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November 5, 2010

Situated precisely in the sunniest spot on Tribewanted’s land is our wonderful new wooden solar tower constructed of timber cut from the surrounding forest. After weeks of no electricity except that from our generator dubbed “Necessary Evil,” we have silent, sunny, clean power!   Laptops, cell phones and Ipods can be charged quietly in the solar hut- no noisy generator needed!  At night we have rope lights in the tree above our dining table, so no more head lamps to see our food.

the solar tower nearing completion

Mark Ax, of Sea Bright Solar based in New Jersey, has been our solar power specialist.   Not only did Mark and his team design and build the tower, he worked tirelessly for a month showing infinite amounts of patience instructing locals in the fundamentals of wiring and solar energy. Covered from head to toe with an awful rash from exposure to creosote, a wood preservative, Mark still managed to work full days to ensure the tribe would have power before his departure.

Mark and team measuring the solar panels
a lot to learn

Mark and I flew from Freetown to London together.  The day we were to leave, I recall a very funny conversation between Mark and one of the local men who was trying to install a switch for the lights over the trees, the last task to complete before we left.   It was obvious this man did not completely understand what a hot wire was. Mark, the ever-patient teacher watching over his shoulder, said out of genuine concern for this man’s future well-being, ” Do you want to die?”  The man stopped what he was doing and quietly mumbled, “no.”  Mark, not convinced that the consequences of making the wrong wire choice were completely understood, looked him in the eye and  asked with a little more urgency, “Do you want your heart to stop?”  Silence.  “Well do you?” Mark asked.   That seemed to get his attention and with a smile, he shook his head and said, “No, I don’t want to die.”  Mark said, “Well then, if you don’t want to die, then don’t touch this one.”  It seems his message got through and everyone is still alive and well at John Obey and enjoying electricity!

Mark gives the hot wire warning

Well done, Mark and team. Congratulations!

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