Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Thirteen: "Let's rethink this and come back to it later."

Well, well, well. Development work is very rewarding but also very maddening and very frustrating. Perhaps that is our lesson for the day. We ate our oatmeal and headed down to the worksite where we found that almost all of the sand was at the very bottom of the hill, having been transported there by our Dominican co-workers using our pulley system. We had a moment of disappointment that we didn't get to play with the pulleys today but then we got very excited when we realized that our attempt at labor-saving technology was actually paying off for our hosts. We have said that we will leave the ropes in place if our friends would like for us to do so, and now we have every reason to believe that they will want them. Of course, big yellow and white nylon lines might not be the best aesthetic contribution we can make to the landscape, but if they are helpful then we will gladly keep them in place.

One set of us got right to work on cutting "teeth" into the wall of our worksite where we thought supports for the tank would rest. As we dug them out, though, we realized that there wasn't solid enough rock on the wall to use as an anchor for anything. So, right away the overall plan changed. This level of change at this stage in our trip is a pretty big deal. That is, the engineer's plans are based on the belief that the wall from which the springs come is solid rock. It's not.

So, where the plans involved a 3-sided structure sunk into the wall, we now have to convert to a 4-sided structure and solve a number of problems about the interface between the springs and the tank. There was frantic mind-changing going on all day, with Shawny consulting our team then reporting to Charles about our thoughts, then returning with Charles' responses, etc., etc., etc.   It went on and on.  And on.

So, suddenly we were re-engineering this whole project on the fly in the rain on the muddy slopes of the riverbank.  We called the actual engineer who designed the project and ran our ideas by him.  (He liked the Tarp Diaper!)  He gave us some immediate tips then agreed to come out (from more than an hour away) and join us at the site tomorrow morning to help us solve our problems.   We look forward to getting absolute clarity first thing in the morning.

Perhaps it is obvious, but the shifting and changing of the day was quite frustrating.  We were fried as we felt unsure about where the project was going and whether we can even finish in the days we have left.  We struggled as we huddled under the tarps during one of many cloudbursts.  We snapped at each other a bit as we tried to process what was happening around us.  But we made it through.

One of our secrets to surviving today was that we had fabulous letters of encouragement from our penpals at Happy Hollow Elementary in West Lafayette, Indiana!  They have written to us three times so far and we actually owe them answers to some questions that they sent by email.  We also have some correspondence from Southwestern Elementary in Hanover, Indiana, so we have lots of shoutouts ahead of us.  Thanks to all of the Hoosier schoolfolks who are helping to boost our spirits!


  1. Really?
    Thats how you guys want to mark having an epiphany? When you reflect on the important concepts of this trip, and are searching for some phrase to help others who were not there in that moment of lucidity, when, like a flash of lightning cutting through the darkness a few simple words can cause an idea to crystallize and sends clarity through the group as a whole. And you guys choose "like a tarp diaper" to be those words?
    Doesnt really have the same ring to it as "Thats one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" does it?
    From all the pictures it certainly looks like you guys are working in the right area to be trying to collect water.
    The area really does look like a tropical paradise, and I dont think Ive heard any mention of mosquitoes or anything. And even though I dont get to see the sun set over the caribbean sea, I do get to wear dry shoes there : )
    I hope tomorrows visit from the engineer will drop some understanding on all of you like a tarp diaper.

  2. Greetings from Manteca! Love to you Claire and all of you in Dominica working so hard to build a water storage system that will make a difference for so many. I am impressed by your creativity and determination in solving daily problems and your will to make it happen. I can't wait to see the finished project. Glad to see you are also enjoying yourselves and the island. The waterfalls you went to looked amazing! I'm anxious each day to see the latest posting, pictures and video. Keep up the good work. Lots of Love, Mom

  3. Hi again, this message, Claire, is from Grandma and Grandpa in Sunol. They tried to post a message yesterday and just couldn't make it happen. They are enjoying following you and your group and wish you all the best! Very proud of you and the job you are doing. Hope your cement set!! Looking forward to seeing the next stage of development. Love you, Grandma and Grandpa. P.S. Glad to see the white t-shirt again!

  4. Argh, it sounds like a really frustrating day, but it is pretty cool that the engineer can come out and help you plan the changes. It sounds overall like this project has been put aside because it is such a pain. It is pretty awesome that you can be there to do this thing that was too much for others. Even if you don't finish, you will have done a lot more than if you hadn't gone. Let's hear it for the right to safe drinking water!