Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day Four: Between the Fence and the Breadfruit Tree

Today's video is by Team Arretao:

"Between the fence and the breadfruit tree 
. . . where the two trees stand alone."  

Okay folks, if you haven't caught up with our blogs so far, today is the day to really get a feel for what we are doing.  The quote above is some of the beautiful accidental poetry spoken by our host, Charles Williams.  Charles is quite a celebrity here (the respected kind, not the spectacle kind) and the more we talk with him, the more we see why.  As he helped us get our bearings about our very complicated job, we got a whole new feel for where we are and what it means to be here.

Our day began with our first walk down a steep, STEEP, STEEP hill (with immediate anticipatory agony about the eventual walk back up) to the end of the paved road.  From there, Charles sent us a bit farther until we turned left "between the fence and the breadfruit tree."  As he pointed to where we were headed -- down another slope and into a ravine -- he gestured out to two tall trees in the near distance, indicating that we would find our worksite there "where the two trees stand alone."

Before we even got to our site, then, we were completely blown away by all that was wrapped up in those two simple and beautiful phrases.  We were swept into a different way of finding one's place, a set of priorities that seem different from our own (but to which we might aspire), and a culture that is based in nature, surrounded by nature, and guided by nature.

Strangely, our task at the bottom of this climb seemed intuitively counter to everything the last sentence implies.  That is, our job here is to tame and control some of the beauty that we encountered.  More specifically, we came upon a volcanic rock wall with little springs bursting from it, rolling down the rock, then joining into a creek that runs by below. 

It’s hard to spot sometimes, but actually, views like this one are all over this island.  Really all over it.  All along the roadsides are little bursts of water coming out of the rock walls, spilling filtered spring water out onto the land below.  In fact, those springs are the source of most drinking water here and much ingenuity goes into methods by which to capture it for use. 

The place we encountered today is one of the ones used by surrounding residents to collect drinking water.  Just below, they also bathe and do laundry in the area.  Sometimes, though, they bathe and do laundry above the area, then collect water from the pools that collect underneath the springs.  As we can all guess, the water that one collects downstream from a bathing site is at least slightly less desirable than water collected before it has connected with soap, detergent, and dirty clothes/people. 

Thus, Charles wants to build a tank that will collect the flow just before it hits the creek, then let the runoff continue into the creek.  The neighbors can tap the water from the tank instead of putting jugs in the pools and then they can bathe anywhere along the span without changing the composition of the drinking water. 

Our job, then, is to take this idyllic remote water source and surround it in concrete.  Of course, we are already struggling with thoughts of the “before and after” pictures that will accompany this endeavor, but we also clearly see that finding a way to secure and contain safe drinking water must be a top priority for people all over the world.  Dominica is fortunate that it has this particular resource in such plenty, but its residents (particularly those in the Carib Territory) need help making things work in a way that will protect their health and safety. 

And so, we spent today doing some serious hard labor as we cleared a path over which we can carry materials to dam this spring for the benefit of the people living around it.  It’s a difficult concept to express, especially because the process of clearing a trail is initially quite destructive, involving shovels, machetes, pickaxes, pitchforks, and all manner of scraping devices.  Add huge whopping loads of rain forest rain on top of all of this labor and perhaps you can get close to understanding the intensity of our experience today. 

As one part of our trail strategy, we harvested rocks from all along the creek to become the steps down from the road to the spring.  This might all seem very sweet and serene, but when you walk downhill in a slippery creekbed, then walk back up carrying a really big rock, you will find that even though the end of the situation is rewarding, the middle part is pretty strenuous. 

We did, though, get to see the first signs of the power of unity, as each of our hard-won stones found its way to a pile at the bottom of the trail, then got relocated up the hillside to become stairsteps.  Occasionally, then, as some team member returned from a rock foray, he or she would glance up the hill and let out a big fat “wow” in seeing all that had happened in just the few moments that the person had been away. 

Now that we have seen this site, we are beginning to think that completion of this job in the time frame available to us will be daunting, meaning this might be our one and only job here.  The logistics of getting the materials that we need down the trail that we hiked are mind-boggling and produce no end of conversation about brilliant ideas that might make the job a little less laborious. We will soon see. 

Enjoy the video posted above and watch for pictures to emerge below in the coming days.  We especially hope you enjoy them if you are Renee Egan, or a sixth-grader at Happy Hollow Elementary School in West Lafayette, Indiana, or a third grader at Southwestern Elementary in Hanover, Indiana.  We hope you’ll let us know if you do . . .

Another man from Dominica was helping us move the scraps that were cut down out of the way.  

We join the Caribs in a successful effort to clear a log from their future water storage site.

One of the men who lives in Dominica was assisting us in our project today. He was using the machete to cut a tree in half in order for us to be able to move it out of the way. 

“Ahh I really want a pair of those shoes!”

In this picture is the, as local Carib, Julius says, “The purest water there is, very tasty.” Over the next 15 days we will manipulate nature using Carib and college student ingenuity in order to collect enough water for all thirsts to be quenched.

Everyone pushing to move a fallen tree in our way.

Matt H. clearing away vegetation so we can cut down this tree.

A frog on Scott's shoulder.

A local boy peeking out of his door to take a look.

The site of our water capture project.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you guys are getting right to it after a long journey! I can't wait to see what you all can accomplish, and I have all of Mexico rooting for you. Adelante! Stay safe and healthy, no Rota please! Much love
    Ana Ahnen