Saturday, July 30, 2016

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Friday, July 29, 2016

They turn off the power at 8 AM here at the Capitol.  Unfortunately I had just woken up.  That means I got a good sleep for once, but also means I had to get ready in very dim light.  I thought I heard Jim in the shower, but it was the rain that I was listening to.  He was at breakfast.  So I hurriedly dressed, and put my mirror up to the window while trying to put on makeup, knowing it wouldn’t be very good.  No matter, we’ll just be driving around in the mud anyway.

Shortly thereafter I got what they call here, ‘running tummy.’  I thought about my meal last night that was supposed to be a chicken burger, but they had put in it instead a flat piece of meat that tasted like a hot dog.  I thought at first that this might have been the problem; then I remembered that Jim had the same problem last night and that we had found in one of our ‘clean’ water bottles, some floating debris—it almost looked like slices of white onion.  So, I think we got our problem from the same source.  Jim had taken a Lomatil last night and one again this morning, so he was okay.  I took one but still felt a slight queasiness and it was time to go.  I decided to stay back.  It is hard enough to use a ‘toilet’ in the bush anyway, but for this I could not take a chance.  So I made sandwiches for the team and sent Jim off with instructions to be sure to take a picture of each well with his phone camera.  This gives us a good record to go along with his notes.  When they left it was still raining.
All of this took so long that their departure time of 9 AM ended up being closer to 10 AM.  After a while you begin to adopt  the African way—their African standard time is worse than Mormon standard time—they are typically later than we are!  While going to the NGO meeting the other day we were a little late, but everyone else was even later.  It began at least 30 minutes later than scheduled. 

While I was doing the wash, the team was traveling to the wells in Kenema District that they are re-training; they purposely went to those that were not working for whatever reason, but there were not many of those, thankfully.  This one is typical of other NGO’s.  They come in and fix a broken well that we constructed and fix it, most times for a small amount of money.  Then they paint their sign on it as if they had provided the well in the first place.  This does not make us happy!

The Internet service had become so slow the last couple of days that I decided to add some time to my modem that we had purchased years ago; back then they never had Internet here in Kenema or in Bo so we had to go to an Internet café and there it took 30 minutes just to get our e-mail; we usually picked up bugs besides. So we bought the portable modem. We’d apparently changed the chip to Kenya when we went there a couple of years ago, so it didn’t work here.  Happily, Amarachi’s brother specializes in doing computer work for others, so she sent him here to help me.  He bought the needed chips, the one for Sierra Leone and put some time on it.  It will use up the time quickly since I will be working with pictures, but it will work when the hotel Internet will not.  I tried to get her brother to give me a price for his time, but he refused.  He knows all that we have done for his sister and her family, but I hope to get someone to tell me what is fair to pay him.  He is now married and has a little boy and is on his own and in his own place.   I was worried that the lack of power would soon keep me from working on my computer but luckily city power came on at times during the day, keeping things charged up. By mid-afternoon it was pounding rain and I wondered how our travelers were faring on the muddy roads. 

While they were gone I was happy to get a day to catch up on the wash.  We are too tired when we travel about and there isn’t much time to do everything each evening.  I spent an hour washing, and the rest of the time using my blow dryer to move it along.  It is too humid for things to dry well this time of year.  I also spent time doing work on my computer.  By the time they returned I was still not quite done with everything. 

This is a school well.  They assessed the children a little bit of money to keep the well working.  The only problem was that the headmaster said that the teachers took it for themselves.  Others say that the headmaster took it for himself.  The result was a broken well that they apparently are not going to fix.

When I joined Jim and the Cobinah’s, Jonathan and Amarachi, I could tell that Amarachi was not happy.  That is because it was the day to check on the wells that they knew were not working.  They are in there re-training, and this can be discouraging, to know that you are not always successful—no matter how much they need it, they don’t care enough to take care of it.  But the majority of these wells do work.

                        Some were so poorly taken care of that weeds are growing in them.

That is why today (Saturday) was such a great day.  Jim wanted to see how the Kenema City wells project had fared after all these years—these were constructed in 2009.  It was also the first project where we had added hygiene training to our work.  Besides the ones we saw, which were many, there were others that they could tell us about so that we could just ask them if they were working or not.  Apparently the water resources people check all wells in Kenema City and District every three months so they know what is going on.
Almost every well we went to was still working!! You can’t believe how wonderful it made us feel.  Sometimes the concrete aprons were crumbling or they would not be all that clean, or maybe the pump handle was a little wobbly, but in almost every case they were still working and all of them had obviously been repaired in the meantime, at least two times or more.  I wanted to do a little happy dance.  Sierra Leone is the most discouraging place to work in, so this was a very pleasant surprise! 

Among the old but working wells, this one had a crumbling apron, but still had a fence around it.  Even though we care about the other things, the most important thing is that they are still getting clean water out of this well!

The only problem was that in 3 communities where our earlier security cages were not as good, the pump heads had been stolen.  Each of these wells was working and providing water to large communities.  That is why we hope Elder Carley will use these as an area initiative to fix only the ones that were doing well before the theft.  But today was a wonderful day.  And the first look-see day was good also since so many of those were also working.  Many of the wells go dry for 1-2 months during the dry season, but that is not their fault.  We are just so very, very happy!  We only saw one that was not working because of a bad community.

I remembered many of the well sites since I had driven the hygiene training team to each of these sites myself.  When we stopped briefly at one well, they said a woman remembered me.  This was 7 years ago.  What a great day!  If we fix the 3 that pumps were stolen, we will have 80% working—this is amazing and a rare statistic for any NGO after 7 years! 

This well had been re-plastered by the community!        


 This well was one that got its pump stolen; hopefully we can replace it.

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