Work Days Numero Once y Doce

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This post is a day late and will cover our last two work days (yesterday and today). Moises has volunteered to write this post to get a different perspective, so here he goes:

Hey guys! It’s Moises, PM for the team and it’s first time writing on our blog, so bear with me. Work Day number Once was very productive! We grouted the missing parts of our concrete, meaning our newly installed sidewalk and our drainage containment wall located outside the community center, with the help of our awesome contractor and his son, Uriel and Walter. The group also helped out laid a set of CMU blocks (not very resistant ones…) throughout the site to provide better drainage along the steps of the community (they worked surprisingly well after the rainstorm!). We moved some dirt, slammed some rocks (my favorite part of the whole process), and laid out these CMU blocks. Josh and Pedro, a small kid from the community, painted our railing and began to paint the door. Kudos to them for the hard work. The railing and door are looking great.

As usual, we have lunch with Yesenia, and a VERY large group of Manna Volunteers. These guys are very committed and welcoming people, I’m glad to say. We talked to them about where they were from, and had Arroz a la Valenciana prepared by Jessica, Yesenia’s oldest daughter. There were so many of us, Jason had to sit in a baby chair! (no worries, we have the pictures).

After lunch, we fixed some minor details on drainage before we headed back to Quinta Emily to take a shower, deciding that our roof extension would be installed on the next day, since the materials were not ready. We went to class (Level 2), and had a great time teaching some of the students. The team decided to leave sooner than expected, due to an incoming storm. Afterwards, we headed to the cinema to watch the Jurassic World premier. I’ll admit, I was the most excited to see it, having been waiting two years for it. Unfortunately, I had very high expectations that weren’t all met, but I won’t give out any spoilers.

Now, the most exciting part of our traveling: The last and finishing day of the project (AKA, Dia Doce). Even though we had pancakes, the start of the day made me a bit sad. It was probably the last morning we would see Sarah (the other host in Quinta Emily), and the last time we would be working in the community. P.S. Sarah, you’re awesome, and we wish you the best of luck in med school! Anyways, once we were on the site, we started kind of slow, since the materials for the roof extension had not arrived yet. Josh did an awesome job painting the door, and Cindy and I helped with some grouting, while Jason did the heavy duty work (basically lifting and digging). Once the material arrived, we began cutting our pieces of wood to place for the roof extensions. We then proceeded to nail them into the steel beams of El Farito’s roof (and by we I mean Uriel, our contractor).

We had our last lunch with Yesenia, and said our respective goodbyes to her. Although she was a bit gossipy, I am sincerely going to miss her. I find it very impressive that even though she has been through so many hardships and barely finds enough money to support her and her large family, she is always staying positive and being welcoming to other people. I think about all the privileges we enjoy back in the States, and still keep worrying about the insignificant stuff. I guess these are the types of humbling experiences the previous PUC team talked to us about. She has a very contagious laugh which I will miss hearing. I hope that whenever I travel back to Cedro Galan, she has managed to open up the restaurant she’s been working so hard for.

After lunch, we continued helping Joe and Uriel nail the wood beams into the roof. Unfortunately, some of our nails were not long enough, so Uriel will be finishing the last part of the extension on Saturday. We cleaned up the place, and took our last picture with the ramp. It was a mixture of grief and joy once we saw our finished product. A whole year of effort had culminated, and we had managed to expand our scope and finish our planned project before the predicted time. I am very proud of my entire group, which I now call friends. It was because of their effort that everything we did was successfully accomplished. It was sad to realize we were not coming back to El Farito (for now), but I am glad to leave knowing I met some very welcoming and lovely people. It was honestly a very humbling and rewarding experience. These people we met, do not own half of the things we own, and yet, they are still happy and grateful to God for what they have. So why shouldn’t we? Experiences like this make you realize it is the little things that matter.

Thanks to my awesome team, and Cedro Galan, and our readers and supporters for reading today’s entry, and for making this rewarding day possible.

Thank you!!

– “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”.

 

 

Work Day Numero Dies

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Our new neighbors arrived at 10:30pm last night. They weren’t too loud, but I closed the door at the top of the stairs just in case. In the morning we got to see them all at breakfast. Jason removed the bat from Cindy’s bathroom and placed it in the courtyard for the high schoolers to marvel and gasp at. Poor bat was scared to death 😦  The group is mostly high school girls, but there are 4 guys, one older woman and one non-high school student. We know he is not in high school because he told us so when he introduced himself at breakfast. We think he is a youth pastor. One of the guys is really big, he looks like a football player. Moises stole one of his toast pieces from the toaster, but the boy did not know it was Moises.

We heard that this group would be staying at the coffee plantations on Mombacho Volcano for the next 4 nights, so that is really good news. We probably wont see them again before we leave, which means we don’t have to share our scarce water supply with them! Yes!

We finished pouring the sidewalk! We set a goal to finish by noon, and we finished nearly an hour early. I think it was 4 full batches and one 3/5 batch but it may have just been 3 and 3/5. I wouldn’t say we are concrete experts now, but we are pretty good at making it now.  We had to order some more aggregate to complete the sidewalk, and we got more than we needed, so the rest is sitting outside the clinic.  Apparently the minimum amount you must order to have it delivered as 1/2 a cubic yard, but it looked like they gave us more than that.

