Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day Seventeen: Pouring the Floor and the SAD Office

Today was supposed to be an early start, as it turns out the Dominican workers who wouldn’t let us work on Sunday actually decided to work on Sunday themselves.  In doing so, they got close enough to finishing the steel work on the floor that we could almost show up and pour it.  There was still a bit of work to do to complete the prepwork so we got right in there and moved everything around to make it possible to lay the floor.  It was our biggest load of concrete mixing and moving so far, but we held on and got it done.

Just as we began to pour the floor, Charles took Shawny and Scott into town to chase down some camera lenses that our beloved support colleague Renee had sent from California.  They have been held up in Customs for a week or so now, so we finally just drove down there to try to get them out. 

The port where freight deliveries land is entirely confusing and the process for claiming your own possessions is even more so.  After multiple stops through various levels of Customs officers, our retrieval crew finally got to walk into the actual warehouse where the packages wait.  There another circuitous process started up, beginning at the window labeled “S.A.D. Office.”  S.A.D. stands for “Simplification of Administrative Documents,” which turns out to be an entirely incorrect description of what goes on there. 

Instead of simplifying anything, the office produces a range of incomprehensible documents, asks for verification of totally irrelevant pieces of information, then charges $4 EC (about $1.60 USD).  From there, the team went to another window under the instruction of the S.A.D Office but still didn’t come in contact with our package.  More paperwork emerged and the team was sent to a table by the door, from which a new form emerged that established another charge to be paid.

After a conversation about that piece of paper the group proceeded to another window right next to the first window, then carried the new paperwork they acquired from one person to another on adjoining tables near the door.  Though the staffers at those tables were sitting elbow-to-elbow at adjoining tables, the process involved handing all the papers to one guy, getting them back, taking one step to the right and handing them to the next guy, getting them back again, then taking one step to the right and handing them to the next guy.  Somehow that strange ritual completed the task and the package was freed.  “Simplification,” though, was out the window. 

Happily, the folks at the worksite had a less complicated day and they even got a chance to explore the area around the site, mainly because they had to cut a trail to an already-existing pile of rocks and sand that will supplement the materials we are using at our current site.  They found some beautiful seeds and a coffee tree, and some other weird fruits and stuff that we hadn’t seen yet.  Of course, they found more breadfruit trees and the accompanying fruits, which we might have maxed out on consuming. 

In the evening, we followed up on a special invitation from the Kalinago Council (including the current chief), who wanted to welcome us officially to the territory.  We did some mutual information sharing then explored the possibility of other projects we might have done or might do in the future.  We learned about some of the priorities that the council is pursuing, including health issues (diabetes and high blood pressure primarily), cultural issues (including reclaiming their native language), water and sanitation issues (for the residents who are not yet on “pipe water”), and education issues (including health and sex education). 

We came home for dinner and realized that we need to get serious about packing for our return home, but instead of doing that we sat together and laughed for a long time.  Surely we will get our things packed somehow . . .


  1. What little I know about the Carib people could fit in an eggshell floating in a pool of sulfurous volcano water, but I think I recall that somewhere in the past when they were starting out they were given a systems flow chart from our D.M.V. office to use as a model for their own bureaucracy.(to which they have obviously made improvements)
    By the time you guys see this posting you will probably already have eaten your last dinner meal on your temporary island home. Its always a little melancholy, this leaving part, even with the promise of your own bed to sleep in, a part of you yearns for one more day, a chance to make more of a difference, to see what was over the hill, to hear one more story, touch one more life in a faraway land.
    What a beautiful palette you have chosen to paint your life with, using those colors found in Dominica to fill in and blend what will become your masterpiece, a life well lived.
    Travel back safely because you still have many many years of work on your canvas.

  2. P.S. Im sure my son cant be bothered to read these. Would someone please let him know that the new time to beat is 54 minutes 30 seconds : )

  3. The third graders at Southwestern Elementary want to make sure to say Happy birthday to Trevor and Iris! They were very concerned about being late with the wishes. We are sorry that your adventure is almost over, but we want to see the rest of the pictures and videos!

    Toni (8) wants to know why you had a lizard on a leash?

    Aaron (9) wants to kknow how fast the cement stirer worked?

    Paige (9) wants to know how long it took m\to make the 8 mile hike?

    Hailey (8) What happened to the spider?

    Abby (8) Is the wall still standing?

    Dax (10) How many crabs did you see in all?

    Keegan (9) Did any animals try to hurt you?

    Have a safe trip back!!!