Friday, October 3, 2008

It´s been a month! (Week 3 in Bua)

Hello again out there!

I´m in Santo Domingo again, but we are heading to the coast later Sua, in fact. Much like Bua, but with an S :-P

This past week has been awesome, as usual. I´d been feeling a little sick and tired, but I started feeling much much better which is fabulous.

On Monday I went with Robin and five other TBBers to another Tsachila community about two hours by open bed truck from Bua called Poste (POST-a) to help dig a well there. The idea is that after we finish the well there we can use the equipment to build one at Shino Pi (the cultural center in Bua). Ultimately, it looks like the well-digging in Poste has been postponed until the Missionaries who began it can come back and finish it because at 17 meters deep it´s getting very difficult to dig and they estimate we have another 13 meters to go! Still, on Monday, when I went, we were still dig, dig, digging and so I will do my best to describe the process. (The same process we´ll be working on it in Bua starting Monday.) I have some photos that may be more useful than my attempt at an explanation and I drew a diagram in my journal, but for now this is the best I can do:

Basically, there is about 50 feet of bamboo scaffolding. On one side, about three quarters of the way up is a bamboo platform on which someone stands or sits to guide the tools from above. The four giant vertical pieces of bamboo that primarily make up the scaffolding each sit in a meter deep hole to keep them stable; crossbars of bamboo connect the four main poles and are attached with thin metal wire. The cross bars function mainly as a way to climb up to the bamboo platform. At the top of the scaffolding is a pulley, through which runs a rope. The rope is attached at one end to a long metal pole and at the other hangs loose. At the bottom of the pole is a digging apparatus shaped like two cupped hands attached at the palm near the wrist. It is maybe 8 inches long. To dig, you lower the pole down into the hole and twist is around so that the cuplike apparatus fills with dirt. However, by the time we got to the well, the hole was 15 meters deep, so after lowing the pole until its tip was just above ground level, we had to use monkey wrenches to screw on another equally long (about 50 feet each) metal pole and then lower the whole shebang until it hit bottom and was sticking about four feet out of the hole. It is this second pole that has the wooden handle at its tip that we actually grab on to in order to dig. Then we walk around the pole in circles for 3 to 5 minutes and hope we´ve filled the scooper with dirt. Then it´s time to lift it out. The extra pole has to be unscrewed each time, because leaving them connected would risk breaking the entire thing as together they are much much taller than the scaffolding. Each "scoop" of dirt earned us about 6 inches of depth -- we think -- if it was a good, full scoop. When we hit rock, we had to untie teh pole from the rope and tie on a chisel (a GIANT chisel as long as my arm fro mshoulder to fingertip and very heavy) and drop it down the hole to break through the rock. We kept hitting this rocky wet clay which was maybe worse than rock; the chisel could sort of loosen it, but not break through and it was so sticky that at one point it took three guys pulling for several minutes to unstick it from the depths of the hole. So basically, well digging is slow going! Luckily, the well we´ll be digging at Shino Pi has already been started by hand, meaning that 12 meters (!) down there is room enough for someone to stand so we can start the digging from there and our bamboo scaffolding can be shorter and more stable.

Additionally, while digging at Poste, we met another Peace Corps volunteer named Ryan who had been living there for about 6 months. I asked him for more information about how the PC works, really. I hope we keep meeting volunteers...I´m getting a lot of useful insight and information about how the Peace Corps works that I can store away and use to help me make my decision about possibly applying when the time comes.

I spent the next two days helping to build the six doors for the school´s soon to be new eco toilets -- measuring, sawing, hammering -- I´m going to be downright handy by the time this month is over!

After work two days this week, some of the neighboring TBBers have come over to visitm, chatting or playing cards for an hour or so in the evening. It´s so incredibly nice to have time to get to know people and just hang out...and it´s fun. We discussed our holiday traditions and I´m going to see if I can get some dreidels and gelt mailed to Vietnam. I´m also learning to play cribbage! (I´m sorry if that is horribly misspelled...) Several people on the program play at home with their grandparents...maybe it´s an East Coast thing? I´d hardly heard of it before last month.

Yesterday, half of us went on a "river walk" with a woman named Tatianna who is an environmental engineering student at the university in Quito and also works with Yanapuma to map out Bua with GPS. She talked a lot about the importance of stopping river pollution and reforesting along its banks...all in Spanish and I understood 99 percent of it! It was very interesting, but I don´t have time to rehash it all here. We did find a lot of trash in the river as well as empty bottles of pesticides and I feel substantially less clean knowing that that is where I´ve been bathing for the past few weeks. Incidentally, Tatianna was standing on the rock we use to wash our clothes when she said that that part of the river was very dirty and she´d hate to have to bathe in it. Oh, and we were told to watch out for the very venemous X snakes that I did not previously know inhabited the river. Sweet. :-P

Today I came into Santo Domingo with Robin, two Tsachila community leaders Alfonso and Freddie, Andy (the head of Yanapuma) and Guillermo (the director of the school we´re working at) to meet with the representative of the local prefect. She was interested in building similar projects all over if this pilot project proved successful and wanted specific project information and cost analyses to present to the prefecture this afternoon. She seemed to maybe underestimate how difficult it is to convince people of the importance of conservation and the utility of eco toilets, but did at least seem enthusiastic about the idea. I guess it´s easier to talk down expectations than to get her to like the project at all.

So, that brings me to now, in this internet cafe with Robin. We´ve got to head back to Bua so that we can catch a bus for our 4 hour ride to the coast where we´ll spend the weekend. (Showers!!! And an outlet to charge my iPod!!!)

I didn´t catch the debate last night, but I´ve read about it...I want to see at least one live...I hope we can!

´sall for now folks,

Oh, P.S. I read Brideshead Revisited last weekend...very good. I missed literature! It made me SO happy to read a novel!


mamacita said...

I played cribbage in New Mexico, which was the East to me!


Staci said...

I feel like I'm going to have to do some digging and acquire some major carpentry skills to keep up with you once you get back!

Annie McG said...

this sounds so amazing. i'm increasingly envious. i hope you're still having fun a week from now!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the updates Becca. Love the detailed writing, puts us right into the project ;)