Going off grid in Africa - Again!

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by jerrymildred, Jun 9, 2021.

  1. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Two more days till the next Africa trip. I won't be quite as off-grid as last time thanks to somewhat better internet service there at the radio station. But it'll still be a busy time, so I'll be scarce around here. I can't believe all the extra hoops I've had to jump through (and more to come) because of the COVID restrictions, but I think I have all the requirements now.

    I'll be in Togo for 28 days, but there are two days of travel in each direction, so 32 days away from home this trip. I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends there and helping at the radio station, but not looking forward to a month away from my wife; that'll be a record in our 44 years of marriage.

    With retirement coming up at the end of this year, I've been assuming this would be my last time there. But then I got the pictures of a couple rusty guy wires. (We had to use local supply for some of them. Long story.) If my health holds up and no one else with the right skills comes along, I may be going back again in a year or two.
     
  2. Raytheeagle

    Raytheeagle Senior Member

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    Safe travels to there and while you are there;).

    COVID is a thing, so I hope that in Togo they agree with that:whistle:.

    The pics of the fine infrastructure they have there are always good to put in perspective our own infrastructure battles state-side. Those potholes are engulfing :eek:.

    I've had a couple of colleagues retire recently and they stay busy as a "consultant", earning more than when they were an employee:).

    Congrats on 44 years together. My folks will celebrate 43 years together in October. They are out here now and it's good to be with them again(y).
     
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  3. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    Have a safe trip.

    Oh, you are a brave man. Is this a part of your job or volunteer work? Just curious.

    Ever since 9/11, I became very hesitant to fly in a plane. New regulations and restrictions along with cost-cutting measures most airlines implemented in recent years made air travel very unpleasant. I was less and less inclined to use plain if I had a choice. The pandemic was the last nail in the coffin. I will not fly in a commercial plane ever again. If I can't get to the destination without flying, then I am not going. Well, sorry about the rant. I hope your flight is a pleasant one.
     
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  4. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Thanks, Ray. Glad you get to have some time with your folks.

    They are very serious there. There's a very involved online form to fill out that took me about an hour. I have to have a negative COVID test in the past week just to get on the plane. Then I get another one at the airport in Lomé and have to stay in town till they get the results. I also have to install a tracking app on my phone and keep it activated while in the country. Everyone wears masks in public. On the return, I have to get back to Lomé a couple days before the flight for yet another COVID test before they will let me leave.

    I did a nine-month consulting gig after leaving my previous job to become a missionary. I made way more than ever in my life. After retirement, I'm sure I'll still be volunteering from time to time with the mission. For me, it's not the money. God has provided faithfully as long as I've kept Him and His kingdom as my main focus. It's amazing how He has blessed me with not just stuff but with people I love. Just amazing. Retirement will let me be more flexible in where and how I minister. :)
     
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  5. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    It's part of my job. I could refuse, but it's more God's calling than my boss asking if I will go.

    I used to love flying. But now, I'm convinced that the airlines are experimenting to see how much crap people will endure. Judging by some of the news stories, they are finding out how much fairly regularly. So, I only fly to places I can't get to by car and I only go there if I have a good reason. This is my first time flying since COVID hit and I'm not looking forward to spending 28 continuous hours (plus) with a mask on my face. But I've endured way worse for the Lord and He always makes up for it in some way. I would definitely not make a trip like this for the fun of it.
     
  6. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    28 continuous hours in the air? Is that possible. IIRC, my longest cross-Pacific air travel took something like 15 hours. Oh, but that was over ten years ago. So, maybe there are planes that can fly longer???
     
  7. Raytheeagle

    Raytheeagle Senior Member

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    It is also the time in the airports;).

    Actual flight time should be about half of that, but the waiting around is the pain:cool:.

    My folks are on the least coast, so I fly out there and they fly out here in non-pandemic times :).

    There are worse things to endure in the world(y).
     
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  8. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    Godspeed.

