Well, more than one I can tell you that much!
I recently received my grant for my improved cook stove project, and now I am working by arse off trying to get it done before I leave. Long story short it took me 6 months to get the money due to some clerical errors made in the office, and I assumed that I just wasn’t going to get to do the project. However, someone up there must really want me to do this project because the money finally came.
Needless to say I am not exactly the “construction worker of the year” type. I would say I relate a lot more to “construction worker Barbie”. I may look good holding a hammer but you probably wouldn’t want to hold a nail for me. Exhibit A: when I fixed my wall after a wood board fell off the wall of my house leaving a big gaping hole next to my bed. Skip to the next day while I am skyping with my friend bryan and it just falls right off again. Anyways, the point of me telling you this is that, not only am I in a time crunch, but I am also very nervous about my skill set.
Ok. So skip to the project. Almost all of the women in my community spend 70% of their day cooking over an open flame. A majority of them do this in a small hut. So you can imagine the amount of smoke they breathe in every day. Also, when the women are in the cooking hut cooking all day what else are the kids going to do but come in and talk to mommy (and breathe in a ton a smoke). I mean all you have to do to realize how bad these things are for you is look up at the roofs of these cooking huts because they are black with soot. I decided that I wanted to provide the women with a healthier cooking option to help lessen the toll on their lungs as well as their childrens lungs. The grant is enough money to build 40 stoves, and I plan to build all of them.
I took one of my friends to a 4 day training with me where we learned how to make these improved cook stoves. They are basically an enclosed box with a mouth to enter the wood, and a chimney in the back that carries all of the smoke outside. We learned how to make the “Duncan Model” stove which has ceramic parts that help conduct the heat and make the stoves more efficient.
Here are some examples of what people are cooking on right now:
This is an example of what the roof looks like in a cooking hut. This used to be silver metal.
This is what the improved cook stove looks like
So I thought wow what a great project and it will be so easy! I just have to get the money and then build these things with my trained mason. No biggie. HA. HA. HA. Joke is on construction Barbie for SURE. So far it has gone a little like this….
1. It took FOREVER to get the money.
2. My trained mason goes to college in the big city and he was going to take summer of to do the project. When we still hadn’t received the money and it was time to sign up for summer school I told him to just do it. I didn’t want him to miss out on school and then have the money not show up. NOW I HAVE NO MASON.
3. My health promoter coordinator (farm woman who cooks/cleans all day and has never seen the inside of a hardware store) and I go to the hardware store in the big city. I am not even sure I could navigate my way around an organized hardware store in ENGLISH so as you can imagine we were the joke of the store. Luckily, she can laugh at herself as much as I can so we entertained ourselves as well as the staff at the store.
Me: “ I would like rivets please”
Hardware store man: “ What size?”
Me: “Whatever size will fit this pretty rivet gun I picked out”
Hardware store man: “haha ummm that’s not how it works precious. Who is in charge of the project? Let me talk to him.”
Me: “Um I am. Giggle. Giggle.”
Harware store man: “Ay Dios”
4. Take my dads pickup truck to go pick up the ceramic pieces from a village about 3 hours away. They don’t all fit so we decide to take half and then come back for the rest in the afternoon. Skip to our really rough dirt road and 6 boxes fall off the truck. 6 boxes of handmade ceramic pieces…. Shattered. A man on a horse stops to help us pick up the boxes and says, “oh who is doing the project”. I tell him that I am and he laughs and says “No but who will be doing the work.” I tell him again that I am and he just stares at me and says “but you cant work that hard you are a woman”
5. We get home in time to have a 30 min lunch and then we are back on the road. My host dad decides he wants to stop and buy a part for his car. It was some kind of “float” that would make his gas gauge work. We spend 3 hours waiting for him to find the part. Leave the big city to go to pick up the parts and run out of gas about a mile away from our destination. I then had to walk to the destination, find a motorcycle driver, walk around like a crazy American asking families for a big container to put gas in, and then go out to the highway where there is a gas station to get gas for the truck. We finally got home at 10:30pm. We left at 7:00am.
6. Day one of construction consisted of a whole bunch of men telling me what I could and could not do, and a group of about 10 women sitting in chairs watching me work. They had some pretty interesting commentary but mostly they talked about how I was strong because I do exercise and that is why I can do this type of work.
* Best part of my day: When I was walking home from the construction site I ran into 3 of my women from the exercise and nutrition group teaching another group of women (who did not participate in the group) how to do exercise in the park.
7. Woke up on day two of construction to find that I couldn’t move my arm. I tore a ligament in my shoulder when I fell in the manhole (see previous entry… it’s a doozie) Anyways, I realized that I definitely needed a mason and I am now in search of someone to help me.
The moral of the story is that this project has turned into the project from hell. I am super stressed about it, and I hope I can get it done before I leave in October. I am also still doing the exercise and nutrition group, the monthly conferences with the rural health promoters and teenage peer educators, English classes, and I have a couple really big papers to write to finish up my masters degree. Lets just say that these last few months in the Peace Corps are going to fly by and work me hard.