2009-11-13: Bucket Stove Part Two

We removed the form two days ago and I am happy to report that the stove might turn out to be a winner. I was worried that the bucket sides had expanded too much and would have wedged the now curing concrete permanently into a breakfast cracker bucket tomb. O.k., another rabbit trail opportunity about concrete. Don’t ever say concrete is drying or has dried. If it did that it would crumble to tiny
bits of aggregate. Concrete ‘cures’ or ‘hydrates’. If fact, some argue it never stops curing and gets harder and harder as time goes on.   

To remove the concrete I first chipped away the thin layer around the edge of the bucket and pried it back a bit with a screwdriver. This worked a little but began cracking the bucket. As I maneuvered around the form my senses were Samalu and a few suspicious bystanders had money on me never getting the thing out. But thankfully I remembered the trick my dad showed me with a welding torch when we popped the flywheel off the clutch plate of my 68 Ford F100. Things that heat up expand. So, I poured hot water over the bucket and the stove slid right out. 

I then quickly realized my Aggie engineering had overlooked an important step. I forgot to mark the side of the stove body where the entrance to the fire chamber was. So I started on the top of the stove, formerly bottom of the bucket. Since the egg carton had floated, the top of the fire chamber was now 3-4” below the top of the stove. The concrete was still curing so chipping away wasn’t too difficult. I finally found the carton and chipped away the top opening to match the diameter of the void within the concrete body. 

The next step was finding the entrance to the fire shaft on the side of the bucket. I lightly tapped the concrete around the stove sides and found the void. The concrete was very thin so that part was easy, but digging the egg carton out was more difficult with the nails. After about two hours the carton was free and most of the nails where still solidly in place forming a nice shelf for the firewood. We set the stove aside to let cure. It is best to wait at least 7 days before firing it up and ideal to wait 28 days as this is the magical day concrete fully cures.

Prototype #2 will use PVC pipe as the chamber and I will sacrifice a bucket to make a firmer form. I don’t think the islander’s have the patience to carve out an egg crate from a concrete bucket and the PVC will create more uniform shaft walls hopefully increasing the vacuum effect of the air. More to come on this exciting topic!

I was hesitant to post anything about the following subject and may still not put this up. However, it is such an important topic and essential that other volunteers and future volunteers are aware absolutely anything can happen anywhere. So I had to at least collect my thoughts to be able to tell others about it in some form or fashion.

Last Friday night there was a rape in the village. The incident was reported to Samalu on Monday morning, the island council convened an emergency meeting Tuesday, and decided to report it to the authorities at the nearest police post. We were very relived they decided to let current rule of law, no matter how fragile it is, run its course with the situation rather than taking justice into their own hands. We’ve heard that is sometimes the case in small villages. 

The authorities came Wednesday and began their investigation. The suspect was taken away Wednesday. 

The hardest part of the situation is the two families impacted are close relatives as the victim was first cousin to the suspect. We saw the suspect daily, as he was our neighbor, and he always had a smile and was willing to help in any way. His family is one of the friendliest on the island and often brings us fresh fruit and vegetables. The victim’s family is also very kind and we have loved getting to know the father, who is a council member. It all opened my eyes to the fact that even though we live on an island that often reminds me more of Mayberry than the South Pacific, anything can happen at any time. We constantly struggle to maintain the delicate battle of balance between cold suspicion and warm acceptance. It is something that can drive a person crazy because just when the guard is dropped, something happens. We see this all the time when away from the island. People are constantly trying to rip us off.

Although we know we are targets and have been trained six ways from Sunday on how to avoid being a victim, it is frankly hard to be constant alert to the intricate schemes people develop to take advantage of you when you are programmed internally to be serving them. This makes the times when you do get swindled much more painful as we are in their country sacrificing a major chunk of our life away from family and friends and all these bozos care about doing is ripping us off. 

Thankfully we haven’t been victimized on the island yet, and feel very safe here even with the most recent incident. Our guard has naturally heightened, though, as even before this we still followed the basic tenants of wise awareness. It is just altogether sad, and a hard scenario to prepare for. 

That’s the battle a volunteer faces and it isn’t something often considered when signing up. For those thinking about taking the plunge into international service, be prepared to serve people who don’t want to be served and often want to inflict justice upon you of a perceived wrong they have received from someone else of the same skin color. Also be prepared for inconceivable tragedies, often much more troublesome than the one we are experiencing.

Through all this we are learning to take events in stride knowing it only develops our character a little deeper each time and helps us realize small fractions of what the ultimate Servant had to experience so we could really experience a fulfilling life.

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