With the dry season upon us, and as we mentioned last week, our solar panels tend to get a coat of dirt on them nearly every day. This impedes the sun’s ability to penetrate the panels and create the electricity that we have come to rely upon. We wanted to do something more permanent than get on the ladder everyday and throw water at them from a can. We thought if we could find a garden hose, then perhaps we could spray the water upon the roof and wash off the dust each day. Well at least it seemed simple!
We asked Charles David, one of our guards where we might find a water hose. He directed me to an area on one of the streets here and so while out the other day I stopped at one of the shops and asked them whether they carried it. I told them I wanted 30-40 meters and his response was the cost would be Le 25,000 yard. I told him that was more expensive than what it would cost me in America. I told him I wanted to see how much I really needed and I would come back if I wanted to buy some. Oh, and before I left, he told me that the name of the hose I wanted was “snake rubber”. Hmm, I thought that is a pretty good name for a garden hose.
As it turns out, with a little help from a different plumber than I usually use, I was able to purchase a roll (50 feet) for Le 250,000 which is about $30. Much more reasonable. Unfortunately, it had no ends on it. I must admit, I have been impressed with the creativity to create an end so that it could be screwed and unscrewed onto a “spigot” of sorts. I had a different plumber this time and he had a “boy” who was actually really good. He used a PVC
union since they don’t have faucets with hose threads. I needed a nozzle on the other end to spray water on the roof. There is apparently no hose nozzle anywhere in Kenema, so instead he hooked up a sprayer head that you might use in a sink to rinse your dishes. The first time I turned on the high pressure pump the end went flying right off the end
of the hose. I asked Charles if he could get me a couple of hose clamps, he assured me he could and actually brought them by and installed them today while we were gone. Still, when I turned on the pump, the water shot about 10 feet and died. Needless to say, that didn’t work. However, when Charles came to work he was determined to figure this out. We had an old bucket with a spigot such as you would find on a 5-gallon thermos for filling a cup. Charles took that off the bucket and then with
some good ingenuity, reconfigured it using the nozzle off of a tube of silicon caulk (called glue here) and a modified rubber gasket. The back side of the nozzle had a hole where the handle to the spigot had previously been so we covered that with our thumbs and it worked. We took it one step further by filling the hole with caulk, hoping that it might relieve some of the pressure required by the thumb. A pretty creative solution. In the meantime, I have ordered some proper hose ends and a nozzle from Amazon and will have it shipped over.
As an aside, we noticed this evening that the high-pressure pump water line into the house has sprung another leak. I am pretty sure that eventually every single joint will have to be replaced as they were never intended to handle the water pressure caused by the pump (which as we have mentioned before was added as an after-thought to the house).
As we mentioned at the end of last week, we went to Freetown on Sunday. Early Monday morning we took our truck into what is essentially the Toyota dealership in Freetown (even though it is not called Toyota). Elder Pack drove his truck and led the way and I followed him him in ours. The traffic in Freetown is crazy. As I turned off the road that the mission home is on and onto the main street, I was trying to keep Elder Pack in my sights and navigate among the people, bikes and cars. I didn’t realize there was a particular place that people were crossing and there was a policeman of sorts there stopping the traffic from time to time. I did not see him in time and drove through what he intended to be a clear walkway for pedestrians. Fortunately no one had stepped into the road, but as I passed him he hit the side of the truck letting me know he was not happy with me. I felt horrible. I simply did not see him in time to stop. Well that prepared me for the next crossing. This time is was a woman stopping the cars and she was quite short. Elder Pack had gone on before she held her hand up to stop. This time I was ready and I braked and came to a stop. Unfortunately, the motorcycle behind me did not and he ran into my back bumper and laid his bike down on the pavement. The policewoman guard saw what happened, shrugged and waved me on, so I went on. As it turned out I couldn’t see any new dent in the bumper, so he only hit me hard enough to scare us both a little I think. I have decided that I must be a magnet for these Okada drivers.
As it turned out the dealership not only replaced the clutch, but also the entire right hub on the back. This is where I had had the seal replaced twice by a local shop. They said the seal was the wrong one and had been leaking again, so they fixed it with the right one and then replaced the complete hub. It had been doused in gear oil from the leaking seal and was a mess. When I first picked up the vehicle, it nearly jumped out from under me as the clutch now fully engaged much earlier. I then quickly braked and the brakes were so much tighter then before. It was like driving a new truck! They also balanced the tires, so when I hit 100 km/hour they no longer wobble. This repair will definitely be the best Christmas present I will receive!
On Monday night we all went to dinner at Lagoonda Hotel and Restaurant. LaDawn and I both had grilled barracuda. It was absolutely delicious! Again it was great being with the other senior missionary couples. For about 90 minutes it was hard to believe we were in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, Elder and Sister Burris were not able to come in from Grafton where they are working with Family History.
On Tuesday Elder Moomey, Elder Evans and I went to see Bannerman Bright. He is a man whose major business is freight expediting, but he also dabbles in solar. I told him I wanted to see the components that he uses in the bid that he had given me earlier. He ended up taking us to a small shop and then we were invited down a narrow passageway to go upstairs into a small air conditioned room where we met the guy that owns the shop and installs solar. It was like we were in a movie. I asked every question I could think of and at the end of the day, I am not sure he knows much more about solar than the guy here in Kenema. He is certainly more expensive though. I expect his components are slightly better quality, but hard to justify the significantly higher price (almost double what the local guy here in Kenema charges).