We had to adjust the forms a little bit before pouring because the rain came down hard last night. So hard that the surface of the concrete we poured yesterday was rough and not smooth. The rain even caused some of the nails in the stakes to come loose. We also added another curved rebar on the outer edge, and some vertical dowels to support the top rebar in the curb. We poured another section of wall for the small drain today as well. When we were finished pouring and screeding we rested for a while before blockading the concrete so the community members and MPI volunteers knew not to step on it.

Joe did something really funny today. After we were done pouring concrete Cindy, Jason, Moises and I were all standing inside the property talking. Joe starts walking towards us and telling us what we are going to do tomorrow, and there was a five gallon bucket lying on its side on the ground in his path. He managed to step on it in such a way that it flipped upward and he stepped into the bucket with his right foot. He tried to shake the bucket off, but it was stuck because of the concrete remains, and he had to yank it off!

There was a group of Manna volunteers leaving and one of the project directors stepped on the fresh concrete with one foot, and my immediate reaction was to yell “don’t step on that!” Everybody within earshot was startled, even the rest of our team, but I think it was a good way to drive the message home. Her foot didn’t really make an imprint in the concrete, but better safe than sorry. After that we placed CMU blocks all around the sidewalk. I suggested that we put the tarp that Harry had picked up this morning at the moment that it started raining, so we put it on really quickly, placing rocks and CMU on it to keep it from blowing away.

The rain was very intermittent today. On again for 5 minute and off again for 5 minutes, and not too heavy. We waited awhile inside the clinic for the rain to stop before walking over to Jessenia’s for lunch. Cindy went through the barbed wire fence too fast this time and scraped her back and her elbow, but she is okay. Today we had rice, beans, ground beef, potatoes and tortilla served with oatmeal milk. The oatmeal milk is really sweet, and tastes much better than it sounds. The sickly little dog did not come out to eat our scraps today. Jessenia told us that the dog had died 😦 Her name was “Lady”. May she rest in peace.

After lunch we returned to the clinic to lock up and take our water cooler. It looked like it was going to rain more and we were all tired from pouring concrete, so we were in agreement to do all of the cleanup work tomorrow. We also hope to start on the roof extension project tomorrow. Tomorrow or Friday we hope to visit another Manna site to do some reconnaissance for next year’s team. We have only heard about the drainage problems in Chiqilistagua and Villa Guadalupe, and we want to take pictures and measurements for next year’ team.

There was talk of going to see Jurassic World tonight, but we realized it doesn’t premier until tomorrow. It was raining a little in the afternoon, but not enough to cancel English classes, so for the first time in a week we went. We helped English 3 learn about when to use “how many vs. how much”, when to use “a little, a lot or some” and the difference between countable and uncountable nouns. It did not rain at all during the first class, but all of the students in the second class had called in saying they wouldn’t be coming, so there was only one English class today.

Harry picked us up and took us to Eskimo’s for dinner. We ate from the “fast-service” menu, but we also looked at the fancy dining menu. Everyone except Cindy ordered ice cream. Moises got the banana split that Jason ordered last time and he was very satisfied. Joe forget to take his bag back to the van, but Cindy picked it up for him. Halfway out the door he realized he had left it and went back to go check the table. He didn’t realize that Cindy was carrying it, and when he went back to go check the table I took it and hid it in the van. He came back to the van and I handed his bag to him!

Joe’s got a conference call tomorrow at 11am, so he’ll be staying behind at the hostel when we leave in the morning. We are going to put some finishing touches on the concrete tomorrow, clean up what remains of our mess, and make sure the ground is draining properly with no standing water.  We might start on the roof extension tomorrow too, but Joe wants to see the kind of metal angles that Uriel can get first, and we won’t order any until Harry brings Joe to the site at 12:30. There is also camp JAM tomorrow, so we will try and get the youngsters to make “thank you drawings” for some of our project donors.

Work Day Numero Nueve

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Yay! Pancakes and Pineapples for breakfast! Enrique Cordero joined us at breakfast for a while and we talked about the new group who is coming to stay at the hostel with us tonight. 18 of them, and they will be taking Cindy’s current room. Cindy moved out this morning to join the guys upstairs. She will now have her own room across the hall from the room where Jason, Moises and I are staying.

The concrete we poured yesterday looks good. Today we removed the wood forms careful with hammers. Today we made new wood forms for a half wall the exit of the large drain. This half-wall will have three smaller pipes at the bottom so that the rainwater will collect in the basin and drain slowly into the street. Cindy was still sick today, but she was still willing and able to work. She drilled the holes for the dowels for this half wall.

Today we also constructed the forms for the curved sidewalk. First we dug a trench so that the surface of the sidewalk would be about 4 inches above grade everywhere, slightly sloped to allow for drainage.  We had to make a lot of wooden stakes to keep the form in place. The curved forms arrived this morning and so did Walter. Walter helped us out a lot today with cutting the forms, the rebar, and after lunch when we made concrete. We drilled holes for dowels into the ramp and also into the concrete blocks below the fence door. We also made a new, smaller form for the inner wall of the small drain. Joe wanted the walls to be thicker I guess.

