Uganda Trip - Part II of III

A couple of the nearby village kids who delivered our food supplies each day. It's always amazing and humbling when the local kids help out in hosting the EMI teams. The kids love interacting with Westerners and the team is always so blessed to talk and play with the local children.
Monday, January 31
Today was our first real work day. I think everyone was a little anxious to get to it, so after morning devotions and breakfast, the team split up into their various disciplines and went to work. The civil engineers split up – two of them took the hand auger out to dig bore holes for the percolation tests (these are the tests we use to figure out how well the soil will disperse the wastewater), and the other two went down the road to test the closest water sources, which happened to be the well at the church we visited yesterday and a nearby neighbor’s well. The architects got back to work on the master plan and drainage plans. We got a great look at how things are currently draining later in the day when we had our first major thunderstorm blow through.
The civil guys performing the ground percolation tests - studying how well the soil will receive the wastewater seeping out of the soak pit. If it seeps too fast, we could contaminate ground water. If it seeps too slowly, their septic tank could back up all the time.
The electrical engineer Tom started collecting data on the existing electrical systems, and Anna Rose (structural) walked the site looking at the various existing buildings to evaluate their structural integrity.
Things went pretty well for most of the day with a lot of progress in all areas, but around 4pm it clouded over (after a morning without a cloud in the sky) and an authentic Ugandan thunder and wind storm blew in, effectively shutting us down. It was the first wind/rain storm the ministry has experienced since moving onto the site in December, so they found out where blowing and flowing water is going to cause problems on the sloped site…which is basically everywhere! The windows have glass louvers that don’t close, so most every building got soaked on the inside – including the computer lab and the room where we’re staying. Fortunately, the workers moved the computers and we moved our beds to the middle of the room before they were too drenched.

It's amazing how quickly the dust and dryness can almost be overwhelmed but the massive quantity of water falling from the sky.

Something I really miss from our time in Uganda - sitting out on a covered veranda and watching the violent thunderstorms blow in.

Earlier in the day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky!

One of the best pictures taken by our group. I'm not sure who snatched it, but it captures how awesome and beautiful the mixture of storms and sun can be in the Uganda sky.


I suppose I should introduce the team before I get too far into this trip report:
me
Jonathan – volunteer civil engineer from Indianapolis
Ryan – volunteer landscape architect from Denver
Gary – volunteer architect from Georgia
Anna Rose – volunteer structural engineer from North Carolina
Rhett – volunteer civil engineer from Ohio
Tom – volunteer mechanical/electrical engineer from Ohio
Ben – volunteer civil engineer from Denver
Alex – EMI engineering intern from Wisconsin
Phil – EMI engineering intern from Northern Ireland
Jeff – the American ministry contact and also a friend of mine from our time in Uganda
The team is getting along great and it was great to have our first full work-day.

The team: Top row (l to r) Rhett, me, Jonathan, and Tom. Bottom row (l to r) Alex, Ryan, Anna Rose, Ben, Phil and Gary

Tuesday, February 1
Well, last night was interesting – came close to one of the worst-case scenarios (in my book) for a trip! No danger or anything like that, but as far as my anxieties go on trips, it’s one of the worst-case scenarios. I went to bed at 11:15pm, but couldn’t fall asleep until around midnight. At 1:15am, I woke up to go to the bathroom (short-call), but started realizing quickly that I wasn’t feeling good. This feeling of nausea and general stomach unsettledness continued progressing for about an hour. In the meantime, a thunderstorm began to brew pretty quickly outside and before long it was raining hard and windy with lightning strikes were all around.
I started thinking about what my plan was if I continued on this path of getting sick. The toilet we’re using is a pit latrine that is about 150 yards away, down a little dirt path that has a couple of steep parts that are a little tricky to navigate even when the ground is dry. Add a heavy downpour and it becomes quite a slippery mess, not to mention the fact that I’d be drenched inside of 10 steps out in this kind of rain storm. There really was no solution – if I suddenly had to throw up or go to the bathroom, there is no way I’d have made it 150 yards in the pouring rain to the pit latrine (which is not exactly an ideal place to be throwing up or sick, I should mention!).

This shot, taken from about halfway to the pit latrine, shows how far of a walk it was from our sleeping quarters (the far end of the building on the left) to the latrine.

Our toilet for the week - not the most hygenic thing to use, but compared to the first couple of days of not having a seat to sit on it felt like the lap of luxury!

The pit latrine before we upgraded it!

So, the only thing I knew to do was to pray. I prayed that God would somehow make this sickness go away as I had no good option for how to deal with it. So for the next hour or so, as the heavy rain turned to a more steady rain, I layed there praying (after moving my bed away from the window to avoid getting wet). And by no small miracle, I slowly started feeling better.
I never did throw up or have to leave the room to make it to the pit latrine. In the end, I only got about 4 hours of sleep (including that first hour before all the fun). But given what it could have been, I was just fine to be feeling alright come morning and not having to battle sickness on a trip. I figured out afterwards that I think I had done it to myself – right before bed I realized I hadn’t taken my malaria prevention medicine, so I took it even though I knew doing so right before bed and on an empty stomach was not advisable.
The rain hung around but gradually decreased to a stop around 10am. It was nice that it cooled things off and cleaned the air, though everything on the ground turned to mud.

