Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Project Trip to Luwero: PART III (of III)

Project Trip to Luwero: PART III

Saturday September 20: Hot water for locals only
Today was another full work day at the guesthouse. We were able to get a lot done and are about ready for the presentation. It’s nice to be on schedule so no one had to pull an all-nighter. Actually, everyone was in bed by 10:30pm.

The eMi Team (L to R): Nate, me, Brady, Nick, Liz, Jeremy, Janet and Anna

Funny Story: Until tonight, we’ve had this whole wing of the guesthouse to ourselves – we have actually only seen a couple of other people beyond the guesthouse staff. So this afternoon, they informed us that 6 people would be joining the main building where our work room is. When they arrived, the guesthouse staff was getting them settled – they are a group of older Ugandans, probably in their 60’s (I say “older” because that’s really old for Ugandans). So later on, I walked down the hall past their rooms to use the restroom and I noticed that the guesthouse staff has left small jerry-can’s of hot water outside each of their rooms. What gives?! We’ve been taking cold showers all week! Apparently, you have to ask if you want hot water. We all got a good laugh about it, and actually, we’re all used to the cold showers now anyways and probably prefer it over a hot ‘bucket bath’ anyways.
Sunday September 21: Presentation Day
This morning we got up and had our own church service, since the ministry is currently located about 2 hours drive away from the new site and from where we're staying. So we sang some worship songs and then listened to a recorded sermon Brady had on his computer from a pastor in the States.

The team finalizing the design before the presentation

We then spent the day finalizing everything – the architects sketched and colored 11 drawings, we finalized the power point presentation and readied our presentation remarks.
At 4:30pm, we then presented our week’s worth of work to about 30 people the ministry had invited, including two of the local area council members.

Some of the hand-drawn renderings the architects produced, with our structural roof framing plan and foundation plan between. The architects produced 11 different rendering sheets. The overall Master Plan is on the right, with the primary and secondary schools on the left.

It went really well, and the feedback was very positive. The ministry was very pleased and excited to have their vision on paper. The power point didn’t quite work out the best because we were missing the cords to the ministry’s projector, so we just set a couple of computers up front and cycled through it that way.
We concluded the day’s festivities with a big feast. We were all pretty tired, but after everyone left, we all sat down and, as is customary, had our closing meeting and sharing time. Each person gives their high and low point, what God’s taught them that week, and then everyone else shares something encouraging about that person that they’ve noticed during the week. It was about a 3 hour meeting, but it always is a great chance to both conclude the trip and solidify the bonds of friendship made.

A rendering of the Bible Training Centre - our draftsman Jeremy created a 3D model in Google 'Sketch-up', and then the architects traced over it and colored it, adding trees, people and topography to make it look more lifelike. Pretty cool looking, and the ministry was very impressed and pleased.

Monday September 22: Homeward Bound!
I woke up at 6:20am, 20 minutes before my alarm even though I had gone to bed well after midnight. I was ready to get home to see Alisha and the boys. We packed up, and after a brief struggle with the battery of the mini-bus we were borrowing, we hit the road. I drove the mini-bus back to Kampala, as the ministry had left it behind for us. It worked out great.
Nate had an FM transmitter for his Ipod, so he played DJ of some great hits from the 80’s…Tainted Love , Rock Me Amadeus, Video Killed the Radio Star, Mister Mister, and many others. I can’t tell you how weird it is to hear songs that you haven’t heard since you were a kid while you’re driving through rural Africa!

The team apparently interested in something Brady is saying or doing

Back in town, Alisha and Graysen came to the office to see me, and it was a lot of fun. Then, the group went out to lunch at a nice place here in town, and Alisha and the boys joined us afterwards to swim…except that a thunderstorm rolled through town during lunch and ruined the swim plans. So we all headed over to where Nate and his wife Alicia are staying. Alicia’s sister works for the U.S. Embassy here, so they have a very nice house (feels like back home inside) and also a very cute little Shitzhu dog named ‘Romeo’ they brought from the U.S. The rain stopped so we all played Bocce ball in the backyard.

