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Tomayto, Tomahto

May 21, 2010

Today was one of most productive days for the Essential Design team yet. At least in terms of starting some physical work on the projects, it was extremely successful.
The team started the day at the CYEC by meeting together with Andrew to discuss materials and final designs for each project. After this point, each team (Digestor, High Tunnel, and Drip) split off to take care of specific business for the rest of the day.

High Tunnel
The high tunnel team settled on a design to refurbish last year’s high tunnel. Every other polyethylene hoop will be replaced by an equal length of PVC pipe. This will add structural support to the high tunnel while minimizing costs as much as possible. In order to be prepared for buying materials later on in the day, the team walked down to the high tunnel to recheck measurements and verify that every material necessary to purchase was accounted for. Once this was accomplished, the team split up with Jeff and Amy rewriting the bill of materials for the Nyeri materials trip and Min taking the students into a classroom to educate them on the purpose of the high tunnel. He was able to connect with them, get them comfortable opening up, and sharing their opinions. This has been a struggle for all the teams to this point. It seems that they don’t want to be disrespectful by speaking up or criticizing the designs which is something that is very much welcomed. Also, they refuse to speak up for fear of possibly being wrong. It is still key that each team addresses them as peers and lets them know that their input is integral to the success of the projects.
After lunch, the team rounded up the students to do some of the initial work on the high tunnel. There were two jobs taken care of the rest of the day. They removed the plastic to start. The girls put prior knowledge of dress-making to use by cutting the plastic much like they would a piece of fabric.The boys cleared large weeds from around the high tunnel with machete-like tools the Penn State students realized quickly were difficult to use. Min’s golf swing tactic inspired some laughs from the Kenyan students who them corrected him. It was good to see that they were not afraid to try and teach us Americans a thing or two.  This took another two hours. The students got involved in this and were much more enthusiastic than previously.

The disgestor team also met with Andrew at the beginning of the day to straighten out their final design and get him on the same page. They made a great deal of progress with the students afterwards by giving them information on biogas production. Around this time, Mike went with Khanjan, Andrew, Gill, and Kabu on a trip to buy materials in Nyeri. The purpose of the trip was to get price estimations for the essential design projects. Chris and Liz dug the outline of the digester as well. Because they didn’t have materials to continue the project further, they helped the drip and high tunnel teams later.

Drip Irrigation
Like the other teams, the drip team met with Andrew to get him up to speed with their design and material needs. They took the students out to the fields and separated them into groups according to their interest in either the high tunnel or drip projects. Kerri and Graham then led their students to a classroom to educate them on why drip irrigation is something that can be valuable to Kenyans and why their specific design is the best one to fit the context here. The students were very engaged in this exercise. One student in particular showed particular interest by taking over the task of designing the water tank platform for them. He actually modified the drip team’s idea to make it better. With his background in carpentry, this will not be of any concern to the team. They then proceeded to the fields to stake out the boundaries of the area and the corners of the beds. With the help of the students they cleared the field also in about two hours.
As the teams work more and more with the students, they are noticing that the students are completely capable of completing any task asked of them. All they need is the proper guidance at the outset and they will take it from there. They work extremely hard, never complaining or asking for breaks; they actually get bored if you don’t give them anything to do.

When Mike returned from his trip he met with Kerri and Jeff to discuss what materials could be found in Nyeri and which ones would need ot be ordered from Nairobi. Also, they were able to come up with a fairly accurate total price for all the essential design projects. This came out to about 90,000 Kenyan Shillings, 40,000 Shillings within the budget for the team. All the essential design teams will continue their work tomorrow as necessary. Sawa sawa.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nancy Ferdik permalink
    May 22, 2010 11:14 pm

    Greetings to all from far away West Chester Pennsylvania –

    Thanks to the wonderful world wide web and to you, the energetic and verbose students of the project teams, families and friends get to enjoy this daily update of your work and play in Kenya. It’s quite a vicarious experience for us back home. The pictures are awesome!

    May each project find its own sustaining place in the communities you are helping and –most importantly–may the goodwill you are building be the best return on your investment.

    Love to you, Chris !

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