We started and finished placing the rebar for the sidewalk all before lunch. We didn’t have to purchase anymore materials! Lorena made us lunch today. Her house is much closer to El Farito than Jessenia’s, and we were thankful for the shorter walk. Lorena served us rice, potatoes, chicken, tostones and avocado. We shared a 3 liter bottle of Seven Up. Sam the Project Director joined us for lunch, and as we were finishing we were joined by a man named Andrew. Andrew was a project director for Manna several years ago, and he came back to visit the community before he begins law school in August at the University of Richmond. He and Lorena talked for a while in Spanish before Moises asked her the questions for the Community Impact Survey. Lorena is the president of the MPI Council for El Farito, and she performs a lot of the maintenance for the clinic.We took a picture with her before returning to work.

After lunch all we did was make and pour concrete. We did one full batch, and another half batch for the rectangular portion of the sidewalk closest to the entrance to the property, and for the large drain basin half-wall. Sam helped us make and pour the concrete. Before we left we covered the sidewalk concrete with wooden planks so that people wouldn’t step on it while it dried. We cleaned off the shovels and the insides of our 5 gallon buckets and headed home to wash up for English classes at 5pm.

The plan was to go to English classes, but it started raining hard at about 4:30pm, and Cindy got a text from Sam saying the class was canceled. Every time it rains in Managua English classes at El Farito are canceled, mostly because the main road to access the clinic becomes a river, and nobody wants to walk through that to get to class. It has been more than a week since we helped out at the classes, because it has rained every single evening since last Tuesday. except for yesterday. It really sucks. We still plan on finding a sports bar to watch the NBA game tonight, and we are going to invite Sarah to join us.

Our new neighbors will not arrive until 11pm tonight, well after we go to sleep, so we are praying that they will not be too noisy when they get here. We have mixed emotions about there arrival. We look forward to meeting them and having more people to talk to, but we do not look forward to sharing the scarce water supply with them or getting less sleep because they won’t be quiet past our bedtime. We have one more concrete pour tomorrow to finish the sidewalk, and I don’t know how I am going to react when Harry takes us back to the hostel and we find that all of the water is gone because our new neighbors used it all. Will we have to make a shower schedule and limit our own usage to share with them? Will we still get to shower everyday or will there only be enough to shower every other day? Joe is planning to shower at 5am everyday to make sure there is water enough for him.

We will adapt. It is a blessing to be able to shower every day, a luxury that I think many people here cannot afford. Maybe we will take showers in the rain!

Harry took us to Buffalo Wings (without the “Wild”, but the same restaurant). There were TV’s on all of the walls, and several of them were showing the game. Jason ordered a quesadilla, but they served him a grilled chicken sandwich, and it was crunchy. He said the first bite hurt. The rest of us ordered wings. The prices were same as what you would get at the same restaurant in the USA. Too expensive. At about half-time there was a loud popping sound, and all of the TV’s went dark. Some of them came on a few seconds later, I think our building got struck by lightning. Maybe it was because Moises ordered an ice cream brownie for the second time in three days. It was pouring rain when Harry picked us up. We all made it home safe. Pouring that sidewalk tomorrow.

Work Day Numero Ocho

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It was raining a little this morning, but it didn’t look like it was going to rain hard. Joe woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep because he was thinking about what we would do today.

Yesterday we drove to  and spent the day at Pochomil Beach. It is a special place for Harry’s family, and they go there on holiday to the same seafood restaurant. The quality of the food is high, and it is very clean, always certified by the Nicaraguan tourism board. We decided to invite them to go with us, so at 11am we picked up his wife, son and daughter. The drive was about an hour long and the weather remained overcast. When we got there they set up some tables and chairs and hammocks for us under a large thatched roof. We ordered our meals so we could go and enjoy the beach while the food was being prepared.

We had fun in the waves, trying to keep our heads above water when each wave came, and sometimes swimming with the wave towards shore. The slope of the beach was very gradual, and we stayed close to shore, such that our feet were always touching the sandy bottom. The waves sometimes pulled us towards the sea and other times towards the shore, but there was a constant pull southward. We had to be careful and always look back to shore to see that we didn’t lose track of where we were. Joe walked around on the beach a lot, and he also enjoyed the waves.

Our food was ready in about 40 minutes, so we came back to shore to eat. Jason ordered fish, Cindy and Moises had sea soup, and I had lobster. We had a great time talking with Harry’s family. After lunch the sun came out a little, but Joe was the only one to go back in the water. Moises and Omar rented a 4 wheel to drive around on the beach for half an hour, and they had a lot of fun. They drove out of our sight and so we thought they were lost for a while.  I put our team name in the sand and produced the picture you see above.

We left around 5pm to drive back to Managua. Harry dropped us off at the hostel and then took his family home. He came back in an hour to take the rest of the crew to TGI Friday’s again to watch Golden State and the Cavaliers battle it out in Game 2. I stayed at the hostel because I was too tired to go out again.

Now to talk about today. Today was all about the drainage system.  We are draining the water into the street, but now we are designing the drainage so that the flow into the street is slow. We spent a good deal of time using the hand saw to cut wood forms, and we also did a lot of digging to make concrete splash-pads at the entrances and exits of our two planned drains. We made and poured concrete to border the entrances and exits of these drains.  The concrete was made in several smaller batches, which were much easier to mix than the double batches. We poured two areas before lunch and another two after. Thank God it did not rain today.

