So as you can see by my last post, the wells are done! As I mentioned, two NGOs (ARES and MBG) matched funds for the original set of three wells, and we were able to build six wells total—two in each town, giving them near-full coverage. I unfortunately wasn’t able to see much of the building process itself (I was gone part of the time, and forbidden in any case to go out to the sites unaccompanied because of a rise in robberies along the trail). But last weekend I arranged for a volunteer guide/bodyguard through the mayor’s office and went to each of the wells to take pictures, check that the wells were being used appropriately, and make sure there were no disputes.
Living in an area where half the population has no shoes and new flipflops are considered luxurious, I didn’t think twice about wearing flipflops on the 14 kilometer hike to the farthest town. But I was still bummed when one of them broke one kilometer in and I had to walk the rest of the way barefoot. Walking on the muddy trail was fine (even fun) but walking on the gravel they use in the towns got a little painful and my feet were smarting for days afterward.
All six wells were nicely finished (complete with USA PEACE CORPS on each—not my idea but kind of cool), and all six had a reasonably high water levels (something of a miracle given the crazy drought we’ve been having this year). The towns had appointed guardians for each well to lock it at night and make sure people were using them correctly, and this ended up being an issue with one of the wells—the main guardian was keeping the well locked most of the time to “keep it clean”. This is sometimes an issue here—most of the (very few) public latrines are kept permanently locked shut, but people are still very proud of what nice structures they are. With the well, I confirmed with several neighbors that the well should be open and free to everyone from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and asked the community counsel to bring up the dispute in the next meeting—it’s better if they resolve the issue themselves. I told them I’d have someone check that it was open in a week or two.
Two of the wells are located at schools. And I was quite the spectacle when I was checking on those. The kids surrounded me and played their little game of urging each other closer and closer to The White Foreigner while I’m trying to have a conversation with an (oblivious) adult. Then I get to play my favorite game of Lunge at the Children and Momentarily Scare the Bejeezus out of Them, which quickly becomes their new favorite game but hey, at least it makes me Entertaining White Person rather than Weird White Person. I wear many hats, as you can tell.
Anyway, after some budget paperwork is finished I’ll be turning my full attention to the library, which is already up and running but still needs advertising and a librarian training, to be held next week.