Monday, February 28, 2011
Behold, my super duper greywater management solution. The long straight pipe waters some plantains, whilst the pipe with the bend in it waters what will be a vegetable bed.
I was quite appalled to find, when I arrived here, that my shower and my sink both drained out into the yard. Hello sir, we're in a desert. And it's the hot dry season right now.
On top of that, the sink and bath drained out of two different pipes. However, I've finally managed to reroute the water for good use. The kitchen drains to a much trickier location, so for the moment I'm just washing all my plates into a bucket in order to use the water, until I find a better solution.
Constructing this system was a lot more trouble than I initially envisioned. The connections leaked. The end of the sink-drain was a sharp right angle and it was really hard to get a good fit/seal with the transfer pipe.
To make things ten times worse, PVC is notoriously hard to "reduce" (neck down to a smaller diameter) so I opted to build the entire system out of one-and-quarter inch size pipe (which is what the house pipes are) rather than a much easier quarter inch, for example.
The biggest problem it created was for the vegetable watering setup. Since the final delivery pipe is so large, it will never flood completely-- which would make it conveniently drip from every hole at the same rate
I had to carefully cut, and re-cut, and prop it at a good slope, and bend the pipe by hand into a straight-but-slightly-curved shape, and carefully adjust the alignment of the holes to get an even drip along the whole length.
After many hours of work (including moving rocks, composting, digging, and hitting and repairing a water supply line to my bathroom --I have no idea what it was doing in the middle of the yard), My system is finally complete. I still have to move some more rocks and dirt to fill up the area around the long pipe to reduce the tripping hazard.
Still, I'm quite proud of the work thus far. The second-biggest plantain is really happy (the biggest one is dead). It sprouts a new leaf every week.
I've sown beet seeds! I really hope they sprout soon. No chickens yet.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
This means taking trips out to Navrongo and Paga where IDE's work happens, taking everything in, trying to understand it all and fit into the spheres of work I've been assigned to (in a blog, coming soon!).
the road to Burkina
a desert oasis, complete with ornamental Baobab
a wild crocodile!
My humble abode is really coming together. This weekend, I went wild and bought a complete kitchen including a fifteen kilo LPG bottle, which definitely weighed more than fifteen kilos full as I carried it home on the back of a motorbike.
My nutrition is probably twice as good now that I can cook for myself and no longer need to eat out. I can finally eat all the beans I want to, and loads of tomatoes and cabbages and vegetables that aren't cooked by boiling them in oil for an hour. I almost took photos of myself cooking but couldn't bring myself to (sorry).
Another thing I'm getting terribly excited about is revising the water systems in my house. Right now, the kitchen sink, shower and bathroom sink all empty to different drains and patches of dirt around the house, which is a pretty sad and inefficient system for a desert.
I'm also getting familiar with the neighbourhood, walking to corner stores and vegetable stands for groceries. I met by pure chance a gentleman on the street who'd just started a NGO doing water and sanitation infrastructure and education around the area. He was a neat guy. We sat and had soft drinks (since he's muslim) and talked about our lives and our work.
People here are amazingly friendly and good natured. The other day, a child stopped me on the street to tell me I'd dropped a few cedis (dollars), and nobody I meet here or who talks to me tries to sell me anything or gets in my face like people do in Accra and Kumasi.
Life here is nice.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I don't really have anything terribly exciting to report, except that I've moved to Bolgatanga in the Upper East region of Ghana.
It doesn't feel incredibly strange or new, although I think that perhaps it should.
I rode in a (crowded) car with my (heroic) boss, our (fearless) driver, and a (motley) crew of metal shop owners and an engineer, making over 800 kilometres of rough, potholed, checkpointed roads in two days. We drew straws to figure out the order of who got to sit in the back seat.
We watched the scenery change from this
Up here, I've settled into a delightful little compound which contains a delightful little office in front where I work and delightful little house in the back where I stay. The walls are a simply delightful shade of pink, matching the red, dusty earth.
Sam (pictured) heads up the program here in the north, and he's awesome. We get along great, and see eye to eye on how we should work, and what we can do to improve systems and solve problems.
We also share a profound interest in turning our yard into a vegetable garden, routing greywater to feed our banana trees, and other gimmickry. Furnishing an empty house is something I'm completely unfamiliar with, and every bed and broom and bucket I put in it feels like a small victory.
So although this is all quite lovely, it doesn't seem substantial enough to me to build a blog out of. I don't feel very agent in this whole process...yet, but rather that life is stringing me along for a ride.
Rest assured, you'll read about all the juiciest news right here when the Real Work starts, when I start keeping chickens, when I get my hands on a bicycle and run crazy around this desert.
Here's an interesting fact to chew on: where I am looks and feels like a desert, but actually gets more rain than Iowa (one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world).
The Upper East gets no rain for most of the year, and then gets over a metre of it in just three months, around june to august.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I've finally made it to Accra (after some delays),
and I'm strangely comfortable again. This has happened too frequently over the past two weeks. I left comfort in Oecusse to settle into Dili and feel at home for a day, before a brief stay with similar feelings in Bali, an excellent week in Singapore, a few days in Abu Dhabi and now, Accra.
Accra is big, and my neighbourhood is new to me, but I feel at home already: walking around the dusty streets and buying vegetables from the nice women who own a produce stand down the road.
However, I'm not going to be around here for much longer. I'm discussing my work arrangements with my (super amazing) boss and it looks like I will be sent to the hot, dry and windy Upper East region, where most of the action is right now. It sounds really really exciting. Much more exciting than I make it sound and much more than IDE lets on here.
This evening, as I wandered around the dusty neighbourhood, I watched huge flocks of bats fly across the sky. I think there could have easily been a few million bats. Looking up, there were thousands of bats in the sky at one go, and they never stopped coming.
I was completely speechless. Then I reached for my camera, and found that like an idiot, I'd left it in my room. I'll have my camera on me next time, and future posts will be full of Ghanaian wonder.
I need a compass. I'm really surprised I haven't bought one yet. I always navigate using the cardinal directions, and I usually get my bearings from the sun.
It's easiest in the morning and evenings (by finding east and west) but gets really confusing around noon, especially here at the equator. It's hard to tell north and south when the sun is directly overhead, even more so since at noon, shadows don't always point north or south because of the Earth's seasonal tilts.
Therefore, I need a compass. I don't know why I don't own one yet.