Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today's video was made by Team Mountain Chicken:

Our hearts in Haiti, Haiti in our hearts.

We all took note at different times during the day that if all had gone as planned, we would be in Haiti right now, observing the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January 2010.  The vets who went to Haiti have had lots of mixed feelings all day, thinking about what our lives would be like right now if we were sleeping in tents and doing a different version of water purification work with much more dire consequences if not done right.

The son of one of our friends from Haiti wrote us on behalf of his father today talking about our time there and about how much they appreciate what happened for them and for all of us this summer.  We wrote back saying that we were equally grateful to them (if not moreso) for welcoming us into their lives.  We let them know that we think about them often, but that today they rarely left our minds. 

We assume that this is the son that we did not meet, as his father told us that he could afford to educate only one of his ten children.  To receive an email from that family means that only he could be the one to send it. 

We are sure that lots of people’s thoughts turned to Haiti today, so we won’t belabor the point.  But we did spend time tonight talking through what we had lost and gained due to our change in plans.  Either way, we are here and we are working hard to be sure that we are making a meaningful contribution to improving the quality of life of the Carib people. 

And so today we hit the worksite ready to move as much debris, vegetation, mud and rocks as we possibly could to make the space ready to install our very complex water tank.  When we arrived, some of our new Dominican friends were already there clearing ground with machetes and hacking into the rock/dirt wall from which the springs emerge.  All of the work that they were doing left huge loads of stuff to be moved out of the way of the flow of the water. 

Our job was to move all of that stuff.  We divided into three teams instead of our usual four, with one team finishing the trailwork on the hillside, another moving piles of newly-cut vegetation into a huge stack that – once it dries – will be burned, and the other chipping away at the rock wall and moving the debris along the creekbed to get it out of the way. 

At a few points, several of us got distracted by our crazy plan to develop a pulley system by which to drop the materials down the hill to the site.  We did a short one in one direction that worked really well then did another longer one that had a few problems functioning just as we had hoped.  Different ones of us shimmied up palm trees at different times to place the ropes, some of us tugged to tighten things over and over again, and all of us weighed in on what would and wouldn’t work. 

The prime team of that job included our local physicist, (Jon/“Goose”); our chemistry major/Eagle Scout (Luke), our most skilled survivalist-type (Matt H.), our “what if?”/worst-case scenario expert (Shawny), our budding Marine officer (Jared), and one of our most dedicated strongmen (Trevor).  That combination of people meant that we solved a lot of problems just as they arose, though we are still not sure that we have created a workable system. 

Another show of excellent unity came when massive loads of dirt and rocks needed to be transported down the banks of the creek.  We formed one of our famous bucket brigades and sent full buckets of debris one way down the line, then crossed over and sent the empty buckets back by hopscotching them around the full bucket line.  (Maybe the video will make this point more clearly.)  In any case, the job involved literally TONS of work but also helped us have TONS of fun. 

Another interesting wrinkle in our day is that there was a water main break somewhere down the hill from where we are staying, meaning that our toilets don’t fill, we can’t take showers in any “normal” way, and none of our faucets work.  We have one spigot that is attached to a backup water tank on the property, so at least for now we still have water that we can carry to the toilets to make them flush and we can still filter water to drink.  When we brought our mud-caked bodies home from work today, we put on swimsuits and had all of the women gather round and wash ourselves as fast as we could, then all the men eventually did the same.  We expect the main to be fixed tomorrow, so we hope that means that our facilities will all come back online at that time. 

No matter what happens with our water supply tomorrow, we realized that we are yet again getting a unique look at the importance of safe water for people all over the world.  Right now, we know what we will do if the water does not return: take our two large heavy-duty filters down to the spring where we are working, filter as much water as we can based on the containers we have, and carry them back up the wicked hill just like all of the residents around that area are doing.  A couple of us are actually rooting for that outcome, while the rest of us see the impact of the absence of water on our lives even if we are eager for the problem to be fixed. 

Today our hearts were in Haiti, but from now on we see that the world needs us to be tied less to any one place than to the bigger issues and questions that might fall under the general (but difficult to define) category of “human rights.”  We doubt if we are going to be the ones who solve the enormous issues we are facing and absorbing, but we know that the first step we can take is to try to understand.  That’s why we are here.  We hope that we can help you to understand a few things that you didn’t know about as we continue to report out from the Carib Territory.  Please stay with us . . .

Julius, one of our fellow workers, handles a machete to clear away some brush.  

Matt successfully imitating “Mowgli.”  
Love…island style. 

No gold yet, more rocks and mud.

You put the puppy in the coconut and….wait a minute.

 Bolton resting his muscles.

 Dani taking a break to practice some yoga.

 Goose redirecting the river.

 Julius getting his chop on.

 Morgan and Jared hard at work

The mud-bucket brigade...Mud everywhere!!!

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