Dark and Early
We’ve talked about early morning starts in other blog posts, but today’s start takes the cake. As I type this, it’s 8 PM, and it has been 19 hours since our day started. For those of you not doing the math, that means we started work at 1 AM! Yesterday, Sarah and Nick finished installing the plumbing in the distribution station. The glue on the pipes needed 4 hours to dry, and we were all excited to see how the station would hold up with water running through it, so we decided to test the pipes no later than 4 hours and 1 minute after the last length of pipe was installed. It was so incredible to see clean water coming out of the fixtures for the first time! Unfortunately, there were several major leaks in the pipes. Several repairs and several hours later, some of the leaks were fixed, but we ended up blowing apart a connection inside the station... twice. It was exciting to say the least! At this point we were out of time, so we did the best we could and hoped the patches would hold.
This morning was a flurry of activity. Those of us not occupied by the plumbing were putting the finishing touches on the station and cleaning up the area so everything looked nice for the community members. By 10 AM, the church building and front lot were full of 50 families chatting, 15 kids engaged in a very exciting soccer game, 4 dogs investigating the newcomers, and 2 ice cream motorbikes. To start, there was a ceremony where we team members got to introduce ourselves and say a short speech, which Kan graciously interpreted for the community members. Then, we got to hear speeches from both town chiefs, again interpreted by Kan so that we could understand them. We also got to watch and even participate in some traditional Thai dances!
Then, it was time to cut the ribbon and open our station! Thankfully, our pipe repairs held together long enough for a few photo ops, and we assured the community members that the station would be ready to drink from in a few days. All in all, the grand opening was a success, and we were so thankful to meet the community we’ve been designing for this whole year.
When the Kids Go Away, the Adults Come Out to Play
After lunch, the team members took a much-needed sleep or relaxation break. In our absence, others jumped in to find a more permanent solution to our plumbing situation! Khem, Nalong (Khem’s brother-in-law), Get (our van driver), and Lee (a hydrogeologist visiting from Austin) were all over the station (literally) all afternoon. Fresh eyes and a bit of experience did the trick! By the end of the day, we had a fully functioning plumbing system. We are very happy to have the last piece of our project-puzzle in place! We're done, we're done, we're done at last!
Warning: some sappy language ahead.
This team has worked incredibly hard this whole year, and especially over the last three weeks we’ve spent in Don Kang. We’ve devoted countless hours, brain cells, and pads of engineering paper to this project. We’ve lost sleep, sweat, blood, and tears. Some of us even lost a little sanity breathing too much PVC solvent. And in the end, we finally have a finished project to show for it. It looks much different now than it did at various stages of conception. We’ve made changes, both game-changers and minor tweaks along the way. We’ve had to think on the fly here as well, designing and re-designing as we encounter additional information. This project taught us so much, and we are so happy to leave behind a thing that will make a tangible difference in the lives of the people who live here. However, none of this would have been possible without the support of so many people. Thank you so much to everyone who helped and supported us, in ways big and small. Our special thanks go out to:
The team back home: Our friends and family, who gave us their money, time, advice, and Facebook likes; Dr. O’Connor and Marty, who instructed us well; The members of SLAB, whose pieces of advice and feedback were invaluable; and Gethsemane Lutheran Church, who shouldered the financial burden of the filtration system and helped make it possible for a PUC team to come to Thailand.
The team here in Thailand: Khem, Pimjai, and Chilau, who hosted us, cooked for us, and made our stay comfortable; Kan, Dream, and Mook, who became integral members of our team and made project implementation so much easier in so many ways; All those at Mahidol University who coordinated this partnership between Mahidol and UT; and the community of Don Kang, who allowed us to come into their community and learn so much from them.
Finally, my personal thanks to each member of the PUC team: To David, who lead us even when "leading" was more like herding cats; To Patrick, whose leadership the first semester set us on course; To Eby, whose leadership through design and implementation got us through even the roughest situations; To Hannah, whose inventive mind gave us a distribution station to be proud of; to Mika, who designed the best sinks the world ever did see; To Sarah, whose dedication to the project never failed; To Nick, whose enthusiasm never failed to lift our spirits; To Ryan, who did whatever was needed for the good of the project; And to Savannah, who kept our team together through the worst of stresses.
This project would not have been possible without each and every one of you. Y'all are great, but now it's late, so with that bad rhyme I'm going to sign off for the last time.
Over and out,