Published: December 12th 2010December 1st 2010
Here we are checking out why the truck is overheating.
So moving water to the site turned into a bit of a tough time. But while I was worrying about the water in the stream and the lack of water in the tank, what I should have been REALLY concerned with was water that would eventually come from the sky. It’s finally arrived, and in the words of my brother Devin, “Woot!”
Now you need to understand that while working here, I’ve always got a few things going at the same time. Kinda like juggling. Although I may spend days getting soaked on the mountaintop, there’s always a few other things going on elsewhere that have the potential to stall out in my absence. One of these was wood milling, another was the cement mixer, another was the roofing/fasteners/paint supply, another was the truck to carry large goods, the list goes on....There’s always a couple balls in the air.
I was worried about all of these issues while physically dealing with the water issue. But of course, “worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The REAL troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind,
Here's the piston and rocker arm...now to find a bearing in a one-horse frontier town.
the kind that blindside you at 4PM on some idle Tuesday.”
For all the worrying that I’d done, all the contingency plans that I’d come up with, what blindsided me was indeed something that never crossed my wee little mind. Three things actually: A bearing, a spindle, and an opportunist.
Let’s looks at the juggling balls individually.
Ball number 1....
To mix cement quickly and in large quantities you really want to have a cement mixer. We had one all lined up, but along the way some speed bumps sprouted. The delays came as follows:
Cement was not at the site yet, so it was best to delay the mixer’s delivery. But I was assured that the mixer worked fine.
Two days before I was to pick up the mixer and the water pump, I was told that the mixer was ‘Bagarap’ (Bislama for broken). But not to worry! The mixer would be fixed in the two days before pick-up.
On the pick up day, the mechanic was too busy to fix the mixer (and since the whole thing was a donation, I couldn’t make a fuss. Beggars not Choosers and all).
The wonderful Cement Mixer, sans piston and rocker arm.
Later in the week I came to pick up the mixer and found it in pieces. But the mechanic was nowhere to be found. Turns out his cousin-brother had died and he would be gone till Friday.
On Friday the mechanic was still gone.
The next Monday, the mechanic was still gone.
On the Wednesday the mechanic had come back, but there was a broken part that he didn’t have. It was the bearing to the piston’s rocker arm. Just a small spinning thingy, yet all was dependent on it.
I went to the motor parts supply shop, but he didn’t sell parts from that make. Maybe someone in Vila would have a bearing?
After spending a day or two trying to solve this problem, it became more of a detraction than it was worth….cement mixer is now off the menu..
This process is what it means to do work in Vanuatu. I wanted the cement mixer at the site November 1st, and on December 1st the idea of using a cement mixer was scrapped.
And now I’d like to have a little talk about wood milling. Or, juggling ball
Our Miller and the Contract.
One of the participating villages for the construction was contractually bound to provide the lumber for the roof structure, doors and windows. They had the trees, but were outsourcing the milling to a fellow from Luganville. Here’s the story of how that’s going….
Originally the Miller agreed to do the job, he mills a tree for the clinic and the village gives him a free tree to mill for his own profit…Awesome. Sounds fair.
After a week and no milled timber I was told that the Miller needed fuel for his bush mill…Okay, I’ll spot some start up cash for fuel.
The next week I spent trying to get the Miller some cash for fuel, but he kept avoiding me…Hmmm alright, what’s up?
Week later and the truth comes out. He won’t do the job without a contract between him and the village…okay, that’s reasonable…and he wants the village to give him 6 cubic meters of milled wood in exchange for milling one cubic meter of wood for the clinic (So he can cover his costs, apparently)….Whoa! Not reasonable…
When presented with this option, the landowner with the trees said “Alright,” and
Tired of waiting.
Andrew needed planks for cement forms and couldn't wait any longer for the Miller, so he whipped some up with a chainsaw.
signed the contract…Whoa!! Are you seriously going to let this guy rip you off like that??!!!
So we all wait another week and no Miller…Ummm, what’s up? You’re going to make a killing on this job?!!
And now for the deal-breaker…turns out that 12000% profit isn’t good enough for our man. He wants MARC to pay for fuel as well, and he won’t start the job till I hand over cash….Unfortunately for him, I’m not as easily duped as the villagers he’s been swindling for months.
When I pull out the current price quotes for milled lumber from town and show him that I know how much he’s swindling the community for, he’s not ashamed in the least. He still demands that I pay for fuel. I have to laugh. You see, it would almost be cheaper for the community to import lumber from URANUS, than it would be to agree to this guy’s deal. And there’s no way I’m letting this dude take a penny from Project MARC.
Which leaves us with another dilemma: Where to we get the lumber, or another miller? Unfortunately, we’ve wasted too much time on the prospect of this fella
Here we are picking up 4 tons from Wilco in Luganville
doing the job. It’s time to re-evaluate our situation as far as timber goes.
And now for ball number 3…
The Truck. Not our small trusty steed, the LandCruiser, but the big truck whose services were donated to our cause. Here they call them Camions.
The ‘Bigfalla Camion’ could only do runs for us on weekends. The owner naturally used it during the workweek. We could run goods on Saturdays but had to pay for fuel and for the driver’s overtime pay. This was all cool.
We can transport 8 times the payload of our small LandCruiser for roughly the same fuel cost. Since we can’t afford to pay for all the fuel of individual runs with the LandCruiser, we were relatively reliant on the Big Truck.
Initially there were two weeks of delay for the road survey. But then we moved the sand and coral. Almost lost the truck off a hill, but all lived.
On the third Saturday run we were hauling 4 tons of cement. This was loaded by forklift, but would have to be unloaded by hand.
We stopped at the Village of Stonehill to pick up some
And that right there is where all the water comes out! Stupid water pump.
dudes to help us with the offload when trouble perked up. The truck was hot.
After inspection we saw the radiator was dry. When filling it up we saw where all the water was pouring out. It was the water pump, and it was fully “Bagarap.”
We pulled the truck into a field, tarped the cement, and called for a rescue ride.
The following week a new water pump was ordered from New Zealand. It came rush delivery and arrived before the week was out (Which is pretty astronomically amazing in Vanuatu!). The problem was that this new pump would have to be installed and the plantation mechanic was busy with other projects. All I could do was wait, they were doing this for us for free (Beggars and Choosers scenario again).
The result was that we lost another Saturday. Bummer.
The following week, the mechanic was back but there was an issue with the part. On the front end of the pump there are a number of spindles for rubber belts that attach to the motor. The new part didn’t have the right amount of spindles, and a new shaft would have to be
Had to leave the truck behind in a soccer field.
mounted to the part to facilitate another spindle. This would take a few days.
The few days of shaft-mounting/spindle-replacing machine work turned into another week. But it looked like we’d be on for the final Saturday.
The cement was moved from the truck to the site by our trusty steed, the LandCruiser (which cost a few pennies more than we’d budgeted, let me tell you). Yet it looked like the big truck would be online for moving the 1000 blocks that we’d need to haul that Saturday.
Friday. Phone Call. Bad news. Mechanic’s out. No water pump. Big Truck is off for the Saturday brick delivery.
Time to reevaluate our situation.
Balls juggled: 30. Balls dropped: 6. Balls exploded with vengeful fury: 3.
But it’s not all bad! Progress is being made. Slowly but surely. Please see below.
There are more photos below