KALIYA Solar Roof Diary - Day 3


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Africa » Malawi » Northern » Nkhata Bay
December 6th 2006
Published: January 3rd 2007
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A Storm Of FliesA Storm Of FliesA Storm Of Flies

Lake flies emerge from Lake Malawi and swarm in the air currents beneath the clouds, forming their own brown clouds of BILLIONS of insects. Occasionally the clouds are blown ashore where they become both a nuisance (the tiny flies fill your nostrils) and a delicacy (they are harvested an turned into "burgers")

Day Three


Plan for the day - get all of the modules attached to their support frames by lunch and start marking out the roof in the afternoon while the electrician pulled cables for me. I hadn't accounted for bendy and very hard hardwood timbers and an electrician who has gone AWOL.

I thought the pile of bent and twisted timbers of varying thicknessnes on the building floor were the scrap pile - perhaps destined for someone's kitchen extension or new ensuite latrine. But, oh no, these were the best of the hardwood planks left to use on the project. While I was away in Senegal, the carpenter had lost the file and sketches I left him and had installed extra purlins under the roof from memory. They should have been at the top of the roof slope - they were at the bottom. They should have been about 8 metres long - they were double that and had used all of the best, flattest and straightest timbers, wood which was now trapped and redundant between the rafters and the tin roof. Hardwood is, well, hard - and doesn't take well to being pulled into shape by some pesky aluminium framed solar module. Doesn't really like having holes drilled in it and positively hates being chiseled.

We only needed 10 planks made - Having carefully measured, cut, drilled and countersunk one in about an hour yesterday, I had hoped, with 2 carpenters, that we could get the remaining 9 done between 7 and noon. I left them to get on with the woodwork while I mounted and wired the public solar 12V battery charging station. I could only complete the wiring in the room as the electrician hadn't left me any drawstrings in the plastic pipes which were now well buried under generously plastered walls.

Mr Banda, the electrician we have had to employ to complete work which should have been completed as part of the main building, is an elusive character. He turns up at Njaya Lodge to "find" me when we have made no arrangement to meet and knowing that I am working full time up at Bwelero village. We have to send runners with messages to his home on the other side of town as he has no phone - messages never come in the other direction. Cash advances are requested for buying materials, just before the weekend, and Mr Banda goes missing for 5 days - A "Banda bender" I like to call them. But yesterday, without any way of pulling cables up to the roof and hence no way forward on mounting modules, my patience with Mr Banda ran out.

When I got back to Njaya I heard that he was lurking somewhere and so grabbed Gilbert (one of the Njaya barmen and a complete star) to translate for me. "Solly, solly, busy, busy" was all Mr Banda had to say for himself when I asked where he had been. I reminded him that he should have been "busy busy" working on the Kaliya building, that I had already paid him half of the money and that we had to try and finish the building by Friday. Gilbert embelished my words slightly and Mr Banda trembled - something he does most of the time, especially after a bender.

Tomorrow, we should be able to start on the roof - marking out, pulling cables (if the mention of using another electrician has persuaded Mr Banda to arrive at 8am as he now promises) and hopfully starting to attach the "planked up" pairs of panels to the building itself. But, as I write this, the horizon is flashing and flickering. Deep rumbles are making the louvred windows rattle and Tia, Njaya's "big boned" chocolate brown big-eyed dog, is trembling at my feet. Doesn't look good for making holes in roofs tomorrow.


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