Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fence Finished!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We had our first bout with illness in the night, as our construction lead on yesterday’s water purification installation, Trevor, found himself overtaken by some violent form of stomach problem.  He had quite a rough night with cleanup and psychological support from Dennis, Alec, and Shawny.  He is recovering nicely today but we kept him off the worksite anyway to make sure that he gets back to 100% as quickly as possible.  Our past experience in these situations tells us that often when one person falls sick, others sometimes follow closely behind.  We won’t be surprised if we have a few more incidences of illness before we leave, as we all expected to experience some form of major physical discomfort while we were here.  Cross your fingers for us, parents!

Apart from our nighttime drama (which included a visit from the mongoose!), our main priority of the day was to get as far as we could on the fence project.  Based on what the villagers here in Mshiri accomplished while we were in Himo yesterday, it actually seemed possible to get the entire fence stretched today.  We went down to the worksite and turned into a fence-installation machine!  We were moving so fast around the perimeter of the site that we soon realized we were going to run out of materials.  Luckily we remembered that Simon had ordered extra fence materials for his own farm and that they were stored right by our camp.  We made a quick call and Jesse convinced the camp owner to let him drive the extra materials down in the Hilux truck. 

With those last materials on hand, we accomplished the impossible: we actually finished the job early!  For all of you Jan Term travel veterans out there, we know you can’t believe that we are saying these words but they are true: we finished our job!  Early!  We actually finished three jobs (the fence, the water purification system, and the school restoration) in record time.  We even had some downtime that we didn’t expect.  We had scheduled two more days for the fence project, but now we can make a quick trip down to Moshi tomorrow, then do “closing ceremonies” with our various hosts on Friday. 

We then need to make the mad push to strike our camp here so that we can pack it up and take it with us on our safari!  We expect to be able to keep up the blog from the safari, so don’t worry.  Of course, we will also report on these last few days in Marangu so that you can all get the scoop on our farewells from our beloved African home. 

Before we sign off today, though, we must answer some questions from the Happy Hollow sixth graders.  Here they are:

1.     Are you using brushes and rollers for painting?  Yes, we used big oversized rollers and four different sizes of brushes.  If we get those videos posted, you will get to see.  We also used kind of unusual round paint trays that helped contribute to a few more spills than we might have made with more familiar materials.

2.     From Jason H.: How are the local schools funded?  Who has to come up with the money for a teacher?   Great questions.  There are public schools and private schools here, just like in the U.S. The public schools still have fees that are similar to private schools, but they are much lower than private school fees.  Many private schools are sponsored by churches, including the Catholic Church that sponsors the school we painted.  Thus, in the case of “our” schoolhouse, the Church will need to pay a teacher to reopen it.  

3.     From Ben S.: Will you be bringing souvenir machetes back?  Ah!  Ben knows our history!  He must have heard that we brought 45 machetes back (in one checked bag!) from our trip to Haiti in the summer of 2010.  As for souvenirs from here, we have heard several people express interest in machetes so our trip to Moshi tomorrow might be the time for people to make some decisions about whether their family members would prefer to receive machetes as gifts or carved wooden giraffes.  We can’t spoil the surprise for our families and friends so we can’t even tell you what people decide after tomorrow!   Maybe you will see some clues in the pictures and videos. 

4.     From Jason and Heaven: What was airport security like in Africa?  We only boarded one plane in Africa and that was in Ethiopia.  We had already gone through the main security check before we left the U.S. so it wasn’t really any different than what we are used to experiencing.  One BIG difference, though, was that they actually weighed each individual carry-on bag and almost charged us for any that weighed more than 15 pounds.  LOTS of ours weighed more than 15 pounds.  We had to do some fast-talking in the airport to get out of huge charges and we will have to pack our carry-ons more carefully as we return to the U.S. 

5.     What is the most interesting new food you have had?  Hmmm.  The food is very different here from what we eat in the U.S., but not because we are eating totally different items.  The differences are more based in the ways that things are combined.  For example, we had a GREAT stew that revolved around two ingredients that we don’t necessarily think of as compatible: beef and bananas.  Also, there is a very simple bread here called chapati that we love.  We have two cooks named Juma and Kenja and everything they make for us is fabulous.  Lucky us!

6.     We are very impressed with the amount of work you do each day.  How bad are the blisters?  What do you do about sore muscles?   Very perceptive, Happy Hollow!  You have identified two of our most common maladies: blisters and sore muscles (add in sunburn and scratches and you’ve got them all!).  We almost always wear work gloves to reduce blisters on our hands but we still get a few.  Because we are walking SO much more than usual, we also have blisters on our feet.  We use lots of tape on the blisters to help protect our hands and feet.  As for sore muscles, if you were here you would hear lots of bartering for massages going on.  A few of us are actually really big on stretching too, so those folks help the others remember to stretch as well.  And to be honest, we are also going through a huge bottle of ibuprofen pretty quickly.  We think it’s all worth it.

7.     Can you Skype from there?  We want to try to talk to you.  We have turned on Skype a couple of times but because of the vast time difference between us and the U.S., we rarely find people on the line.  When we saw this note from you, we checked to see if your teacher was logged on, but she wasn’t.  Maybe from the safari we will have an early enough return to catch you in your classroom and tell you about our day (and hear about yours!).  Let’s hope!

8.     From Anthony: Do you have any questions about us?  We do!  In the letters you wrote us, how did you find such perfect quotes to match our situation in Africa when we hadn’t even gotten here yet?  (We know that you wrote your notes before Christmas break!)  Also, have any of you ever been to Africa?  Do any of you hope to go to Africa some day?  What are the most beautiful places that you have ever visited? 

Keep those questions coming, Happy Hollow!  (And Southwestern!)

Boy walking home from school during our work day

Epic shot of Josh

Getting down and dirty at work

Local school boy

Everyone working together on the last day of fencing


Our ride home from work today

Securing the chainlink

Wiring the fence

Alec as a human ladder


  1. Trevor get well!!!! We love you :)

  2. Sounds great guys! I am really excited for you and all the people you will be helping for years to come with all the work you have accomplished. I hope you all enjoyed it all and I hope you enjoy the safari. Take a lot of pictures, I look forward to seeing them.

    -Chris K

  3. To build your fence method is great.i like your fence making way step by step.GREAT>>>>>
    Everett Fence Company