Ethan McCoy, an OIT renewable energy engineering student and current AsoFenix intern, chronicles a trip to the community of Cuajinicuil Nicaragua.
July 13th 2010
Out in community sunlight dictates life, much like I experienced last summer in the waters of SE Alaska. The group of engineers for this outing to Cuajinicuil from AsoFenix includes employees Gustavo and Edwin (Nicaraguans) and two interns Emilee (French) and myself (American). The purpose of the trip is tri-fold; the first of which is to collect information from households about their demographics, work and general economic background to gain a better
picture of who exactly AsoFenix is serving, the second is to gather site data for a solar water pump system that will provide water to most of the houses within the community of Cuajinicuil and the third leg is to provide a training session for community technicians in solar installation and give supervised, hands-on experience for them via household installations.
With the help of community members we have all our gear needed to complete the training and solar installs portaged up to the ridgeline community of Cuajinicuil: Gustavo will prove to be the point man during the two day affair. We arrive in community to have the clouds open up and for the better part of an hour, are held captive in a local’s home following a completed a survey, waiting for the rain to dissipate. After entertaining the few curious children who had followed us from house to house, as Spanish being the base language for the AsoFenix crew and with boredom waiting in the wings, we three non-native French speakers begin to discover the world around us in French. Finished with the domestic inquiries, we spend the next hour or so traversing bean fields and forested areas in light rain, surveying the nearly completed well and potential sites for the tank component of the solar water system. Past sunset and into the evening, Gustavo holds the solar technical training session, attended by at least a dozen curious community members as well as the three technicians.
Up just after sunrise by a rooster, the second and only full day in Cuajinicuil is to be dedicated to household solar installations. After completing the first of four homes, we split into two groups; Edwin and myself with two technicians and Gustavo and Emilee with the third technician. The idea is to have the technicians complete the second and third homes with our supervision and then complete the fourth on their own. The rest of Cuajinicuil is supplied with electricity by a single wind turbine, (a joint project of AsoFenix and another NGO) but four homes are too isolated from the main cluster of homes to be serviced by the turbine and thus are being outfitted with solar systems.
Our home is up some rugged terrain on a false summit of the eastside of a hill, dropping away with an amazing view to the east, the hill continuing up to the west. The installation goes well considering it being the second time for the technicians, some adjustments made from the memory of the first installation and new lessons are learned. At
the finish, the technicians traverse down the rocky topography to return with Gustavo to prepare the final paperwork and instructions: Edwin and I are left near dusk to soak in the view and chat with the family. We end up leaving with a bag of shucked corn, offered in gratitude by the family for an afternoon of work and the installation of technology that will undoubtedly help to soften the rigors of daily life.
The evening concludes with a hike at dusk, back to the centrally located house we had been using as a base and I regret not having brought my headlamp: I did not figure the day would go this long. Over a meal prepared from the kitchen of one of the more lively women of Cuajinicuil, a meeting time is set for the following morning that will precede the roosters in order to complete the hour long decent to catch the bus that will take us to our next project of micro-hydroelectric data collection.