Garden, Generator, Malawi Vacation, Chipata and Quarterly Reports

Well, the month of December and therefore 2009 has almost ended. While I was in Dovu I was mostly working on getting my garden finished being planted and on finally making a pedal powered generator. Then about two weeks ago I headed to Chipata on rout to Malawi on the 24th. After a hectic and expensive travel (the “taxi” [Canter truck] cost me 3,500MK to take me probably less then 10km) I arrived at Wheelhouse Marina in Senga Bay. There is a gorgeous view of the lake and a yurt kind of thing that is on stilts over the lake where there is a bar. Unfortunately the bar plays very loud music all night and I had to camp in my tent. So I moved to Monkey Bay, the town just outside the national park in cape Maclare, early. There I stayed in a dormitory and they didn’t blast the music all night. But there were no mosquito nets over the beds and the food was way over priced. The water was very nice and the shore is covered naturally with sand. Although I enjoyed swimming and the view I left early because I was spending too much money being board and because I was getting eaten up even though I put on three different kinds of bug spray every night. I have to say, even though I can’t stand dealing with transport of any kind, the bus system in Malawi is much better then in Zambia as there are legit busses that actually leave on a schedule (although they don’t go to Chipata so I had to sit in a crowded mini bus and deal with being hassled. Anyway, now I can say I’ve been to Lake Malawi.
I’ll be in Chipata until January 5th or 6th relaxing and working on my quarterly report, then head back to Chadiza to get my Inoviropreneurship program underway.

A Friday of BOMailarging

2009-12-18
In Chadiza charging things and checking email. Have been working on getting my dimba (garden) up and running and finally making a pedal powered generator using a very, very old Landrover generator. I just hope the tork is not too much when I connect it up to a battery. I’m going on vacation in Malawi from Dec. 24th to Jan. 4th and heading to Chipata on rout there pa Sunday. I will be in Senga bay from the 24th to the 28th –monkey bay from the 28th to Jan 2nd and then Senga bay from the 2nd to the 5th (traveling back to Chipata on the 5th).

TLUD, Dimba, Thanksgiving, Getting Stuff, Electronical Failure Mango Chutney, and….

TLUD, Dimba, Thanksgiving, Getting Stuff, Electronical Failure Mango Chutney, and….
The last two weeks before I left for Chipata about a week ago I was basically focusing on two things: dimba and BioChar stoves.
The BioChar stoves (a type that uses small branches and fibery weeds and consists of an inner chamber where the solid fuel goes. This inner chamber has many holes in the bottom for fuel and is coated with a narrow outer chamber that encircles the inner chamber and draws air up so that when it reaches what would be smoke, it is preheated and this smoke can catch fire, meaning that little toxic fumes reach the environment and people’s lungs.) have been a huge success. People are really exited about the idea. After doing a test run in my village, I got the students at Zingalume basic to make a second version. At first they were kind of uninterested in the project but when it was done, and the stove was lit, they were very impressed, as was the head teacher.
My dimba has been a lot of work, getting the beds made and beginning to plant. I so far have five beds (about a fourth or fifth of the garden) planted with some tomatoes, two beets (had a bunch more but the grasshoppers love beets, even tephrosia only slowed their demise), some soya, broccoli seedlings up the wazoo, popcorn, carrots, watermelon, cantaloupe(?), and a few other things.
I have also been trying to get strong enough potassium hydroxide (homemade lye) to make soap. I’m almost there. In the BOMA I’ve been trying for the umpteenth time to get internet in Chadiza, although as of the last meeting with one of the interested parties the meeting still had not happened.
On Monday I spent pretty much all day trying to find transport to Chipata with no success. I finally left Tuesday morning for the provincial meeting and that night we had pizza from probably the only semi Italian family in eastern province (well, there’s a radio station called Radio Maria that has broadcasting towers here… maybe it’s owned by that family… or maybe it’s Spanish).. That afternoon I had also tasted some sour ketchup and threw up all over my sheets that night, feeling miserable until Thursday. The meeting was somewhat uneventful but a little later in the evening we had a talent show and I was impressed at some of the talent, one in particular where one man played the guitar while another woman sang a lengthy witty song about Peace Corps Zambian life she had written. On Thursday at about 10:00 all the LIFE’ers trooped over to the office of the provincial forestry officer where we shared what we were up to and found out what she was wanting to focus on. Then we, or at least some of us, myself not included, got back to preparing our thanksgiving dinner (there were a little too many cooks and another would have spoiled the meal). They had been working on cooking since I got to Chipata and I was very eager to see what they had made, probably compounded by the fact that I hadn’t really eaten anything for the last two and a half days. The meal was really good and the dessert equally enjoyably. To say I was not hungry anymore would be an underestimate.
Friday was Eid and since most of the shops are owned by Muslims, everything was closed which kind of put a damper on my plans to get things I needed but I did finally find a reasonably priced old vehicle generator so that I can finally, at long last make my pedal powered generator. This is a good thing because it means I won’t need to keep lugging it to the BOMA and back every few weeks.
This weekend I began making some mango chutney that has turned out to taste really good. Why is it that if it can be canned, I can cook it, if it isn’t cannable it doesn’t turn out quite like I planed?
Going back to Thursday, when I had tried to plug in my external hard drive, nothing happened. I tried to disconnect and reconnect everything that was connectable, to no avail. I am now almost certain that Zambia is host of the electronic demon because my palm is also beginning to freeze up every once awhile (removing the battery, shaking it and bumping it and putting the battery back in usually fixes it). This means that I will be podcastless until at least midterm conference.
Monday I was walking with a heavy backpack for about 8 hours and on my feet from 5:00 until about midnight with only a few breaks, buying things from shops in the “down shops,” trying to get MTN to have reliable internet again (the MTN shop is about 4km from the PCPH) and bottling my mango chutney. I didn’t get everything done so I won’t be going back today but will go back on Wednesday.

