Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Photo Report #6: Video Tour of the School

In my last report, I showed you pictures of the first PROJECT BUCHANAN classroom building, which is still under construction.  In this report, I would like to roll a short video clip, so that you can walk through the building with me.

The small city of Buchanan, where the new school campus is being developed,  is located on Liberia's Atlantic coast and is just 5 degrees above the equator.  As you can imagine, the temperatures and the humidity there are fairly high most of the year.  Therefore, when we were planning this building, every effort was made to design classrooms that would be as comfortable as possible for the students.  (And just so you know... air conditioning was not one of our options!)
Fortunately the school is located on high ground overlooking the Benson River, and just a mile and a half to the south is the ocean (to the right, in this photo).  Since the building lies in an east-west direction, the prevailing sea breeze will provide maximum airflow through every classroom.  The walls are 12 feet high, and each of the four classrooms has 6 large windows

In this brief report, I would like to take you on a short walking tour through PROJECT BUCHANAN's first school building.  Of course, at this point, only the walls are up, but that's OK... without the roof, there will be lots of natural "sky-light" for the video!

So come with me now, and let's get started on the tour!  It'll only take 3 or 4 minutes...

To start the video, just click the "Play" button in the middle of the screen...  After the video starts, for the best quality picture, click the "Change quality" (cogwheel) button in the taskbar at the bottom of the picture and select "480p"... To make the picture bigger, click the "Full screen" button (bottom right)...  You may need to turn up the volume on the video (the red slider in the taskbar) or the volume on your computer!

In February (2013), Gordon Tiner is planning to take another work team to Liberia.  This time his plan is to get the roof on this first PROJECT BUCHANAN school building!  The dry season is already returning to Liberia, which means that over the next few months we will need to purchase (and truck in) the timber, the sheets of roofing, and the other materials needed for this construction job.   Then, when Gordon arrives in mid-February, he and his team will be able to get right to work!

Monday, October 22, 2012

2012 Photo Report #5: Campus & Classrooms

NOTE: You can left-click on any picture to enlarge it and/or view all the photos as a slideshow.  (Most definitely you will want to enlarge the pictures of the GIANT SPIDER I found while out walking the property!)

We are all looking forward to the day when the first PROJECT BUCHANAN school building is completed, so that classes can begin here on the new campus--perhaps as early as next school year!

This is what can be seen of the PROJECT BUCHANAN property from a hill not far away.  The building off to the left is not on our land, but the blue roof is a giveaway--that's the house where the New Jersey team worked so hard this summer, putting in windows and ceilings.

Since this is a clear sunny day--which is not that common in the middle of the rainy season--, let's go for a short walk along the water's edge on the PROJECT BUCHANAN property.

The tropical morning air is humid and still, and the Benson River on the south shore is quiet and peaceful.  This view down an overgrown trail is particularly beautiful.

From higher ground on the rounded ridge of the peninsula, the view down to the water and across to the other side is pristine.  Rarely is a day in the humid tropics as clear as this!

Suddenly I notice something suspended motionless between the branches of the trees.  Wow!  That must be one of the largest spiders I have ever seen!  We will have to come here later to check this out!

Well finally... here I am in one of these many report pictures!  Actually, this is a flashback to 2010, when Paula and I were in Liberia for the summer.  So she must have taken this shot...

...and now I guess I have the camera back!  On this overcast afternoon, Paula and I were having a look at the footings that had just been cast for the first PROJECT BUCHANAN school building.

We were already excited!  From that 100-ft X 30-ft concrete rectangle in the ground would rise the walls of the first classrooms on the new campus...

...and now, two years later, here are those walls!  When we arrived in Buchanan this summer, Flomo was just finishing this work!

This is the west end of the school, with the front of the building (right) overlooking the river down the slope.

This photo, and the next two, pan the front of the school (from left to right).  Each of the four classrooms in this building is about 30 ft X 24 ft, and each one can be entered from the 6-ft-wide "porch corridor" that runs along the front of the building, between the two end classrooms.

At the center of the building, between the two middle classrooms, there is a breezeway (right half of photo) going from the front porch to the back of the school.

The two classrooms at the east end of the building are pretty much a mirror image of the two classrooms at the west end.

The view here is from the east-end classroom, out the door and down the front porch to the west-end classroom door.  (In temperate parts of the US, schools typically have an inside hallway, or corridor, with classrooms on both sides; but that design does not work well in a warm humid climate, where continuous airflow through the classrooms is an absolute 'must'.)

Because the building is only one classroom wide and there is a breezeway between the two middle classrooms, it was possible for each classroom to have (essentially) 3 exterior walls and no less than 6 large windows!  Only one wall in each classroom--the wall that will be at the 'front' of the room--has no windows or door.  This, of course, is where the blackboards will be mounted, and they will be well-lit by the windows on the other three walls.

Let's take a look out one of these windows at the building's east end...

...Recognize that area?  That's the lavatory building where the New Jersey team was installing drain pipes earlier (see my last post).  In October, when the heavy rains start to taper off, Flomo will be casting the floor slab out there.

"Wait a minute!  Isn't that spider out there somewhere among those trees?"...

..."Thanks for reminding me!  Let's go find it again!  I think biology field trips are going to create themselves around here...starting now!"

"Look up... there it is!"

"Wow!  That thing's as big as my hand!"

"Isn't that amazing?  Beautiful, even!  Looks like one of those relatively common golden silk orb-weaver spiders!"

