Friday, July 31, 2009

Man Plans, God Laughs

There’s an old saying that man plans and God laughs. I dare say God had more than one belly-laugh at us as we came home from Logba Tota.

We were headed home a day early because Rev. James was battling malaria and clearly needed rest. While we hated to miss out on the things that had been set aside for us to see and do on Friday, we realized that it gave us a golden opportunity to return to Potwabin and finish setting up the water purifier there!

As we headed southward toward Tema, the four of us began making our plans. We decided that we’d ask Chief Takyi & Pastor Johnson to go with us, and that we’d need the van – but with just 6 people, we ought to be able to leave very early. We reasoned that we could buy a loaf of sweet bread to share for breakfast – that way we might even be able to leave early enough to beat rush-hour traffic as we went through Accra, right? And we could eat lunch at a restaurant in Mankessim – no need for anybody to cook for us.

So satisfied with our plan…we began to set it in action.

We called Isaac, the pastor in Potwabin, to let him know we’d be returning. He let us know that since we’d been there the week before, they had secured a 400-gallon polytank and placed it in a field between the river and the village. They’d be ready and waiting for us, he said!

Next we asked Chief about securing the van and going with us. He agreed. We expressed our desire to eat lightly – breakfast on the road, lunch at the place in Mankessim (a town close to Potwabin) – so we could get there, get to work, and get done before dark. He nodded in agreement. All was well. Our plan was working!

As we made our way back to Tema, we stopped in a village near Kpeve where a trade school was located. Pastor Johnson said that the students at the school had a gift for us – and they presented each of us with an embroidered kente cloth. Lovely! We looked at their fabrics – tie-dye and batik of all colors, some shoes, clothing, and more kente strips. Then it was back to the van and rolling on home.

We made pretty decent time, considering we didn’t leave Logba Tota until midday. We arrived in Tema around 4:30. Ahhh it felt good to be back home to a hot shower, a good shampoo, and our own familiar beds!

Friday dawned. All four of us were up with the roosters, ready to hit the road to Potwabin. We hoped to be there before 11 am; that way we could get the system set up, allow it to purify, and hopefully it would be done by late afternoon. Pastor Johnson arrived around 7 am, ready to go.

Remember we’d planned our breakfast of sweetbread, on the road?
God laughed. It didn’t happen. No van, no Chief. We waited a while, then Christina announced that breakfast was ready. So we ate a big delicious breakfast…while the clock ticked.

Around 9, Chief Takyi arrived with the van. OK, so we’d be there by lunchtime, that was cool. We loaded up, drove off toward Potwabin. Uh…not quite.
God laughed again. The driver veered onto a street leading into Tema.

We asked, “Where are we going?” To pick up Ben and Evelyn – who had made our lunch. So…..we picked up two more passengers, and a cooler filled with freshly made jollof rice and chicken. The clock ticked and God laughed some more.

Next stop was an auto supply store. It seems the car batteries we’d purchased were sub-standard, so we were going to exchange them for better ones. God was really guffawing by now! The Lebanese man who ran the auto supply store was not the least bit interested in customer satisfaction. We explained that the battery we’d purchased was not working and wouldn’t hold a charge, and that we wanted to exchange it for a better one. He refused. A very heated exchange occurred between David, Chief Takyi, Ben the driver, Ben our friend and the Lebanese guy and a couple of his workers. They got so loud in their disagreement that the security guard from a nearby Forex Bureau wandered by.

In order to even consider exchanging the battery, we had to prove it didn’t work. That meant we had to take the battery – and a young man from the store – across town and put it on a charger. So…we drove to the place, had the battery tested and it was of course dead as a fence post, and the young man from the store agreed. So we had to drive BACK to the auto parts place where the argument resumed. Eventually, the son of the Lebanese owner agreed to swap the battery for a larger one.

We finally left Tema around 11:45. God laughed as we fought the traffic through Accra, and stopped at a roadside café to eat our packaged lunches served to us by Evelyn.

We rolled into Potwabin around 3 pm. We had about 3 hours of daylight left to accomplish our task. So we rolled our sleeves up and got to work.

The polytank was situated in a good place, though it needed to be raised up about 3’ off the ground. Young men were dispatched to round up some blocks, and very soon the tank was secured. David & Pastor Johnson worked with Isaac and a young man named Samuel to set up the purifier. Women and young girls (my friend Grace included) began hauling water from the river to the tank, and soon they’d brought up nearly 300 gallons. This water was murky-dark, very dirty. Even poured through a filter, it was still muddy looking. The guys hooked up the pump and the battery, and we waited for the purifier to show some action. Soon, the hazy bubbles began forming – it was working!

Meanwhile, we played with the children who had gathered around. Bubbles are always a great diversion. Plus, we’d brought some blow-up globes and the kids began playing kick ball. After a while, Evelyn rounded everybody up and began singing songs with them, like “Roll, Roll My Burdens Away” and “God Bless Our Homeland Ghana” (the national anthem).

After a while, we began testing the water with a pool chlorine kit. The objective is to purify until the test reads 5 parts per million, then the system stops and the water gasses off for several hours. The water is then pure of contaminants, and by allowing the chlorine to gas off, it tastes good as well. After purifying about an hour, though, the test kit was still showing negligible results.

Realizing we were running out of daylight, David made a call to Duvon McGuire, who invented the system. He wanted to ask Duvon about kicking it up a notch by adding more salt. “Add more salt, by all means!” he said. When water is very muddy, he explained, it takes more salt to produce the desired results. So we instructed Isaac to double the salt in the brine. That worked! At last, the chlorine levels were moving up!

Around 5:45, the chlorine levels were high enough! We CELEBRATED again, just like in Adigbo Tornuu! Success – like the water – tasted sweet!

We had just enough daylight left to take the system down for storage, take a couple of photos, give the kids some candies, say our good-byes, and pack up for home. As the driver turned from the long dirt road onto the main highway back toward Accra, it was as dark as night. We celebrated all the way home – though in the back of my mind it was a little bittersweet: we were nearing the end of our mission. Only three more days left in Ghana.

God might have laughed at our plans to be up and at ‘em, and get it done….but I’m sure He smiled at our joyful success. And even though it was very late when we arrived back home in Tema, we were still elated that a second village would now have clean pure water!

Blessings, yall!
Anita ><>

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