Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Late Night Musings

Before you read on, I must warn you that today's blog involves a touchy subject that may offend some readers. The subject I am referring to is none other than gaseous emissions emanating from the hind quarters of a mammal. If this is the sort of thing that is likely to upset you, I kindly request that you abstain from this literature and read something that is less likely to ruffle your proverbial feathers. The phone book is rather innocuous and might prove to be a very pleasant read.

I'm going to make this short because we've been having a lot of problems with our internet connection, and I'm not sure when we'll be cut off again. Sorry we haven't been writing much these days. Nothing much happened last week, so there wasn't anything to write about. I took most of the week off to be with Bethany while she was confined to the house. We had a nice time together, though by the end of the week I think we were both anxious to get back to work.

We were excited to hear news about Weensee, the little boy we have been visiting at the hospital. The doctors sent him home last Thursday because there has been a significant improvement in his breathing. The swelling in his spleen has decreased some, though he will most likely need surgery at some point. He is now on medication that is administered at home. Weensee's family was very concerned about their hospital bill, but when they checked out last week they discovered that the Mayor of Davao City had compassion on them and paid their bill. We're hoping to go visit Weensee and his family at home, though they seem very shy about letting us see their humble house.

We've had a bit of a discouraging couple of days. Bethany had been feeling much better and she was able to get lots of homework done this week. Unfortunately she went to bed tonight in a lot of pain and discomfort. She's supposed to start work again on Friday, so please pray that her back will be completely healed this week. She will be working only half of her normal shifts for a while until she is feeling better. That's probably a good thing, but she's feeling frustrated because she doesn't want to fall behind the rest of her class in regards to work experience.

I've had a couple of strange days at work. On Monday, Toti and I went out to the mountains to do 5 installations. We hiked for an hour or so to our first 'customer', only to discover that there had been a miscommunication and some of the necessary materials were not yet available. We had enough materials for one install, but the rest will have to be done at a later time. I'm not going to go into the details, but it was a comedy of errors. Our communication was a big confusing mess, but by the grace of God we were able to keep smiling.

After our one installation we drank from coconuts under a tree and played a homemade Filipino board game. I suppose our host was feeling bad about the confusion because they arranged for Toti and I to each ride a horse back to the highway. The horse was a nice idea in theory, but a small calamity in practice. I was made to share my horse with our guide, which left me hugging a stranger and holding on for dear life while being slowly edged off the back of the animal. Oh, and the horse had gas. Really bad gas. He farted the entire trip up the mountain. My guide didn't speak English, but since farting is the universal language we were able to have a good laugh together. The laughing stopped when the horse stood still because breathing was no long advisable.

Yesterday was a better day, though it certainly had its moments. Toti and I started the day by visiting the federal prison which is located about an hour north of Davao. I was able to do my water filter presentation for the prison superintendent and several members of his staff. It's funny how I had built up expectations about the prison warden without realizing it. I guess I've seen too many prison movies (I recommend Shawshank Redemption or The Castle), because I was expecting the warden to be a mean and vindictive man of imposing proportions. In truth, he was a lovely man who seemed to genuinely want to provide the best conditions he could for the inmates. He expressed a great interest in our project and even proposed that we use prisoners to build the filters.

The superintendent gave us complete access to the prison facilities and told us that we were free to take a tour and inspect some of the water sources. The guides seemed a little surprised that I was so eager to be among the prisoners. I told them that it was important for me to get a good feel for the place so that I could better understand how we could use the water filters in their facilities. In part, however, I think I was just looking for adventure. Whatever the case, I was able to get a tour of the kitchen facilities (they cook 1850kg of rice every day!) and I had access to the medium security camp, which houses nearly 3000 men. They also took me to see the much smaller women's correctional facility.

During my tour of the prison, I grew increasingly frustrated with the contradictions between various staff members. As I asked my routine questions about the water, I was getting a great variety of answers. One person would tell me that the water was safe, while another would tell me that it was not. One person would tell me that the water was chlorinated, while another would tell me that it was not. One person would tell me that all the water came from a 200 foot well to the south, while another would tell me that it came from a 60 foot well from the north. At the end of the day, I feel I must trust the superintendent. He seemed to indicate that their water quality has been a concern for a long time. I think we will do a pilot project at the women's facility where we can service all 120 inmates with as few as 6 filters.

After spending over 4 hours at the prison, Toti and I continued our travels. We went to Santo Tomas, where we were to install 3 filters. When we pulled into town, we got a flat tire and quickly remembered that we were without a jack and lug wrench (both were stolen earlier this year). We were left with no choice but to unload the three filters and make haste to the nearest vulcanizing shop. We arrived at the shop (some dude's front yard) and woke the tire specialist from his nap. It turns out he didn't have a jack either. Toti and I had to lift the back of the truck up while the man proceeded to stack up logs and rocks under the car until it was high enough to remove the tire. He found several holes in the innertube, so it took the better part of an hour to get the tire fixed. By this point it was already after 2pm and we still hadn't installed a single filter.

We decided to install only one filter because it was getting late and we were two hours from home. Just as we began to drive home, we realized that the windshield wipers had stopped working. How did we discover this? Well it started raining of course. And not a nice little pacific northwest sprinkle. I'm talking about a Mindanao special. Poor Toti had to drive for two hours through the rain at dusk without any wipers. "No problem" he told me, "I once drove for three hours through a rainstorm at night without any windshield!"

We had a good time on Monday and Tuesday, but I am certainly feeling a little discouraged. We were supposed to have installed 8 filters, but instead we were limited to two. Toti is going back to Santo Tomas tomorrow to install the two filters that we didn't get to. He's also bringing another two filters that have been ordered as a result of yesterday's visit.

Today was not without disappointment. The dashboard fell off the truck. Yes, you read that correctly. I went to the Department of Health to pick up the lab tests that they had done on some of our water (before and after the filter). Unfortunately, after waiting two weeks for the results, they proved to be very vague and unhelpful. I will need to study them further tomorrow, but it looks like I will have to find a different lab to do our testing next time. I did have a very encouraging meeting this morning with a man who can connect me with some people that can train me to do a simple 20 minute water test in the field. This would be extremely helpful for me, especially in situations such as the prison, where nobody seems to know what's going on.

Well, so much for this being a short post. It would seem the horse and I have something in common: we are both long winded. I leave you with a few photos. I was able to bring my camera only so far at the prison, so I only got a couple of quick pics before I had to turn in my camera. At the women's prison I kept my camera, but there wasn't much to take pictures of. Everybody wanted their picture taken with me, so Toti took a couple of group photos. I also took a couple of pictures of the tire repair just 'cause I was bored.

Peace out.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the long post. I so enjoy reading every one of them. As far as the content that might be know us :)
Ask Bethany what her and Andy's favorite part of the Klickitat County Fair was! Love ya tons,
MOM McClellan

BeccaLynn said...

'farting is the universal language'

What a gem of a line. In so many ways, you and Bethany are absolutely perfect for each other. Give that lady a hug for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry your life is so dull, Tim. You are a funny man. It's exciting that your project keeps expanding. You certainly have your dad's love of adventure. We're praying for a full recovery fo Bethany. Much love, Mum

Robert said...

Hi Timmybomb,

As usual, your blog was pure enjoyment to read - and funn!

Aunt sylv kept asking what I was laughing about.

Keep up the great work!