Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Well 2 drilled! Engineers with TWO WELLS!

How long does it take to drill a well?

About 5 days, without any major problems. Well 2 in Balatsit is now complete to 51 meters, cleaned and a little late.

How long does it take to install a pump and piping, and wire a solar controller?

Approximately 4.5 hours. FORAX finished cleaning the well the day I had to leave village, in fact the day of my flight out of Cameroon. I arrived at the second site at 6:30am. My flight wasn’t until 10:50pm. It started to rain. Well drilling belongs in the category of ‘Dirty Jobs’ for a reason, but I think it’s even messier in Africa because of the clay. The drilling had already saturated the land around the well. For spatial reasons, we had located the tanks and panels uphill from the well. Not only were we stepping through shoe deep mud around the well to lower the pump, but also climbing up and down this small, wet mound to get to the tanks and panels. So in order to get down this mound to get one of the million tools partially sheltered from the rain in one of the boutiques, I would plant my feet and slide down, snowboard-style...except not that graceful. To get up it, I had to have someone pull me with a length of PVC. It was mildly hilarious.

Rain. rain. rain on my parade.

We finished everything but wiring the float switch and covering the trenches by 11am, at which point I had to leave to catch a five-hour bus to Younde. Janvier will finish the wiring and cover the trenches and Nura will report on how the system is operating.

Two moto rides, one five-hour bus ride, three taxis and two planes later, I arrived at home. The last question on the airport custom’s form asks if you are bringing soil into the country. I lied. I had changed my clothes before boarding, but there was nothing I could do about my shoes. My shoes are caked in mud and when I arrived in Newark International Airport, I think it was fairly evident from my appearance that I installed a pump in Africa this morning in the rain, in spite of my efforts to clean the mud off my arms and legs with wet wipes.

It didn’t occur to me that the next time I had internet access to post this news would be after I had hugged my family, ate a cheeseburger and took a hot shower. My skin no longer has a red-orange tint, but I feel like maybe I lost something more than just the clay engrained in my skin. I already miss Bamendjou.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

1 well drillled!!!!!! woooo finally Engineers WITH a WELL

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. Here is a summary, in order of increasing importance:

I ate cookies for breakfast this morning because the donut (aka benyay ...sp?) place across the street was closed.

The other day, I used a machete for the first time. I cut all of the tall grasses in Nura's garden to clear the way for new plants, while alternatively cursing and talking to them. Yes, the weeds are anglophone, and yes I am going crazy. The grass grew back before we had the chance to fully pull it up and plant.

I ate meat for the first time in two weeks the other day. We killed a chicken in the yard. And by we, I mean that I took no part in it whatsoever, but I did eat it. Rather guiltily. I hope I'm not becoming a vegetarian (sorry Dr. Steve).

On Sunday, the technician from Baffoussam gave his final word that the drill rig had been fixed and left. On Monday, FORAX finished drilling at the first site. They had hit water at 28 meters, drilled to 51 meters, and cased or screen down to 46 meters. On Tuesday, they finished developing the well with the air lift compressor. After 14 days and probably about 6 broken parts, they finished the work they had promised us in the beginning would only take 3 days. 

And so, yesterday they went to move the rig to the second drill site and (I would say this should have been fairly predictable by now) it wouldn't start. It was a problem completely unrelated to the air hammer pump fiasco - the truck battery had died. I'm generally not a superstitious person, but at this point, I was wondering if perhaps we were drilling on sacred land, maybe I had done something in a past life, used up all my good luck on other ewb trips. I took out my frustration by trying to dig the trenches to lay the piping with a pick ax. Its a lot harder than it looks, and Janvier decided I was doing it wrong anyway and took over. The mason came and laid the concrete foundation around the well to set the pump base, all the while the drill group was waiting for yet another technician to fix their truck. 

Well, I like technicians. The drill rig is now set up at the second site, ready to drill this well is 3 days, as I am assured by the still-optimistic drilling team...barring any technical problems, of course. In the highly unlikely scenario that they finish drilling by Friday (oh my gosh, that's tomorrow!), I will owe Guy a drink...but I have a feeling I am going to win this bet. 

With all the piping and foundations laid, and trenches dug at the first site, today we lowered the pump and finished wiring. The sun was shining and for the first time in 2 weeks, something went absolutely and perfectly right...the pump turned on powered by the solar panels and filled the tank. I love solar power. I understand that problems are inevitable, and learning from them is invaluable. Such is engineering, such is life. But it is wonderful when something just works and you don't have to fight for it. 

I am still looking forward to tomorrow, but not because I'll be one day closer to leaving.

much love,