A blog post for the tenth of November

A blog post for the tenth of November – the only tenth of November that shall ever come to pass in the year 2009 (all the rest are just fakes, don’t buy them)
Well, I’ve wanted to have my garden planted by now but it hasn’t rained enough so the ground is very hard to work. Probably my most successful venture is still my work with Zingalume Basic in doing the Inoviropreneurship program, although we have a bit of a problem of the students coming on time.
The internet program is still facing delays – no one wants to attend meetings but when I talk to them they say that they really want to do it. Hopefully I get something done on this front before I have to go.
My latest push is “top lit updraft” (TLUD) stoves. Basically they are stoves that use small fuel that can be grown quickly and burn the gas that would otherwise come out as smoke. I made one with the head women and that is what I am currently working on at the basic school.
Well, today (right now) we had our second really good storm. (There’s been a few quickies that haven’t left much) I hope there was the same amount of rain that came down in Dovu. I hope someone plows my garden when the rain lets up.
Of last regard, my solar panel doesn’t seem to be working well enough to power my battery (and there have been several days that I hardly think you even need a solar panel photons to charge my battery the rays have been so scorching). My multi meter ran out of juice and it needs a 9v that can only be bought in Chipata so I’m going to have to wait till the end of the month to assess the problem.
Alright, all for now, there’s probably more I could add but I should be packing up soon… I hope it stops raining before I need to head out.

Well we had our first rain yesterday, probably 3-4 cm at least

Well we had our first rain yesterday, probably 3-4 cm at least. I was really worried that the new black plastic my villagers had put on would blow off because they hadn’t had a chance to tie the udzu (long grass) down yet.
What I’ve been working on:
Well, I’ve had quite a few fairly successful classes with some students at Zingalume basic on trying to get them to think in innovative ways. It is interesting to see what things they can do and what things are really difficult. Probably the best class that they really thrived on was when I had them make the paper airplane that could go the farthest. They made one that went quite a bit farther then the quick one I did and even gave good reasons why they tried that design.
I think this time (and what feels like the umpteenth time) I have attempted to organize the Chadiza organizations together for the purpose of internet it will actually work. I’m meeting with the high schools this afternoon and have had several meetings with members of three organizations all of which were very interested (the high schools had already set up a committee to address the issue before I had even returned from Lusaka). Now we just need to have one or two meetings with all the organizations together and get the company we are going through to come and do a technical assessment of the terrain. Then it’s just a mater of getting the equipment.
I’ve also been slowly trying to make some lye that will actually be a basic enough pH to make soap out of fat. I have also been making a fuel efficient stove that burns not only small sticks, maize cobs and other small woody things but also the smoke (like what a roaring fire that has flames shooting out of the chimney does).
Yesterday, after the rain had almost let up I spent an how beginning o prepare my dimba for planting. My garden will (come mbuzi or high water) be bwino kwambili this year!