    Let us know if the boss gets into a tight while you're OUTCONUS.

    PIX!!!
    (or it never happened....) ;)
     
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  9. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    OK. That's more like it. Yeah, my last air travel was to the west coast several years ago. I tried to plan it by bus or train, but it was just not possible. But for my last east coast meeting in the DC area, the plane would have taken less than 2 hours to fly, but driving to the airport and waiting in the airport, the total travel time was not much different from taking Amtrack. That's what I ended up using. Very pleasant trip indeed.
     
  10. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Yeah, from the time I enter Tampa International Airport at about 8:30AM Friday till I get to my hotel room in Lomé at roughly 2PM Saturday, I expect to have to wear a mask. Even though I can go to restaurants, grocery stores, Walmart, chiropractor, etc. around here without a mask.

    Thanks, @ETC(SS)! And yes, there will be pix. :D

    Just for fun, here's one from there that they sent me this morning. The lens distortion almost made me fill my britches till I realized what was going on. Then it cracked me up. (For the uninitiated, towers don't bow like that.)
    193283338_962571881200974_5594852261179704336_n.jpg

    And the ensuing conversation shows a little of the goofballs I get to work with. :ROFLMAO:
    Screenshot 2021-06-09 at 11.01.34 AM.jpg
     
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  11. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    ...."normally." ;)
     
  12. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Singapore to Newark is the longest nonstop operating these days, around 18 hours.

    It's the time in airports and ground shuttles that really add on. I have been known to run a stopwatch app on my phone to measure door-to-door times. So far I think Sochi-Philadelphia was the roughest I've had at 32 hours, but mercifully that was in pre-covid days without masks.

    @jerrymildred the airlines have been operating an endurance experiment on their customers since October 25 1978.

    Out of curiosity- what's on the radio, and where can we tune in?

    Good luck on your trip!
     
  13. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    I remember days when I planned for getting to the airport 30min before departure time to "catch a plane" just on time. No longer the case. Heck, I remember flying on the People Express Air for $99 anywhere in the continental US with a caveat that it must be via Newark, NJ. I could fly from Minneapolis to Columbus OH without an advanced reservation or purchasing a ticket. Yap, MN to NJ then NJ to OH legs. It was crazy, I paid cash on the plane after boarding. They did not take a credit card. LOL.
     
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  14. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Unfortunately, they don’t have an online version. So you’d have to come here to listen. Also you’d need to speak French and/or one of the several tribal languages in the area.

    They air a mixture of Christian music, Bible teaching, news, community information, and even Bible reading. This is an area that’s never heard the Gospel and people don’t have Bibles, so they love listening to it read to them. Also, out in the villages, it’s an animist culture with an oral tradition, so hearing God’s Word read to them is something they love. Lots of what goes on here is translating scripture to local languages. They just finished translating Genesis into Anufu and are working on Exodus. This plays well in the area because the city people are predominantly Muslim and the Old Testament is scripture to them. They are surprisingly receptive.

    Here’s a picture of a map I annotated to show the broadcast area. More pictures later when I have time to sort and resize them. Time to hit the hay. It might be a while before I have time to show many pictures. But they’re coming. Mostly work, eat, sweat, and sleep. “Feels like” temperature is over 100F most of the day. But I’m having a ton of fun anyway.
    MapSmall.jpg
     
    #14 jerrymildred, Jun 14, 2021 at 5:04 PM
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021 at 5:10 PM
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  15. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    ... and waiting between connecting flights.

    My business trips to China were generally about 24 hours from the shuttle pickup at home to arrival at the factory. Though some of that was caused by needing to be traveling with certain 'deciders' who were strongly focused on harvesting their perks in the front of the plane, thus selecting routes and flights that lengthened the cattle-car agony of those of us flying in the other end. On the scarce occasions I didn't need to share transport with them, the Seattle (or Vancouver)-Narita or -Taipei leg was much shorter because it didn't backtrack from San Francisco.

