[Paolo Nutini – Better man]

Flashback to three weeks ago.
Freshly sunburned back from South Sudan

[1] I stay a couple days in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital of Tanzania, to visit some companies that work with Solar. I had hoped to have a follow up by now for my time at Barefoot. But so far nothing has come up. Two interesting projects in Kenya [2][3] and Engineers without borders in Tanzania [4] but still nothing consistent. In Dar I visit first African Solar Rise [5]. A small company selling solar lightning systems into the rural areas surrounding Dar. The systems are plug and play. Installation mainly consists of getting a hole in the roof for the cable and fixing the cables and lamps to the wall. A kind off commercial version of what Barefoot does – minus the technical and the health and livelihood  training. Just solar light.

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For my other visit I contact Pepijn from Voltzon[6]. He tells me he is at a German-Tanzanian-Solar conference at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel. If I want I can join him there later that day. Off course I say yes and hang up. Wait, what? My backpack only yields dusty, smelly, torn up clothes and sandals. It is just another memento that I have to get past being only a dusty travelling field engineer. There have been a few mementos lately.

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First I passed the 8 month mark. A period many travellers indicate as kind of “breaking point”. A point when “the hard drive is full” as Jendrik put it. A point when you need familiar ground, a save environment to relax. Especially if you work and dive into foreign cultures that deep. My opinions, education and assumptions get challenged and changed almost every day. What I wrote two weeks ago I would write totally differently now. If at all.
Then I got weary of saying goodbye. Do the things you like and you will meet the people you like. Do the things you love and you will meet the people you love. I have met such great people on my journey. Their impact on me was, is profound. And while staying globally in contact is easier then ever it can never replace an evening around the fire or a hug, let alone a kiss. Saying good bye is part of it. But their presence lingers in me. I want them around. At least one or two of them. To remind me of the person I am, I have become, the person they helped shape.
And then their is the feeling hard to describe. It is determination, dedecation, pride, strength and responsibility mixed together. Topped by pure awareness of possibilities. The determination to do what you believe in, the dedecation to being an engineer, the pride of the way you’ve come, the strength to face whatever comes next, the responsibility you have as westerner with acces to all the education and materials you could dream of. The awareness what you can make happen by focussing that feeling. Suma was the trigger, the drop that made the barrel flow over. South Sudan added another bucket. The dusty traveller was necessary to gain all that. But to complete the cycle the gained experience has to be utilized. I have to start stepping up. Share and utilize my knowledge. Reach the next level…or something. It is not easy to put this into words.
So I need time to figure out how this can take shape.
But for now I need cloth to wear in a 5 star hotel. 3 hours, 2 shops and a 120,000 Tanzanian shilling later I arrive at the conference, fairly representable. I’m having a blast listening to german engineers talking about quality work and dedecation to finding the best possible solution – 5 star lunch and coffee included for free. I speak to Pepijn and visit him the next day in the office.

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Fast forward to the presence. My first week for Voltzon is over. I start as a field engineer and will visit interesting locations and national parks to install solar panels. Ultimately the goal is to get me so far that I can survey sites and design large scale solar systems. Till august when I will return to europe. I want to do a master for sure. To become a better engineer I will need more theoretical knowledge. But there are also other things I want. Things that can not be found in the old world. There are many “ifs” and “maybes”. It depends on many things and many people. Engineering your future is a multi-party, interdisciplinary full-time project.

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[1] Chapter 17 – Fianchetto
[2] Oltumo Project
[3] Windmill Workshop
[4] Tanzania Regenwasser Zisternen
[5] http://www.african-solar-rise.org/en/index.php
[6] http://www.voltzon.com/

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