Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The View above Kabala

Yesterday three of us climbed to the hill above Kabala. It would be a gorgeous view if not for the smoke in the air. It is a mixture of Harmatan (the dusts that often cloud the sky here) and smoke from brush fires. Nevertheless we could see the work going on on the school site. If you look you can see a large patch of grey which is about 1200 foundation blocks laying out in the sun to dry. It is good these preparations can continue while we settle the land issue. From the image you can see that Loma Secondary School has slowly had its land cut away because they have done nothing with it. So long as we can work it out peaceably so that all these institutions can work together I will be happy.

"Small Small"

This is the Krio term for little by little, or slowly. There are a few other meanings as well. But "small small" best describes how the work is going right now. We are waiting on the chiefs return to Kabala to pronounce judgement. We hope that it goes in our favour and it looks like it will. In our favour meaning that we get to retain the section of land where we were planning on starting our first foundations (the best location for squaring up the entire plan with the first foundations that are laid) and perhaps the addition of land to the property (thats us dreaming a little).
The well is sitting waiting for the interior culvert to dry. It is cast within the lining cylinder and once it is dry they will dig from underneath it to sink it three meters below where it is right now. This will start on friday and take a few days but we should have a working pump by a week today. I have learned to take such words with a grain of salt here though.
This last picture is about as close as you will get to a photograph of me because most of the pictures taken of me by other people have turned out far too fuzzy. Norm Groot and myself are heading to freetown to organize some last materials to prepare for the laying out which will now hopefully begin on saturday. Cement Mixer, Cement, Generator...

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Turn in the Road

having returned from the weekend in Foria, I left immediately on Monday morning for Freetown to purchase materials and tools. All of this was done relatively successfully despite some delays in getting back on time on Wednesday.
Norm has settled in well in Kabala and we have been looking forward to getting the construction moving. Yesterday was spent walking around the site with Norm, Mozel Pratt (contractor) and Myself discussing building techniques and methods for laying out. With the sloping topography of the site, the location of the foundations in the landscape and the grade changes are important to consider. So we had planned to start laying out lines for the trenching this morning after putting in permanent steel stakes at the corners of the site. We were however interrupted by the Principal of Loma Secondary School, who claimed that we were building on his schools property and we needed to stop until the dispute had been resolved. A wise decision. We have taken the matter to the paramount chief via his advisors. Hopefully this evening and tomorrow we will be able to work out the boundary dispute. The issue lies in that the old stakes for the property were covered by brush until recently when the site was burned. The cheif had had the land resurveyed and deeded this new school land into the property of Loma (I think intentionally becuase they have done no development of the school in 30+ years). But the principal is willing to work with us to come to a good resolution which will hopefully see us retaining the land set out in the chiefs recent survey. All of these communities love to see such new development that will benefit their people.
As to the construction of the well. It has continued and the lining of the well is completed including the cover slab. Tomorrow they will start pouring the culverts, and early next week begin sinking the culvert down below the water level. If all goes smoothly we will have a working pump only a few days after we have begun the making of the foundation blocks and the pouring of the footings.

"As I went down in the River to Pray..."

All of the many visitors and myself had an amazing weekend in Foria, a village about 70km (correct from previous post) from Kabala. I left late on Saturday morning to make sure I travelled in daylight. I had to convince everyone here that I was capable of riding solo. Well... The road that runs from Kabala to Badela is not so bad, hilly with a few log bridges and long hills. The drive from Badela to Foria would be the envy of many motorcross riders. Fortunately I have no pictures because I was concentrating on the road. It is incredibly beautiful. 12 miles up hills and down with the road going over very rocky places, over streams and on rather dangerous gravelly sections. It was very fun. I think everyone here was amazed that I survived the trip. But I am alive and well, the trip back going far quicker and easier for me than the way there.

The Celebrations in Foria were for the recent start of the Christian Reformed Church in Sierra Leone. They combined a service with the ordination of 2 reverands, 45 baptisms in the stream half a mile a way, and communion for near to 500 people. As things go here, it was a long day. Prior to the service, we were met up at the guest house by the village elders. They welcomed us and praised the work that has been done by CES in the area. They also asked for CES to continue its work there in helping to establish a new water system for the village. Aaron Kortenhoven translated all of the elders' words into English as he knows Kuranko better than many natives of this region, having first come here when he was six. It was very cool to see the respect that CES has established with this and other communities. The Church Service etc that followed was also a very powerful event. Many visitors came from around africa and the US and Canada. It is was pretty amazing to see the long line of people winding its way to where they did the baptisms in a pool of the stream.
Unfortunately, almos immediately after the events had officially concluded we had to make preparations to return, especially for me to return before Dusk on the Honda.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Finally!! You cannot believe how excited, relieved and surprised everyone is that the well diggers have finally hit water. At 5.5 meters the finally hit the water table. It being the dry season this is good because that will only increase throughout the year. Already today they have begun pouring the lining of the well (concrete between the dirt and an interior formwork) and after that is complete they will sink another three meters hopefully below the water level (pour free floating culverts that sink down as they dig deeper). Hopefully within two weeks we will have a fully functioning Inkar Hand pump to service all construction on the site. In the meantime we have a "bowsa" or water tank that we will have filled each day to supply the foundation block makers. Also today we have ordered twenty loads of sand to the site which will hopefully last us several months. On monday I plan to go to Freetown to purchase tools and organize for various non-local materials to be shipped to Kabala. By mid-week we hope to be laying out the foundations. Now I am off to Foria, a village 56 miles away or so where there is a big celebration for the Christian Reformed Church in Sierra Leone this weekend. Pray for safe travels on my first real test with the Honda!

