Sunday, March 20, 2011

Twenty-Four

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Remember Duncan Peabody (AKA Duncan Peabloggy) the Peace Corps volunteer who wrote that blog back in 2010 about his experience building a water system and living in the Dominican Republic? He was living large. He had the fans, the house in the mountains, the Peace Corps stipend, the public transport. He had it all. But we have heard very little from him since he finished his water system. What became of him?
We caught up with him recently and found out. It seems the completion of the water project left a pretty big hole in his life. It had consumed his Peace Corps career up until then and with no materials to buy or workers to boss around he didn’t know what to do with his life. He started spending a lot of time in his house sniffing fabric softener and ordering worker ants to carry crumbs from one place to another on his floor. The critics and his fans forgot about him and his life spiraled downwards. A month later he was busted by the police trying to break into a Laundromat in the city screaming “I need my sheets! I know you’re in there Downy Bear!” He sobered up in the slammer and decided he needed a change in his life so he headed back to the United States. He went through two different rehab treatments in Los Angeles and Colorado. They were both very successful. With his mind no longer Downy fresh he decided to return to the Dominican Republic and try for a comeback…


The rumors are true. I have just returned from the United States. And not just the regular United States. The Los Angeles United States. On the way there I had a layover in Miami and everybody was speaking Spanish so I didn’t realize I was back in the U.S. yet. Then I landed in L.A. and everybody was speaking Spanish so I didn’t realize I was back in the U.S. yet. Then I saw a hipster. Hello America!!

Hipsters have taken over the country it seems. Or at least LA and Denver. Barack Obama now wears tight, cut off jean shorts behind the podium when he gives speeches. Now I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old ex-pat but there’s some irony to point out here. The hipsters spend lots of money on trendy clothes and maybe rip them up or something to make them look poor. (Or do they come like that?) In the Dominican Republic campo the people spend a little bit of money on one nice looking outfit and take good care of it so they look wealthier than they are. I don’t really understand either idea, but who am I to judge. So I’ve come up with a great charity idea. The hipsters will buy clothes that actually look like the money they cost and they will send them to my community in the Dominican Republic. In return the people in my community will send their hand-me downs to Los Angeles. Not only will this fulfill the needs of each group but it will also help to strengthen hipster-dominican relations which have been an area of concern recently.
Other than that project I have three smaller (realer) projects that I’m working on in my remaining eight months.

The first one is the ceramic water filter study that I have described in previous blogs maybe. It’s a research project with my University that I’m doing for my Master’s thesis. We gave people ceramic water filters and now we are finding out if they work and if the people like them and stuff. It’s nice…

The second project is a new wood burning stove design we are working on. The idea is to make the chamber of the stove out of molded pieces of refractory brick. We would have an existing ceramics factory manufacture the pieces. Then Peace Corps volunteers would deal directly with the ceramics factory to order their stove sets. In the volunteer’s community they would assemble the pieces and enclose them in the cement box of their choice and throw in a chimney. Then the people would stop inhaling smoke. So in theory this seems like a good idea. We just need to do some R&D to make sure the stove works in practice. No problem right?

-Just find a ceramics factory and show them the plans and ask them to build you a prototype. Tell them you’ll give them money for their work. They like that. (In the business world we call this “paying”)
-Then show up on several occasions to check on progress. Find that the ceramics expert had to “step out” for the day. But it’s ok. This is only the third time he’s said he would be there and then not shown up. Oh and he hasn’t gotten started yet because he doesn’t have the materials.
-Call again to make sure he’s still interested in this work. Of course he is. Very much. Hey Duncan give me a call back tomorrow and we’ll discuss where to go from here. ….From where? The beginning? Didn’t we discuss that?
-Hey it’s tomorrow but your phone is off. “You’re fired.” – Donald Trump

And so I am still at ground zero. I’m looking for a new ceramics expert. But theoretically I like this project.

My final project is a Youth Engineers Club. Basically I just build things with this 15 year-old kid Martin who wants to be an engineer. He invites his friend along so that we can call it an “Engineering Club” and not “two guys building stuff”. (A minimum of three persons are required to qualify as a Club though this does not oblige all gatherings involving three people with similar interests to label themselves a Club) But his friend doesn’t really care about what we’re doing and he’s pretty obnoxious. We built a simple solar oven but before we could cook with it my host-brother decided that it looked a lot like garbage and ripped it up to construct part of a cage for his fighting cocks. We’ll have to spend more time making things look pretty if they’re going to survive. A good lesson for a future engineer. Martin, not me.