Day 3

16 February 2009 Travel

Part 4 of El Salvador Trip Journal

5:34 PM

Well, this is my first journal entry of the day – goes to show that I didn’t have much time to sit down and write today! It was the first build day, and while I don’t ache as much as I thought I would, I’m pretty exhausted. Let’s see if I can recount everything that happened.

After a breakfast of cheese omelettes and fried potatoes, we got ready and set off to our build sites. I put sunscreen on, but not bug spray: I hadn’t seen mosquitos the entire time ere, and I still haven’t been bitten once. My team – me, Sheila, Melissa, Lindsay, and Christina – were dropped off first. The build site was much more urban than I thought it would be. It seems like the daughter bought part of the backyard of the mother’s house – enough to build a house on. It’s a very crowded space. They have a garden, chicken coop, toilet, shower, washing-up area, table, existing house, and future house packed into about 300 square metres. The existing house is painted pastel green and it has two brightly coloured hammocks in the living room, in front of a small colour TV. It’s difficult to tell who lives here and who is a neighbour; who’s hired to work and who is just helping out. Everyone’s at work on the foundation; it’s nearly done being dug out by the time we arrive.

We meet our mason, Julio, and his assistant. He reminds us that his name sounds like “July”. We start by moving the piles of dirt to the outside of the future house site that have been extracted to make the foundation. Te shovels they have are about 3 feet tall; this’ll be good for my back by the end of the week. For the first half of the day we alternate between this and cutting and tying the rebar together. The masons help us with the rebar, making marks in blue pencil where we need to tie the pieces of steel together. For our first break we had a big bowl of sliced pineapple and melon; the lady who served us was friendly, but only politely so. I think it’ll take a few days before we feel like “one of the gang”. At lunchtime, we’re all gross, dirty, and sweaty, but our spirits are high. Despite a slip-up by Habitat resulting in 6 chicken dishes (there are 5 of us, 3 of which are vegetarians), we’re optimistic about the build. We’ve started telling each other, “You’re attractive when you sweat.”

We continued with the same jobs after lunch, but I felt a stronger sense of camaraderie with the Salvadorans this time, despite the language barrier. We started to mix concrete for the foundation after we were finished moving the dirt around. We had to take the white dirt from the road, mix it with the cement, and pound it into the foundation with water. Overall, I’m getting more comfortable with this construction stuff, and the kids on the site seem to be getting more comfortable with us. Lindsay and Nefri certainly had fun with the soccer balls, and Melissa was friendly with the rooster, even though he was cock-a-doole-doodling all through the day.

We were relieved when the bus came to pick us up at 4. We swung by the other site to pick up the rest of the team – their site is a lot more rural… but they have no shade at all! I’m glad we have a lot of trees and buildings around to block out the sun.
To sum things up, it was a lot of work, but I was glad the kids started to open up near the end of the day. My hands hurt now, but that might be from the writing rather than all the digging.

Sam Nabi

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