Living Village

As part of SMU’s first Engineering & Humanity Week in April 2011, students will live, cook their meals and sleep in temporary shelters designed to house people living in extreme poverty or displaced by war and natural disasters. Students, faculty and local members of the community will build the “Living Village” on the SMU campus lawn, showcasing structures ranging from standard-issue United Nations tents to the experimental EcoDome (sandbag shelter), which uses wire to stabilize walls constructed of long, earth-filled tubes.

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First night at the Living Village

An entry from Ryan, a sophomore electrical engineering major and French minor:

So, last night was the first night staying in the UNHCR tent for me. The tent is huge! It could easily fit 10 people or more. Considering I was one of the two people partying in the UNHCR tent (Whoo! Whoo! Party time!), we had plenty of room for ourselves.

At about 12:20 a.m., I went to sleep to the gentle strummings of an acoustic guitar. I woke up 3 or 4 times for various reasons – once around 2 a.m. to zip up my sleeping bag all the way (it was a little colder than I expected last night, mid-50s maybe?), once more at 3:44 a.m. to the sound of a man running wire or power cables or something, another at 6:40 a.m. to the birdsong of a grackle, and then finally about first light.

I have slept in a tent before but not without a sleeping pad between me and the hard ground. So I was definitely achy this morning, like an old man. The nice thing about the UNHCR tent compared to the other structures is that we weren’t directly touching the ground at anytime. No wet grass, no dirty dirt, and for the most part, no bugs. (While combing my hair this morning, I may have found one or two.)

So, in summary, here’s a list of things that I learned last night:

– The ground is hard and cold
– I hate grackles
– Electricians get up early
– Bugs are everywhere
– AND guitars are pleasant to fall asleep to

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