The End in Sight???

Trip Start Nov 21, 2007
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7
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Trip End May 20, 2008


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Flag of Mozambique  ,
Monday, February 25, 2008

There are 2 things that Alberto is always telling me: first, that we have to eat whenever we get a chance, because without eating, we will die; the second is that we can't work on Sundays because no matter how busy we are, we need a day off to regain our sanity. I am pretty good at complying with the first, and I'm sometimes successful with the second. Yesterday I was not and so today I am exhausted.

The river level has dropped substanitally, more than 1 meter in most parts, but the camps remain full and should remain so for another 2-3 months. We have finished work in 3, and now move on to 2 more. I have built lots of. latrines, some of. them creatively raised above the ground to avoid a high groundwater level. We've cleaned wells, set up systems to pump water to taps, and in some areas transport water by truck to tank and tapstand systems that we have set up. Starting this week I set up a coagulation/flocculation system to treat river water so that it is safe for drinking...let's hope my chemistry classes come back to me.

I love the work but it is exhausting, both physically and mentally. The worst part is that we have a lack of. staff - I hire a lot of. daily workers for simple tasks, and these types of. workers are easy to find...but people with any technical skill are few and far between. I finally received Paulino, a water technician, who was sent here to work for 3 weeks with me, which raises my number of. staff to a whopping 4...also I manage 3 public health promoters who are also stretched thin, but we supplement these numbers by training people in the camps to do some work and monitoring themselves.

Some of. the camps are great to work in, the people are amazing and are willing to give so much of. their time and energy to contribute to the success of. the projects. Others are unwilling to do anything without being paid for every little small labor that is needed. I deal with community leaders and government officials who are extremely helpful and organized, and others who try to take advantage of. us and with whom I begin and end the day arguing with.

About 10 days ago a reporter from Spain was here to see some of. the camps and our work, and one day we were both travelling by boat from Marromeu to Chupanga when the boat had engine problems and we had to stop in the middle of. nowhere. We managed to get to the river bank, where we were literally in the middle of. the jungle. I called to my staff to explain the situation, so Alberto set off in a canoe from Chupanga to try and find us, while another boat set out from Marromue. The boat from Marromeu ALSO had engine problems and had to turn back, while the canoe never arrived...which meant that we had to spend the night by the side of. the river - me, the Spanish reporter, the boat driver, and a Mozambican family of. 3 that had been hitching a ride. So we flattened down some grass near the river, managed to find some wood to start a fire, and just laid down on the ground for the night, taking turns staying awake to keep the fire going and keep an eye out for crocodiles and hippos (both very common on the Zambezi). We were OK but it was freezing at night and almost no sleep...at 5 AM Alberto showed up in a little dugout canoe with a couple of. Mozambican men, they had had to spend the night in the bush also. They brought gasoline for the boat, which lasted about 20 minutes until THAT ran out (it was an engine problem, not fuel) and we were stranded again, cooking in the sun for a few hours, until another boat came to finally take us to Chupanga. Just another day in Mozambique.

Overall the work here is extremely interesting and I love working with my staff, even if lack of. resources/transport/money/knowledge is sometimes extremely frustrating. But hopefully the worst of. the flooding is over and in a couple of. months things will be under control...in the meantime we keep working in the camps, doing the best we can.
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