Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Project Site in Buchanan!

NOTE: You can left-click on any picture to enlarge it and/or view all the photos as a slideshow.

This Google Earth satellite photo of the Buchanan area shows the locations of the two Pillar properties, which are about a mile and a half apart.  The Atlantic Ocean, which is not far away, can be seen at the bottom left. Also note the shallow bodies of water toward the top of the photo--these are arms of the slow-moving Benson River system that drains this low-lying coastal region and eventually flows into the ocean (off the photo) to the northwest.
This is a closer view of the PROJECT BUCHANAN property, a 9.6-acre peninsula of undeveloped land, covered with grass and low coastal scrub. The useable west-to-east length of the land is approximately 1000 feet.

Two days after we arrived in Buchanan, Paula and I walked up the road with Gabriel to see the new land...  I was the photographer on this trip, so I didn't get into too many of the pictures!

After a 40-minute hike from Gabriel's home, we finally arrived at the property.

We stopped for a few moments at the southwest corner, ...
... then we walked further along the shore to another lookout over the water.
 From a higher location on the land, this view southeast over the river and the surrounding mangrove wetland is magnificent!

We noticed immediately that there were termite hills almost everywhere!

In fact I counted no fewer than 55 separate termite mounds on the property!
We expect no particular threat to our buildings.  In the tropics the ubiquitous termite is usually taken into account and special construction is used to minimize the impact of these potentially destructive insects!  Termite hills can actually be very useful as a source of earth material for making tough weather-resistant "dirt blocks".  We may want to consider using this type of block in the construction of the smaller buildings on campus.
As you have already seen in the satellite photos above, a sizable portion of this property is covered with low trees and scrub.  On the ground this dense vegetation made it difficult for us to determine the best locations for buildings and other campus components (such as a soccer field and other sports facilities).  After going to town to purchase an ax, several machetes (known as "cutlasses" in Liberia), and a few other hand tools, we asked Gabriel to hire several young men to start "brushing" (clearing) the land.  By doing this, we hoped that the "up's and down's" of the west-to-east "ridge" of the peninsula would be easier to see.

By midday everyone was ready for lunch...
... and for some "time out" to sharpen cutlasses.
For several days the team worked very hard, ...
... including Emmanuel Sieh, who is a senior high student at the Pillar school in Buchanan.
This is the view eastward as one enters the west end of the property.  Here we hope to build a house that will serve as a residence for a Pillar teacher's family as well as a security place for the storage of construction materials and tools.  Farther onto the property, you can see where palm trees and other vegetation will have to be cleared to make room for the soccer field.
A west-to-east distance of about 250 feet along the top of the ridge was found to be fairly level and, in my opinion, would be the most suitable location for the construction of the two 2-story school buildings that have been proposed, as well as a small auditorium between them. We tied small white plastic bags in the trees to indicate the approximate locations of the back corners of one of the two classroom buildings.
Even further east, beyond the school buildings, there is room for a basketball court.
This area in front (south) of the school will require further clearing and some landscaping.
Down the same slope from the school is this lower shelf of flat land. I anticipate a simple road entering the property from the west and winding along this southern side of the peninsula. "Hey, Paula! Wait for me! I'm just trying to get another picture!"
A few guest cabins could be built on the far eastern point of the peninsula (seen above) and be rented out to visitors in order to help with operational and maintenance costs.
In this final Google Earth satellite photo of the PROJECT BUCHANAN property, I have sketched in my suggested layout for the campus. Of course this proposal is provisional and may have to be modified as we move forward with construction (hopefully in January 2010).