Before the date and time of 2009 10 02 16:12…

I forgot to mention this in my last post, maybe I was too annoyed or something but I now have a baby named after me. Born a couple weeks ago, Aaron from Dovu is really cute and really likes to sleep (much more then even I, I don’t think he even woke up when I held him for some photo’s).
This week I met again with Zingalume Basic and set up the date for the first class (Monday). I also worked on my water wheel and need to get some mealy meal sacks for the actual “paddle” parts.
Today I got some more honey, a covered plastic basket to keep food in so it doesn’t get eaten by koswe (mice) but still gets aeration and some mealy meal sacks for the aforementioned use. I did not however communicate with the outside world because the MTN network was down… I hope the outside world is OK!

Today stared out a horrible day, Hot, Bread, Zingalume

Today stared out a horrible day. In the morning my alarm didn’t go off so I woke up ≈80 minutes later then I had intended. As my 12v battery has not been holding a charge I needed to lug it to the BOMA along with my heavy backpack so what would have been slow going was slower going. I also decided to wear the pair of pants I had that the front pockets don’t snap down. About a third of the way there I realized a pill bottle containing my malaria medication had fallen out. Then about halfway there I realized my 8gb flash drive and two rechargeable batteries had fallen out. ARG! I hope someone picks them up.
This weekend I didn’t do that much because it was too hot (≈35-37°C). Even though it’s the rainy season it still seams humid as well although not as much as in Connecticut. Monday I baked some bread, first started out using my solar stove oven but it didn’t get quite hot enough to start the baking process. I finished it off using a new oven idea that is basically a pot big enough to cover my brazier. This worked well. I also went to Zingalume basic school and met with the teacher who is in charge of clubs to discuss trying to integrate the syllabus I worked on last month into the remainder of this term.

So here’s the plan / I have uploaded 1452 new ZamPic’s

2009-09-17
So here’s the plan: the cycle gets done tomorrow, I ride the heck out of it this weekend – I can’t bring it back the next because all of the staff are on a retreat somewhere, then on Monday, assuming that nothing has broken on the cycle, I’ll bring the think back to Chipata, then Chadiza. And this epic thing is done. It is going to be sweet to ride (I think, I hope).
Now that is the daytime news, the evening news is that I have uploaded 1452 new ZamPic’s (Pictures mu Zambia) onto my website. Check them out at: The Other Realm .

Well, I think I’ll go to bed

(2009-09-09, roughly 21:27 hours) – Well, I think I’ll go to bed

2009-09-10
Frustrating day, still have a lot to do on the cycle, working on bike cart design and some online stuff.

2009-09-11
Well, I won’t be going back this weekend, hopefully Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Right as I am typing this I have a pot full of oats in front of me – this is isn’t that important, I just thought you might want to know. Hopefully this weekend I will have time to put up my pictures. All for then…

I want to get out of Lusaka!

2009-09-07
I want to get out of Lusaka! At the same time I want to get my water wheel (and of course my cycle) done before I go back. But I need to deal with red (plus green, blue black and yellow) tape. Unfortunately none of it is duct.

2009-09-06
Finished solar stove – only problem is I don’t have a black pot. Still makes the water very hot though.

