20 hours, 2 solar suitcases installed – its a start
PUG intern Ari provides a description of the first day of a 10 day trek to install the solar suitcases. A slow start, but they are on the road……..
” We got picked up at 4:45 am, all piled into the ministry cars, and we’re here at the ferry now, so this trek has officially started. We were here in time for the first ferry, but they gave us a hard time about something, I have no idea what, so we missed that one. Then they stuck us in this holding spot, and by the time we maneuvered in the craziness out of that, we were one car away from getting on the second ferry, goddammit! So we’ve been sitting here a while, smelling like fish, taking pictures, and eating carbs.
It took us a little over six hours to get onto the ferry, and then it was a 50 minute crossing, but in the end we made it and went to Essau, where the Regional Health Office is. We had a slightly awkward, but satisfyingly brief and concise meeting with the Regional Director, and headed out to one of the nearest health centers, leaving the work at the conveniently located Essau for the second team, who still hadn’t crossed the ferry, except for one of their members who had come with us. We left him behind to find accommodations for us, because it turned out someone had overlooked the fact that Essau couldn’t accommodate us like we had thought…
So we went and did the installation. It went pretty smoothly for our first one, as it should because these things are super simple. We obviously were still green at working with the system and working as a team, sometimes doing things backwards or inefficiently, but the system came out well in about three and a half hours.
One thing that was not smooth, however, were the roads.Wow, I really felt like we were in the Lion King today. We were driving through perfectly stereotypical Africa: a skinny “road,” sometimes just two sandy, wheel spaced ruts, sometimes a heavily cratered packed red dirt trail, cutting through infinitely long, wide, flat plains covered in short scrubby brush, pock-marked with sticky bushes, sporadically spaced, curly trees, and lonely young warthogs who clear the savannah with their flatulence.
When we got back to Essau the other team was there installing the Suitcase, so we helped, finishing in record time with all of us working together. Then, around 8:30 or 9, it started to become clearer that we actually did not have any place to stay. And we weren’t exactly in a resort town. It was kind of frustrating to be actually helpless, with everyone arguing and calling on the phone in various African languages I didn’t understand, but in the frustration, I had to just realize that the team would take care of me along with themselves, and it would work out. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that aggravated – or surprised- that a group of guys in their 30’s had neglected to plan ahead. But with various team members calling guys who know guys they know , it all worked out pretty well though. It seems like most compounds have an extra room or two, so this random guy ended up taking us in. Relieved that we had found a place by 11pm, we went to the local “restaurant” for a late dinner. It was essentially one of the typical street vendors, who grills meat and sells sandwiches and little newspaper packets of food by the side of the road, with some extra bowls of pasta, and both chicken and fish standing outside an open little concrete bunker with plastic chairs and tables scattered all around inside. I have to admit though, like pretty much all of the food here, it was pretty good, actually some of the best chicken I’ve had the whole time.