Also on Tuesday I spent a bit of time helping President Clawson by checking each one of the wired network connections in the mission home. Turns out there are about 5 of them that are not working. President Clawson had also called a meeting that day with Markus Wallace, the mission facilities manager and asked me to attend as well. President Clawson wanted to know what we were going to do about our generator problem. Turns out the generator we had has been repaired 3 times for the same problem and Markus wanted to replace it. At the end of the day that was the decision and not long after we arrived in Kenema, the new generator showed up. Watching the men move it from the truck to its location in the compound was quite a sight to see. They moved it on steel pipes and bars, pushing it as they went. It was painful to watch.
Once the generator was up and running I could tell something was wrong. The AC was not running as cold and the controls on the front indicated trouble. Since we do not have an operating manual, I could not diagnose the problem, but the next morning I called Markus and said something was wrong. He sent his best electrician from Freetown to come and he knew immediately the problem. It was a 3-phase generator and we were only hooked up to one phase, so the other two phases were stressing the generator. Furthermore, this 20 kW generator was carrying all of the load on one phase, which was essentially giving us just under 7kW instead of 20kW. Now I understand completely why the other generator continued to fail time after time. It was hooked up the same way and it simply could not carry the load placed on it.
The good news is the electrician stayed and Markus sent his tools and the materials he needed from Freetown to rewire the house to accommodate and utilize all three phases of the generator. This meant an entirely new breaker box and new wires from the generator. It took him and one of Junior Bendu’s guys (the local solar man) nearly all day to do the work. At the end of the day the generator was running much better, the AC was running better and I thought we had the problem solved. Unfortunately, there were two new problems. First the solar panels were no longer connected to some of our critical plugs. For example, we could no longer light the stove with the electric starter unless the generator was on. We also no longer had use of one of the small AC units nor the high pressure pump that were wired to work on solar. We managed to get all of that fixed on Saturday, but then on Sunday we realized that when National Power did come on, it was only connected to the AC units and was not connected to the rest of the house. Another call to Markus today and hopefully we will have the materials here tomorrow to fix that one. It is so hard to get anything done here and when it does get done, it is often not done correctly the first time. So patience is mandatory.
Despite the continued saga with the plumbing and electrical, we did have some other highlights as well. On Thursday morning we attended the District Council of the Kenema North District under the leadership of Elder Serano. It was such a great meeting as we talked about how to use the Book of Mormon to teach about “How to Teach” and also about “How to Learn”. It is always great being with the full-time missionaries.
On Saturday morning the young men in the District had a football game. Seemed to me the YM leaders were having more fun than the YM, but that is another topic for another time. Everyone who played had a great time and the game was well played and ended with the score of 1-0 (half of the branches formed one team and half formed the other).
In the afternoon about 50 of these young men and their leaders traveled to the District Center to participate in a Family History fireside where Tobechi Inmpey, the District Family history consultant who gave a very good presentation. I think we probably needed some additional follow-up or hands-on activity for the young men to actually do some family history work themselves, but that will need to come later. It is so much more difficult here as those who do have phones rarely have phones that are “smart” and even more rare is access to data. But they certainly left the meeting inspired!
From there, LaDawn and I left and had a date night. We went to Food Masters and had some delicious grilled barbecue chicken. Some of the best we have ever eaten. We are so happy this new restaurant recently opened.
On Sunday we attended the Burma Branch. We were surprised to find out that we only were going to have 2 hour church, in anticipation of the change that will come in January. We understood that the branch president wanted to make sure the members understood how the new program would work. We love so many of the members of that branch and it was great to see them. Elder Dunn, who was transferred today from Kenema to become one of the new Assistants to the President, taught the priesthood lesson on Exaltation. It was definitely the best lesson I have attended since being here. He did a great job and was able to get so many of the elders in the quorum involved in the discussion.
After church we picked up the suitcases of three of the elders being transferred and took them to Bo. We immediately came back to Kenema and went to Dauda Town and there met Elder Pyrah, Elder Ogbanayah and Abdulai Sherrif. We were able to provide computers and a MIFI and Elder Pyrah along with some coaching from us was able to help Abdulai get two names submitted to the temple as well as prepare to submit two more. He was so excited about being involved in the work, and we loved helping him. There is such a huge opportunity here in Kenema to make a difference in family history for the members. I can see small sparks beginning to ignite in some of the branches in regards to family history work. We hope that soon it will be a bonfire!
In conclusion, it is fun to learn the local names of items and activities with which we are very familiar back home. A garden hose is “snake rubber”, turning on the generator is “giving us fire”, mashing hot peppers is “pounding the peppe”, going for a run is “exercise, exercise”. But there are also things that are exactly the same. One of these is developing a deep and abiding testimony that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church restored upon the earth for the benefit of all of us. It is the same in every culture and every language. We continue to be thrilled to be a part of the work here and helping to build His kingdom here in Sierra Leone.