Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Reasonably Creepy

So, we're back from extended trip #1 to Kahkabila.

Spent about three and a half weeks in the community, living with a really nice family (see kids below), working constantly, and, here and there, enjoying the beach, movie night, and trudging through the bush.

We got back Tuesday, and we'll be heading back Saturday for another three weeks. It's hard to put the visit into a single framework.

We don't have a ton of time to spend with the blog, but we did want to post some pics and try to at least give some sense of what we've been doing there. We'll try to post one more entry before we head back next weekend.


Since arrival, we’ve been teaching an evening class in US-style English classes for native Creole speakers. Our first class had about 60-70 people, which has settled down to a more manageable daily class size of about 20-30. The class is useful for Kahkabilans looking for outside work (cruise ships, especially, which is a huge source of income for some families) that require formal English fluency. We’re basically teaching the first night classes in Kahkabila, using lights powered by the bE turbine and solar panels, and trying to get another guy to start literacy classes.

Also, there was a lack of two teachers for the community’s secondary school (which is essentially the same as 7th and 8th grade in the States). Since the schools are full during the day and we had already the main block of our time in the evening booked up for English (people go to sleep around 8 or 9 when there are no lights), we’re now secondary school teachers in Kahkabila. We teach “Energy and Environmental Studies” for eleven class periods each week, plus a class on histories and storytelling.

bE-specific energy, water, and lighting work:

Abbreviated and bulleted for your reading pleasure…
  • bE systems maintenance sessions with KKB energy commission
  • Completed initial site assessment for bE water filtration project
  • Metrics and usage assessment for the two existing bE systems
  • Testing of home battery system (heavy!) and charging station
  • Working with Thomas (community leader) to formally present results of a bE diagnostic study to the Alcaldia (local government), which will hopefully result in funding for a secondary school
  • Successful site visit from HIVOS representatives (major funders)
  • Completed field testing of greenlightplanet LED lights

The good:
  • Filling out lack of teachers for secondary school, feasibility studies, and positive reception by the community
  • Seeing greater organization: twice-monthly meetings, primary and secondary schools, coordination on clearing bush for the electricity company, etc.
  • An acopio (big icemaker for fishing) in Orinoco, which will impact COOPARAAS members in Kahkabila and allow them to reach wider markets (besides juggernaut Mar Caribe), is mostly done.
  • The cows and horses, as of March 2nd, will head to the fincas. Non-compliants will be fined 150 cords/animal. Less poop to follow.
The bad (for bE, but great for the community):
  • The lights are coming! Expected arrival around March 15th.
  • The water might be coming!? Governmental plans exist to drill Thomas' well deeper, possibly by April, and put in a 5,000-gallon storage tank and house-to-house plumbing, complicating bE's filtration project. Or maybe not. TBD.
The ugly and humorous:
  • Large spiders with skull designs on their backs and/or intimidating wasps, now included free with every latrine!
  • Coral snake found (and killed) outside the bathing room.
  • Stories of rocks made by lightning, coral snakes biting with their tails, and the fairy boy of the jungle. More to follow later this week.

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