ahead of time! So after we had that all sorted out I drew the letters and Bryan went around and taped the letters due to my lack of ability in precision painting with oil paints and the lack of stencils. We quickly learned that crooked letters are not so easy. But after a lot of laughter and frustration we were able to paint. We're pretty proud of our alphabet, its by no means perfect but I think you will all agree that it looks better than it did a week ago.

Friday's work task was hugely ironic to me. After digging out all the dirt, boulders, and cement, it was time to put dirt, boulders and cement back into the holes. It was fun to watch how it was all done. I'll be the first to admit that I don't really know how foundations are built in the US but this seemed to be a task that could be made so much easier with some simple machinery. The first step of the process was to put a level surface of boulders at the bottom of the pit. The next step was to mix the cement. This required a five part process. First they poured the bag of cement on the ground, next they put sand on top of the cement and then a layer of rocks. Then, they poured a buckets of water onto the pile and had to mix with shovels. Bryan informed me that you can make your own cement at home in the same way but its the same price to buy it pre-mixed so he never understood why you would make your own! Clearly here the pre-mixed option is not available. Once the cement was mixed the poured it into the holes on top of the layer of boulders. They then had to make it level and smooth, to do this they used a piece of word and a level. Not surprisingly they were incredibly efficient at getting the whole thing done in one day. They are without a doubt the exact opposite of lazy. I on the other hand felt quite lazy as the only thing I accomplished on Friday was a second coat of paint and removing the tape from the letters.

And now, the cement is drying until Monday when the columns (which I cannot explain because I haven't seen them yet and don't understand exactly what they will be like) will be placed.

The whole process so far has been incredible for me to be able to see, photograph and video. I am constantly reminded of how hard these guys are working and how little they are getting paid. It's a bizzare situation for me to be in feeling as though I am not paying them enough but also knowing that they are making more than most and any more would be considered excessive by Tanzanian standards. I cannot say that I am entirely enjoying being the whitey with the money, I find it frustrating that I cannot get my hands into the dirt and help, but I also know why I can't and why I shouldn't and so I am learning to be okay with finding side projects that I can help with like painting and gardening. It is funny to hear about the perceptions of work in America. When asked if we dug pits by hand or with machine and we replyed machines there was a large amount of laughter and a comment made about how we must just drive around in our cars all day and do work on our phones and computers. It's been fun to try and explain that while that is true of some people that not all people from the US have cars and a lot of money. There is such a huge perception that we are all wealthy and without problems. So much is lost in translation when you try to explain that while our poverty doesn't compare to the poverty that exists here that there are still many Americans who don't live with the luxuries that they see from American television, music, and magazines. It's been a fun learning experience and I have enjoyed the cultural exchange that seems to be taking place.

So, I think that is all for now, I hope I didn't bore you too much with the building process. I had a lot of requests for more information about how it all was done. I hope that you are able to enjoy the pictures. I will post more next week as the columns are placed.

Thank you once again for all of your interest and support. You've helped to make this all possible!

Oh! And to answer a common question that I have been receiving, we will not be celebrating the fourth of july here as America's independence isn't recognized as a Tanzanian holiday however we have decided that we will burn our trash pile on the fourth to fulfill our pyromaniac desires.