January 6th 2009,
Today was our first day of construction on site. As usual, there was the guy who distributes bread who honks his bike horn at 6:30 in the morning. This generally wakes many of us up. Although the nights are noisy with dog fights and unidentifiable sounds, the bike horn in the morning is by far the worst sound possible. The horn signaled that it was time for a breakfast of cereal and hot dog buns filled with egg and bean.
The beginning of the day was chaotic as we were trying to get ready. There was so much to do before we got started. Since most of us are new, we had very little clue what was supposed to get done to prepare for a day at the job. Fortunately, Norm and the veterans of El Salvador knew what was needed in order to prepare for a hard day of work.
After preparation, we finally arrived at the job site. Many workers were already there. All of the local workers at the site were skipping work (without pay) in order to help lay the pipe. Despite the economic consequences of working, there were approximately 70 volunteers from the two communities. All of them were eager to help and would do everything that was asked of them. Unfortunately, we were unable to give them anything to do.
In El Salvador, time is only an indication of when something will get done. The pipe that we were supposed to lay did not arrive until the afternoon. This limited the amount of work that could get done. As a result, only the excavator operator could work while everyone either did smaller jobs or stood around.After hardly working, it was lunch time. Our cook (“our favorite kitchen” <inside joke>), had prepared steak for us. Our cook, Myrna, is amazing. She will do anything and everything for us. The unfortunate thing is, she only makes $0.75 per hour. This is not enough money to buy a beer (which, by the way, costs $1.00).
After lunch, the pipes finally came. There are many different jobs that need to get done on a job site. The first is the excavator operator. This is self explanatory, but he digs all of our holes. Once the holes are dug, the pipe is laid in the hole. From there, the holes are refilled with soil. At certain points throughout filling, the soil needs to be compacted. The soil here is full of rocks and is hard to move sometimes. To make matters worse, the soil is thrown to the side of the road where there is a barbed wire fence and poisonous prickly plants along the entire area where we are laying the pipe. Another job includes connecting the piping system to each individual house. The pipe is laid along a road and there are 17 separate areas where house connections need to be made. The excavator missed the first connection so a group of workers dug a trench to lay the house connection pipe. This took all afternoon and was the last thing that got done during the day.
One of the inconveniences of these house connections is a pipe of potable water that we must work around. When we work tomorrow, we will have to dig holes 1 meter (3 feet) deep to expose this pipe so the excavator can work around it. We are not looking forward to this extra bit of work, but that is why we are down here to help out the community so we hope to help out as much as we are able to.
It is hard to imagine from your computer how good of a feeling it is to get done with work for the day.Knowing that you are done for the day is a great feeling. The sun is oppressive and someone (actually myself) forgot it was January. After work, even a cold shower is fought over. We decided that Eric should get the first shower because he was the dirtiest. Throughout the next few hours, all 16 of us finally got clean. Once we were finally all clean, we had dinner, a mini celebration for the completion of our first day, and then we went to bed pretty early. I will retire soon after I brush my teeth and get ready for the bread guy with his bike horn to blare his horn way too early tomorrow morning.
(Written By: Jonas Balistreri)