With the hand-held power saw we made cuts in the side of south wall so that we could knock out a hole for the new drain pipe. Jason, Joe and Moises took turns with the hand saw, and all of us contributed to breaking out the hole. I used the drill to make several holes in the existing concrete half-walls for rebar dowels. On the last hole I was making I got the drill bit stuck, and Uriel engineered a clever way to remove it from the concrete using wire ties and the “breaking bar” as a lever. Uriel is the real practicing engineer, we are just students.

Jessenia was unable to make us lunch today due to some other engagement, so we had Harry drive us to the same cafeteria that we ate at on our first work day. Harry ate with us this time. After lunch we were visited by Argil and Diana. Diana is Jessenia’s 11 year old niece. Argil helped us dig out some of the dirt for the sidewalk that we will pour tomorrow. We still have to dig most of it tomorrow. There were supposed to be English classes today, but our phones told is it was going to rain later, so we decided not to go, and let Harry go home to his family. It ended up not raining at all, but Cindy really needed the rest. She didn’t sleep well last night, and was sick today, sneezing and sniffling. Later we crossed the street for dinner at Subway, and Cindy was able to get some coffee and medicine in the shops next door.

And today marks two full weeks in Nicaragua. Moises says it only feels like one week, but for me it feels like a month. We’re going to pour a sidewalk tomorrow, weather permitting. First we have to finish digging the trench, then place the rebar, but it is possible to do it all in one day. Uriel ordered flexible forms today, so they should arrive tomorrow. It’s gonna be a curved sidewalk!

Leon, Cerro Negro and La Playa

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This post is for Saturday.

Joe decided to come with us to explore Leon, but wisely chose not to join us for the volcano boarding. We left Quinta Emily at 8am, and drove for 2 hours. The countryside in Nicaragua is a little bit like West Texas: Lots of farms and cattle, and very dry. Nicaragua is a little more hilly though, due to the tectonic activity.

We found the Tierra Tour office and paid our trip fee in advance. I had originally reserved the 8am tour, but I forgot which one I had reserved, assuming it was the 2pm mistakenly. Thankfully, nobody else had reserved a tour that day, so we could go at 2pm. From there we walked to a little coffee shop because Joe wanted coffee and a something sweet. He ordered café Americano and piece of three layer cake drizzled in chocolate syrup. Cindy and I ordered frappes. We had picked up some maps at the Tierra Tour office to find places to see, and we read from Joe’s Nicaragua tourist book to decide on where to go.

The first place we went to was a house/museum for Ruben Dario, a famous poet and writer for Nicaragua in the colonial era. This house was his final resting place, and had been made into a museum after his death. We asked for a guided tour, and a local college student did his best to give the tour in English. He asked for one of us to fill out a survey for one of his classes, so I did. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures in the museum part of the house.

After Ruben Dario’s house we made our way to San Fransisco church. There were many homeless people standing/sitting in line at the front door waiting to be fed, and Joe sat down and talked to one who was losing his mind. The church was very beautiful, with vaulted ceilings and ornate decorations on all sides. At the back of the church there was a large wooden platform that looked like it was used for processions and reenactments of the Passion. We viewed that church for about ten minutes and then walked to the city square.

At the city square Moises was cornered by three ice cream carts and simply had to order some nivea. He took his sweet time deciding what to get, and the rest of us were itching to move on. Joe found that the church adjacent to the cathedral was closed, and Cindy almost bought another hammock at the tiendas set up at the square. We entered the cathedral as a group. It is the largest church I have ever seen, and has a very pretty white interior. We found another English speaking couple descend into a hole in the floor and asked them where they were going. They said they were getting a tour of the catacombs, and that it cost money, and that the guides for this tour could be found on the north east street corner. We spent maybe 20 minutes viewing the inside of this humongous church. We had hoped to access the bell tower to see the whole city, but the exterior of the church is under construction so the bell tower was inaccessible.

We walked to the location of another church (there are dozens of old churches within walking distance of each other in Leon) only to find that it was closed, behind a fence. We took some pictures there and decided it was time for lunch, so we walked back to the cathedral. There was a huge tent and projector set up by the cell service provider Claro on the northeast corner of city square . Today was the day of the Champion’s League Final between Barcelona and Juventus, and there were many rows of chairs set up for citizens to watch the game. I saw many Nicaraguans sporting Barca jerseys but none for Juventus. The restaurant at that corner was packed and overpriced, so we decided to walk to a modest pizza place, Antonino’s.

We ordered one large pepperoni and the house pizza, and watched the first half of the game on the single TV. Thankfully this restaurant was not packed, there was only one other couple sharing it with us. I answered many questions that the rest of the group had about the game and soccer in general. This pizza was much better than Nicaraguan Pizza Hut pizza. It started raining lightly while we were watching the game, but when we finished eating it stopped.

There was one piece of pizza that nobody had room for, so we took it on plate wrapped in a grocery bag. I wanted to find some homeless person to give it to, but I couldn’t find any on the road between Antonino’s and the Tierra Tour office. I ended up giving it to our driver. The vehicle that we rode in to get to Cerro Negro was the same as the one we took last weekend to Mombacho. This time though we rode with a 22 year old Israeli named Schoval (“Show-val”). He was vacationing with a bunch of other Israeli friends moving around Central America for 4 months before returning to Israel to start his college career. He had just completed his required military service of 3 years.

