Well, the new year's off to a good start: the "100 Arborloo" project has begun on schedule, and three days in we've got the first 12 "walking toilets" done (we're supposed to be putting in 4 per day; so we're right on schedule there, too). It was nip and tuck there for awhile: we could buy cement in Cap Haitien, but we couldn't get it transported up here; so our first two days we had to beg and borrow cement. Last night, a truck delivered 25 sacks of cement (enough for 50 arborloos) and the rebar to reinforce them. We're in business! The sand and water needed is a local affair, and other than that it's all labor.
There are four essential labors involved in this project:
I've included links to a few photos of my very own arborloo below. It served a twin purpose: first as an arborloo, of course; and secondly as a final resting place for a fallen palm tree, that Ivy wanted removed from amongst the coffee. It appeared to me that the "wood" of the palm would make a good enclosure, so I took it upon myself to cut it up. It was a nice project, and I think that it makes for a very attractive outhouse! It's covered on three sides by palm, and on the other side by flour sacks. Flour sacks are probably about the best cover for an arborloo: they're cheap, light, airy, and easily replaced. The roof of my arborloo (and the door) is palm fronds, provided by my friend Jerome.
The innards of the palm provided nice mulch for Anna's garden, which is coming along a lot better now that she's done some soil remediation (adding leaves and mulch and manure to the soil). Ever the optimist, she's planted many of the same things that were eradicated in the massive insect invasion of 2006. We're hoping for fewer insects this year. The tomatoes look great, and we're hoping for big things from the cabbage.
Christmas was a low-key affair, as anticipated: we stuck with the Seventh Day Adventist crowd, who tend to make little of the holiday. There were, however, many programs celebrating the end of the year: we enjoyed programs that included many of the households, at one or the other of the two churches we attend. It was a relaxing and enjoyable time, made more so because the campus is quiet (with the kids gone for the break).
In other news, we anxiously await the visit of a group including my brother Steve and mother Lyn, and Terry Webster, pastor of our church (as well as three or four others): they will arrive on the 22nd of this month, with one of their jobs being to install a water treatment system for the campus. Another job is to adjust our solar panels, to give us a little more power on campus.
In addition we hope to have a little time to talk about other ways to help Ranquitte develop. For example, I've been promoting some foodstuffs that the people here prepare, as a money making venture and an easy way to support people here. This group can give some advice on the products (we need to adjust tastes to an American audience). I plan on sending quantities back with this group, so be on the lookout for any of the following:
Steve took me at my word when I said that Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington's autobiography, is a program for turning Ranquitte around, and he's asked that his group read the book in preparation for the trip. It's a marvelous book, and a quick and interesting read (for anyone else who's interested).
I just finished reading The Uses of Haiti, by Paul Farmer ("star" of the book Mountains Beyond Mountains (by Tracy Kidder) and humanitarian doctor extraordinaire). Paul documents how American policy for the last 200 years has helped turned Haiti into the hellhole of the hemisphere that it is. I know that this premise won't be particularly appealing to some of you; I, however, buy most of his arguments. As was the case in Togo, the US has a habit of supporting right-wing military dictators or juntas, who have "unfortunate tendencies" such as machine gunning civilians and assassinating political opponents, etc. (while the trains run on time, and the votes go the right way in the UN). Happy to discuss this further with anyone, but I encourage you to read Paul's book (and check out his sources, which include a lot of US government documents -- thank God for the Freedom of Information Act, and woe unto any official of our government who would restrict our use of it -- or open your mail without a warrant; not naming names...;).
On a more positive note, Thad's STILL having the time of his life. And we're enjoying life too. Overall, this has been a great, eye-opening experience, and will continue to be, I'm sure. If you're a faculty member who hasn't taken your sabbatical, I encourage you to get off campus for a year! I think that I'll go back much rejuvenated. I know for a fact that I will appreciate our students at NKU more than ever.
Take care, and Happy New Year 2007!