Uganda Project Trip Part III (of IV)

No new backpack patch earned on this trip, but then again,
there's good reason why I've put this patch 2nd from the top,
just below the USA flag. As strange as it may seem, as much
as any place in the world, Uganda feels like home to our family.
Friday March 1st:

I haven’t introduced the team yet, so here goes:
Tim Butcher – Volunteer architect from Sheffield, UK; 1st time EMI trip volunteer
Zach Butcher – 7 month old son of the Butchers; a very cute little boy who has stolen our hearts
Izzy Butcher – Volunteer landscape architect from Sheffield, UK; 1st time EMI trip volunteer
Alan Adams – EMI-EA office Long Term Volunteer Land Surveyor
Johnny Martin – EMI-UK Intern; Architect
Jaimee Schmidt - Volunteer Civil Engineer from Manitoba, CAN; 7th time EMI trip volunteer
Angie Parra – Volunteer Civil Engineer from Boise, ID; 3rd time EMI trip volunteer
Matt Lammers – EMI-UK Intern; Structural Engineer
Jana Van Singel – Volunteer architect from Michigan; 1sttime EMI trip volunteer
Rob Johnson – EMI-UK Long term Volunteer architect who works in the UK office with me for this year
Dan Critchley – EMI-UK Intern; Mechanical Engineer
me - this was my 14th time leading an EMI project trip

(L to R) Tim, baby Zach, Izzy, Alan, Jonny, Jaimee, Angie,
Matt, Jana, Rob, Dan, me
It’s really been a great team and we’ve all got along very well. Once again, it’s going to be sad to say goodbye to the team when all’s said and done.

This afternoon, after we’d finished a 4-hour meeting earlier in the day to nail down the master plan and most of the building designs, the team took a break and went to the primary school to see their end-of-the-day school assembly. Though it was hard to put our work aside just as we were finally all set to forge on, it was a very neat thing to see, all the children lined up outside and repeating various answers in unison in response to one of the head teachers. Then, they brought us up in front and had us introduce ourselves. As the team leader, I had to explain who were and why we were there. It was a fun time as the children were very engaged as I explained what the different types of engineers do. I took a good video of the kids singing their school Alma Mater.

Also, one of the funniest things from a trip ever occurred, and I’m sick that I didn’t get it on video.  Some background - when I lived in Uganda, I was eternally being called ‘Brian’. The name Brad is not really used in Uganda, so most of the time Ugandans had a hard time even hearing the differentiation between Brad and Brian. Never has this been more clear than in this instance.

Before I got up to spoke, one of the ministry leaders sought to introduce me it went something like this:
“Hello boys and girls.” - Joseph, one of the American ministry leaders, said.
“Hello Papa Joseph” - the unified response from the nearly 300 students was impressive sounding
“I want to introduce you to the team who has come to help us build you a new school. This is their team leader. His name is Brad.” - Joseph explained.
“Hello Mr. Brian.”  - The 300 students happily answered back together.
“No, listen. His name is Braaaaaaad.” - Joseph calmly explained.
“Briaaaaaaan.” - 300 little voices together
“No, listen carefully. Braaaaaaaaa-duh.” - Joseph, though calm, was still determined.
“Briaaaaaaaaaaaan-duh.” - We all laughed and the introduction was complete (or as complete as it was ever going to be!)

Guess what the team called me the rest of the week?
These kids were so polite and respectful, and seemed genuinely
interested in what we had to say. I can't imagine kids back in
the US or UK being so interested if a visiting African man was
up in front of their school talking.
The school of 285 kids, staring up at some weirdo named
'Briand', who's apparently very particular about his name
being pronounced correctly.

Such lovable kids!
Saturday March 2nd:

Well, this is our main work day, and as I probably could have predicted, the power is out. Arrg! The guesthouse we’re staying in is at a monastery and operated entirely by nuns. But impressively, they have one of the best power and water back-up systems I’ve ever seen. For water, they have 8 enormous rainwater storage tanks. For power, a very nice and large generator, as well as a bank of batteries operating as an inverter system (batteries charge when national power is on, and then run the site when it’s off). Unfortunately, also predictably, both of the power backup systems are currently inoperable. Yikes! We have some battery power on our laptops, but this will run out in a couple of hours. Stay tuned!
For as rural as our guesthouse was, I don't think we could have
imagined staying at a nicer place. It's simple, but clean, quiet
and flush toilets and showers. So nice!
One of the levely nuns who took such good care
of us at the St. Stephen's Bon Repos Guesthouse
in Butende, Uganda
On the guesthouse grounds, where I sat, writing this blog.