Our tour guide for this trip was Miguel, a very nice man who seemed to be in his 40’s, although we haven’t been so great at guessing the ages of Nicaraguans. He was wearing a University of Texas Hat too, and when we asked he said it was a gift from his Texas friend. We stopped at a local market to pick up some water and fruit, and then drove for an hour down a dirt road to Cerro Negro. We stopped at a hospitality center about a half mile from the base to go to the bathroom and pick up our boards. Jason and I decided to try the “standing up” boards (snowboards), and everyone else chose the “sitting down” boards (sleds).

We had to carry drawstring bags containing gloves, goggles and the volcano suit as well as our board up the volcano. The start of the hike was rough, walking on larger rocks in a diagonal path up one side of the volcano. We stopped every ten minutes or so to catch our breath, drink some water and take pictures. The views were stunning! We could see the rain falling on a little patch of Leon, so we said that is where Joe is at! As we climbed the rocks got smaller and smaller until they were like gravel. At the halfway point we were able to see the crater that erupted most recently, in 1999. Once we reached that point the hike was much easier because it was less steep. It took us bout an hour to reach the top.

At the top we dropped our bags at the start of the boarding slopes and walked around the rim to reach the highest point. Miguel showed us a patch of volcanic soil that was warm to the touch, and pointed to the sulfur vents. We took a jumping picture with Moises’ burst camera function on his phone! Then we walked back to our bags and started suiting up to board down the volcano (Is that the correct verb?) We were all really nervous and excited,  because the slope looked really steep. Miguel said it started off at 45 degrees and towards the bottom it increased to 40 degrees, but we could barely see the bottom. Miguel gave us a quick lesson on how to ride the boards, how to slow down and stop, and the best technique. We each had to go one at a time so we wouldn’t run into each other. The wind was blowing hard now, and the clouds were dark all around us, but no rain.

Schoval went first. Miguel ran halfway down the volcano to take pictures and videos of us as we passed. Cindy went next. Schoval looked like a speck at the base of the volcano! Next Moises. He went slower than Cindy. Then it was Jason’s turn. He went pretty fast, but he also fell on his butt towards the beginning of the run. I could see the rest of the group together at the base of the volcano now, and they looked really small. Miguel waved for me to go. I took it really slow at first, and gradually sped up, facing the volcano and using my hands as brakes, switching from leading with my left to leading with my right foot. I probably reached a maximum speed of 20mph. My foot straps started to loosen towards the end of the run, so I stopped and sat down, preferring to walk the rest of the way.

Rejoining the rest of the group, we all took off our volcano suits and tried to remove all of the volcanic ash from our bodies. It had filled our socks and gloves and our faces were covered with it too. No sprains, no broken bones though. We walked a short ways back to the vehicle. Miguel brought out the fruit he had purchase back in Leon, and we ate mangos and bananas as the rain began to fall. We used the rain to wash our sticky hands, and then Cindy’s wet wipes.

It rained the whole way back to Leon, and we learned a lot about Israel talking with Schoval. We said goodbye to him when he was dropped off at his hostel. Our driver took us back to the Tierra Tour office where Harry and Joe were waiting. The ride back to Managua was scary. The rain was pouring really hard for most of the way and it was dark out. Cindy was really scared sitting in the front seat. Seriously though, Harry is the best driver we could have asked for.

No dinner tonight, just snacks. We were exhausted after the long day. Some of us did walk to the supermarket. We asked Harry to pick us up at 11am tomorrow to take us to the beach where he always takes his family to have quality seafood. There is a high chance of rain tomorrow, but that doesn’t bother me. I would much rather be soaked than get sunburned again.

 

Work Day Numero Siete

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After seeing where the water pooled at the community center we had a better idea of how to re-grade the land. Today we picked up all of the clutter along the western wall and started moving dirt around so that rainwater would flow towards that wall. We dug a little trench against the western wall and sloped it so that water would flow south towards the entrance to the clinic. We unearthed a large chunk of concrete that did not seem to have any purpose, and it took us about an hour digging it out,  breaking it into pieces and removing it.  We moved some of the dirt up by the existing steps, into the terraces that we have crudely laid with CMU.  We envision these terraces to one day host landscape vegetation, but this is not our focus right now.

This morning we also moved the coarse aggregate that had been placed outside the fence into the community center, and moved all of the remaining dirt from the trench we dug yesterday out of the space for the new sidewalk. Pablo the welder was at work all morning with us finishing the railings, but no Uriel. His contract ended yesterday now that our primary project is complete. He assesses his work by the project and not by the time, so even though we finished the ramps early, we can’t use his labor for these new projects without paying him something more.

We had lunch again at the house of She-Who’s-Name-Can-Never-Be-Remembered. Joe has been having real trouble with names lately. He calls me Jason, calls Jason my name. He called Christina Katrina yesterday, and sometimes mixes up Moises and Cindy. He could not remember Jessenia’s name, so he has started calling her Estela whenever we are not in her presence. Today we used the shortcut to access her house, passing through the small opening in the barbed wire fence. Cindy giggled while Joe was passing through and caught his shirt on the barbed wire. This time Jessenia served us rice, beans and tortillas with grapefruit juice, jugo de toronja. It did not taste at all like the toronja-flavored Fresca drink that I like. We had to eat quickly to be back at El Farito for our meeting with Christina and Uriel at 1pm.