Simon cutting into a Jackfruit he cut down from one of the many Jackfruit trees on site

The inside of a jackfruit - this is about the diameter of a basketball. It has a weird taste and a very sticky sap inside. The closest description I've heard is that it tastes like JuicyFruit gum.
By the end of the day, I was glad to have the trip finally over. It was a lot of fun and a great group of people to be around, but you can’t beat home. After putting the boys to bed, Alisha, Dani and I watched an episode of Monk our neighbor had downloaded before heading to bed. That’s the last thing I remember…

Project Trip to Luwero: PART II (of III)

Project Trip to Luwero: PART II

Wednesday September 17: How God can use 3 chickens to further His kingdom
We presented the preliminary master plan to Shannon and Dean in the morning while the survey team again headed to the site for an early start. Shannon seemed very pleased with the overall concept the architects had come up with, with a few minor changes and questions. After the meeting, Liz, Anna and I headed out to the site again to join the rest of the team.

Check-in meeting with Shannon, the director of SOS ministries, and the architects

Being a project leader is definitely a new position for me – and I think I’m liking it overall. The pre-trip work is pretty substantial, first trying to recruit volunteers, then getting them the information they’ll need, organizing their travel, and then receiving them at the airport and taking care of their needs when they arrive. During the project, it’s a lot of people and resource management, trying to plug everyone into the correct spots to accomplish the most work for each day. So many parts depend on other parts of the trip that it really takes a lot of thought to collect the information in the correct order and then distribute it to the right people, all the while coordinating with the ministry to make sure the path we’re on continues to align with their vision. But from an engineering point of view, especially early on in the week, I have played more of a support role…including my current assignment as I type this – staying back at the tent to make sure our computers and equipment are secure while the rest of the team is scattered throughout the site performing various tasks from surveying to digging water percolation test holes.
Interesting story: So, as to the question of how 3 chickens can contribute to God’s work. Well, today our work table on site under the tent was infiltrated off and on throughout the day by a large trail of safari ants. Shortly after the afternoon snack time (unofficial) the ants swarmed to the table to retrieve the crumbs, driving us away. It was impossible to be near the work table without having a mess of very large soldier ants crawling up your pant leg and attacking you. Dean tried to spread ashes around to ward them off, but that only got Dean about 30 agitated soldier ants up his pants! So, as I was in full retreat, I saw three of the neighbor’s juvenile chickens noticing the scattering ants around the edge of the tent. So as I moved a little further away, the 3 chickens descended on the area and proceeded to pick the ants off with amazing speed and efficiency. I snapped this photo of them hard at work, but in about 10 minutes time the 1000’s of ants had been reduced to a much smaller trail a good 15 feet from the work table! Then as quick as they’d moved in, they ran off back home, leaving an ant-free work zone in their wake.
The 3 missionary chickens, doing the Lord's work

Thursday September 18: Power Point and Project Leader ‘duties’
Today was the first day I didn’t travel out to the site, and instead stayed back at the guesthouse to work. While part of the team headed out to the site for surveying and percolation tests, the architects, draftsman and I stayed behind to start putting together some drawings. After some changes to the preliminary design, the architects were reconfiguring the master plan. Jeremy the draftsman (eMi-USA Staff member) imported the survey information to date and began preparing the site plan. So, since the structural design was still not ready to begin, Liz had the idea of trying to do a Power Point presentation at the end of the week. Since I have always wanted to learn to do that but never had the impetus to actually make me do it, this was the perfect chance.

Deane, from New Zealand - picture the Crocodile Hunter mixed with MacGyver

So Liz gave me a copy of a Power Point file the eMi Canada office had used on a recent trip, and I spent the day modifying it to fit our project. I have to say, as easy and user friendly as Power Point is, I’m a little bummed that I’ve never learned to use it before. I think I could easily get into the habit of making Power Point presentations every time I am speaking in front of people.
Meeting with Deane
Funny Story of the day: The guesthouse we’re staying at has pit latrines for toilets – called squatty potties here (named for the position you take to use them). Not especially enjoyable to use. But on Tuesday, we figured out that the meeting room we they have set aside for us actually has a flush toilet in a back room, so we have been sharing this one toilet ever since. Well, the flushing power of the toilet is not very impressive, and the inevitable happened that someone left behind a ‘present’ despite repeated attempts at flushing.
Water and rest break under the tent - when the sun is behind the clouds, it's comfortable. When the sun shines, the heat can be miserable even when it's only 85 degrees out

Now many of the jobs a project leader takes on are important – generating questions for the ministry to try to get to the heart of their vision, coordinating a team full of design professionals to keep them busy with the many things to do, and ensuring that the project moves forward to eventual completion. But needless to say, other jobs are not as fun or glorious. Nevertheless, it had to be done, so I did what any good project leader would do: I reached in with my hand and…no, I’m just kidding (anyone who really knows me and my clean-freak issues should’ve known better if they were fooled). But I did manage to find a bucket, filled it with water and dumped it in to give the toilet the assistance it needed to get it down! Ahh, now that’s ministry!

