Thursday, September 10, 2009

Africa Part 3: Digging in Katutu

Africa Part 3: Digging in Katutu

19th August: Wednesday Morning after a yummy breakfast prepared by Gwen and her mother we head off to the site. The goal is to be prompt because we don’t want the locals to think we are blasé about the whole thing. Of course for the first half hour or so it is just a bunch of mzungu standing around. We do the best we can getting started and pretty soon the locals show up and start to help.

Our first task is to make sure the hole is straight, so someone (I think it was Cathy) attaches a monkey wrench to a rope coming down from the pulley and slowly lower it down until X marks the spot. We also mix the bentonite (by hand, a fun task for the kids and/or any other person who likes to get dirty). Once we have the spot we start digging a shaft by hand as straight down as possible. Eventually since I have the longest arms I am conscripted into service, lying on the ground and pulling dirt from the bottom of the hole. Once the hole is started we lower the drill into the hole, tie some rope around the handle, pour in some water and bentonite, thread the rope through the pulley and tie sticks at intervals to the other end, find “rowers” to pull on the sticks and start pounding the drill up and down into the ground (see video at bottom of blog). Getting the water to come out the top was a trick only Jeremy seemed able to perform.

We start work with a lot of energy and quickly water (and sludge) is moving up the pipe and squirting out the top. It is a very dirty job and soon many of us are coated with dirt and bentonite. We take two breaks for food: first a chai break where we eat a few snacks (one of them being mandazi a yummy fried dough served everywhere we go in Kenya) and a lunch where we eat motho koi a dish of corn, beans, potato and cilantro. The motho koi is sort of bland but certainly filling and it is also a dish that is served everywhere but each region has a different name for it.

By the end of the day we have made it 10 feet and we are having problems with the rope which keeps breaking (partly because it isn’t great rope and partly for lack of lubricant, eventually we have to replace it). 10’ is not great progress and we are all a little discouraged. Melchizedeck has gone off to survey the surrounding area and is grim about our chances; there is rock everywhere, some of it soft but enough of it is hard that he suspects the WFA method won’t work here. For now he keeps it mostly to himself. But we only have 6 days to go another 140’ to 150’ and that isn’t likely to happen if we encounter rock the whole way down. The good news is that the community has decided to get involved and we have many workers as well as onlookers (the women especially are great workers I think largely because they are the ones who end up having to walk to get the water).

When we get back to the BBC we are all very dirty but the best we can do for clean up at the Bush Baby Club is water heated on the stove and an enclosed cement room for washing. We are also dealing with a choo for bodily functions, not ideal but workable (you get used to carrying some toilet paper on you at all times, I also carry lots of alcohol hand sanitizer).

Thursday we wake up enthusiastic to keep going. Dinner last night was the delicious shish kebobs for which I yearn to this day. After a warm breakfast and a visit to the choo we set out early to Rose and Peter’s House. Once again we stand around for a while waiting for the locals to show up but soon everyone is there and we are underway. Things are going along pretty well considering we are trying to drill through solid rock. We are moving at a rate of about a foot an hour which I gather is pretty slow. Because people have different schedules they have to keep to, we are going to start losing people on Saturday so we are doing the best we can. For lunch we have motho koi again, it seems it is a staple around here and simple to make for an army of workers.

Thursday night I have a horrible attack of homesickness. I’ve only just gotten started and already I’m tired of sleeping in a strange bed, washing with water heated in a pot, working all day with nothing to relieve the monotony, people who laugh at you and peeing in a hole in the ground. I’m worried that we won’t have time for anything fun at the end of the trip because we are moving so slowly. After a little crying I try to make a gratitude list of all the things that are good about this experience: Rose is very sweet, the food is yummy, I’ve made many new friends and seen some amazing scenery; I also call my mom and my friend Ann. As a final way to pep myself up before bed I watch the beginning of the movie Enchanted which I have downloaded to my ipod in case of just such an emergency. It does the trick and I go to sleep ready to start digging again in the morning.

Friday is market day in Katutu and I am hoping to take a break and walk into town to buy some fabric for me and my friend back in Seattle, Nile, who specifically asked for some kikoi and kitenge cloth from Kenya (both she and I love to sew and once I see the kikoi cloth I can see why she likes it, I immediately fall in love and purchase them in numerous colors). Don, Marian and I walk into town and I find cloth in a cute little shop where two beautiful women work at a treadle sewing machine. In Kenya I see many beautiful treadle machines (I didn’t even know they were still making these) a good investment in a country where power is intermittent at best. Don purchases a couple of shirts but mostly we just wander around and see the sights. Don is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of the things we see.

There is some culture shock here in Kenya in that we are the center of such interest. We are surrounded by people almost all the time who are interested in our activities, children especially, and I start to feel like an animal at the zoo. It’s weird because in Seattle (or almost anywhere in the U.S.) standing around and pointing and laughing at someone because they are different would be completely inappropriate and rude but here it seems pretty common and children follow you shouting “mzungu” many places you go. They also come up to you and demand money and candy which is something we Americans specifically tell our children not to take from strangers.

At this point everyone is pretty clear on the fact that we are not going to make it to the water and we decided last night that it is our last day drilling. We take many pictures of the drilling focusing especially on getting pictures of the couples working together (on the left are Jeremy and Sara; to the right and below are Peter and Rose), I get my picture taken with Cathy. All in all we have managed to go 25' through rock the whole way which is unheard of, but many of us have heavy hearts at leaving the job unfinished. However after a community meeting the locals decide that they are interested in pursuing the well without us, working together to create a project that will be all their own. Melchizedeck has already agreed that he is willing to come back and help them with the WFA method or failing that, he will bring his drilling rig and if a few basic conditions are met (deeding the land on which the well stands to the community so that it will truly be a community well and making sure that everyone has access) he will gladly drill for free. This coming together of the community to find it’s own solution might actually be the best thing that could have happened in this frustrating situation and to further lighten our hearts the women start to sing and dance, clapping their hands and lifting their voices in a lively call and response (I have included video of their singing at the end of the blog). Tomorrow we will be leaving Kapati and heading back to Nairobi.