Thursday, May 23, 2013

Borehole, Part 1

WARNING:  This story does not have a happy, successful ending.

What a long time coming this has been.  When I first came to Kongo on my site visit in November 2011, I met with Go-nseung for the first time.  From that point on, I knew that getting a borehole was their number one priority.  Throughout 2012 I persisted in finding contacts that could do the work.  I ended up talking with three different organizations in the Upper East and Northern Regions.  Two of them gave me very high quotes (10,500 to 13,500 cedis), and were not willing to budge much; the other one didn't get back to me enough for me to find out what their deal was.  In order for me to get funding through Peace Corps, the community would need to contribute 25% of the cost of the project.  That just didn't seem feasible for the community, and it would have taken me a long time to fill a grant of that size.
(Theoretically, the assemblyman is supposed to help the community with projects like this.  Why mine, who is also my so-called counterpart, did not follow through with his duties in this respect is beyond me.  I have asked many neighboring communities how they have gotten their boreholes, and every time they say the assemblyman helped.  It is true our district was just split up, so all the government offices are being relocated and it'll take a long time to get it all settled, but why he put no effort whatsoever into helping me I still can't figure out.  My good friend Cletus, who lives in Kongo most of the time, but who is Ran's counterpart in Yakoti just a few kilometers away, was able to get a borehole put in right outside his family compound, and he is in the same district as Kongo.  It is amazing- there's a solar panel to pump the water into a big Polytank, and then you can fetch water from a pipe.  And how did he get this?  His assemblyman.)
Getting towards the end of 2012, I was just about ready to give it up, and let a potential next volunteer take it up.  Then I went to Thanksgiving in Accra; my homestay family knew of a woman at an NGO that drills boreholes and does other projects in the Upper East and Northern regions.  So I was put into contact with her. 
In one of my last blogs ("The New Year") I mentioned the first meeting I had with Mary, from the NGO, in Go-nseung with the elders.  Mid-February I had a second meeting, this time with the Ghanaian pastor who stays in Bolga who represents the NGO up here.  He just came to see the area and talk with me, he didn't need to meet with the elders.  Luckily Esther was at the house, she came and met with us, and she was able to give the pastor a local's perspective on the potential project.  Again, Christopher was nowhere to be found, his phone was off and he'd apparently gone to Bolga for a workshop, who knows.  I made the meeting earlier so that he could attend, but was still a no-show.
Then the beginning of March I got a big surprise- a big bus full of white people from the church in America.  That was weird.  I was told by Mary that she'd be "bringing some of her friends" to see the area, but I didn't know this would be the day.  So I get a call from the pastor in Bolga to come out the road to meet their car so we can drive over to Go-nseung...I walk out in my traditional smock and was stunned to see the Yutong bus of white people, about 15 of them in all.  But it wasn't too terrible- there was A/C and they gave me a paper bag full of American snacks! 
The group was on a one-week trip to Ghana to see the projects their church was funding.  I guess they come once a year to see the area and meet the villages their helping and see where their money is going.  Go-nseung knew people were coming to meet, so the elders were around, but no one had a clue that so many white people were coming, so they all got a bigger surprise than me!  Everyone, especially the kids, were thrilled.  Every plastic chair that was owned in the immediate area was brought out for all of them to sit in.
I have never felt less like a foreigner and more like a Fra Fra, one of the villagers, than I did when this group showed up.  I in no way had anything in common with them, I barely even knew how to start a conversation, not to mention how to answer the questions they asked me.  I had an awkward moment as all the small kids were setting up the chairs for the white people and the elders- where do I sit?  So I asked Esther and she said to sit with the elders, so I did.  We talked for about 30 mintues, then they were on their way to the next project site.  Mary told me the next step would be to have surveyors come out to look at the area at the end of March.
Well, the end of March comes around and I haven't heard anything.  When I call, she says they'll be in the Upper East the first week in April.  Ok.  First week in April comes around, no word.  I guess she was up here going around to sites, but I never saw her or any surveyors.  I call again and she says that the drillers will be there soon and that I should have a borehole in 2-3 weeks.  Cool.
We had our All-Volunteer Conference at this point, so I gave Mary Christopher's contact information so that the drillers could be in contact with him.  At first I was upset that I had to give up control, since he has been nonexistent with this project the whole time, and I just didn't trust him to be around to take care of this.  But then I remembered that this really should not be my responsibility, this really should not be my project, it really should be Christopher's.  So I reliquished all control and responsibility of this project to Christopher, and it felt so good, a huge weight off my shoulders. 
The drillers did not end up coming when I was at the conference, they came the end of the week that I was back.  Apparently, their project in Bawku got delayed, they were originally supposed to come to Kongo on Thursday, but got in late Friday instead.
They rubbed me the wrong way from the start. They didn't inform Christopher of their arrival until an hour before they got here, which was when I was going to bed, and they needed rooms to stay at the mission, which Christopher did arrange ahead of time, but then they were also demanding that we feed all seven of them.  First they said Christoper's wife should cook for them; then, they said, why doesn't the white lady cook for us.  EXCUSE ME???  That is just a ridiculous demand anyways, but especially at 9:30 at night, and this supervisor has not even bothered to call me to introduce himself.  Who the hell are you?  So.  I let Christopher deal with that one.  I went back to sleep.
Saturday morning I was just waiting for a call to see what was going on.  At 9, Cletus' son Andrew comes to my house to tell me Esther wants to see me near the market square.  She tells me that the drilling has started and I should go over to the area.  Christopher's phone was off, so he couldn't call to tell me himself.  SHOCK.  As I bike over to Go-nseung, I see a huge machine and trucks and I hear lots of noise- THEY ARE DRILLING!  I go greet all the elders who are sitting in a row of plastic chairs under a big tree just near the drilling site, but out of the way of the clouds of dust that are billowing out of the drilled hole.  I was ecstatic.  I couldn't keep myself from smiling. 
It was a big operation- one big, long truck that had the tall drill on it and all the machinery, and then another truck with the pipes.  Christopher comes back from running into town to get pito for the workers; he fills me in on what happened the previous night and in the morning.  Then he takes me over the introduce me to the supevisor and workers.  He told me it wasn't looking good, the gravel was comin out too dry. 
That's when my heart started to sink.  I knew that no one came to survey, so early that morning, Christopher told me the workers just asked where the elders wanted the borehole, and then started to drill.  Even I know that's not how you go about drilling.  Come noon, its looking like a failed effort.  They stop drilling, take out the each pipe.  The supervisor then tells me the same thing happened at their previous job in Bawku- they drilled, no waer.  And again, they did no surveying there either.    They were contracted to drill six boreholes in the area, and no surveying has been done at any of the sites.  What?! Seems like they enjoy blowing thousands of dollars for nothing (I was told its 4,000-5,000 Ghana cedis per failed drilling, about $2,000-2,500).  None of it made a bit of sense.  (Martin told me later that there are surveyors all over Bolga, so finding one is not a problem; and Cletus told me that surveyors came out THREE times to survey his area for not only water, but also hazardous chemicals.)  I still want to know who dropped the ball on this one, who didn't do their job.
Within three hours that morning, I couldn't have felt more happiness and elation and then so much disappointment.  One year of work came crashing down.  I wanted to see this through, have one single tangible project to point to and say, "I made that happen."


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