Tuesday, June 12, 2007

4 inch wide Pythons!!!

So now that I have your attention by talking about dangerous snakes I'm going to tell you not to worry because no one was seriously injured. The only significant injury was that Michael pulled his back. If you're confused (and you probably should be) it's because these weren't real 4 inch wide pythons…it is what we named the plastic pipes that we were working on last week. Ok, so now that you're a bit sad that this might not be as exciting of a story as you thought. Think again! What can be more exciting than 10 Ugandans and 2 Muzungus wrestling 20 feet of 4 inch plastic HDPE pipe for about 3 and a half hours. Let me paint you the picture from my point of view.

We got an early start in the morning so that we could get everything accomplished in one day. We loaded up the truck with pipe fittings, wrenches, cement, and 20 Ugandans plus Muzungu. We rode for 20 minutes to the work site all the while I was praying that we wouldn't snap the truck's axels (for those who don't want to do the math we were way overloaded). When we got to the sedimentation basin (the place that we were working) we divided up the work and drained the basin. Some cleaned the muck out of the bottom of the basin…some broke a new 3 inch hole in the concrete for the new inlet (by the way – the concrete and brick wall was about 2 feet thick)…and some began breaking two 4 inch outlet holes (oh yes and Tim was filming). Kyalimpa and I began repairing a screen inside the sedimentation basin. Now the sedimentation basin is about 4 feet high on the inside. Last time I checked I was taller than four feet so I spent the majority of this time hunched or squatting. Time in the basin 45 min. By the time I had finished this work they were ready to install the additional inlet. We cut the new inlet pipe to the right length which was to the joy of the many observing children because this pipe was already full of pressurized water and it could not be turned off (we were in fact attaching the valve for that purpose). So as we breached the pipe water started going everywhere. And so did joy and laughter!

After this it was lunch time! A pile of rice, some Kahunga, and a small medallion of beef. Kahunga is a local dish that is a thick brownish-white paste that takes on the flavor of whatever you dip it in, which no matter what it is, is called soupu. You can't really chew it because, well, you don't really get anywhere. It also can double as a flat tire patching material when applied to the inside of the tire (you think I'm joking…it's a true story). Lunch is actually one of the most important parts of the work day here. No one messes with lunch. But I digress.

Now we turned our attention to the two the outlets. Slowly by slowly we chipped our way through the concrete. I joined in the chipping on the inside of the basin where there was a small trough where we had to also break 4 inch holes through solid concrete with minimal working space. Total time in basin: one and a half hours. We then attempted to hook up the HDPE pipe. We wrestled for a good 30 minutes before getting it in and aligned. I went back into the basin only to find that we had dislodged the inside fittings in the process!! We had to remove the whole thing and try again, this time with me inside the basin trying to hold everything in place. We soon realized that it wasn't going to fit without more chipping. We chipped. And chipped. This time I grabbed the fittings like the horns of a bull and held of for dear life while the 10 people on the other end tried to jam the pipe into the set of fittings I was holding. At this point I forget how long I was in there. All I know is that when we finally got it in there was a shout and a scurry of activity outside and I popped my head out of the manhole to see what was going on and found myself suddenly engulfed in a late afternoon downpour. Our workday was finished (which was probably a good thing because it was already about 5:30 and we had lost track of time. We wanted to work quickly on the sedimentation basin because the water supply would be off until we finished the work).

The next morning I taught preschool while the team went up to attach the other pipe (you have to wear many hats here ). I joined them in the afternoon to finish the work. I could tell you everything that happened in the second day, but by this time I'm sure you'd rather have the cliff notes. At the road junction the two big 4 inch pipes had to be split into 8 smaller pipes with four on each line. More fittings. More wrestling pythons.

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