Our meeting with Christina and Uriel was very good. Joe was able to explain his ideas for the new sidewalk, roof extension and south side drainage pipe, and Uriel agreed to provide labor and extend the rent for the necessary equipment for us for next week for a total of 300 dollars! That includes only the drainage and sidewalk project, and not the roof extension project. That leaves us with maybe $700 left. The drainage and sidewalk project should be done by next Wednesday, so that will leave 2 days of work. We might just take those as excursion days, since there are so many things we want to do here in Nicaragua.

We really didn’t do much work after lunch, just some more dirt moving. We did make some holes in the western wall at the level where we want to make a hole for a drain pipe using Uriel’s drill. Joe said that would allow the rain expected tonight to drain slowly into the street. Jessenia came and saw the two drain pipes that she installed yesterday and warned that the city might remove them unless we do something to slow the flow of water into the street. Joe has some ideas.

It started to rain after we got back to the hostel, so our dinner with Lorena and her daughters Diana and Alba was canceled. We had it planned for yesterday but we postponed it to today when it rained yesterday. Maybe we can eat with them next week, but all of the food that they prepared us Thursday will go to waste, unless they share it with the community. We decided to go to Donya Tania again, because we really liked it the first time. I especially wanted to go for the dragonfruit juice, also called pintaya. The dinner was just as good as last time!

It was still raining when we got back to the hostel. Tomorrow we are planning on driving to Leon for volcano boarding on cierro negro volcano. The tour doesn’t start until 2pm, but we want to get there early to explore the city. Still don’t know if Joe wants to go with us to Leon, because he said he doesn’t want to go volcano boarding. He went to bed before we decided to get to Leon to explore beforehand. I’d like to sleep in, but breakfast is at 7am, todos los dias! We have 10 days left. I love this place, but I am starting to not like eating rice in beans, because we eat it todos los dias! Stay tuned.

Work Day Numero Seis

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This post is a day late because of our evening fun, which you will hear about at the end.

Joe told us about some ideas that he had for El Farito over breakfast. He says that right when he wakes up is when his brain works the best. Today we had pancakes and papaya. I don’t particularly like papaya.

We arrived at El Farito at about 8:10am, and started removing the wooden forms from the ramps. We removed all of the forms and took out all of the nails with hammers. We also moved the sand pile away from the entrance area to make way for the new sidewalk. We have decided to make a sidewalk between the entrance to the property and the edge of the nearest ramp, to reduce the standing water problem that occurs after heavy rains. We had to cut off some of the existing steps where they meet the new ramp so that the ramp, steps and sidewalk meet at a nice corner. Moises cut away the portion of the steps with the hand saw.

We had to make some 4 inch tall forms for the sidewalk, which meant cutting one of the old ones in half. Before, Uriel’s father cut all of the wood forms, and he was a master at it. Uriel’s father has been gone since last week, so we tried to cut one of the forms in half. We weren’t that good at it. All of us took turns and all of us were going outside the line. I cut myself, Cindy cut herself, Jason cut himself. It took us about an hour to cut one wood form piece. Uriel’s father would have finished in five minutes! We really wish he was still helping us 😦

Jessenia made us lunch again. This time it was yucca, cabbage and pork. The yucca tasted like potato, and it was pretty dry. She gave us huge portions this time, and Joe asked for a smaller portion when he saw the first plate. I  think she tied up the dogs this time so they wouldn’t bother us.

After lunch we found that the drain pipe, coarse aggregate and rebar for the drain and sidewalk had been delivered, so we started digging a trench. The PVC pipes were about 16ft long one 8″ diameter, one 8.5″ , really big pipes. We had to dig about 2 feet deep and 19″ wide. The trench spans under where the new sidewalk will go and out into the street, under the fence panel and remains of the old entrance ramp. It was tough work. We had to break up the ground with a pickaxe and then place the extra dirt on the side

Right when we had dug the trench to the required dimensions it started to pour. We were in a frenzy trying to cover the pipes with dirt, which was quickly becoming mud. The rain did not stop and it wasn’t long before we were soaked. We were able to fill in the trench, and we could see that our drain pipes were working very well. We also got to see where the water was forming pools around the clinic, very helpful for determining how to re grade the area.

Harry had already taken the van down to the highway when the sky started to get dark because he was worried that the road would soon be impassable with all of the rain, so we had to walk the quarter of a mile on the dirt road to the highway. Except, it wasn’t a road anymore. It was a river, six inches deep in some places, and we had to wade across to get to Harry. Needless to say, our shoes were soaked with mud, our socks irreparably browned. Harry drove us straight back to the hostel for showers, but we were mostly clean.

For dinner we decided on TGI Friday’s because we wanted to see the start of the Warriors/ Cavaliers game. The food there was really good, just as good as the ones in Texas, although I have only been to one in Texas once.20150604_160414 Our American friend Sarah who is also staying at Quinta Emily with us invited us to a discoteca/karaoke place with her Nicaraguan friends after dinner. Her friends were Naphtali and Flor, and they picked us up in a Jeep from TGI Friday’s. Harry took Joe and Jason home.