Janet, taking one of 800+ shots in 3 days!

Friday September 19: Power woes
Today was the first time the entire team stayed at the guesthouse for a work day. It was fun to have everyone in the same room all day for the first time, and also good to see so much design work get done. The team members are all fun people to be around so it’s made for some good times and laughs. I finally was able to get intern Nick started on the structural design as the architects finished a floor plan of the classroom buildings. It’s always a bit strange early in the week waiting around until I can get started on the structural design, since the architects have a lot of back and forth with the ministry early on until a master plan is agreed on. That’s why I was excited to learn Power Point yesterday, because it allows me to work on the presentation documents early in the week when it’s too early for the structural design.

Precision surveying by Intern Nick

We did encounter our first real technical problem today. Coming into the project, we thought the nearest power pole was 1.6 km to the site based on information from the ministry. However, after checking with the local power company, that pole is a low voltage pole and as such can’t be extended (picture extending an extension cord 1 mile). It turns out that the nearest high voltage line is 3.0 km away, and the power company’s estimate for extending the line varies between $60,000 and $120,000! Apparently though, there is a government program that will pay for it, if you are patient enough (could be 5 years) and know the right people. So in the meantime, we’ll be looking into solar when we get back to Kampala – which also isn’t cheap.

Brady checking water depth in an existing borehole

No real funny story today, though we’ve had a lot of laughs – this really is a fun group. But I’m really starting to look forward to seeing Alisha and the boys on Monday. Being away is tough on all of us – it’s the one part of eMi that I’m not crazy about, though I’m sure many husbands/fathers in eMi share that sentiment. Most every other aspect of the job I really love.

Alex with Nate & Brady, out on the site hand-augering holes for the water percolation tests (checking to see how fast water will seep into the ground to help us design the wastewater system)
The report from home was all is well, but the boys are having a hard time with me being gone. Jonah was crying some at school early in the week missing me, and all 3 boys have been sleeping terribly. Alisha reported that by morning all three have been in the room sleeping with her for some time!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Project Trip to Luwero: Part I

Project Trip to Luwero: PART I

For the past week, I have been out of town about 50 miles North of Kampala near a town called Luwero leading my first eMi project trip to work with Sufficiency of Scripture Ministries. The vision of the ministry is to provide much needed biblical training to Ugandan pastors. The founder and director of the ministry, Shannon Hurley, is an energetic and passionate pastor from Santa Clarita, CA who moved here, along with his wife and 3 kids 2 1/2 years ago .

Our initial programming meeting with the ministry on the first evening. This is where the ministry lays out their vision for the team. The white gentleman on the left in the black shirt is Shannon Hurley, the founder and director of SOS Ministries. He grew up in Upland and went to college and lived in Santa Clarita, CA before moving his family to Uganda 2 1/2 years ago

Though the heart of the ministry is to train pastors up into a thorough knowledge of the Bible over a 3-year program, they also realize how important establishing a connection with the surrounding local community is if their ministry is to be successful. Therefore, after purchasing a beautiful piece of land totaling over 100 acres in the dense central Ugandan jungle, they contacted eMi to help them with the master plan of their site to include not only a biblical training center, but also both a primary and secondary school for the children of the nearby rural community. All told at full build-out of the project, with staff and students, approximately 1200 people will be served by the site. The following is my daily journal of the trip.
For reference, the team is:
Me – Trip leader and Structural Engineer
Janet – Trip co-leader, Surveyor and Civil Engineer
Jeremy – eMiUSA Staff Draftsman
Liz – Architect (long-term volunteer at eMiEA)
Brady – Civil Engineering (short-term volunteer)
Nate – Electrical and Civil Engineering (short-term volunteer)
Anna – Intern, Architecture
Nick – Intern, Surveying, Structural Engineering and Cost Estimating

Monday September 15: It’s a small world after all
After a bit of a mixup with the transportation (the ministry’s bus did not show up that morning), we arrived on site a little after lunchtime. We met Shannon and a few of the local board members of SOS, Christopher, Jotham and Anthony. We took a quick tour of the first structure already under construction, Shannon’s future house, but with a thunderstorm looming we crammed into Shannon’s landcruiser and took a drive around the perimeter.

