Testing Engines and Our Patience – Monday, August 19th to Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
After a busy weekend pouring concrete and exploring Sipi falls, we had a much needed day off on Monday as the top coat of concrete at Okidi and Sugur set.
On Tuesday, we attempted to get back to work and install the base frame at Okidi. We were on the road by 10am, but en route we stopped at Richard’s workshop to pick up the base frame, only to find that the power was out in Serere so Richard could not finish the welding. Since we had no idea when the power would return, Richard, Silas, Shalni, and some others headed back to the Soroti district to finish off the frame. A couple hours of cutting, welding, and re-measuring later, the generator at the workshop stopped working and we had to get more engine oil. Once it was back up and running, the welding and filling continued as the elevated base for the engine was made. While waiting around at the workshop, Shalni was given a hearty meal of traditional posho and beef stew prepared by the wives of the workers. They were delighted to hear Shalni praise them in their native tongue: “ipoiti noi!” (the Ateso version of compliments to the chef). With the frame complete and stomachs nourished, Shalni, Silas, and Richard headed back to Okidi again.
While Gabriella, Brian, Eric, and David waited for the gang to return with the base frame, they talked to David and Julius about the recent history of Uganda. David and Julius both shared their experiences of living through, and fighting in, the insurgency ten years ago. Julius went on to explain some of the issues still plaguing Uganda today. With this newfound insight into the struggles of the citizens of Uganda, Brian, Eric, and Gabriella were even more excited to continue working- which made waiting for the base frame all the more frustrating.
After five hours of waiting in Okidi, the frustration only grew when the others returned with the framework. Upon setting the frame onto the concrete base, we discovered that the screws did not align with the holes in the bars. The team was quite agitated despite having seen this coming; we had pointed out that the screws were misaligned when they were placed in the wet concrete, though we were waved off and told that it didn’t really matter since the bars were going to be simple I-beams anyway. While cutting the frame to adjust the fit, the generator that Richard had brought failed, and we were unable to drill the holes. There was talk of borrowing a generator from a neighbouring community, but the chairman and other Okidi members were opposed to this idea (because of apparent politics between the communities).
We got the engine oiled and fuelled, and were happy to see that it started perfectly! However, when we went to mount it on the base frame, we noticed that the engine stand was, in fact, made of plastic that had been painted to look like metal. According to Julius, that stand wouldn’t last three days under the engine. Richard said that he would make a new stand of iron back at his workshop, so we left Okidi around 6:30pm feeling discouraged and frustrated that the whole day was spent running against a brick wall.
On Wednesday, we were all very eager to start working after a full day of waiting for the completion of the base frame. After breakfast, we were picked up by David and brought to the Pilgrim office where we were able to access some much needed internet. After half an hour of checking e-mails and downloading more e-books to read, we headed off the Okidi to mount the base frame and install the available parts- the engine, the rice polisher, and the oil press. However, we learned that Richard did not yet have shafts and was on his way to Mbale to purchase them. While we waited for Richard to return with the shafts, we mounted the base frame on the concrete foundation and used washers to rectify the misalignments of the base frame. Richard had already made the new iron stand for the engine so we were able to proceed with the installation of the engine. We mounted the engine and its new stand to the base frame and got it started. While it ran well, Brian noticed that the water indicator was low and that there was steam coming out of the engine. We urged Julius and the community members to turn off the engine to prevent overheating and damage to the new machine. While we waited for a community member to bring water, we installed the rice polisher to the base frame and attached the belts between the engine and the rice polisher. We saw that the pulleys of the rice polisher and engine were not aligned and the belts had a lot of slack. Julius assured us that the rice polisher would be realigned after testing, so when a child arrived with the water we started the engine again to test the rice polisher. IT WORKED! WONDERFULLY! We were happy to see that, unlike the big ol’ Listers, the vibration was not a problem with the Chang-fa engine. The rice polisher, however, vibrated significantly, so we definitely will need to install a layer of rubber or softwood between the concrete and the frame to dampen the vibrations. Fortunately, we were able to test the polisher with unhulled rice, and the product came out beautifully. When the other components are installed and the rice can be hulled before being polished, the quality of the product will be even better. Seeing the first tangible result of our MFP instilled a sense of pride in our team, which was only strengthened by the smiles and excitement on the faces of the Okidi community.
Despite the agitation and restlessness of the last few days, we left Okidi on Wednesday evening in higher spirits than the previous day. If we’ve learned anything this week, it would be that good things really do come to those who wait…and wait…and wait.
Shalni, Gabriella, and Eric