Bryan in India

Bryan, a senior engineering student, is traveling to India for a tsunami reconstruction project on the southeast coast. He is working with Engineers Without Borders-USA on building sanitary water facilities for a village of about 35 families for six weeks.

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The Village

So, I guess it would be a good time to actually start blogging about the work I am supposedly doing … but there are just so many other things to talk about, such as people just randomly defecating in the streets, the whining of baby water buffalo waking me up at the crack-of-dawn because it can’t find its parents, or even the fact that everywhere I go, people stare at me as if I am wearing a Tuxedo in a McDonald’s on a Wednesday morning … and I don’t even like McDonald’s!

But alas, it is time to get serious and talk about my work experiences so far; unfortunately, it is not as exciting (sorry for any disappointment to all of my enthralled readers).

To start off, it is always awkward while arriving at the village. Why? Other than the people staring, we are given the “royal” treatment. The finest golden plastic lawn chairs are placed underneath the largest shaded area, and we are given either a stomach altering “Limca” (Mountain Dew) or, like today, we were given coconut milk from coconuts a kid climbed 30 feet to the top of a palm tree to get, while being viciously attacked by the owners of the top of the tree … crows.

As I sat in my golden-coated, shaded relaxation chair, starting a new distaste for coconut milk, I realized that we only have a month left to build something, anything, just to show that the trip, and the money, were not in vain. Things move slow around here, with good reason. Who would want to work during the day when you are only 6.5 kilometers from the sun? Monsoon season … that term is a myth as far as I’m concerned. Now, Monsoon season in Texas during the summer … that also seemed like a myth, but I guess I was wrong.

Regardless, we have decided that building 3 wash stations for a village of 35 families seems a bit overpronounced; therefore, we are going to start with one, complete the facility and get feedback from the villagers, which is a task all it own. Actually, getting feedback from 99.99% of this area is pretty much useless, since only .01% speak English, and I’m including my teammates.

Nevertheless, we took water samples today that will, hopefully, show low nitrate and microbial levels. How low … how should I know? I am an electrical engineer! Actually, I did get a little side project today fixing some solar lights, or finding out the problem. But, I guess you could say I am doing “Field Engineering,” where nothing goes as planned. But I believe that our facility will be of great use to the community.

But on a more serious note, before the village I just spoke about, we visited another village in the vicinity. It had more people, and fewer working pumps. I took many pictures of the entire site, and as soon as my internet stops moving at tortoise speed, I will upload them. In this village, there were many hand pumps, which are used for drinking water because they are closed to outside elements and come directly from the ground aquifer, but all but one were broken. Thankfully, in the villagers’ minds, almost every home has an open well; unfortunately, in an engineer’s mind, these are less than safe for any drinking usage.

So, AnneMarie and I, she the Professional Engineer, decided that we would spend some of the money that was going toward one of the wash stations to replace and fix all broken pumps in this village. On the plus side, the villagers like the rope pump that I brought (see google search: rope pump), but again, these can only be used on open wells. However, if we fix the hand pumps for drinking water, and use a rope pump for all other uses, we will be able to put the village back into a safe environment.

Heh, I woke up this morning hoping the maid would finally do my laundry, and here I am trying to give a village safe drinking water. The villages are a different world, even when compared to the small city of Ongole, which is also a different world from most parts of the U.S. Wow, sorry about that bit of news, but you should all know about it … and that thing about our maid, it was an adamant request of our landlords to hire her; and at 300 Rs. a month (less than 8$), she is more than worth it.

Anyways, as I stated before, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from everyone who reads this and let me know what you think. I will add some pics as soon as possible, which might take a while, but have taken over 300, so I’m at least trying to show them to you. In the meantime, peace … and for those in North Texas, good luck finding an boat.

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    About James VanDyke

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