Look in my crochet basket and you will find an astonishing number of works in progress (WIPs).  Perhaps I am a process crocheter–I love starting projects and once my curiosity or creativity is satisfied, I may or may not finish the item before starting another one.  Because of this habit, you might think I should have more empathy for the half-finished or neglected structures I see around my community in rural South Africa.  However, I feel a sense of loss and frustration for the opportunities and resources squandered by WIPs.

The house with some electricity and nearly running water.

The house with some electricity and nearly running water.

“The house has electricity and running water,” Peace Corps said during our conference call before leaving America.  This statement is half-true.  There is electricity in one room in the house, and extension cords snake their way from this room to the distal regions.  All the rooms have wiring; all that is required is to install outlets, switches, and a distribution box.  The hard work is already done.  Why take years and years to give that extra push to make the house completely electrified?

The house does have pipes, sinks, and faucets, and when the tank on the tower is full and the valve is open, we can get running water.  However, the tank had laid empty for many years and on its second filling, the pressure proved to be too much and the tank burst.  Its carcass still lies on the school grounds.  The kids now like to feel the biceps I have developed by hauling water from the borehole.

Everybody loves to hang out at the borehole. EVERYBODY.

Everybody loves to hang out at the borehole. EVERYBODY.

The hand pump at the borehole was once obsolete.  A windmill once pumped water up to the tower tank (in its younger days), supplying the house, the administration block, and a standpipe.  Windmills make my Nebraskan heart sing.  There is so much wind power here, I’m surprised there aren’t more of them.  Unfortunately, this lovely Antarctic wind-powered machine was destroyed by a storm.  She still lies in a valley.

Casualty of a storm.

Casualty of a storm.

There are tanks, gutters, and pipes all over the school, but not a single fully-functional rain catchment system.  Gutters are missing, pipes lead to nowhere, and tank taps are broken.  After every hard rain, water pours steadily from the broken tap of the tank next to the 12th grade classroom for two days.  Meanwhile, we place bets on when the borehole will run dry from the drought and the increase of students and their laundry.

The pipe that leads to nowhere; a nearly functional catchment system except for . . . the broken tap.

The pipe that leads to nowhere; a nearly functional catchment system except for . . . the broken tap.

There was once even a solar panel at the school, a very sensible, progressive use of a renewable resource.  The current teachers don’t remember what it powered:  perhaps electricity for the classrooms, perhaps a water pump.  It was stolen.  Now the frame serves as a hot spot for after-school scrambling and hanging out.

The empty solar panel frame. Where all the cool kids hang out.

The empty solar panel frame. Where all the cool kids hang out.

The current acting principal has a vision.  If he gets the principal position permanently, he wants to fix the gutters, reinforce the water tower, and install globes in the house.  He also wants a strong, sturdy gate to prevent the stealing of taps and pipes.  He has even found a tap that comes with a lock, so people can’t steal it from the tank and the wee ones can’t bust it. He has already started renovating the classrooms, so we know he is a man of action.  The realization of his vision comes down to money.  It’s a no-fee school, so funding comes from the government.  The government takes time and often falls short, so schools often try to find sponsors, both locally and abroad.

The money may come.  Eventually.  In the meantime, rain falls unharvested, extension cords fill the gap, and the WIP list grows.