Thursday, July 24, 2008

Answer to Mike's Question

Most electricity is diesel, but are there any renewable energy projects in your area? I saw an awesome post somewhere about building a solar and wind powered communication network somewhere in Africa.

Nope. In the South a lot of the power comes from the hydroelectric dam in Ghana but the North isn't connected to that grid and it's 100% diesel. There is such high demand for electricity in the South though that they had to implement rolling blackouts pretty much everywhere. To help relieve the pressure they've decided to connect the generator in the North to the grid in the South since it's not being used to full capacity yet (it was originally designed to power the entire country of Ghana before they built the dam - it's huge).

The government made a pledge to bring electricity to every regional capital and though I'm not sure I think they've got it done already. In any event, electricity is relatively widespread and it's just not cost-effective to use renewable energy since prices are subsidized. I don't know if it will make sense when they drop the subsidy (which they're about to do due to the diesel shortage).

I've been to a couple of health centers in villages that did have government-bought solar panels but they were only powerful enough to run the radio. The refrigerators they have to keep vaccines cool are run on kerosene. Anyone who can afford solar panels already lives where there's electricity so it doesn't really make much sense to buy them.

As for the communication network, it's not really that necessary. There are tons of cell phone towers in places without electricity which are run on diesel generators. Cell phone companies are just that profitable apparently.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Robot Wars

Most everyone from the group I trained with is leaving over the next two months, which blows as I'll probably never see most of them ever again. On the plus side, it gave me an excuse to commission going-away paintings for my friends. I gave a painter who calls himself Picasso some really vague description of robots attacking a city with people fleeing, and this is what he came up with:

MTN welcomes you to

The sign above this tollbooth said "MTN welcomes you to Cotonou", until they realized that it's actually in another city and decided to paint over the Cotonou part.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Diesel and Inflation

There's still no diesel fuel to be had, but the government raised the price about 50% for whenever it starts getting sold again. No one actually knows what's happening, but the assumption is that since the government sells diesel at a subsidized price, they just couldn't afford to keep selling it with oil prices where they are.

This basically means we'll have wicked bad inflation soon since most goods are shipped by trucks and electricity is mostly produced by diesel generators. This is on top of already-rising prices for pretty much everything else.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Welding and Diesel Shortage

I learned to weld, which was fun. I read online what all the safety issues were the day before, and then when the guy showed me how it worked he violated pretty much all of them. I kept asking him if it was a problem inhaling the fumes or holding onto the thing with the electrical current running through it, but he didn't seem to mind even though he was aware of the danger.

In other news there's literally no diesel fuel in Benin, which is bad as all the Peace Corps vehicles have diesel engines and our generators run on diesel. This is especially bad timing for a shortage since the new volunteers fly in tonight and they have to be shuttled around for the next three months. On the plus side, there's plenty of gasoline so taxis and buses are still available.

Critical Thinking Camp

We taught some kids to play sudoku.

We started off with 4 by 4 grids.

Working in a group.

All together at the board. The hardest part is that they all kept making the assumption that if a number wasn't specifically forbidden, then it was correct, which is the worst possible assumption to make. Some of the kids started to get it towards the end though.

Note in Latrine

This picture was taken in a latrine at a high school:

"Don't allow our masters to fuck you. Whoever allow them will miss her life."

Essentially it's imploring girls not to sleep with teachers for grades so that they don't accidentally get pregnant.