Breaking news: last week we made an important discovery. We noticed that good communication is not always very straightforward when you are in different continents. Once on the field, the situation might turn out to be different than you expected. The concentration of nitrate in groundwater in Zambia for example turned out to be similar to the values we found in tap water in Belgium. On top of that some unanticipated factors came to light. The community is apparently very sensitive to the use of sludge from waste water treatment plants. It is indeed difficult to understand that adding this ‘waste’ will give you purified water in the end. Moreover, the school where we are building the pilot is located in Kanyama. This compound had severe problems due to the cholera outbreak past winter. Focussing more on pathogens instead of nitrate to prevent similar future outbreaks seemed fitting to us. So eventually we reduced the pilot setup to the slow sand filter step. This filter will clear the water from large particles, bacteria, pathogens and so on. We are also looking at the possibility of inoculating the top of the sand filter with denitrifying bacteria to still get some of the nitrate out of the water. After a short depressing moment during which we let the new information sink in, we started developing our new design and we are ready to start buying components and building the pilot now!
We ate a lot of typical Zambian dishes in the canteen in our hostel the past few weeks and we became good friends with the kitchen staff. For example Beauty, the head of the kitchen, calls Arjan nchima-guy (nchima is a traditional corn based meal and he devours an immense portion each night) and she calls Cedric her little baby (one time he finally managed to finish his plate and got a standing ovation from the kitchen staff). She taught us how to grind roots to make African polony, it was a full body workout. After two weeks our pile of dirty clothes began to resemble the Kilimanjaro, so Beauty took us to her place and taught us a difficult technique to wash our clothes by hand. Arjan smartly found a way out (he almost died of boredom waiting for an appointment for four hours), while Gloria and Hellen demolished their hands scraping of the dirt.
Sunday morning we accompanied Emily (another lady who works in the canteen) to church. The service of three and a half hours was a very energetic and joyful celebration with a lot of exuberant singing, dancing and praying. As much as we enjoyed this special experience, we were very annoyed and irritated by the two hour lasting conversation afterwards. The church ‘leaders’ kept overloading us with compliments and thanking us for blessing them with our visit and trying to reel us into their community. We finally managed to escape. Never again.
Closing off with some good news: we finally moved to another hostel at the campus! We have space to move around in our rooms now without being followed by cockroaches, a refrigerator and a kitchen to prepare the nice pasta’s Gloria has been craving for from the beginning. We should have flowing water as well, yet Arjan was still obliged to practice the bucket method this morning, so let’s see how this works out.
To conclude, we have been sitting in the office, working on our computers on a ‘virtual’ project for the past few weeks and now we are very eager to start on the serious work.