Saturday, July 31, 2010

My First Real Matatu Ride (A Visit to Bondo University College)

This afternoon, Tom and I went to Bondo to meet Professor Agong, who is running the brand new Bondo University College, which will have several different schools, though the one I am most interested in is the School of Engineering, which will focus on renewable energy and doing work that will support the local community. We traveled there via matatu, which was relatively uneventful, other than the crazy guy that was bothering me while we waited and the fact that when we were almost to our destination, the matatu driver decided to change his route and take a turn. Such is life in Kenya. So we walked the rest of the way, probably 1-2 kilometers. Tom suggested that I take a motorbike, but I don't think I'm ready for that quite yet, so I said that we could just walk.

When we arrived, we were greeted very warmly by Professor Agong, and we went into his office. His assistant from Maseno University had come with him to Bondo, so it was nice to see her again as well. While I mainly brought Tom with me for help and protection, I also wanted him to come and meet Professor Agong because I am trying to help them work together and form some sort of formal collaboration. I am not sure what form that will take, but Professor Agong has already said that he wants to come visit the Fab Lab while I am here to further discuss the collaboration, which I think would be really great for the Fab Lab because they would have access to more students and to increased funding. Since they are not attached to any university, it is difficult for them to get any public funds in Kenya. However, if Bondo University were to get funds, they could allocate some to the Fab Lab.

Professor Agong seemed very happy to see me again, and has already invited me to become a junior lecturer at Bondo University, which I think would be a lot of fun. He has also asked that I come to stay at Bondo for next Monday and Tuesday, and even offered to accommodate me free of charge, which was very kind. So I'll be headed there early next week to discuss things a bit more with him. I think there is great potential for this collaboration, as the lab here could certainly use some more support and it would be a great place for the Bondo University students to do their practicals or to work on projects.

Professor Agong gave us a ride back because he was headed into Kisumu, and Tom and I went to check with Patrick, who had been working with the solar cells that I brought over from the U.S. Tomorrow he will be starting to do some testing to see if the batteries I brought can be charged using the solar cells and then determine how many LEDs we can light and for how many hours. This will be helpful for them as they move forward with their LED lamp project. Currently they have an inexpensive model that is electricity-charged but provides about 25 hours of light on one charge, which is much better than the similarly-priced lamps made in China. However, in order to really get the local community to accept the lamps, Tom and Patrick want them to be recharged by solar energy so that once a family buys a lamp, there is no additional cost unless something breaks, i.e. they don't have to pay for recharging. These lamps are meant to be an improvement over kerosene or paraffin lamps, which are health hazards and over time are very expensive. The reason they remain popular is because the up-front cost of one lamp and of the fuel is very low, whereas with the LED lamps the up-front cost is great (Ksh 20, 200 per week for fuel vs. Ksh 1500).

The rest of the evening I just relaxed in the Fab Lab, which was fun. I talked with some students and wrote this post. I also spoke to Aggre, Clarice's nephew, whom I met last time, and we will hopefully meet up tomorrow in Kisumu. I'll be there for the day at the trade show, since the Fab Lab has a table there, and I will also be able to meet some people from Kisumu Polytechnic. The Fab Lab at ARO collaborates with the polytechnic, so students come from there to be interns here. Hopefully it will be a fun day, and I'm excited to catch up with Aggre, especially since we can't communicate while I'm in the U.S.

Well, that's all I've done so far. I'm also making some plans for the 14th, when I will be in Nairobi for the day. Most likely I will see Tosh, and I'll also be meeting up with Claudia, another friend Ilana, and a professor and students from University of Hartford. Should be a fun day. If it turns out I have finished my research earlier than expected, I may head to Nairobi sooner. I would love to be able to have a night out at the clubs before I come back home.

1 comment:

  1. I can see the nameplate now: "Sharon Langevin, Junior Lecturer at Bondo University"

    Congrats!! That is super exciting. Miss you!