    On personal travel to and from less-served destinations, some journeys have been considerably longer. Though now that I've taken over the household duty of transport selection and optimization, and putting clear visibility on time-vs-cheap-fare tradeoffs, those journey times have been shortened.
     
  16. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Ouch. I once worked for... a real jerk. Just about the nastiest boss one might imagine. And some international travel came up, and there was to be a small group of us.

    And as bad as this guy was? He knew that if we went over there in 2 cabins he'd have a mutiny on his hands.

    So we all flew 1st, Los Angeles to Jakarta at $21,000 per seat in 1997 dollars.

    Well I didn't figure they were streaming, wondered if I might find it on shortwave though. Good luck over there!
     
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  17. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    In my case, the 'deciders' were salaried FTEs, while I was among the hourly contractor contingent. Cabin class was determined (by a higher up level) not by above pay class, but by annual number of trips. Those who were going every month or so got the perks, those of us going once or twice a year did not.

    Initially, hourlies were paid for full travel time, door to door, so the heavy OT blunted much of the sting, and may have been cheaper than 1st class upgrades. When paid travel time was eventually capped at 8 hours per direction, travel resistance increased.

    Salaried FTE's stuck in cattle class got the worst of it, with neither perks nor extra pay. Which is probably why they usually found ways to make themselves scarce.
     
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  18. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Thanks. Sorry, no shortwave. They are FM only and the government limits them to 500 watts. It turns out that 500 watts reaches the entire area that we thought we'd need 2,000 watts to reach. That saves a ton on electricity.

    Speaking of electricity.
    When we built this station, we used 30 kW worth of donated solar panels that were a portable military version. It took a ton of work to mount and connect them all.

    My first order of business was to get the solar grid back to full functionality. There are two SMA Tripower 15000 inverters under the solar array and one of them hasn't worked for several months. We thought it just needed a reset, but the Webbox that's supposed to communicate with them couldn't see either one. The failed inverter claimed an insulation problem on the DC side, which could be either in a panel, a connection, or a cable. Checking something like 150 panels and all their connections and cables was going to take forever. So, to be sure, we swapped inverters. Son of a gun! The inverter was lying. The problem went with the inverter. Not a showstopper, though.

    The people here had already considered that possibility and had bought one for a very good price from South Africa. We put that in and, as they say, "Voila!!"" Power from both inverters.

    Then, this morning, it rained (hallelujah!!!!!). Nice and cool after burning about 800 calories yesterday in 100ºF temperatures. It's only about 90 today. And guess what. Both inverters claimed insulation faults. That's when Kuami told me that that's what always happens when it rains. So the panels are pretty much trashed but still better than nothing. There are two good things going for us, though. First, after a few hours, the panels dry out and start producing again. Second, a donor is sending us 150 panels that are 300+ watts each. I don't remember the exact wattage. I think 50 are for the missionaries' houses and the other 100 for the radio station. With the slowness of shipping, I'll be long gone when they get here.

    Also today, we installed a transfer switch and 15 kW voltage regulator to bring in city power. We're now running on city power since it's cloudy and only a couple hours to sunset. It's a continuously variable regulator, so it's cool to see the wipers move around as the incoming voltage fluctuates.

    Tomorrow is mostly documentation, research, and investigation into the inverter malfunction.
    IMG_3417.jpg
    Back side of Hope Radio studio/training center building and shop/transmitter/electrical building.


    IMG_3418.jpg
    Solar panel arrays.


    IMG_3425.jpg
    The new voltage regulator that allows us to safely use municipal electricity.
     
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  19. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Hmmm, I left home at 8AM Friday and got to the radio station at about 11 AM local (7AM Florida) time on Sunday. I did get to sleep horizontally for several hours in Atakpame on the way from Lomé to Mango. By then, my body clock was throughly reset, so I've been sleeping regular hours with no real issues.
     
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