Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day Twelve: Happy Birthday, Iris!

We have a lot to tell you, but we went to town for Iris' birthday tonight and we are too tired to make videos, choose pictures, or post stories.  For now, though, we will tell you that Iris' birthday was a happy one, with a lovely meal, a homemade cake, and a warm late night swim in the Caribbean Sea.  Ahhh.

And from there we need to tell you that the phrase of the day is "Tarp Diaper."  More on this later.


Okay, it's later.   So, we spent a huge chunk of the morning strategizing about how to control the flow of water into the trench that will house the main support of the concrete water tank.  The first four of us who were up talked about it for an hour or more, then when more people got up it turned into a full group discussion.  We kept doing a great job of tearing ideas apart, but we had all kinds of trouble finding an idea that seemed like it might work.  

Finally, Luke proposed that we drop a tarp into the trench in such a way that the water would not get inside.  We would weight the tarp with rocks, then pour the concrete base right into it, sealing in the tarp for all time, but getting a shot at a solid block that did not get washed downstream before it could set.  When people were having trouble getting the concept, someone finally said, “Like a tarp diaper?”  Once we realized that the metaphor almost worked, we used that phrase all day as our shorthand version of the new option. 

We proposed the tarp diaper idea to Charles, who wasn’t sure it sounded like a good idea, but who also had no better idea about how to control the flow of water into the trench.  We started exploring the idea of a portable pump, but that’s not an easy item to find in the area where we are working (or in this whole country, apparently).  We bailed the trench just to see how fast it would fill up again and learned that we could get the water level pretty low pretty fast without it rising again too quickly for us to pour concrete into the trench (if we time it just right). 

While some of us were hypothesizing about how to control the water down below, others of us started to address the enormous pile of sand that got delivered last night.  As you may recall, it was not delivered to our normal trailhead, meaning that we had to carry it much farther down the steep slope than all of the other piles we’ve managed.  Our usual method of delivery is wheelbarrows but this path was REALLY daunting for a wheelbarrow (and even more so for its driver). 

A few brave souls still wrestled with the barrows (a new word for some of our teammates here, who were always convinced the word was “wheelbarrel”) and the rest of us started carrying sand bucket by bucket down the hill.  Some hugged their buckets close to their bodies, some carried them on their heads (using rolled-up t-shirts for balance) and others made yokes out of shovels to help them carry two buckets at once (probably totaling about 80 pounds or so).  No workout in any gym could possibly compare.

We took a lunch break and enjoyed food cooked for us by our Dominican co-workers.  They intended to make breadfruit, green bananas, and fish with coconut milk, but we were slow acquiring fish so they made a run for chicken wings instead.  They built a fire between three rocks that they used as a tripod for their big round pot and then started bringing things down from the trees all around.  Their machetes (which they call “cutlasses”) were their main cooking instruments. 

Once they finished cooking, they piled huge loads of food into our bowls and served up Kool-aid as a special drink.  Obviously the food was fabulous and surprisingly the Kool-aid was too.  We couldn’t possibly eat all that they made, but the broth and the breadfruit at the bottom of the pot were both so good that we could barely stop. 

There was more sand to be moved, though, so we headed back up the hill again to keep it rolling down the hill in whatever ways we could.  We also had to do a small bucket brigade at the bottom of the hill because Charles decided to knock some more of the loose dirt down from the hillside to prevent it from falling in to the tank later. 

The bucket brigade made good use of a game idea proposed in our comments section by Luke’s dad Russ, in which the group starts with a sentence and then with each pass of the bucket the sentence changes by one word.  The new word has to start with the same letter as the old word, so we got from combinations like “The avalanche scared the chief” to “Ten archaeologists Skyped Thai children.”  It is admittedly a bit stupid, but anything that can distract us from the monotony of moving more buckets is a welcome diversion. 

We knocked off early so that we could drive all along the coast to get to a beachfront restaurant on the Caribbean Sea.  Where we are staying, we overlook the Atlantic, so we decided we needed at least one night on the Caribbean itself.  The water was warm and calm with soft sand underfoot and gently sloping drops to ease us into the water.  After dinner we took a moonlight swim, then headed back to the vans.  

We started our hour or so drive home and suddenly saw that the headlights went out on one of the two vans in which we were riding.  The other van stopped to help and all of us did what we could to help locate and change the fuse for the lights.  Nothing worked.  Then it did.  So we drove.  Then the lights went out again.  We strategized for awhile then decided to caravan as closely together as we could with flashers flashing so that we could get home at a survivable hour.  Fortunately, the moon was almost full (and very bright) and there were only about three other cars on the road for the whole drive.  Also, we learned that the roads were strangely well-lit for the area where we are.  Things feel pretty underdeveloped here, but as far as streetlights go, the situation is better than we might have guessed.  We, of course, won't count on that driver/van again, but we are happy that we got home safely.  

We didn’t get home until almost 1:00 a.m., which counts as a VERY late night for us.  Either way, we need to get a lot done at the worksite on Thursday to get the project anywhere near completion before we leave.  Let’s hope . . .


  1. Grumps wants to know if you have an address, would like to be able to pinpoint your location with google maps, and it's too late for a "care" package. I've got you somewhere near Roseau,, but that's all ???