The Guesthouse where we stayed - second door from the left was my room

Interesting side story: As we talked a bit about the vision, Shannon told us that he had grown up in LA and graduated from the Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. He also mentioned that Anthony, who is a native Ugandan, had played basketball at the Master’s College for 3 years(’98 to ’01) under a full scholarship (with his 6’9” frame, if he hadn’t played somewhere he should have!). So I mentioned that my cousin’s husband was the women’s coach at Master’s, and he said, “Ken Sugarman is your cousin?!” I explained that his wife Nancy was my first cousin, and he said he knew Nancy as well. He, and also a mzungu who is here with SOS for a few months and who is also a Master’s College grad, spoke very highly of Ken and his program – that he focuses on developing his players as Christian women, and not just basketball players. Anyway, it was a fun little moment – and very bizarre that I’d meet a local guy out in the middle of the African jungle who knows someone in my family.

Liz & Anna working out the Master Plan with a cattle drive passing by

So after a great lunch onsite, we headed to Luwero town (about 25 minutes) to get settled at the guest house where we’ll be staying for the next week and have a sit down programming meeting with Shannon and the board members.
The programming meeting went well, and the team got hear Shannon’s personal story of how he came to move his family to Uganda, as well as the future vision of the ministry. We were able to ask all the questions we needed to get started the next day.

Me and intern Nick hammering out some calcs using 3 computers! (*spoiler alert* - this is a staged photo, maybe the fact that we're simultaneously pointing at the three computers tipped you off)

Tuesday September 16: First day of project work
Our first full work day started out with a quick, early breakfast followed by a matatu ride to the site. The survey team got busy right away, trying to use every bit of daylight as possible. When we arrive, a large tent frame was partially put together, so me and Brady and Nick pitched in to get it erected. It was a large, heavy canvas tent that at 20 ft x 80 ft was way bigger than we needed, so we only put up 2 bays and let the rest hang over the end. Still, with a 20 ft x 40 ft work area, we had enough room to spread out.

The team at work under the tent on site...while the cattle drive passes in the background - the stark contrast of computers and technology with a simple, undeveloped lifestyle serving as the backdrop is a paradox I will never get used to no matter how many eMi trips I do

The architects also hurried themselves to work, creating an outline for the master plan, and even cutting out tiny little buildings from construction paper (to scale!) for buildings and moving them around on the site to help come up with a layout. As the project leader, I spent the day coordinating people and equipment, as well as meeting with Dean, a fairly relaxed but burly fellow from New Zealand who is here with his wife and 3 kids to help Shannon get the construction of the site off and running. In building Shannon’s house, Dean was able to provide a wealth of information about construction materials’ cost. Four days out of the week, Dean lives with his two teenage sons on site in a small, very traditional Ugandan brick house occupied by two Ugandan brothers who moved to the site to help out the ministry.
An interesting side-story about the two brothers, Simon (19) and Alex (24): When they were 8 and 13, their parents died, so they had to care for themselves. To make it through, Alex worked while Simon went to school. At night, Alex would study from Simon’s notes, so that at the end of the year, they both could sit for the exams to pass on to the next grade. As of now, they have both passed up to the point of having 2 more years of O-level and 2 more years of A-level schooling (i.e. essentially 4 years of high school), which SOS will help them pay for.

Simon next to the cooking fire he uses - he's 19, but has endured more hard life experiences than most of us will in a lifetime. He's a very nice boy though, and he's very much sold out for Jesus

By the end of the day, the architects had a preliminary master plan sketched out and colored for the SOS guys to review the following morning; the survey team had taken 239 shots in just over 8 hours, a rate of about a shot every 2 minutes; the civil guys had taken water samples and checked out the existing bore holes; and as is typical of most eMi project trips, the structural work was still at least 2 days from commencement (which makes for a bit more low keyed first part of the week, but a more time-crunched second part of the week).

Architects Liz & Anna get started on the Master Plan while some of us guys set up the main work tent. Simon is making lunch for the team. I found it bizarre that they have a canopy from Costco out in the middle of the Jungle?!