One of the outdoor stalls where we took our bucket baths during the week.

The main problem for the day was power though. It had gone off during the storms in the night, and stayed off all day. Jeff (the ministry leader) tried calling the power company, but as we experienced so many times while living here, they were largely unaware of what was going on (or at least claimed to be largely unaware!). Jeff even commented, “Don’t you miss this Brad?” We had a good laugh…and the answer is ‘no’, I don’t miss that aspect of life in Uganda!

Ministry rep Jeff Atherstone with structural voluteer Anna Rose

Finally, around 4pm, the power came back on and we were able to get going again. We lost more than a half day’s worth of time though, so that will be a setback. The ministry has a generator, but since they’ve moved onto the site they have never lost power for more than an hour at a time. Consequently, they hadn’t yet bothered to hook it up, and today was the only day the electrician on staff was not on site! Gotta love how things always seem to go here – when one system breaks down, the three backups to that system will be typically be down as well!

Wednesday, February 2
I finally slept through the night…mostly. I woke up once around 4am but was able to go back to sleep within 15 minutes. That’s the first time in a week I’ve got as much as 6 hours sleep, and it felt good. We had a good discussion during our devotion time about how we are called to give up our liberties sometimes in order to minister to other people (based on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). It’s a great passage that I think we Christians should think about more often. There’s kind of a dual application for the verse: 1) we need to be willing to lay aside the common things in life that we call ‘rights’, such as our right to justice or our right to hold people who aren’t Christians to the same standard we as Christians try to live by (key word is “try” to live by, as all too often we hold others to standards we ourselves aren’t even able to keep); and 2) we need to be willing to lay aside our liberties we gain from our faith in Christ in order to not offend other Christians who have different convictions. It was a good conversation that brought up a lot of good thoughts.
After the devotion time and breakfast, I spent a lot of time trying to make sure everyone knew where they were heading in their disciplines and to be aware of what we needed to present on Friday. I think we’re on a good track, but there is still a lot of work to get done before then. The architects have been doing a lot of background work to make sure the master plan is accurate given all the various grades and slopes around the site. Consequently, while we are now pretty ahead on what we have done as it relates to the final project report, we are behind as it relates to our presentation on Friday. I’m not too concerned yet though, as both architects seem to know what they’re doing and what they need to get done.
The afternoon and evening was all spent working in the work room. All the field work is done so the whole team was in the room.

Architect Gary working hard on the 3D model of the site.

The closest thing we had to a mad scientist on the team was landscape architect Ryan! There is genius hiding there amongst the chaos of paper, colored pencils and drawing aids!

The work room in action!
It’s a fun team with a lot of good personalities that make for interesting conversations. Tonight, we played a little game called ‘Ask the group’, where someone asks the group a question and everyone answers it. Ok, so I pretty much made up the game on the spot, but it sounded good and worked out well. The question I asked was: Have you ever experienced a miracle? There were some very interesting stories told – pretty amazing actually. I shared our story of Jonah’s skull miraculously rounding out overnight (thereby avoiding a very invasive and potentially dangerous serious of tests and surgeries) when he was a baby, and others told stories of unexplained medical success stories that they’d experienced too. It’s always interesting to hear a little more about other people’s lives and what they’ve experienced and how they’ve seen God work in their lives.
The team having dinner one night -they were all good sports but by the end of the week we were all ready for anything but Ugandan food!
At night, volunteer Jonathan and I walked volunteer Anna Rose down to the house where she’s staying. We’ve actually done this each night since the place is about a quarter-mile from our workroom on the site. Jonathan has come with me each time so I don’t have to walk home alone. He’s a real quality guy and I’ve very much enjoyed having him on the trip.

Volunteer Jonathan - I'm hoping he becomes an EMI regular!
It’s actually been a fun little time each night to connect with both of them. Afterwards, it was just me and the architects in the work room working on getting stuff finalized – mainly the architects working on their drawings and me working on, well, this! This site is easily the most challenging site I’ve worked on as the grade change is severe and the existing buildings were not laid out in a manner that makes grading around them very easy. Add to the mix the requirement of adding accessibility ramps throughout the site and you have the perfect storm for difficult sites! (Don’t get me wrong, I think the fact that the University is providing a campus with accessibility for disabled students is an amazing blessing to the country of Uganda and it’s disabled citizens! …I just wish they had a flat site to provide it on!)
This was a funny thing - the previous owners of the site had purchased a vertical, metal water tank and a horizontal stand...then installed the tank diagonally! What's more, if they had simply moved it about 100 ft up the site the grade sloped up enough to where they wouldn't have needed to purchase a stand, they could have just set it on the ground! Anyway, needless to say, it is worthless to ARU and they actually asked us for advice on how to safely take it down!

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