Saturday, October 25, 2008

Last Days in El Salvador

The last two days here have been a combination of hard work, celebration and sad good-byes. I've been a little out of touch since the Thursday update, because 8 of us, including me, got a little case of Montezuma's revenge. What did we ever do to him?? I was better by Friday morning after a very long night. Anyway, we aren't here to talk about bowel function, so let's talk about work instead.
By Thursday, we had finished the trenches and were ready to pour the concrete into the trenches for the foundation footings. So, how did we make the concrete you ask? By hauling the gravel, sand and bags of Portland cement, dumping them in a pile, mixing it by hand twice, adding water and mixing again, that's how. Let me tell you that this is hard, hard work, but the final result was pretty darn cool.

The next step was to form a bucket brigade to help fill the foundations. By Thursday afternoon both sites had the trenches full of cement. We had our regular helpers, Ingrid, Rafael and Mauricio, on site to add assistance and to just increase the cute factor by about 100%. Rafael is such a hard little worker and tough. He could carry the cement buckets just like the rest of us. A pretty amazing 8 year old, I should say.
Here I am carrying Rafael back to the work site after lunch. Notice his little boots. He knew were concerned about him hurting his feet when he was carrying bricks, so he showed up Thursday with a pair of rubber boots that were obviously too small for him. So, an interesting thing happened with Rafael on Friday. Our local Habitat affiliate contact was on site with us and Rafael sat down with Katie from our team and said to Katie in Spanish "Tell me a story." Sweet. So, Katie with the translation help of Luis, told Rafael about Jack and the Bean Stalk. When they got the part about Jack waking up to find the giant bean stalk, Luis asked Rafael what he thought Jack did next and Rafael said "He started picking beans for his family." Katie continued with the story and ended it with Jack ending up with a goose that laid golden eggs after the giant fell from the sky and died. Luis asked Rafael again what he thought Jack did with the goose then. Rafael responded "He gave it to his mother for dinner." I don't even think I can explain how deeply this touched us. Here is this good little boy who couldn't focus on the idea of riches provided by the golden goose, but was focused on the next meal for his family. Katie also got the okay to bring Rafael a new pair of shoes that day- some red Converse low tops. Cute. Luis explained to him that he had earned them for his hard work on the site. Rafael responded that he would like them but that he hadn't done enough yet to earn the shoes. We made sure his brother Mauricio took the shoes for him. I will always, always, always remember this sweet little boy.
Friday was our last day on the work site. We worked only a half day, but got to see the wall so of both homes start to rise from the ground. The masons Raul and Jacob are incredible. They were picking up the bricks single handed, lifting them over their heads with one hand while bending the rebar with the other and sliding them down the rebar to the ground. Crazy. We were thrilled to see the walls start to go up. I can't explain how exciting that was. Silly, but true.

After lunch, we had our closing ceremony with the families and the others in the village who came out to help. We were thanked for our efforts, but I can tell you that we are the ones walking away with so much more than we gave. This has been one of the most humbling and spiritually enriching weeks of my life. It was so hard to leave behind the work we had started and the beautiful friends we had made. We were all just completely blubbering messes as the van drove away from the work site for the last time.
Friday night we drove through a hell of a thunderstorm toward our day of rest and relaxation on the coast at the Hotel Pacific Paradise in Costa del Sol. We had a fun day relaxing around the pool, walking the beach and napping as needed. Tomorrow is our travel day back home. Thanks for reading my updates on this trip. It has been hard to translate the experience into words but I hope you've gotten a sense for it. See you soon!


Mnmom said...

I want to hear all about it in person. I've been thinking about that small house every day since you first posted the foundation outlines. I'm wishing I had sent some things with you, like shoes.

Brenda said...

I agree with mnmom - I read and read and think how much I could offer, too. Hmmm - I guess we can take this as a message to do something - anything to help someone you know is in need. Mike you should submit this experience to a newspaper as a focus article or something. I can't help but feel more people should read it.

Madame Leiderhosen said...

What a story. I hate to think of what a tiny slice you can share with us here. Tell us more. More.

Oh, and I need your email. Ping me at coldfridayATgmail daht kahm.