25 March 2010

frustration (and inconvenience)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010, 6:10am
Mavuno Village, Tanzania

Again, no one else is up. I'm here drinking tea and writing by flashlight.

Yesterday was somewhat frustrating and inconvenient. Americans hate inconvenience - but I suspect the word inconvenient doesn't even exist in Kswahili. Several times I have passed a group of Tanzanians - probably one family - sitting under a tree making gravel. Literally. Using small hammers (not sledge hammers) to make little rocks out of big ones. Talk about inconvenient.

So I'll relabel yesterday as only frustrating. Both Helsbys and Tanners have solar hot water panels and hot water storage tanks on their roofs. Dave Helsby built his own and it works well. Dan Tanner had a local contractor build his and it was piped wrong so that water from the tank doesn't travel through the solar panel when it recirculates - - it just skips across the top manifold and back into the storage tank with only a brief opportunity to heat up. Eric ferreted this out. So yesterday, Eric, Jake Helsby (age 11) and I re-piped the line from the tank to the bottom of the panel so that recirculating cool water is heated as it should be. The frustrating part is that we seem to have an air bubble in the system and now no water comes out of the hot taps in the showers. The rest of the team (who are inconvenienced) insist that before they could take sort of warm showers before and now the showers are "cold". I have a couple ideas to try. . .

Dave Helsby is much better malaria-wise (perhaps because of his responsibilities, he can't afford to be sick long). Megan is improving also, but more slowly. She always seems to have a smile and a good attitude, however, especially for a 4 year old.

Last night the sky was quite clear and the stars were brilliant - - the moon was down until around midnight - - but this morning there is continuous thunder over the bay and it is quite cloudy. Everyone keeps saying how unusual the weather is; we're supposed to be in the short dry season (December - mid-February) when it "never rains". Helsbys have (4) 5000 liter tanks on a hill above their house. A couple weeks ago the tanks were about half full and then water collected from the tin roof over the tank farm filled the tanks (an added 10,000 liters) during one rainstorm. That was convenient - - without rain, Helsbys have to fill their tanks by pumping water from the lake 1/2 mile away. We actually filled Tanner's tanks (5,000 and 3,000 liters) yesterday to try to get enough pressure to clear our hot water air bubble. Tanner's tanks can only fill to about 6,000 liters because when he smaller tank is full, that's all the system will take. Eric's suggestion is to empty the 3,000 liter tank and then raise it so that the tops of the tanks are at the same level. By putting the smaller tank on about a 14" raised platform another 2,000 liters could be added to the system using the same components. Eric has lots of practical ideas.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Finally, yesterday I was able to clear the air pocket which kept the hot water at Tanner's from flowing. I think the problem was two fold: 1) there was a pocket of air at the top of the tank, and 2) the contractor who put in Tanner's DHW (domestic hot water) panel used a relief valve as an elbow at the hot water outlet (relief valves are designed to prevent water flow normally. . .). Eric re-piped this as well.

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