Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sketchbook 2008-2010

This is the culmination of my sketches from the last two years. The book in which I drew them is pretty beat-up from my travels so it’s going into storage. I’ve digitized these for posterity. I like drawing because it’s not as conspicuous as taking out a camera. The medium has helped me to capture scenes from everyday life in places that are sensitive to being recorded. It’s also helped to break the ice on a number of occasions. I might not always share the same language as my subject, but the sketchbook has provided another mode of communication.

Far from being a luddite, I’ve always marveled at emerging technologies in media. However, paper and ink has a tangible subjectiveness that mechanical-aided design will never quite achieve. Also, when I didn’t have electricity and the batteries on my camera and laptop went dead, my sketchbook still worked every time I opened it.
Read more

Friday, May 14, 2010

Popping a Squat: Constructing a Latrine for Kids in Rural Uganda

It probably wasn't the safest idea to dig a deep hole in the middle of a school and not take any precautionary steps to safeguard it from children falling in. Nevertheless, it's the first stage in the construction of a new VIP latrine at the school where I worked at in Uganda.

After the new toilets were built, speculation arose amongst the student body over who would inaugurate the facilities first.  This documentary captures the excitement as the events unfold.  On the day of the grand opening the students put on a show for the community. The program was filled with music, dance, and drama with a health and sanitation theme.

This isn't the porta-potty you remember from summer camp.  It's a ten-stalled waste management system that will cater to over 1,000 school children and teachers daily for the next five years. I drew up this blueprint in case the need arises for you to build one of these structures at your own home.


My small friend gave me a tour of the existing school latrine.  It had been built eight years ago and all the traffic it's received has left the stalls messy.  It was clearly operating beyond capacity.  The pit had already filled up a year ago and the teachers would get sticks to compress the fecal matter back into the hole.  It was time for a new toilet.

Here's a picture from the new long-drop.  It's clean and inviting.  If something falls down that hole it will take a few moments before you hear the reassuring thump that it's hit the bottom.

The new toilets were built in the shade of an old tree.  The students found it to be an idyllic place to study and relax between classes.

These girls are on their lunch break.  There's probably bananas in those little red pales.  Since the construction of the new latrine, there has been a marked improvement in the school's overall cleanliness.  The girls can enjoy what they eat on the campus and stay healthy and happy.

The latrines were built with a small projects assistance grant from the Peace Corps and USAID.  If you'd like to know more about the specifications of the latrine and the background of the community where it was built, you can read the original proposal.

There has also been a push recently to introduce composting toilets in the developing world.  The waste is collected and used as fertilizer in gardens.
Read more

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Postcard from the Democratic Republic of Congo

It has been a long time dream of mine to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, when I finally did, I left my camera in Uganda. Luckily, I was traveling with my friend Chris Baxter who was smart enough to bring his along and take the amazing photos in the sideshow above.

I've done my best to provide commentary describing what we saw on our trip. However, it gets to be TMI at some points and the captions occasionally cover the entire photo. You can toggle them on and off with the green, speech bubble icon in the lower left hand corner.

Goma is a modern day Pompeii and vulcanologists flock to Nyirigongo. There are a lot of great stories and documentaries that have been made about the volcano.

The latest came out just a few weeks ago from the Associated Press.

A similar story was written by the New York Times back in 2008. This article features Kennedy Rwema, the guide we used for the trip. We had the privilege of spending a night at his house.

WGBH's NOVA did an episode on the 2002 eruption. Even though it's supposed to be "public television" the only free media I could find online was this trailer. Nevertheless, it's amazing footage.

Baxter alerted me to this documentary on Nyirigongo and other African volcanoes that aired on the Science Channel. Here it is in full, but be patient with the annoying pop-up ad at the beginning. Guy, the vulcanologist featured, is very melodramatic. He makes it seem as if the volcano could explode at any moment and rip him and his fawning students to smithereens. It makes for good television.
Read more