2009-09-05
Worked on making a solar stove most of the afternoon, right now trying to get my camera to connect to a PCHQ computer because the wireless router needs to be reset. I think the problem with the connection is with the USB port on the camera… which sucks because that means that capturing is basically impossible…

Today was a fair..ly successful day

2009-07-30
Today was a fair..ly successful day. After stopping at the design shop, I went to the Lusaka AG fair. The fairgrounds remind me a lot of the Big-E, only imagine what the Big-E would be like if it replaced the rides and game stands with more AG related things. In about 4-5 hours I found out more about renewable energy and remote internet then I have the entire time I have been researching the subjects. I met with this technology school based in the Copperbelt that had designed a bicycle that could run on solar power alone. The really useful part was when I asked where they had gotten the engine from and they said that it was from a windshield wiper. When I go back to Chipata (tomorrow actually, although I will be back here in a week or so) I will look into getting one of those little things and using it to do the reverse of what the school exhibiting was doing, make a generator out of it. Then I tracked down a digital system engineering company that it was rumored they were making low RPM generators. Although, from the previous stop I had found a almost certainly cheaper alterative to a new specialty device, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone there. The company did not stock such a machine and was about to exit the building when I thought about asking him about ham radio. As it turns out, he is a licensed operator in S.A. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to get a license here, but when I stopped at ZNBC, they really liked the idea of an amateur radio program in local schools and got my contact information about getting a program under way in Chadiza. Finally, I was on my way out of the grounds when I stopped at the Zambia Meteorology Department. I overhead someone saying the word “internet” and my ears picked up. Apparently there is a device that is being distributed throughout Zambia and elsewhere in Sub Saharan Africa that is in essence a Short Wave Wi-Fi that is used for its own intranet. When I got back I Google’ed WorldSpace, the name on the top of the units they were using to connect. Initially I didn’t find anything until I found their not-for-profit arm. Essentially they are doing what I have been attempting to do for some time, bring low cost internet to remote villages. Check them out at: http://www.firstvoiceint.org . Alright, still have a lot to do before I get a brief rest and head out on the long trek back to Chipata.

CAD Waterwheel, WiFi, & cycle

Yesterday I spent the morning and first part of the after 1200 hours doing more research in long range wireless radio, then I switched to design and spent the rest of the night doing a CAD drawing of a water wheel pump and printing steps for making a stirling engine. Today I will hopefully be going to DisaCare to work on my cycle and to show them the work I was doing the previous day.

An update of ordinary magnitude

2009-07-02~2009-07-25
Week one(ish) of July (week of Forth of July, Unity Day, Hero’s Day) I was in Chipata spending some time relaxing after almost a month in the village as well as finding out how to make soap.
Week two (with a bit added on in the beginning and the end to bring the total up to day 18 of the seventh month of the ninth year of this millennium) I was back in the village doing two soap workshops. Probably my most rewarding workshop was working with the teacher in charge of the JETS club in finally getting the Solar Oven project under way. I also had several good conversations with the head teach, who I get along well with, resulting in asking whether he wanted me to work with the other teachers in doing some programming in the area of Inoviropreneurship (innovation, the environment and entrepreneurship). He liked the idea and when I asked him how much he wanted me to do he said that I should write a daily class for ten of the thirteen weeks in a semester. So I’ve been pacing myself in writing the fifty lessen plans.
On the eighteenth day I took a dreaded taxi to the city known as Chipata and spent a while working on beginning the structure of the syllabus. I also made pancakes for the first time since I’ve been here (and a long time before that) and also made some soya burgers that were really good, I just wished my stomach had been feeling better.
Then on the 21st, I headed down to Lusaka to finally get a cycle of sort. Of coarse the shop had not been notified when I would be coming and they were not all geared up to go. Hopefully they will be on Monday. I’ve been spending a lot of time getting hooked on Amateur/Ham radio. I think it would be awesome if I could get myself and a few local Chadizians’ licensed. Then we could communicate throughout the world. The summer CHIP/RAP (CHIP=community health improvement project, a combination of the old HAP/CAHP) intake of ’09 came late Thursday night and were at the PCHQ on Friday. They seem like a pretty good group. Alright, back to haming, pondering whether I should spend some time writing lessen plans and working on a CAD drawing of a portable waterwheel for irrigation I’m designing.