Monday, July 11, 2016

A Few Rants From Bogota

As is often the case, the most interesting things this week have been conversations. Please bear in mind, that I mean this is often the case because new people can introduce new thoughts and ideas and carry around a lifetime of stories and experience. Many of my favorite conversations recently have been with my airbnb host’s mother. She seems to have taken a shining to me and enjoys teaching me parts of spanish I didn’t know, how to make the best hot chocolate of my life (sorry, mom), and even took me to the botanical garden (although I’m pretty sure this last is because she’s worried about me walking for hours up and down the city alone). I spent most of my last sunday walking with her through the botanical gardens which are phenomenal. They’re the closest I’ve been to a jungle since I was three in Costa Rica. While I had briefly discussed religion with Mao, my airbnb host, while visiting a church, this was a much longer conversation covering music, philosophy, politics, literature, sports, and American politics. She is a fervent Nirvana fan, likes Max Weber’s ideas, is neither conservative nor liberal, has read so many books it’s incredible, loves the colombian women’s soccer team, and has no idea how the U.S. could possibly elect Donald Trump. Our discussion of religion was enlightening as a glance at Colombia over the past three generations. Her parents were fervent Catholics. She, while educated by nuns in catholic school, said she was probably not catholic but was some type of christian. Mao, her son, told me he was a daoist (go figure). We even managed to go through what I like to call the grand inquisitor argument with no adverse effects*. I have found here that people are much more open to differing ideologies and especially to different political opinions. That being said, a lot of the art in the museums here make me want to start apologizing profusely for the U.S. foreign policy over the last fifty years (I’ve seen so many american dollar planes attacking people I’m starting to have dreams about it).  I also bring up Donald Trump because over the past two weeks I’ve had to explain my theory about how it’s possible he has risen to this much power more than 6 spanish.

LittleFreeLibrary.jpgI’ve had a busy week. Since last week I’ve been to four museums, walked nearly twenty miles of city, went to Roque el parque 2016, went to the botanical garden, saw the house of the author of Aura (weirdest book I’ve ever read), decided what two workshops I’m going to run, and figured out what build it I will do. The function of C-innova is development for colombia, and the easiest way they’ve found to do that is through education and workshops (weird, education works…). The first workshop I will be running is on how to build the little community libraries. There are differing opinions on the functionality and benefits of these little libraries, but overall I feel that they’ll be a positive step for Colombia. People here love to share opinions and ideas so much and they would probably help brighten up the never ending fences and walls. The people here at C-innova also see them as a branding opportunity so that we can put our name out there more and attract people to other workshops that we have. The libraries are also very cheap because they can be made out of almost anything. In addition, these little free libraries may be a way to help bridge the education gap inherent in many school systems. Over the past few decades it has become apparent that while low income students learn just as much as middle and upper income students during the school year, over the summer they fall far behind (sorry, but maybe no summer vacation is the way to that I’m safely through that time). In recent years this has been pinned on a lack of accessibility, and little free libraries may be a way to bridge this gap**.

The second workshop that I’ll be doing involves aquaponic systems. Until about a year ago I was completely new to aquaponics, but then a friend invited me to join a club of people interested in building an aquaponic system. Since then I’ve become a huge proponent of the use of such systems. To put it mildly, the earth is on the edge of a huge food crisis, not always caused by simply not being able to grow enough, but sometimes caused by an inability to distribute what we do have (Seriously y’all, stop throwing away so much food). For evidence of this I recommend typing in Venezuelan food crisis into wikipedia and get ready to feel some bubbles of anger and frustration. In case you didn’t know, aquaponics systems allow for the growth year round of many times more vegetables and other plant life. These systems also allow for the cultivation of fish which use less food to become protein sources than any other animal. In addition to this fact, it is predicted that most of the population growth over the next few decades will be in developing countries, including Colombia. What many of us (meaning those who are worried about the global food trend) are hoping to do, is help countries like Colombia leapfrog over the past couple of decades of inefficient and polluting agriculture that we had in the U.S. and move straight to this sort of agriculture that allows for low transport distances, one tenth as much water for a greater quantity of crops, and a healthy efficient protein source that’s not dumping CO2 and methane into the atmosphere***. Also, it would be great if this technology could find its way across the border to Venezuela. The closest thing to this system I’ve seen here is a hydroponics system in the Botanical Garden.
After a brief dalliance where I decided to see if I could break chemistry in order to build a cheap electrodialysis system (still want to see if I can do this), the group and I have voted on making a crank generator capable of charging cellphones and other USB powered devices. While C-innova here made solar chargers only a few weeks ago, they quickly realized that this system doesn’t work in Bogota, mostly because I’ve only seen the sun once or twice since I’ve been here. weather.png
The other idea is to do this at a much lower cost and with a greater degree of customizability. Basically, I will make the circuit and a diagram of how one would make that circuit themselves and how to connect it to a hand crank, or a bike, or whatever suits the fancy of those who want to use it. It hasn’t been terribly easy because a lot of the components and items I take for granted in the U.S. have to be shipped here, usually from the U.S. or China. I’ll also draw up a couple of fun educational circuits that these guys can use when I’m not around, small Van Der Graaf generators and little games to teach circuit logic. Maybe we could make a sort of obstacle course out logic gates? I’ll have to think about it. In any case, it’s nice to have an objective and a course to pursue. For further rants about the state of agriculture and bizarre political opinions, tune in next week to Maddy has a headache from trying to learn as much spanish as possible over only a few weeks and has a tongue that seems to no longer be able to form syllables.

*I nicknamed this argument after the section titled, “The Grand Inquisitor” in “The Brother’s Karamazov.” Somehow it is held up as one of the best arguments against religion even while the entire book is held up as one of the greatest arguments for religion. It’s worth reading.

**One Example This is just one article on one idea on a very complex subject, but it is far from the only one with this belief.

***For further information I recommend google or this fantastic book: ”Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together”, by Sylvia Bernstein

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