Well, as it turns out, after a 5 hour outage that started early in the morning, power returned in the early afternoon and stayed on. This was a very good thing, as we had a ton of work to do. In fact, many of the team members stayed up until 3am working. Had the power not returned, we would not have been able to finish our work here. Thank you Lord for answering that prayer!

Sunday March 3rd:

Per usual, we attended church Sunday morning. It was a small rural church, and though we were nearly 30 minutes late (Africa time!), the entire congregation (60?) were all out front waiting for us to start when we arrived! Too funny. It was actually a very subdued African service – nothing at all wrong with that of course, just a noteworthy difference from the typical lively African service that goes on for 3-4 hours. As it was, we were done in an hour and 20 minutes, which was good because we had a lot to do to be ready for our 5pm final presentation to the ministry.
The team, along with the ministry leaders and the family of the
church's pastor. Two things are givens when Westerners visit
an African church: 1) you are going to have to take a picture
with the pastor; 2) someone from the group is going to have to
get up front and speak...

The list of rural African churches where I've had to get up and
speak is growing. You can be praying for these churches! :)
The presentation went well, despite the projector failing us (the bulb shone our slides blue on the wall, which would have made for a depressing feel in the room I think! J) So, we placed 4 laptops around a circular table and just had people press the keyboards simultaneously (or nearly so) for the next slide. It worked quite well.  The ministry was very grateful and excited for our team’s work. And actually, since we were working right up to the presentation, I hadn’t yet seen all the work that was produced. It was very impressive indeed what the team had done in such a short period of time. Really, up until Friday, sorting out the master plan had taken all our efforts, and so producing final drawings and sketches was accomplished between midday Friday and Sunday afternoon (with the power outage and church service included). But having 5 architects on the team paid off, as they were able to produce more work for a presentation than I’ve typically had on most trips, where I’ve usually only had 2 or 3 architects.
The team worked all over the guesthouse campus - here, the
architects found an inspiring and mostly shady spot
Meeting with the ministry throughout the week ensures that
we're heading down the right path.
...meetings and more meetings...
...and more meetings. (The interns love this picture because it
makes me look completely aloof! I admit it looks bad, but if
you want to know the full story...I'm actually holding baby Zach
in this picture, and had been walking around to get him to fall
asleep since both of his parents were presenting their work to
the ministry for feedback. It worked, and he felt fast asleep, but
the sun kept peeking through the clouds and I was worried about
him getting burned. In this shot, I'm looking at the sky to try to
figure out if I should head back into the shade or not based on
what the clouds were looking like. But yes, on the surface, I do
admit I look like I'm completely useless in the work at hand!)
The work room
A project leader's job is never finished. It's a tough job... but
fortunately, little Zach was a big fan of the Veggie Tales music
I had on my computer.

Intern Dan presenting to the ministry his findings on how to
convert the sewage generated on-site into biogas for use as
cooking fuel in the kitchen, thereby saving money on purchasing
cooking fuel (charcoal, etc.) as well as alleviating some of the
strain on the site's wastewater system. And, the compost byproduct
is a super fertilizer for any crops being grown.
Getting that presentation done always brings a sense of accomplishment, even though our work is far from over. But knowing that we have a path forward to complete the report by mid-May is a freeing feeling. It’s a fast turn-around time for us, but fortunately these three interns are proving to be top notch. I have been very impressed by all three of them so far this term, so that’s a big blessing, and gives me hope that we’ll have no trouble finishing on time.
(L to R) Interns Dan (from Colchester, UK), Jonny (from Northern
Ireland) and Matt (from Toronto, Canada). Top notch guys, other
than Jonny's unfortunate and blind allegiance to Liverpool FC.

Steve Hoyt, who has now worked out of our East Africa office
for 8 years, was my project leader on my very first project trip
back in 2006. Steve's a great friend now - he stopped by our site
for a couple of hours to show his own Construction Management
project team what an EMI design trip looks like.


Alisha Crawford said…
I am always amazed at the journey of these project trips. Seeing these 300 kids completely focused on the team that will be designing their new school was a tear jerker. God is so good to let all of us be a part, from near or far. :)

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