Sunday, January 21, 2007

The first thing I did when I turned 24-

Sometimes in Africa you just don't know what you will be doing in the next five minutes. It was last night, about 11:55pm - five minutes before I turned 24. I thought well, why not stay up five more minutes and do something exciting like watch the clock tick. Just then, interrupting my wonderful and exciting plans we found Houdini III chomping on some of our bread on the counter (Houdini is the name I like to give any mice/rats that we have in the house). He had been running around for about a week evading us, but it was not to be so on this ill-fated night.

As the clock ticked away the final hours of my 23rd year Scott and I were armed with a broom and a piece of sugarcane (which by now is a verteran rat and bat killing weapon). The mouse ran into Scott's room which conveniently doesn't have a working light at the moment. We got busy setting up candles, kerosene mini-lamps, and barracades to block him in. There is still something very exciting about the moment that you try to make the first attempt to kill the mouse. Because you know the moment you move in he is going to bolt in some completely unrational manner. This one was no different. I made the first strike making him bolt out the other side of the cabinet, right into a 2X4 that scott tried to spear him with. He evaded the board and careened out at light speed toward the middle of the baracade. He quickly changed directions and jumped over the barracade. If I may pause the story for a moment, I am beginning to observe a trend that seems to happen at moments like this...all creatures invlovled seem to jump at the exact same time, like it's choreographed. Anyways the mouse, Scott, and myself all jumped at the same time (fortunately for me I was able to hold in any sounds that might be misconstrued as unmanly). We chased him to the other side of the room where I managed to bat him about 5 feet with the sugarcane...he them made his fatal mistake where I was able to pin him with the sugarcane in between the desk and wall and Scott was to finish the job.

Somewhere in the middle of all of the - Scott looked at the clock and said, "Happy Birthday man."

Man points: +2

So this week I have earned quite a few "man points". What is a man point? A man point is bequeathed to you any time that you undertake and accomplish something that would be considered incredibly manly. For example, you could throw a really heavy stone a long distance, maybe you could build a really big fire or build a car with just a hammer and a screwdriver-something along those lines. That is how you earn man points. Girls like guys with lots of man points.

So how have I earned man points this week? By bending 3 inch metal GI pipe with my bare hands. Okay, well maybe my bare hands were holding a grinder for cutting the pipe and maybe someone else's bare hands were holding the welder to weld the angle shut once I had cut the notch out, but when it comes down to it we were bending big chunks of metal and on top of that - even though it's not a requirement for man points – we were actually building something useful.

I'm thinking about taking out one of those romance classifieds when I get back to the states:

SWMM (single white manly male) seeking SF (single female). SWMM can bend metal with his bare hands. Applications now being accepted. Please call Jenny at 867-5309.

On a more serious note, the pipes that we were bending are for the Ngite-Butogo GFS water project that Michael and I have been eagerly awaiting. Technically it's not really started for us yet, we are still awaiting some government approvals and planning, but in the meantime we've been doing some preparation work. The pipes that I'm working on will be mounted along a rock wall (c.f. previous blog: I love my job!) alongside an existing pipeline. This section of the pipeline has to be custom built out of metal piping so that it will sit snuggly against the wall (wait did I just use the word snuggle when referring to a 3 inch metal pipe?).

Early next week I face a challenge of fabricating a 'Y' joint out of straight pipe so that the water will split from the intake into the two pipes. (Insider trading tip: ladies - buy your Josh stock now – man points are about to go through the roof!). I'll let you know how that adventure turns out.

If you'll allow me to use a clich̩ monolog segue, I'm going to change gears (if you knew how long I spent trying to work the spell-check to figure out how to spell segue you would laugh for a long, hard time Рand I'm still not even sure I came up with the right word).

One of the joyful and sorrowful things about ministering to those around you is that you enter into their lives, both the good and the bad. This afternoon I went with Kizza, one of the workers in the workshop to visit his son, Innocent, at the health center. Innocent has sickle cell disease and was in the clinic to receive a blood transfusion. I sat across from Innocent on the bed next to his. It was a sorrowful scene. On his bed next to him were piled on his mother, Annette, his younger brother, Lucky, and the youngest, Hope. The clouds outside were dreary and gray threatening rain. I tried to make small talk as the children continued to shyly sneak looks at me when I was looking the other way. I prayed silently for Innocent. A chicken walked by (yes inside the hospital room). In my broken and hesitant lubwisi I told the chicken to go home – Coco, Ogende Eka (Chicken – you go home). Everyone in the ward had a good laugh at that. As I left Annette said, "Wabele Kovola" or thank you for visiting.

As I have been thinking about it afterwards, there is great joy in knowing that life won't always be so broken. The promise and hope that we have in Christ and in the restoration and redemption of life give us as Christians that joy. It is because of this comfort that we receive that we are able to comfort others as the Apostle Paul says.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why I love my job!

So as many of you are sitting at home in the US wondering how I am doing (and wondering why I have taken so long to update my blog), I want to set your minds at ease. I am doing fine. In fact, I'm doing very well. The past few weeks we have been gearing up for a really big project that's called the Ngite-Butogo/Busolu GFS water line. However, it's kind of funny, because every week for the past few weeks we have begun the week saying, this is the week that we will actually begin work on the line. And then we find out that there is some other government stamp that we need or letter that needs to be written that someone forgot to mention to us at the beginning of the process. Today we sat in a 2-3 hour meeting discussing community sensitization about the project and how we were going to get the community to maintain the line long term, which is by far the most difficult task in any project. The local government does not provide funds for long term maintanance (it actually doesn't even provide funds for the project, a major donor does). So the communities are left to maintain it themselves. This translates into about 40 cents per family that uses a tap for minimum maintanence (i.e. a water tech and some spare parts.). However, even that money is incredibly difficult to collect. There is rarely much thought around here to the maintenance of anything...pretty much a run it into the ground mentalitly.

I don't want to sound all dull and dreary about the government meetings. Below are pictures of my working at my other office this week. In planning for the line there are some preliminary things that we have been able to do. Some of this work is at the intake which is the most exciting. Here you see michael and I running a string next to the current pipline where we need to add a second pipe to expand the flow to the sedimentation basin. It was a great afternoon! So when you are in your office and wondering what I am up to...just think, I'm at my office too