Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two and a Half Hour Commute

Here is a video of me shaving.

After two and a half months of growth i decided to shave my beard.  The humidity here was creating microclimates in my chin area, causing afternoon thunderstorms that hurt my face.  It was also trapping too much food, inspiring the roadside roosters ferociously peck at me on my walk home from work.  I am now the owner of 1 (debatably) pretty mustache.

Here is a joke:

There r 3 baby cows & a momma cow. The 1st cow says "Momma y is my name Rose?" & the momma cow says "Bc when u were born, a rose came down and fell on your head." The 2nd cow walks over and says "Momma y is my name Daisy?" Momma cow says "Bc when you were born a daisy came down and fell on your head." By this time the 3rd cow has walked over & he says "ajfhafkheuugweubgv" and momma cow says "Shut up Cinder Block."

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My new mustache.
Alright.  Enough funny stuff.  Literally!

Here is a link to the newly posted pictures on my flickr site.

I have been doing some more fun and exciting things, mostly having to do with my EWB project here.  Last week, Arturo, one of the community leaders in our site, asked Heath, Lauren, and I to attend the general assembly on Sunday.  At least one member of each household was required to show up, so there were about 300 - 400 people there.  Heath and I were surprised to discover that we were about to be up on the big stage, and were expected to say a few words about our project!  The nerves were going, I'd never spoken to more than a class or team.  And those were always in English.  After Arturo explained the finances regarding our project with the community (for about an hour), it was our time to shine.  We didn't really; more of a dull glimmer.  Wet rust, maybe.  Heath got stagefright and said a few somewhat understandible words, before handing me the mic.  I wasn't really ready for it either, going up there intending to emphasize that our end of this project was all donation money, not our own.  I think I was successful at that, but to be honest I don't really know.   Those 7 or 8 minutes of my life are a memory most similar to those after a night of heavy drinking (I've been told.)

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Limbing up the tree
The next day, we were informed by our local Peace Corps. liason, Lauren, that we were expected to give a little talk at the nationwide Rural Health Convention, where all 40ish of the Peace Corps. volunteers in the country get together and schmooze. 

So, on Tuesday after a long day of cutting down branches that were obstructing the new power lines, Heath and I hitched down to Hotel Alicante, a super swanky resort that Peace Corps. rented out for 3 nights.  We were given our own room with hot showers, and good food in the dining lounge.  The place was enormous.  In exchange for the room and board, we figured it would be best if we put together a professional "seeming" presentation, touching on the intention and goals of EWB, and how Peace Corps. can utilize our services.  It kind of was, but it also featured us with our shirts off on at least three occasions.  Heath and I were thrown into the Peace Corps. social scene that night, and we all went into town to watch the "Noche de Velas," or a candle ceremony thing that was going on.  We made our presentation that night after we got home.

Heath and I giving our presentation
It went really well actually, lasting about an hour and being quite informative.  Here is a link to the slideshow we used, if you care to see it.  One of the many things Heath and I discussed in preparing the presentation is that as engineers, we like to think and solve various problems.  Obvs.  But often times, people would ask us if we could come build them a bridge, or fix some road, or in this case, improve their pump system.  Its all fine and dandy, but many of us really like to start from scratch.  For example, for our next project here we've been discussing coming up with some sort of solution to the lack of recycling, and excess of garbage here.  There is no clear solution to this, but we've come up with a few good ideas, and I find it much more intriguing than simply fixing something more obvious.  Burning plastics, tossing trash everywhere, not recycling, and others, are common sights here and I don't think they're generally regarded as something that needs fixing by the majority of local people.  Obviously, I don't like the idea of "the white man" telling people what they're doing is wrong and dirty, but I do believe that helping a community with sanitation like this would be great.

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New transformer for the pump.
Other than this, I've been working a bunch up at the laguna.  There are only a few buses per day, and I don't always time everything with them.  Sometimes that results in me walking almost 10 km completely uphill, with about a 3000' net gain in elevation.  And then again back down to arriving home just at dark.  Sometimes I can hitch a ride, but more often than not, I do the entire walk without seeing a car going my direction.  I usually stop at Heath's place and his host mom will cook me breakfast and we walk together.  Almost at the top of the crater, we stop at a little spring and pump our drinking water for the day.  Needless to say, by the time i get there to work, I'm soaked in sweat (or sometimes rain) and already a bit tired.

The electrical engineer is just about done installing all of the new posts and has strung up the new power lines as well.  All is ready to give power to the new location, except we're having some trouble getting the final 15 feet or so of branches limbed.  Something going on with not having permission yet.  Supposedly, it will be settled (aka, ignored) and just done next week.

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Heath bending some bars
Heath and I have spent about 5 full days up there gettin' dirtyyy.  There are three other guys working with us.  Chema is probably in his late 40s and is quiet and friendly.  He really likes it when we say dirty things in Spanish, or when we mention beer.  Oscar is younger, quieter, and probably the hardest worker.  I think those last two usually go hand in hand.  Then there is (insert name here).  His name is really hard to remember.  Let's just call him Jabba, cause thats kinda what he looks like.  If you're not into the whole Star Wars scene, Buddah will do.  I only poke fun (think Pillsbury Doughboy) cause he is the ONLY worker there (there are also about 8 electrical workers) who spends the entire day with his shirt off, and I am forced to be reminded of his belly and breasts when describing him.  He's also got a GREAT personality!

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My hands after working.
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Digging a trench for the foundation
Heath and I have learned how to tie re-bar together with wire to make the columns, foundation, and roof structures.  These will be cast in concrete, and take all of the load of the house.  We also dug out some of the foundation.  This is a really cool project, because we don't use any kind of machine or power tools in the entire process.  We have bolt cutters for cutting the re-bar, a saw, some wire cutters, bending bars, hammers, shovels, picks, and a pry bar.  And brute strength, of course.  We used a clear hose filled with water to level the floor of the new foundation, which I thought was really cool.  Chema even carved a new pick handle out of a branch with his machete one day, cause the old one broke.  Working up there is a lot of fun.  We showed up on the first day and said we were there to help with the construction.  I think they thought we were joking because they'd didn't really know who we were other than a couple of giant foreign guys.  Heath and I spend most of the day up there BSing with those guys, but doing the same work that they do, eating the same lunch, and getting just as dirty.  I think its important for the community to understand that we do have some money to give here, but the work isn't about us just giving away a bunch of money.  

I leave the house around 6:20am, and am back around 6pm, and am pretty exhausted at the end of the day.  I've got a bit of a scratchy throat and "called in sick" today, but Heath called and said things were still rollin' up there.  I plan on being back up there tomorrow, unless Lauren gets me sicker.  She's got Giardia, a cough, weird burn, and the barfs.  I'm making sure she stays put in her shed out back.

Other than all this work stuff, I haven't had a ton of time to play around, but I did get a chance to visit Los Chorros de la Calera.  Check them out.  There was a tunnel there that led through scary underwater passageways, and i swam through them.  You can also jump off the cliffs there.  If any visitors come here, its about a 20 minute walk from my place. 

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Los Chorros de la Calera

1 comment:

  1. Wow pics!! The pace of the work seems to be reasonably fast. Do take good care of your health and please convey my get well soon greetings to Lauren.

    Talk to you guys soon :)