Today was to be the day that we installed the computers at the high school. We woke up around 5:45 and began the process of getting ready for the day. Breakfast was at 6:30 again and we arrived early for coffee. This day, we knew to wait a little for our real breakfast and not to spoil it with corn flakes. We had watermelon, bananas, quiche (that was more like cornbread) and beans, of course. I love beans, but it may be awhile before I eat any after getting home. As always, the coffee was good and the orange juice tasted like Tang. Anyway, after breakfast, Bob talked to us about what we would be doing. The same things essentially, except that the computers had arrived. The elementary school painters would be putting another coat on the outside of the building in the morning and then would be painting at the high school after lunch. We were getting ready to leave when Jose, the ranch manager, asked us to join them in a circle outside. The local pastor had his guitar and they sang a couple of songs in Spanish. He invited us to join in with English, if we knew the songs, but I didn’t know any of them. He also introduced everyone on their staff — probably about 30 people and we introduced ourselves in our groups.
We learned today that the children arrive in school at 7:00AM and leave at noon. We left at 7:15AM and headed over to the school. The computers were in a truck and we saw them for the first time. The box said “Partner” which no one was familiar with. When we arrived, we were taken to the computer room at the high school. It was the only room in the school that had glass in the windows. It also had the same bars on the windows and there was an air conditioner in the room that actually worked. We turned it on immediately to be sure. The installers from the computer store were there to meet us. They started arranging the computer desks, which we found out was donated by the store that sold us the computers. The desks were being set up like a normal classroom and, of course, this was going to be a problem with wiring all over the place. Kurt and Richard (the computer geeks) finally convinced them to arrange them with a line down each side of the wall, then a double line of desks facing each other in the center of the classroom. We looked at the wiring and realized that the outlet that we were going to use for the new computers in the middle line ran from the lightbulb overhead. We just knew that this would be a problem. They had brought several power strips with them and a surge protector, so they “daisy-chained” the power strips together down the middle of the two lines of desks. I actually think this may be a term that computer geeks use, ie “daisy-chain”. Anyway, we unloaded the CPU’s and UPS’s and placed them under the desks. While we were doing this, Jose went to pick up the monitors back at the ranch. Kurt and Richard worked very well together, designing the layout of the desks and discussing the logistics of everything, including how the teacher would be using the programs, etc. I was very impressed. I was the inventory control, the recording secretary, trash collector, plastic wrapping taker-offer and general flunky. I was also the ambassador with the kids until Byron arrived, when they took pieces of foam from the boxes and made a box, then proceeded to bat it around in a circle for about 15 minutes. It was a treat to watch. I have found the Hondurans to be very resourceful and they are really into recycling. 🙂
Anyway….. back to the computers. Richard was worried that there was not going to be enough power for all 25 computers in the classroom, but sure enough, they all powered up and the technicians began setting them up. We also had 5 color printers and a laser printer. 4 of these would be in the classroom and 2 would be in the library. We also had bought them a projector and there was much discussion about whether it should be in the classroom or the library. Finally, the computer teacher won out and it was placed in the classroom. You could have lived and died in his smile all day long. We noticed that many of the power strips did not have the third prong (the ground prong) on them and we put them aside. As we were plugging in the computers, Richard noticed that there was a little current in the CPUs. You could put your hand on the box and you could feel the current. Not good. I immediately thought it must be a grounding problem. We looked at the wiring, which was in plain view and, sure enough, only two wires. Whooops…… We looked at all the wiring and did find one outlet that had a green grounding wire. This was the outlet that the previous ancient computers used. We decided to check the ground outside just to be sure and the teacher showed me which way to go to get around the building. I found the air-conditioner and knew that was the area we needed to search. Sure enough, Richard found a green wire running outside, but it was disconnected from the ground rod and just hanging free. Whoops again. I told them I could wire it and everyone was really impressed. The more I thought about it, though, the more I thought I might run into problems because of the odd way the entire thing was hooked up. It was obvious that this was a retrofit, ie originally with no power at all. It was obvious that it was done by an amateur. We found an extension cord and plugged it into the outlet that would end up being grounded. Then I smelled something burning and sure enough, when the UPS was running off of battery power only, it started to smoke. We unplugged it and took it outside before it burned the place down. It was good to know this ahead of time. Anyway, it was time for lunch, so we walked down to the road to catch the van back to the ranch. When we arrived, we noticed Mark in the kitchen serving up the food. We had fried chicken with some sort of wonderful gravy and some other things that I can’t remember. I’m sure we had beans, rice and watermelon. After lunch, we went back to the school and attached the ground wire to the rebar. It took much longer than it should have, but between Richard, Byron, the handy man from the ranch and me, we got it attached. No telling how old the clamp was. We then went off to the library where the technicians were installing the computers.
These computers were to be internet ready, but they had to use phone cards for them to get service. Unfortunately, the provider that they were using did not get enough service to power the internet. The owner of the computer store will be coming tomorrow to assess the situation. So Richard and I went back to the classroom to look the situation over. We found that the technicians had changed everything so that they were attached to the ungrounded outlet. Good grief. ……. 😦 So we went ahead and changed it back. We also found out that they had used a couple of the power strips that were only two prong (no ground). As we were changing all the wiring around, I got quite a shock for some reason. We never did figure out why, but the problem seems to be resolved and everything is grounded for the time being. We did talk Bob into hiring an electrician to ground every outlet in the room so that there was no way the computers could be plugged into an ungrounded outlet. We checked the box in the library and that looked professionally done, so there were no worries about those computers. We finished the day and returned back to the ranch for showers.
Dinner was some sort of beef, homemade chips, watermelon and pasta with a very salty white cheese. We had a meeting afterward with ideas from the ranch manager about what else could be done in the valley for the future. We also heard from Emmalisa about an idea to get the NGOs organized better. She told us there was one mission group for every 7 people in Haiti and that many times, people would come to help the Hondurans and find that someone else doing the exact same thing had come the week before; hence, nothing to do . This meeting will be in Atlanta around the 20th of April. I will keep you advised about that. Everyone talked about the things they had done that day. Mark enjoyed working with the ladies in the kitchen and talking about how to change the temperature and cooking time of some things to keep them more moist. We found out that Blake can mix cement in a hole in the ground. We found that Ron and Fran were continuing to see people during clinic hours and that this was the best painting team Dave had ever seen. George said this was the best trip he had been on with the hardest workers he had ever seen. Dave agreed and this made us “newbies” feel welcome. The young people were happy to be here with us and enjoyed being with “the old guys”. The princess of the day would be Debra, my roomie. We were happy about that.
It’s about 9:30PM here and I will head to bed shortly. Last night, I read my Kindle with a flashlight because the lights went out a little early. I was amazed at the amount of bugs that were attracted and had to shut it down prematurely before I was eaten alive.
Tomorrow we will continue the same operations, although it seems the group building floors has done so well that they have run out of floors to do this trip. I am sorry about that as I had hoped to see how this was done. Apparently, it was mixing concrete in a hole in the ground, then carrying it with 5 gallon buckets to the house and smoothing it out. The local people then continued to smooth it while it cured. We even saw one that had some stain in it and it was really quite beautiful. I had never seen this before — sort of artsy-looking. Anyway, we’ll be up early tomorrow for another day.