The discoteca/ karaoke place was in a large park on the shore of Lake Managua. There were about 30 people there, all sitting spread out at tables and chairs under the large, open structure. If anyone wanted to sing a song they only needed to motion for one particular man on the staff to come to you table so you could right down the name of your song on a little notepad. Later, when it was your turn to sing, he would bring you the microphone, and you could sing from your chair, watching the words on one of the many television screens mounted throughout the place. Flor sang a song, then Cindy and Flor sang one together, and after much convincing Moises finally sang one. All of the songs were in Spanish, everybody there was Nicaraguan as far as we could tell. I didn’t know any Spanish songs so I didn’t sing.

Every hour or so the karaoke time would end and a live band would come out and play salsa music for everyone to dance to. Everyone except Naphtali danced, although I admit I danced the least, coming to dance late to the first dance time and leaving early the second. There were some talented dancing couples with us that night, and it was very entertaining to watch them dance. The band would play non-stop for 30 minutes or so, and some people danced all the way through, but there were no fans, so most people were sweating heavily after the first two songs.

We stayed there until after midnight, and then Naphtali drove us home in the Jeep. There’s nobody on the streets at that hour of the night in Managua. We went straight to bed as soon as we got home. Leaving at 7:45am tomorrow, but the fun we had tonight makes up for the loss of sleep hopefully. We’ll see if that is the case tomorrow.

What Do We Do Now?

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Man that storm was big. The thunder was really loud, and the storm lasted at least three hours, making it hard to fall asleep.

In the morning we had breakfast at 7am as usual, but today we did not drive to work at 8am. Instead, we sat around a table in the lounge area and transcribed the most recent copy of our budget onto engineering paper. Turns out there were a lot of things that we ended up not needing, things that were on our budget that were never purchased. We were trying to figure out how much money we have left to spend on improving El Farito. We have about $1200 left.

Jessenia made us lunch again, so we drove out to El Farito at noon. We found the community center was locked. so we couldn’t go in to take pictures. It looked like rain hadn’t damaged any part of the project or the community center itself. We did not see any pools of water, it seems that the sun dried up all of the water, or the water seeped into the ground.  There were no pools of water inside the clinic either, but the clinic was open this morning, so it is possible that they were mopped out before we got there.

Lunch at Jessenia’s house consisted of rice, beans, potatoes, chicken, corn tortillas and chocolate water? Yes chocolate water. The little pup looked even more sickly than the last time we saw him. It is amazing he is still alive. Walter joined us for lunch, don’t know why, but he did. Jason was having staring contests with Sarita, and he won every single one. After lunch, Sarita showed us a shortcut back to Harry’s van. We had to pass through a barbed wire fence, but it was worth not having to walk the long way around.

With the community center being locked and no definite work plan, we asked Harry to drive us to the marketplace. Cindy bought a hammock!  There was a boy at the marketplace who made intricate figures out of palm branches, and he sold Joe a grasshopper and Moises a heart pierced by an hour. He says it is for his mother. I bought a tiny painting of Granada with Mombacho volcano in the background for $10. The painting was on the feather of a small bird and framed, made and sold by the artist Ramon Laru. He is a skilled painter!

From the marketplace we drove back to El Farito for English 1 Class. They were having a small party for Elena, one of the project directors who is leaving on Friday, and this was her last English class. Elena made brownies for us, and there were also chips and carbonated drinks, and dance music, but nobody wanted to dance. The class was asked to give a thank you message in English out loud to Elena, and Alba and Lorena did. Alba is Lorena’s daughter, older sister of Diana. We are eating at Lorena’s house tomorrow.

The sky got dark as the “party” was ending, and it seems that English 3 Class was canceled. Typically nobody shows up to the classes anyway when there is a chance of rain. Harry had left, so we walked down the dirt road to the main highway, to wait for him to pick us up. We were there for about 15 minutes, taking shelter under a little tin roof, watching the lightning and all the cars go by. It didn’t start raining until Harry picked us up.

We decided to go to Subway for dinner, so Harry could go home to his family sooner. He joined us for dinner so that we wouldn’t have to cross the street in the rain. What a nice man. Cindy has been plotting to kill Joe for quite some time, and today, as he was exiting the van to enter the Subway, she was sitting in the passenger seat and she opened the door as he was walking past it! Joe was faster than she thought and managed to avoid the swinging door.

Moises and Joe ordered ice cream from the store next door. Moises is developing an addiction to ice cream. He has had it nearly every day since our arrival. He is also forgetting English. He keeps asking us how to say certain common words.

Tonight, as I was writing this blog, she secretly turned off the electricity for Quinta Emily, just in time for Joe to stub his toe in the dark. We are planning on working tomorrow at 8am, but we will see after a night of no electric fans or charged phones. The power turned on again after about 40 minutes. I would not have made it through the night without it.

