What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gamechangers Extended Deadline

So I must say that this is lucky for us.  I have not heard back from Kaps yet regarding the costing or the areas of emphasis that he would want to put into the proposal.  They are of course in the beginning of their school year there and I'm sure he is quite busy - not to mention with sporadic internet access. 

The deadline has now been extended to October 31st.  This is actually fabulous for us as for two reasons.  One I will be able to go to Makeni, see the specific site where the project will be, and go through a proper planning/proposal process.  It also fits well into my initial itinerary.  I can spend a couple days in Freetown, then walk to Makeni.  This should put me there around the 25th.  We'll have a few days to work on the project and then get it submitted properly.  The second thing is that the two days before I leave there is a conference in NYC put on by Architecture for Humanity (the co-sponsor of gamechangers) that I will be attending.  Therefore, I will be able to do some networking with decision makers as well as benchmarking with others in the field.  It can only make the project's planning, proposal, and chances of success that much better.  Big development, and well received...

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Itinerary (of sorts...)

I have been spending a bit of time over the last week looking over the map and thinking of an itinerary for this trip.  Yet, I am a bit more of a free spirit than the concrete planning type.   So might be that I've got more of an "agenda", actually maybe even more of a "list" of places or things worth aiming to see/get done.  I've found that the most is learned, when the least is done...

So my flight is going to drop me off across the bay from Freetown in the evening on October 18th.  I have been communicating with several non-profits in country and one that I have been working with (Child Help) has offered to meet me at the airport and help me get situated.  My itinerary is pretty flexible from there though.  I would like to spend the first couple days in one place so that I can acclimate to the time change/rest up a bit prior to getting down to hiking.  I'm trying to find the cheapest place to stay in all of Freetown, but there is also a decent chance that I'll head straight for Makeni to meet up with Kaps and take a look at the Gamechangers site.  I would be fine really wherever, but will need a good two nights sleep before starting the walk.  The issue with possibly heading to Makeni right away is that I really want see the whole country on foot - vehicles only in emergency!!  This goes along with my desire to do everything as cheaply as possible and as locals would.  Again, to learn without learning...

After the couple of days acclimating (probably in Freetown) I plan to start walking towards Makeni.  Which way is yet to be determined, again I am wholly flexible.  There are some things that I would like to do around Makeni.  From there I would like to head northeast towards Bumbuna and Kabala.  Then Along the road that loops around and goes back south through Falaba and Kamaron along the Guinea border.  I then plan to climb Mount Bintumani and Sankanbiaiwa on my way to Koidu.  A little time in the east, learning a bit about the mining industry... and then head south and back west. 

I have a list of cities and sites/projects worth seeing, but I would hardly call it a plan, more of an idea.  There are also some US Peace Crops volunteers that I will be stopping to see, but everything is subject to change.  I will go wherever the days/weeks take me.  This to me is the best way to come away with a slid and profound understanding of how it is that the country 'works' - economically, socially, culturally, politically, what have you...



So just about all of my gear has now arrived.  In the last few days I have gotten the solar panel and my new headlamp, as well as most of my clothing.  I have a pair of lightweight quick dry pants that zipper into shorts.  I also have gotten a microweight wool T-shirt for hiking and and a lightweight wool hoodie to keep me warm as needed.  These items will be my staple for the trekking part of the trip (i.e. the stuff to get all sweaty!!).  Today my water purifier and sleeping bag arrived as well.  The sleeping bag is a bit tight (i.e. as a mummy bag should be...), but super light and small.  

All-in-all, I'm pretty much all set.  I have everything I need except for a fully functioning stove.  This is still a bit tricky as I want to use the aluminum can stove but I can't get it to work just right.  I would hate to have to buy a stove, as the one I'd need to guarantee it would work was over $100.  So I'm just gonna keep trying...  ;)

This is gonna keep me warm late at night!!
But fact of the matter is that most all of my gear has arrived now.  I can now really start thinking about the last little things and how I want to pack everything up for the trip.  Someone asked me yesterday if I was ready to go, I was iffy on answering.  I would say unequivocally now - not 18 hours later - that yeah, I'm ready to go!!   


Yeah, so the most frustrating thing of late has been trying to get everything connected.  I have gotten the phone fully connected to the computer it seems.  It still says I need that "driver", but everything seems to be working fine, even connecting the computer to the internet via the phone.  (yes it makes me think about taking the computer... but without power...!?!... hmmm...)  So it seems I've gotten past that part of intgration.  However...

The keyboard now not only won't connect to the phone, but also won't connect to the computer anymore either.  Obviously, I do not need another keyboard for the computer...  With the phone though, I feel like I've gotten at least to understand what I need.  The installation CD that came with the phone only has drivers for the phone's opperating system (symbian) up to the 3rd edition.  My phone has the 5th edition.  So obviously it would seem that I would want to get my hands on the drivers for this more recent edition.  I however can not find them online anywhere.  I also have tried to just simply connect the keyboard to the phone using bluetooth wireless.  This can theoretically happen two ways, the phone giving a code to type in to the keyboard, or the keyboard already having a passcode.  The issue I'm having is that the phone only asks for the keyboards passcode and doesn't offer the option to generate one itself.  There was no passcode that came with the keyboard... so no connectivity.  So now, I'm figuring that if I can get the driver for the keyboard for the operating system I need that I should be ok...  sigh...  I'm 'figuring' though... 