Monday, February 12, 2007

auto mobile

finally I have received the Honda XL 125s Motorbike from Freetown. Already I am thankful for the mobility and freedom it affords me, and I am even more thankful to all of you who contributed towards this purchase. I no longer feel like I am burdening those who drive me around town, nor do I have to wait until their schedule fits in with mine. And in Sierra Leone, that can be very often because you always take the time to stop and greet people on the street. It is wonderful, and through all of the people here at CES and SIT I think I have met most of the important people in the town, many of the cheifdoms and even the entire district.
I am quickly learning how to ride the Honda around. It is far more effective than any other bikes or vehicles for getting around town, and more importantly for getting to the villages. But I am not quite experienced enough to take it to Foria this weekend- a 58 mile trip on entirely hilly terrain with holes everywhere.

In other news, my office/bedroom/living room was filled with 5 extra people last night as we put up three missionary families who had just fled from Guinea because of the riots in the capital that have spread to other major centres. The labour unions have vowed to protest (violently) the government until the President Gen. Lansana Conte steps down. He has been in power since 1993. It is apparently the most corrupt country in Africa and things have finally come to a head with over 70 deaths in the last few weeks from the rioting. Unfortunately, the President has vowed not to step down and to use as much force as is necessary to fight the unions. They claim they will sacrifice as many as is necessary until he is gone. They have just put in a 20 hour curfew and instituted Marshal Law. I fear there will be much bloodshed there before there is any peace. Hopefully the UN will step in soon, Guinea is after all the neighbour to the only "successful" UN military campaign here in Sierra Leone.
Pray for peace in West Africa. Guinea, Liberia, and Cote 'dIvoire are all experiencing extreme unrest right now. Here I am in Kabala, where things are all quite peaceful and beautiful right now as I look out over the town from the office.

Design Developement

Due to our inability to get through the many rocks we have hit, the well construction continues and the design has progressed beyond a stage where the location of the well can dictate where the buildings should sit on the site. Nevertheless I hope that the well and the water tower can both become important parts of the design as we build and continue to make decisions even as the walls are going up. As it stands we have begun the FOURTH attempt at digging a well near the top of the site close to where the Red Cross were successful in digging their well.
The difference between design development and construction documents is not quite so big here as it is at home. These drawings will progress alongside the construction. I hope that what is built now will help us design for future phases of the project and come up with new ways to integrate further building on the campus into the surrounding community.
We are beginning to gather local building materials this week and will bring in most of the tools necessary for laying out and digging the foundations. We are looking forward to Norm Groot's arrival to coincide with the beginning on the real construction phase.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


As it turns out I was the only person who didn't think that building the warehouse across the road from our actual property was quite normal. After all, doesn't it just look so temporary, what with the concrete and all !! This way by having a building there, less people will inquire with the chief about the land, assuming that we already have rights to it. I can just imagine what the neighbours would say if I tried doing that at home!

Oh Well!!

Things are continuing to move along on the site, in spite of my inability to get onto this blog and post anything for the past week. The internet connection is good but for some reason I can't always access this page.
So I guess it is the nature of Hand Dug well construction here in Kabala that one can never quite know what to expect in the next few inches of soil. So far we have actually only dug two holes. Yet everyday I get called saying "Mista Asha, we have run into a small problem..... spread rock." But then I go to the site and it turns out that the guys actually digging the well think they can break through the rock. So it has been like that the past few days going back and forth and suggesting other sites if they cannot get through. But this hole is 17 feet deep and hopefully only 4-5 more feet until we hit the water table.
The construction of a store or warehouse was also started and completed last week. It is a wood framed building, but should be pretty solid and act as extra storage for the school after construction is complete. The store also has a front porch where the night watchmen will sit guard the site itself and the materials and tools inside the shed.
The other photograph is of the crews making bricks from the mud of the creek bed. It is pretty amazing to watch them make the bricks. They add a little water to the clay and dirt then press the 5"x5"x12" bricks with a hand press. The bricks then dry in the sun. We have been fortunate to get some very good soil. And these guys are cranking out 1000 bricks a day with 6 men working. We have ordered 10,000 but will likely need more once we get a better idea of the final construction drawings.
We are getting excited about this coming week when Norm Groot will be coming, hopefully coinciding with the start of construction of foundations. There are many other visitors coming to the area for a celebration of the CRC church in Sierra Leone which will take place in a village called Foria, about 50 miles from Kabala. I hope that excitement for the school will be build as we begin construction.