Banana ash: Persistent knowledges

Day 6 at El 20
Keywords: Banana ash, knowledges, persistence, rollercoaster, moods, I should have used the baño when I had the chance, spontaneous

The day started with Henna waking me up to go and see the sunrise. After overcoming the lull of my hammock, we headed towards the mountain. The way up weaved narrowly in the jungle which was waking up in rhythm with the sunrise. The view of village and the surrounding jungle was worth the early waking. There was something mystical in the way that the mist hovered over the valley and the sun peaked through the clouds, and the day started with a feeling of serenity.

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Today was the day of our water workshop which aimed to introduce our work to the community, and most importantly, open a discussion of the filter development as well as water issues, more generally, in the village. We wanted to introduce the working principles of the filter and the conclusions of the testing. And so, we continued with the sampling and analyses as we had the previous days and started planning the best ways to introduce the results.

With the workshop looming ahead of us in the afternoon, we felt a bit desperate with the uncertainties of our analyses. The continuous repetition of the same analyses and variation in the results was frustrating and we were unsure what to present in the workshop. The different test kits gave vastly different results and the results were not as uniform as one could hope. The peak of variation (and confusion) was reached when just before the lunch, we had a miraculous analysis result of 35 dH (to put this into perspective, the previous results had varied around 110 – 150 dH). Drawing conclusions about the functionality of the filter for the workshop became even harder than it had been. The miraculous sample, however, turned out to be an anomaly in the end as later samples climbed back up to around 100 dH.

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The analyses continued until the very end and the hour before the workshop was filled with hectic organising and preparation of a results poster. Then after 6pm, people started showing up La Casita and all the worries of not having interested participants went away. Without Spanish competence in the team, Claudia provided invaluable help with the facilitation of the workshop, and moreover, we were in luck to have Herson, who had helped previously with the filter setup, present the working principle of the filter.

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Overall, the workshop was filled with discussion and brainstorming. The topics ranged from ash and ion exchange membranes to using banana plants as ash source and pyramid-shape filters. All the discussions provided interesting ideas for future and insight on the current and past situations. For example, we learned that a large proportion of the rainwater is used to laundry as the hard well water is not suitable for this. Moreover, the rainwater storages run dry month or two before the rain season and supply of good drinking water becomes more problematic. One of the most surprising findings was that ash (as in our filter) has already been used to combat the high water hardness in the village. The grandparents of the participants used to treat well water for laundry use by mixing it with ash and leaving it to settle overnight. The workshop ended with positive feelings and we even had two interested volunteers to take on the future filter development, Herson and Berzaín, with whom we set up meetings for the following day to go through the analysis methods and filter upkeep.


The day ended with a nightly trip up the same mountain as in the morning to go and see the stars. Seeing El20 and its surroundings together with the nightly sky put things into perspective. For a city girl, it was unbelievable that the moon could be the largest source of light pollution and the thing that hindered the view of stars. Even though, I could have stayed up looking at the night sky for hours still, it was time to end the rollercoaster of a day and wander back to the village to get some rest before meeting Herson and Berzaín in the following morning.


(Photos: Heidi Konttinen & Sara Saukkonen)

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