I finish as quickly as I can at the hospital. Lightening rounds and a couple of simple operations and I find myself heading towards where my heart has been all morning. I open the back gate and step into the bush. Grass is starting to push it's way up through sand transforming this desert into it's annual reawakening an African savannah. This year the rains have started early and have been regular. No one is talking about famine this time. I walk across the field towards the church and pass a couple of sticks stuck in the ground that serve as goal posts for the afternoon soccer matches between the neighborhood kids.
In the distance, I spot Jamie amongst a crowd of African children surrounding a small metal brace towering out of the masses. The slow chug and then roar of a pull started diesel motor breaks the silence as I see a motor slowly rising along the supports towards the top. As I draw near I see a metal pipe attached to the bottom of the motor and some huge plastic tubes coming off the bottom running to another small motor that has just been started as well. Coming out of this motor is an even larger, green hose going into a pit filled with muddy water which is starting to disappear as the metal pipe starts turning, the motor is lowered and sand filled muddy water pours out from under the apparatus, down a channel, into a small pit for collecting the larger debris and then through another canal into the big water pit.
A well is being drilled before my very eyes!
As the motor gets to the bottom of the rig, it is shut off. The pipe is loosened from the motor and then locked in a brace that will keep it from slipping forever into the bottom of the water reservoir. The motor is then restarted and hand cranked up enough to screw in another pipe and continue the process of up and down, up and down with the drill bit getting progressively further towards a clean water source. I take off my scrub shirt, roll up my scrub pants, take off my sandals and jump into the muddy fray.
Suddenly, one kid yells to another kid to start the water pump. We haven't attached the other pipe yet and a powerful jet of clay filled water spurts out on Jamie, Doulgue and I covering us from head to toe in mud. Everyone starts laughing while we silently plot our revenge.
Finally, the well is 85 feet deep. We slowly and excruciatingly reverse the process to remove the pipes one by one. Finally, the drill bit is out. We bring in the large plastic pipe that will be the well casing. It is bright blue and the first one to go down as little slits all along it to let water, but not soil in. We have to modify the end so it will go in easier by cutting out triangular wedges with a hacksaw and heating up the plastic with a propane stove so we can bend the end closed. We then lower it into the pit and hold on while another one screws into the end. None of them want to screw in until we realize we have to grease it well for it to work as the plastic just grips itself.
We have 3-4 ten foot lengths in when we discover that the threads are bad. Now we have to try and pull it back out to unscrew that last one. It's difficult as the muddy water in the hole wants to suck it in and now the pipe is covered in clay and quite slippery. We finally wedge it with a large adjustable wrench and a plethora of hands but it feels like it'll slip away at any second. We manage to finally unscrew the old one and screw on a new one and slowly lower it back until we have 8 sections in for a total of 80 feet.
It's revenge time. The first boy sees me coming and backs away laughing...right into the arms of Doulgue. We haul him over and baptize him in the sump pit as a fitting celebration of the arrival of clean water for our elementary school and junior high. We go home sunburned, tired and very satisfied.