January 11, 2011
Today we got up early ready to work! The excavator that is owned by the alcaldia has been broken down and awaiting parts, so we rented one in San Salvador. We got to Nuevo Ferrocarril at about 7:30 to get some planning done before the backhoe was due to arrive at 8. Flory and I went down to the highway to flag down the truck hauling the backhoe to make sure it went to the right place. Long story short, the backhoe did not arrive until around 1 PM, much to everyone's dismay. In the meantime, we were digging manholes and searching for pipes using picks and shovels alongside the locals. It was good to do some good physical labor, but everyone was frustrated about the backhoe.
It was embarassing working with the locals because they work hard and are good at what they do, and I had to take a break after every few minutes of swinging a pick in the midday sun. The ground is loaded with rocks and the sun here is brutal, so we retreat frequently to the shade. Jim is great about making sure we are drinking enough water, bringing us juice, and encouraging us to rest. Once the backhoe arrived we were able to make some more progress, and it was a little discouraging to see our morning's work of digging manholes quickly doubled by a few minutes' work with the backhoe. The operator was not as skilled as the operator we've had in the past (I'm told). The team would like to bring in a new operator, but apparently when you rent a backhoe it comes with an operator that you're stuck with. The guy we buy materials from at the hardware store says that it is typical for rented equipment to show up as late as it did today.
When we arrived back at the hostel covered in dirt (or "soil" as the geological engineers insist on calling it), we all showered quickly to go over to Mirna's (our chef at the hostel -- Missy calls her our "mom") house for a memorial of a family member of hers who died 3 years ago at the age of 90. Each year they have a memorial, and this year there were at least a dozen bouquets in front of the memorial. Mirna then served us duck tamales which her family cooked on pots over an open fire. We have passed a couple dozen trucks on the freeway that are loaded with sticks, and now I know that the sticks used for cooking over fire. The food was great. Mirna takes good care of us and it was nice to meet her family. We were also glad to have a meal that did not involve beans!
After Mirna's, we returned for the hostel to relax. The hostel has a great big common area with a thatched roof, benches, and hammocks, and is a fun place to relax and hang out with each other. It is really nice to spend time with such a great group of people, and although I'm getting a little homesick, I expect to feel a little El Salvador sick when I get back.