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!


Traci Morrow said…
Good, good stuff, though the hand in the terlet story had me a bit grossed out.

I can only imagine Mom reading this: "Oh that Brad..." :)


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