Thursday, February 18, 2010
A very special moment
In a world where there is destruction everywhere that which is trivial elsewhere can have a larger-than-life impact. On Monday I experienced one of those moments. No lives were saved; no smiling children to grace my memory. I did not facilitate the acquisition of millions of dollars of aid or supplies. It was all about a telephone pole.
I posted earlier today about putting a WiMax antenna on a tree at the universitie. The universitie was to host French President Sarkozy for a web conference with students and faculty. With this being the very first visit by a French president to the independent nation of Haiti to say the government and universitie folks were anxious that things go well is quite the understatement.
On Saturday before we installed on Monday I had made a site visit with Paolo Chilosi of MultiLink. We picked the proper spot for installation of a pole so that the antenna would have a good view of the broadcast tower on the mountain-top. I marked the place for the pole.
In most of PaP we have these antennas on scavenged 2x4 lumber; 12 or 16 feet pulled out of destroyed building. That was what I expected. When Georges and Albert and I arrived with equipment we removed from a damaged building by the National Palace to do the install there was no pole. Oh well. I sort of expected that to be the case improvisation is the name of the game. We found a tree that would serve and moved forward with the installation pictured in the earlier post.
We had finished the install and gotten good connectivity. The universitie folks were very happy that the connectivity was up.
Into the drive turns a large truck. Really large. On the truck was a brand new creosote covered telephone pole. The truck had a crane.
A bunch of Haitian men, not affiliated with the universitie, scavenged broken metal out of hte buildings. They hand dug a hole for the telephone pole. Fingers and bits of metal for shovels. Someone came up with a shovel head and a guy put it on a piece of pipe. Those guys went down 8 or 10 feet.
When they were done the truck maneuvered around the tents in the lot. The two guys from the truck lifted that telephone pole and dropped it right in to the hole. Everyone went to work and back filled the hole and there it was a brand new telephone pole.
I turned to the chair of the economics department; one of the few living faculty. He was smiling big. I said 'this is building. A month of death and destruction and this is the first step in building the future.' A few tears around the parking lot or, as the chancellor told me, 'the world's first digital tent university.'
An incredibly moving moment all about a silly telephone pole.