Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bikes and Pumps

I am sitting in Karen’s house watching Emily make taco salad. My mouth is watering. Emily’s friend came to visit from the US last week. He brought us tortilla chips. I treat my ipod with less respect.

Last week, my friend Adam organized a bike tour of west Kara in support of his and Emily’s pump project. It was the first annual Dusty Fried Wagash bike tour. Karen and I loaded up our bikes on a car in Kouka and went down to Kabou on Wednesday. We met up with Jen and Kadar, who is the main homologue for the pump project. Karen and Kadar went on down to Bassar on Kadar’s moto while Jen and I waited in Kabou for a car to take our bikes. Three hours later, we left.

Outside of Bassar we met up with Karen, Kadar, Adam, Brandon, Ben Conway, and Adam’s homologue, Gbandi. We left Bassar on our bikes for Dmirori, Brandon’s post. Kadar and Gbandi followed us on motos. We stopped off in Adam’s village, then took a back way to Dmirori. The path was pretty bad, but it was fun. Southwest Kara is hilly and pretty now that its started to rain.

28k later, we made it to Dmirori right in front of a thunderstorm. We celebrated Kadar’s birthday party at Brandon’s house. Then slept. Thursday, we left at like 6am for Kabou. The First leg of the trip was really nice. It was overcast and cool, the clouds hugged the green hills. The road was a red gash rolling over hills and through the trees. We rolled through these picturesque hill-top villages. The villagers definitely weren’t expecting to see a horde of sweaty, panting white people. It was funny.

We hit the main road from Ghana to Kabou about 3k from the border. The next two legs wound up being the worst part of the trip. First off we had this really low, winding hill to climb. We all eventually had to walk I think. At the top of the hill, we stopped off in this town and hung out at a bar for a couple of hours under we could stand up safely. We got in to Kabou about 1 pm or so after another series of long up-hills and short-down hills. It wound up being about 55k. We met up with Matt and Jacqui, who biked in from Bassar, then spent the rest of the day hanging out at Matt’s house.

The next morning I thought that my quads were going to fall off, but we biked up to Kouka. We stopped off at Jen’s house in Manga for awhile, and we visited a couple of pump sites as well. The bar outside of Kouka was really inviting by the time we made it about 40k later. Matt had a amoebas so he rode on Gbandi’s moto. We hung out in Kouka the rest of the day at Karen’s house.

Saturday, Karen, Emily, and I had a trash collection project meeting in Kouka. After that I biked out to Nampoch with Jacqui, Adam, Brandon, Jen, and Ben. Adam and I moto’d out to another pump site in the brush outside of Nampoch with Kadar and Gbandi. We made it right before it started raining. We waited out the storm, but on the way back, Gbandi put our moto over in the mud because the path was a river. We were ok though.

We wound up biking about 145k in 4 days. It was a lot of fun.

Yesterday, we started work on Emily and Adam’s pump project. They are replacing 29 worn out pumps in Dankpen and Bassar prefectures. Emily’s half of the project is funded so she’s getting it started before she COS’s in August. We replaced two pumps yesterday. It basically consists of lowering 30-40 meters of 2 inch galvanized pipe down a well. You have to attach one section at a time. If you drop the pipe down the well—its not really fun to think about.

It was exciting to see the villagers react to their new pumps. Suddenly they had lots of water where before they had little or none. One totally new 38 meter pump costs about 1900 dollars. I’ve bought computers for more than that. You don’t really think about the importance of water until you don’t have it. I feel like that, in the US, we take water for granted. Turn faucet. Drink. Here, you have to walk 5-10 minutes to the pump, wait your turn, then hand pump your water, and carry the basin home on your head. Water is labor-intensive and this, in turn, informs how it’s used. If the pump is broken and water is scarce, for example, women can’t bathe their children very often. It’s humbling for me to realize that I’ve blown money on junk that, if spent differently, could make a real difference in someone’s life.

Anyway, after we installed the pumps, Brandon, Adam, Emily, and Matt gave talks on the importance of stuff like hand washing, sanitation, pump maintenance, and sending boys to get water. It was one of the more rewarding days I’ve had since I’ve been here. We are installing more pumps for the rest of the week.

I just realized this—Wagash is a soft white cheese made by a local nomadic, cattle herding tribe that roams across west Africa. We usually eat it deep fried. Its so good. Really good wagash tastes kind of like deep fried cheese curds.

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