A week or so later, on a very overcast day, I found that the spider was still thereWell, where did I think it would go?  In this sheltered spot between the trees, the days are not too hot and the nights are never cold.  It rains almost every day, so there's no danger of dehydration.  And since she doesn't move around a whole lot--yes, it's a 'she', because the males of this genus are much smaller!--, she really doesn't need much food.  In fact, to conserve energy, these spiders eat their damaged webs and in this way recycle the materials needed to make new strands of silk.  So time is on her side, but sooner or later some hapless flying thing--maybe even a small bird!--will blunder into her golden trap, and then she will be able to nourish those eggs inside her.  When the time is right, she will descend to the ground to lay them in the leaf litter.  Eventually she will die, but by then her offspring will be climbing up into these same trees to repeat the complex, instinctive behaviors of their parents.

In general, golden silk orb-weavers (genus Nephila) tend to mind their own business and are relatively harmless to humans.  Besides helping to keep insect populations in check, perhaps part of their "purpose" is to give science teachers like me something to marvel at.  In this case I got to take a few pictures, which now I have somehow managed to work into the storyline of a missions report!

Now then... back to the other part of the real world!  Next February (2013), when Gordon Tiner brings another work team over from New Jersey, he is hoping to put the roof on this building.  After that, there will be walls to plaster, ceilings to put up, windows to put in, and floors to put down!  There's really still a lot of work to be done!
Hey, before I let you go... Would you like to watch a short, one-minute tutorial on how to get your car started when all else fails and you know the battery is just about gone?  Here's my friend Prince to give you a few pointers that he's picked up along the way!  While we were in Buchanan, he used this method several times, and it always worked!  Your off-camera, play-by-play commentator will be Jason Young...

To start the video, just click the "Play" button (bottom left)...  To make the picture bigger, click the "Full screen" button (bottom right)...  You may need to turn up the volume on your computer!

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Photo Report #4: Pipes & More Plumbing

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

One of the last major tasks for the New Jersey team this summer was to install the drains in the school's future lavatory building.
In the background you see the east end of what will soon be PROJECT BUCHANAN's first classroom facility (which I will tour with you in my next post).  In the foreground are the footings for the 30 ft X 30 ft lavatory building.  The pile of dirt in each 'room' will soon be leveled out so that Gordon and the team can start installing drainage pipes.

Viewed eastward from the school, you can see that the plan for this building is to have four separate restrooms--boys' and girls' (for students) and men's and women's (for faculty)--with breezeways through the building in both directions.

Many different lengths of pipe would be needed, but Gordon Tiner (right) had it all figured out.  All Jim Purcaro would have to do was take his small hand saw and cut the 20-ft lengths of PVC in all the right places and as straight as possible!  (I'm kidding, Jim... it was a big job and it did take you a long time to get it all done, out there in the hot sun!)

Gordon also said it was important to smooth off the raggedy cut ends of the pipes, so that later they would fit together properly when we glued them together.

So Jim measured each piece that was needed, ...

...sawed it, ...

...smoothed the cut end, ...

...and then explained to Prince why he was sure he had done it all exactly right!  (Actually, I made that up... I have no idea what Jim was saying when I took this photo!)

At the lavatory building, the four drain units we had assembled earlier have already been buried, one in each room.  As you can see, there will be four stalls in each room (with sinks on the opposite wall).

The drains from both front rooms needed to be routed to a central drain running out of the building at the back, so Gordon started assembling the pieces.

Then he applied the adhesive...

...and Flomo helped him force the pieces of pipe together.

A long section of pipe was laid in place...

...and then it was forced a short distance out the back wall.

Finally the drains from the two front rooms (behind me and the camera!) were connected to the long pipe leading to the exterior.

Everything fit together perfectly!

Gordon grabbed a level to check the pitch (slope) on the drain toward the outside...

...and that was looking good too!

Each of the 16 toilet drains, as well as the floor drain in the center of the breezeways, needed to have a foot-long vertical extension pipe added to it, in order to bring it above the level of the future floor slab.
Here Jim is cutting those extension pieces.  Three of them have already been glued to the toilet drains in the foreground, and the tops of these drain pipes have been capped off temporarily with duct tape.

Now Gordon has just glued the extension to the central floor drain.

To make sure all the horizontal sections of pipe would maintain the correct slope toward the outside, soil was gently shoveled in underneath them to support them properly...

...and then the pipes were covered over with sand.

Back in the 1980s, Edison (left) was one of my students at Oceanview Christian School in River Cess.  Now he lives in Buchanan with his family.  This afternoon, while we were laying drainage pipes at the lavatory, he showed up with his two sons and said that they had come out to the PROJECT BUCHANAN work site to volunteer for a few hours, wherever they were needed.  Wow!  They grabbed shovels and started digging a couple of ditches that were needed for burying the side drains (one is seen here)During the following week, Edison came over in the evening to Gabriel's house where I was staying, and we hung out doing stuff on our laptops.  It was a great time for us to reconnect!

By the time I left Buchanan in early August, this is how far the work on the lavatory building had progressed: All the drains had been installed, the future 'washrooms' and 'breezeways' had been filled in with dirt and leveled over, and a pit for the school septic tank was almost finished (off to the right).  In the early dry season--perhaps in November--Flomo will cast the floor slab.  Hopefully when Gordon returns with another New Jersey team next February, everything will be ready for him to supervise the building of the walls.

Looking east you can see the end of the PROJECT BUCHANAN property where the peninsula juts out into the Benson River.  But just beyond the lavatory there is still enough level ground for another large building--a great place for the chapel/auditorium.  From here the view over the mangroves is quiet and peaceful in every direction!