Friday, February 10, 2012

Construction Part 1

Fran Ochomoro, our biggest fan, hard at work

All smiles

The first row is the hardest, it has to be completely leveled so that the latrine doesnt fall in on itself- or so they say.

El Gemelo (the twin)

Ana hard at work

I named her Natalia- they havent decided if they like it yet but I know they will come around.

Jess and Natalia

Ana and Natalia

Entrance to 30 de Mayo

Wahoo- second row (of 4)!

Proud owner

The floor

Posted by Picasa

The rocks came!

The roccks came!

So did the bricks

Don Jeronimo (in blue) directing traffic. This project is only possible because of this man.

Child labor laws?

Heaviest saco ever...

Main road in 30 de Mayo

I can carry one brick

Tkaing a break

My "engineers"!

Brand new puppy- eyes still arent open

The Germans lending a helping hand

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rocks...where are you?!

I knew things were running too smoothly. Today was the day the “other foot finally fell”. It started with the collision of my site-mate Jessica’s VAST project (HIV/aids based) and the day we were going to give rocks (for the latrines) to 30. Santa Fe, the construction company that is building the highway from Managua to San Carlos told me last week that I could have the rocks for free if I can provide the transportation. My next move was to go to the mayor’s office and ask for transport- which led to negotiating whether I was going to put the diesel or they were. Finally they agreed that I could have the truck, and they would pay the gas, this Friday, today. But today is Jess’ VAST project so how am I supposed to be in two places at once?

I ended up getting my friend and a member of the Comite de Responsables, Don Jeronimo, to go in the quarry with the truck and the driver to pick up the rock. Now Don Jeronimo doesn’t have a cell phone- so getting him to go involved calling someone else in the neighborhood who had to look for him and then relay all the messages- such as: the truck is leaving at 1 (it left at 130), its going to El Tule (turns out it was going much further north to San Miguelito) etc. So I thought, if Jeronimo can get to the truck, and the truck can get to Santa Fe then we are golden.
Here’s when the story gets good. Santa Fe told me that we had to arrive after 2PM because then my contact, Marcos, would be there.  The truck leaves at 130 with the driver and Jeronimo (without cell phone). At 1:50 Santa Fe (Marcos) calls me to tell me that all of the workers are leaving at 2 because they’ve already worked their 8 hour shift. I call the mayor’s office to see where the truck is- its gone, of course. I call back Santa Fe and beg Marcos to call someone at the quarry (Marcos is on his way to Managua…) and try as hard as he can to get someone to stay for the truck.
Marcos says I have 30 minutes to get there, its 2:08- oh, and I have a lecture Im about to start for Jess’ VAST project.
At 3 I get a call from the mayors office saying: the trucks been at the gate for “a while” and no ones there.
I call Marcos and he says, Natalia, this is your lucky day. I was driving by and saw the truck, but they are at the wrong place, so I sent them to the right one. (Out of everything that’s happened this day, that was actually my fault- woops.) The mayors office says: I hope its not far, we can only pay the disel to El Tule.
I presented my lecture and run to 30 de Mayo. No sign of any trucks. Jeronimos wife (pictured as “My BFF of 30 in previous post) thinks its funny her husband is on this silly gringa adventure. At 4PM the mayors office calls me and says: they are at the place (where the workers were only supposed to be waiting for 30 minutes and this is 2 hours later) but they don’t have written permission from Marcos- so they wont give the truck the rock.
What do I do? Obviously call Marcos and tell him to deal with the situation- giving him the number of the driver- which was just given to me by the mayors office and keep my fingers crossed.
 I feel awful and mill around/see where people are going to put their latrines/eat plantains until 5:30 when it starts to get dark. I cant stay in 30 in the dark because there is no electricity and it is scary, plus the mosquitoes there are the likes that one would see in Jumanji. Im just too gringa for 30. PLUS I have to go back down town to help Jess with the rest of her project on the assumption that either the truck would come full, or empty, but that there wasn’t anything I could do anymore.
Jess is in the process of throwing this great condom fashion show when we are rudely interrupted by a group of basketball players. I am in the middle of telling them that they need to get lost because we rented out the cancha (community gym) when one of my contacts from the mayors office shows up- ready to ball. He asks me a couple of times why they cant enter and the casually says “the truck broke down out side of San Miguelito- we sent a mechanic at 6 but…we don’t know whats wrong”.
What? How could he just casually drop that into conversation? Poor Jeronimo is lost in San Miguelito and who knows if the rock is in the truck or not. As of this writing the rock, but more importantly, Jeronimo are not in San Carlos- its 9PM.
If the rock doesn’t get here by Sunday we wont be able to construct until next weekend.
I wish I had just paid for the rock and had it delivered. It really brings light to the saying that nothing in this world is truly free.
UPDATE: I don’t know how it happened but the rocks are, supposedly, in 30 de Mayo (4PM Saturday). We will see if they are there tomorrow at 6AM. Wait for updates.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Excerpt from a recent email to my family:

"So as you all know I am working on a latrine project to finish up my 2
years here in Nicaragua. We've (the community and I) been working on
this project for the last 8 months; researching the community and
potential beneficiaries, writing the proposal, defending the proposal
in Managua and educating the community on personal and communal
hygiene as well as the use and maintenance of the latrines.

Through all of this I have worked closely with the members of the
community, the Mayors office, the office of tourism, a Costa Rican
firm that is constructing the road from Managua to San Carlos, and
the Ministry of Health. Peace Corps awarded us a Humanitarian
Assistance grant for the maximum allowable amount of $10.000. The
community is required to contribute 25% of the total cost as a way to
demonstrate involvement. The community of San Carlos has donated 32%
of the total amount to this project through manual labor, reduced cost
of materials, cash gifts and major transportation (from Managua to San


We've decided to break the group into two. We are going to construct 12 latrines first (those that live on the first main road) and then 15. Which means we are bringing materials to the neighborhood two times (a longer process than I ever thought!) and then constructing in two fasces.

Day 1: Group A: Bringing Iron, nails, cement, and sand

No big deal right? But we are talking 72 bag of cement...120 lbs of nails...and 480 buckets of sand.

We started small with the cement. I saw on the bag that it weighed 42.5 so I thought no big deal. And then I picked it up. Immediately fireworks started going off in my eyes and I thought- I am going to die. Unfortunately Dona Maria (a 75 year old woman that weighs less than a hundred pounds) just picked up one of the bags as if it were filled with feathers. So I walked, little by little, until I made it the 20 yards to Dona Marias house. I was pretty embarrassed at my poor performance. Later on that night Cartucho informed me that the bag was 42.5 kilos, so approximately 100 lbs. Now I am proud I made it that far without falling over.

And the sand. Oh the sand. Each house was given 40 buckets of sand. We (the women) all stood around and watched the process for the first house. It involved putting two buckets of sand (each weighs 30+lbs) into a bag and carrying it the house. Luckily we were able to change the process by carrying the buckets, bucket by bucket, to the house which allowed us to help with process. Needless to say, those buckets were still pretty heavy. The best part of this was that we decide to go house by house- if I help carry buckets of sand to your house, you need to help me carry buckets of sand to my house. It worked really well and we were finished in a couple of hours.

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment. I didnt take many because I was making sure the first day went smoothly, but here are a couple.

My BFF in 30 de Mayo

Dona Maria.
 Here she has "verguenza" because of the previous pic