Why don't you just have more on you?!  :p
I put in an email last Thursday to the keyboard manufacturer (with whom I've communicated productively with before), and am hoping they can solve the issue.  There are statements online saying that they have done this before for other systems.  I still haven't heard anything back from them though and its Monday.  Drsim Palce!!  (means "holding my thumbs" in Czech, their equivalent to "crossing one's fingers" for good luck...;)  Uvidime...  We'll see...  ;)

Let there be sunlight!!

So on Friday my solar panel arrived.  It was a cloudy day that I spent pretty much entirely with my family, so I didn't get to experiment with it that day.  Saturday however, was a bright beautiful sunshiny day.  I had run my phone all the way down to one bar out of seven on the battery meter and figured... what better way to experiment!!  I started it charging at 9am and set the timer... 

It was quite discouraging at first.  It took about one hour to go up to the second bar, and then at 3 hours we were still stuck on two bars.  It also seemed that every time that someone sneezed near the solar charger (or the sun went a bit behind a cloud) the phone would stop charging and not pick up the charge again automatically.  We (my entire family was monitoring it) were getting NO WHERE!!  But then the day started to heat up, by 3 and a half hours we hit three bars, then four, five, six, and up to seven at exactly the 5 hour mark.

Simply put, when the sun was low in the northeast United States' autumn sky, we weren't getting much of a charge.  But once the sun got closer to us and heated up, it charged quickly.  I think that in good sun in Sierra Leone I should be able to charge the phone in about two hours, maybe three at the most. 

After initial frustration, this turned out to be a very rewarding conclusion!!  At three hours I was thinking I was screwed..  but two hours later, I had one more box ticked!!  Nice. 

However... the computer is a different story.  It does not even register as being plugged in when on the solar panel.  Yeah we were experimenting with an "inverter" as we didn't have the right plug yet, and that needed to be powered as well.  But regardless, it doesn't look like we will get far with charging the computer this way.  It looks more and more like the computer will end up having to be left at home for this trip.  We shall see, I can get a charger specifically for this model of computer and try it.  But when do you stop spending money!?!  I do need to eat over there...  :-/

GPS Tracking!!!

(Written Friday October 1st)

So one positive aspect of yesterday that came about was GPS Tracking. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page you will see a map embedded in this site that shows where I am. Quite a nice little thing. It means that if at any one time you want to know where I am, check the map!!   I am currently mobile right now and hoping to experiment with the tracking to see how accurate it will be. But I'm sitting in the back of a minivan and it doesn't seem to be getting much of a signal.

The way the system works is you just go to this website (www.instamapper.com), and you download software to install into your phone. The phone then uses GPS satelite and GSM phone signals to locate you. The set up is tied to the phone number, so I'll have to set it up again for my Sierra Leone phone number once I get it.  But apparently it can locate you in Europe within 10 meters, the US 25 meters, and the rest of the world within 50 meters.

For this project's purposes though it'll locate me close enough for everyone to know basically where I am. I still have to figure out where best to put it on the page.  I was hoping to just put it on one side panel, but it takes up a huge amount of space.  We'll see. More will be known once we get back and can analyze the data on the website.

Which I now have done!!  Results are this:  I can control when the GPS location is transmitted which is very important for the cost of data usage.  I took a brief little trip the other day and while the whole trip showed up on my Instamapper account page, it didn't seem to show the whole path on my webpage, but simply where I was at that very moment.  I'd love to be able to have the path that I've taken mapped out for everyone to see.  I've gotten onto their site again and tried to change the settings so that it would show my last 50 locations, we'll see once I go out again.  But even so, it may just be only where I am at that last moment.  This still would be a great thing!!  To know at all times within a few meters of where I am on the other side of the world!!  Nice!! 

Nokia... :(

The following post was written September 30th, from my phone.  It was however not submitted at that time because this experiment was not successful and I have yet to figure out how to make this work!!

So this is a bit of an experiment. I am typing this post into this new mobile phone to see how it could work while in Sierra Leone. It is obviously at a typing speed much slower than my thought, so I wouldnt say it was really the best option, but worth an experiment.

Today's a tough day, frustrating. To sum it up, I spent an hour on the phone with Nokia customer service only to be told the issue would go higher up the tech support ladder, but that they will have to call me back in 2 to 3 business days...!?!? Basically their support system is that the customer service person has to email the technical service people while you wait on the phone (without even any hold music!!). You can't speak to tech service directly. They relay your stuff via email, then answers back to themselves and then back to you. But their answers didn't help me, so another email, another hold... ?!?! Absolutly absurd!!  Worst customer service system EVER!!

So that pretty much sums up the day. Lots of effort, no tangible results. This new phone has the same major issues as the last one and Nokia has no clue how to even let you speak to someone who knows anything, nevermind to be able to solve this problem. It's a joke really. Incredibly annoying..

As it was, in writing trying to post this, the phone allowed me to write it in the notes function and to copy it.  But there was no paste option once I opened my web browser on the phone.  Thus, it didn't get posted...  Back to drawing board...