 

Work Day Numero Cinco

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We finished the ramp! Well not quite. We poured the rest of the concrete today, 6 batches total, installing three railing posts 3 inches away from the edge of the ramp.  We splayed the ends of the posts six inches in four directions at the bottom and used two rebar ties on each. Good thing we got the hack saw working again. The contractors were able to weld the new door into the frame, and it swings both ways. The frame is now plumb, but the vertical members are not centered on the anchor plates. They had to reduce the height of the door to make it fit, and that took a while since they had to cut and re-weld. The horizontal railings still need to be installed, but that will be the steel guy’s job. We will return tomorrow to cure the concrete we finished today, and start assessing the property for re grading and drainage. The grout under the door frame also needs to be fixed because we took away the formwork too early and it started cracking.

Jessenia served us lunch again: rice, beans, jumbo avocado, salad, fried plantains, and chicken legs. We ate at 1:15pm, a much more reasonable time compared to yesterday. Moises managed to take a video of me eating in slow motion, without me noticing; I was really hungry and focused on my food I guess. Jessenia’s youngest daughters, Sarah and Emily find slo-mo videos hilarious, so I hope it makes them laugh.

Internet and electricity were off for a while after we returned to Quinta Emily to wash up, but thankfully the water was still working. Unfortunately Cindy took a nap first and woke up to find that the water was not working! Poor Cindy. The water turned on later, so she did get to shower before we left for English Classes. Level 4 played a game today, and Level 5 got to listen to a podcast about the Rosetta Stone and answer comprehension questions. The project director Robert taught the class by lantern since it was dark.

We took a while to decide where to go for dinner, but eventually chose Tip Top Chicken. We ordered to-go so Harry could get back home to his family. The chicken is not “tip-top” quality, but it is decent. KFC is slightly better. We ate together at the table in the lounge area at the hostel. Joe went to bed early, the rest of us sat around talking. At approximately 10:45pm it started to rain suddenly, and the droplets falling on the flat metal roof made a huge noise, so that we had to yell to hear each other. Joe came downstairs and we all took pictures of the first rain we have seen in Nicaragua. This is a good thing! We will hopefully be able to see how the rain affects El Farito in the morning, to design a better drainage system. It is supposed to continue until midnight tonight, maybe longer, so there should be a lot of standing water at the clinic when we go tomorrow.

Work Day Numero Cuatro

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Long day it was. Tie and place the rest of the rebar we did. Elevate the rebar mat with concrete chairs we did. Make and pour four batches of concrete we did. Weld the frame and door the contractors did. And all of this before lunch! We didn’t eat until 2:42pm. Jessenia and her daughter Jessica made us lunch again. Moises was served first and started eating as soon as he got his plate.

We did a lot of waiting around for materials this morning. The rebar that we needed to finish the ramp was not there when we arrived, but Walter ordered it and had it delivered in less than an hour. We also had to order more cement, sand and coarse aggregate. The cement and sand came in one truck before noon, and the coarse aggregate arrived just after noon. Walter was able to find a working generator to power the welding torch over the weekend, so the welder was working all day. The frame is welded in place (not quite plumb but almost) and the chain-link fence door itself was made today, but it has yet to be put in place.

We were tired and dirty and halfway back to the hostel when Christina called Cindy asking to meet with us to talk about the project direction and budget. She had asked us while we were making concrete earlier, but that was not a good time. So, we drove back to meet with Christina to explain why we were using concrete for the ramp and none of the CMU, and that we didn’t need to purchase anything more for the planned project. Christina had piled up all of our receipts and run the numbers. Good news! We are about a week ahead of schedule, and nearly $1300 under budget!

We talked a little bit about what to do with the extra money and extra time, and we will make a decision together how to use the rest of our time here on Wednesday. Right now the most tangible option is to use the CMU to make some kind of drainage system on the south side of clinic building adjacent to the existing steps. Joe has some ideas. We expect to finish our current project on Wednesday and want to help the clinic at Cedro Galan in whatever way we can while we are still here. If that means pouring more concrete then most of the team will need some kind of extra incentive (Maybe ice cream), because of how taxing on the body it is.

Because of our late lunch we missed the English I class, but we did make it to the English III Class. We learned about Travel Vocabulary today, mostly concerning air travel. Do you know what a bell-boy is? It’s that guy at the fancy hotel who takes your luggage up to your room or fetches you towels. We saw many familiar faces from last week, and this time the MPI staff brought LED lamps so we didn’t have to use our phones when the sun went down. Still no power at El Farito.

Harry took us to a great place for dinner. Dona (“Donya”) Tania serves the best carne asada I have ever had. We also had gallo pinto, fried plantains, jumbo avocado, and pintaya (dragonfruit juice). Each of our meals only cost $6! What a steal! I was ready to pay $20 for that quantity of good food. Moises could not stop smiling for a while, he was so happy!

When we got  back to the hostel we saw the neighborhood gathered at the park for some kind of tournament. Upon investigation Moises Cindy and I discovered it was a foosball tournament. The players looked to be high school boys, strong and fast. They were really good. There was a group of young girls who stared at us for a long time before we started talking to them. One of them asked to braid Cindy’s hair! They were all between the ages of 5 and 9, and they were very curios about us Americans. They did not speak any English.

Tomorrow will hopefully be our last concrete pour, we still have to cut some pipe for the railings, but that might be something that only the contractors can do, since the hack saw broke today. There is another saw that can be used but it is much more dangerous. Still unsure what we will do after that. For now, I just want this sunburn to heal.