Today was my first day truly on the ground and working - hard. I woke up just before 7am. For once, I actually beat my alarm clock. This was probably on account of the surprising cool temperature of my room. For some reason, the guest house in which I am staying at did not include a top sheet. Luckily for tonight and the future, Susan lent me a sheet to use to keep warm. Daniel - a local of Tamale who works for Pure Home Water - meet Mitch, Stephen, and me at the guest house and showed us the way (in day light) to the PHW home. At the house, I had oatmeal then waited around as everyone got ready for the day. By about 8:45, we were on the road in the open air truck riding to the factory site. The best way to describe the ride would be as a suburban safari. Being in the back of the truck, we could stand up (holding on to the guardrails surrounding the pick up bed). We passed from paved suburban area to red dirt road with lots of open space with cement houses and thatched huts intermixed. As we drove through, the neighbors greeted us warmly with smiles and waves.
When we got to the work site, I was amazed at how flat and open everything was. The land the factory is on is demarcated by skinny concrete poles. I would guess the entire property is about 2 or 3 acres. The main feature is the factory itself with to one side a smaller blue corrugated shed and a smaller kiln. Mitch, Stephen, and I were set to work under the guidance of Shani (a local who works a day laborer for PHW) building rammed earth blocks. The process started by going to a soil pit approximately 50 meters away from the factory. The soil was sifted into fine particles and loaded into wheelbarrows. Once there were two wheelbarrows worth of material, we wheeled them back to the floor of the factory for mixing. We spread the soil out on the ground adding 2 bucket fulls of mystery sand (mystery in the sense we didn't know where it came from) and 1 bucket of powder cement. Under the guidance and instruction of Shani, we added water mixing it as we went by hand with shovels. The precise amount of water to add is still not exactly known; we relied once again on Shani's expertise to let us know when to stop. Once we had the conjunction made, we loaded it into the block press. This press was specifically designed to be human powered targeted at developing countries. Once the press was loaded we closed the led and engaged the lever. Someone (usually Mitch or Shani) would grab onto the lever of the press and throw their entire body weight on it. From there, we lifted the led and lowered the handle, which caused the newly pressed block to pop up. From there, one person delicately carried the blocks to the drying area. This task in theory would be simply/easy, except for the fact that the still wet blocks are very fragile. Needless to say, I managed to ruin several blocks. We made about three patches total between 9:30 am and when we stopped the task around 3:30pm. Each patch had about 20 blocks. The blocks reminded me of adult sized Legos. Eventually we will hopefully be constructing the demonstration kiosks out of these rammed-earth legos.
After work, we headed back to PHW house, where Gifty (our local cook) prepared us a delicious meal of chicken, rice, and a cucumber and tomato salad. Before dinner, Stephen, Mitch, Johanne, Manny, and myself went out for a drink at the Humanitarian inn literally down the road. Now off to shower, before passing out after an exhausting day.