Wednesday, October 1, 2008

the mother of invention

Today, as Agronomy student Judit Mamani guided me around the garden plot she´s cultivating for her thesis project, I took special interest in the nozzle adaptor she made for a garden hose. With a hot needle, Judit poked several small holes into a short piece of plastic tubing. She fit the tube into the hose, tied it off with rubber, and topped off the end with a wooden cork.

Judit waters her plot of land with a hose she adapted to genty spray water.

Now, Judit explained to me, she´s able to lightly water the small budding spinach plants in her garden plot. "I couldn´t afford to buy any type of adapter," she told me. "But Ing. Desiderio (a UAC-CP professor) gave me this idea and it´s worked really well!"

I can´t help but believe that the average person here is a bit more creative. It´s not to say that Bolivians are more creative people, but when you are financially limited and live and work in an environment that lacks many modern conveniences, it´s necessary to think of (inexpensive) alternatives. Judit´s hose adaptor is one of many examples here of creative and effective solutions.

UAC-CP volunteers also find themselves coming up with ways to adapt certain comforts from home to life here in the countryside. One of my favorite inventions in the volunteer house is the toaster that John Carr created during his visit to the UAC in 2004. Cutting a large tin can in half and poking several holes in the bottom, he welded pieces of wire across the opening and...WOILA!...we have a toaster! Again, it´s a simple design--it merely keeps the bread elevated above the gas flame--but without it, making toast would be a bit more of a chore. I think of John every time I eat toast for breakfast.

The toaster in the volunteer house (it looks much less intimidating in person).

The other day when I came home from lunch, UAC-CP volunteers, Andy and Sam, showed me their newly designed softball equipment: the bat (a long, skinny piece of dried wood) and the ball (a wad of paper crumpled up and wrapped with duct tape). After lunch, four of us played a few innings in the Sisters´ yard. Making up many of the rules as we went along, we used rosebushes and orange trees as bases and agreed that anything hit into the banana tree would be considered a home run.

While I don´t think softball (or a toaster or a hose adaptor, for that matter) can really be considered a "necessity," the desire to have it--to make life a little easier or a little bit more enjoyable--is definitely what drives our creative juices here in Carmen Pampa.

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