Rubbing Elbows to Shedding Loads

While Natalie and I spent the morning at Sherol and Keith’s house, Ed and Mark set out at 9 AM to pick up the solar lanterns at the South African Airlines Cargo service.  Their experience was nothing short of harrowing:  from getting lost finding it, then getting turned to Customs after finding it, to being asked if the package was for personal use.  It was for business use, so then they got directed to a Clearing Agent (which was described to me as ‘someone who is trained to do the complicated paperwork’).  The Clearing Agent asked for a commercial invoice, so they needed to contact Angaza in order to get an invoice ASAP.  After the commercial invoice was forwarded, there was still a hefty customs fee and other additional charges.  Regardless, the fees were lower than expected.

Natalie and I were picked up for lunch with Gary Fisher, Advisor to the Premier Western Cape (similar to a senator in the U.S.).  We got a chance to cover all aspects in his work, from sustainable development to education to solar power as a solution to load sheds and energy poverty.  His time was limited, so I plan to follow up with an email, in support of instilling more photovoltaic education in South African schools.

The afternoon and evening were spent searching for jars for the solar jar workshop and practicing the presentation and construction of the solar jar kits.  We went to a store called Plastics for Africa, where by sheer fortune we found the right type of jars – they have the right type of opaqueness to refract the light, are the right size, and are at a price cheaper than the original jars.

We took the jars back to Ed’s apartment, and started showing Natalie how to solder the lanterns together.  We were making progress when we had our first time experiencing a “load shed” in South Africa. Suddenly, without warning, the power goes out. It’s very local, and lasts for hours.
Good thing we had our solar lanterns charged.


Later that evening, after supper at Sherol and Kieth’s, we worked on setting up for our first solar lantern workshop.   Tomorrow, we’ll be talking to the youth at Mfuleni, a township of 50,000 people in extreme poverty.   We are scheduled to have 20 – 25 residents coming (age 16 – 25).  Natalie warned me that many more may be coming – it’s happened to her before.  Tomorrow will be the day that I can first teach the project to South Africans.  I’m excited, but I’m a bit concerned – resources may be short (they may not have enough outlets for the soldering irons) and our numbers may be high.  But Natalie and I are teachers.  And teachers need to be flexible; it’s a survival skill.

Lekker Slaap (which means ‘have a good night’)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *