A rare cool breeze enters my bedroom as I look out my iron barred window at a sky filled with dark clouds. The smell of an approaching rain follows and a door slams shut across the street. Next to me on my bed sits a brand new solar module, a charge controller and an invertor, still in their packaging. To my delight, these parts arrived at our door on Monday. I ripped open the boxes as soon as they were in my hands to make sure everything was correct and in good shape. Although the module is small (measuring around 2 x 2 with a potential of 55W), its sleek design has a commanding presence when I take it out of the box. I’ve noticed that everyone who admires it is careful to use a delicate touch and not smudge the glass. Tomorrow we will receive another member of GEDAE to help with the construction of the bici-radio. Unfortunately, Luis was unable to return to help us with the installation, but his diligence and dedication to the project will not go unnoticed. In his place, he highly recommended Renato Cavalcante, a graduate student who has worked closely with the group. Renato will stay in Cabelo Seco for three days to participate in our Festival Beleza Amazônica (which began yesterday!) and on Saturday he will help coordinate a workshop for the construction of the bike-radio. The workshop is open to the public, but I anticipate it will mostly be composed of participants from the solar energy workshop.
There is someone in particular who is just as excited as I am about the solar panel’s arrival; a young person involved in the project and the solar energy workshops named Pablo. Given his experience as an electrical technician, Pablo has played an important role in helping to purchase different parts for the bici-radio and he will likely hold much of the responsibility for its maintenance in the future. He is only 15 years old, but he has been working for an electrical repair company for the past 5 years and manages all of Rios de Encontro’s illumination and electrical necessities.
Despite his silent and reserved demeanor, I could tell Pablo was itching to get his hands on the new equipment. I’ve noticed him fiddling with an electrical circuit board or taking apart the amplifier cables and examining their insides during group meetings. He always manages to find something to deconstruct and then reconstruct. When I showed him the module, the invertor and charge controller, he opened everything and started to connect all the parts. I prompted him to explain everything he was doing; so I could better understand and he could practice explaining. This experience is especially important for someone like Pablo because he could be the future of the solar energy industry in Marabá. I proposed the idea that he starts the first solar energy manufacturing or installation center in the municipality. He seemed pleased.
Earlier today Pablo and I also went out to purchase the rest of the materials needed for the installation, such as wires, electrical tape, plugs and the battery (excuse my technical language but I am not a trained engineer and this was Pablo’s moment to shine). This was a bit of a hassle in the rain with bicycles as our only means of transportation, but we were successful in finding everything on the list Renato and Luis sent to us. When we returned to the house Pablo once again took everything out and created a rough outline of how the system would look, using only Luis’s diagram as a guide. When he reached a point where he was relatively content with the parts in front of him, he stopped and looked over at me. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t know why you have someone coming from Belém to help with this installation. I could’ve done it for you.” And he was right; the bici-radio was essentially constructed on the floor in front of him.
All that was missing from his assemblage was the actual structure to be mounted on the bike. I’ve done some hardcore bonding with the solar panel over the past week, aside from the fact that it stays in my room and I sleep next to it every night. Our friend Fabiano is going to build the metal structure that will support the solar module and speaker on the bike, but he needs constant reminders that our time frame is limited, so I have taken on the task of appearing at his garage to ensure the project is moving along. We felt uncomfortable leaving the solar panel with him in his workshop because if anything serious were to happen to it, the project would be impossible. This means that I have been lugging the solar panel on the 20-minute walk to his house so he can use it, and then back to Cabelo Seco (I swear, people in this city definitely think I’m insane). Regardless, the struggle has been worth it and the structure is almost finished. Tomorrow Renato and I will go over everything we have prepared for the installation to make sure it is ready for Saturday. So many things have been happening in the past week that I haven’t had a moment to sit down and publish it all. We had our final solar energy workshop on Sunday, a last minute visit to the community from Joilson Costa, part of the group “Campanha Nacional por uma Nova Política Energética”, and launched the third Festival Beleza Amazônica last night at the José Mendonça Vergolino elementary school! Better pictures are coming soon, I promise…