Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 7: Last Day at the Work Site

Last day on the worksite. Well it had to come sometime, and honestly the work has been very tiring, so part of you welcomes the final day on the job site, but most of you is dreading it. You've now worked hard for 5 days, and along the way made great friends with those you've traveled with, the homeowners, and the local workers.

But we've made great progress. The floors now look like floors. The freshly poured cement covering up the rock jigsaw puzzle we put together the previous 2 days. But it's been a lot of work.

Take a look at this picture, the mess of water, sand and gravel is how you mix concrete in Ecuador. Quite a bit of back breaking work. Including mixing the gravel and cement mix by shoveling the entire pile 2 feet to the right, twice!

One thing we were definitely be glad to be finished with was 'THE HOLE'.
Now 5 days into it the hole is 6 feet by 6 feet by 7 feet deep. Here is Chad tossing out the last couple shovels full of dirt.

But when it's done it's done. Here is the gang taking satisfaction in the completed work. The end of the digging had to be one of the best feelings of the entire week! Of course the picture was fun, but watching
everyone try to get out of the hole was classic! Brie is getting the heave-ho by Chad and myself. Luckily there were no broken bones involved.

Now that the hole is finally complete it was time to leave. Time for a last semi-group picture before we said our goodbyes to the family. Here Selam, Brie, and Sue hang out in front of our week's worth of hard work, and our new friends.

Now came the hard part. We presented some small gifts to the mother and
the three daughters. Nothing too special, backpacks, crayons, and the like. But then the mom said her thanks. I'm pretty sure there were tears in the eyes of at least 75% of the group. When someone tells you that you are 'like angels from heaven dropped down to build her a home', it's hard not to be emotional.

Before we headed home for one last night at Campo Alegre, Maggie took in the sights one last time.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Day 6 - Habitat Catamayo Party

Day 6 was another day at work, but I'll spare you additional worksite pics until the last day on the job site tomorrow. Best part of day 6 was the party that the local affiliate threw for us. We received certificates for our work, and had a little 'pre-party' at the hotel before heading into downtown Catamayo to catch the night life.

Here is a team shot of all the Give Back Cincinnati volunteers, along with the Habitat Ecuador volunteers, and at the front left is the mom, 2 little girls, and teenage daughter. It was so awesome to see them all come out and welcome us to their country. It's not something they had to do, but was definitely appreciated.

And here is a close-up of the family saying a few words of thanks before we all climbed in a van to head to the bar. It was a great
motivation every day to see the family when we arrived to work on the house. I could use a similar dose of motivation every day at my job!

Once we left the hotel is when the real party started. This 'bar' was something to see. Minus the 12 of us, and the Habitat Ecuador volunteers there would have been no one in the place. But that might have been for the best.
First shot here is my new 'Ecuadorian Hair Cut'. Notice the likeness to Mr. T. I did this after we learned that we had successfully gotten tickets to the Ecuador/Uruguay Futbol game on Saturday (I'll explain later this week why
this game is so important, and why I felt it necessary to do something this off the wall). The plan (and you'll see pictures later in the week) is to paint the Mr. T portions of the head like an Ecuadorian's a sight to see. All the Ecuadorians thought I was insane...which I suppose I am.

Here is the gang on the dance floor of the 'club'... getting it done Ecuadorian style. (Left front is Maggie, then Selam, Jessica and Lea. In the background you'll catch a glimpse of Sue and Chad). The ladies in our group were certainly the hit with the latin lovers. Here is just a sampling of one Don Juan making his move on 3 seperate occasions (w/ Jessica, Bridget and Brie)(Click for full-size):

By the end of the night things were getting really wild. I'll leave you with one last picture... the rest are not for public consumption :)

Maggie and Chad performing their trademarked dance move.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Day 5 - Visit to School

It's Wednesday and we're reaching the half way point for the work week. We start the day off with a trip to a local school, and this day will prove to be my favorite day of the week. I apologize in advance for what is likely to be a long post filled with many pictures!

We arrive at the one-room school house to the delight of about a dozen kids. They range in age from about 8-12. We brought some school supplies, some candy, and most
importantly ourselves. After a brief Q and A with the kids, we terrorized the teachers by suggesting we go outside for a couple games. This basically put an end to any chance that this school day would contain reading, writing and arithmetic.

We first played a game of 'cat and rat'. It's a game in a similar nature to 'duck, duck, goose' except the cat and mouse are pre-determined, and it's the job of the cat to catch the rat, and the job of everyone in the 'ring' to make sure the cat can't catch the mouse. Tough to describe, but hilarious to watch. After a couple rounds of this and some public humiliation of Johnmark who took 10 minutes to catch an 8 year old boy, we
busted out the Frisbees.

I'm fairly certain that this is the first time any of these kids had seen a Frisbee, but it didn't take them long to figure it out. They were quick studies and they loved them. I am pretty sure they would have continued to toss frisbee until the next day had we been up for it. It wasn't just the Frisbee's they were enamored with.... Digital Cameras were perhaps the hit of the day.

At first it began with a desire to see the picture after it was taken in the LCD screen (Lea being harrased by the gang to the left). But it quickly grew to a class in photography. They certainly weren't shy in front of a camera, and were great shots from
behind the camera. I allowed my camera to be taken hostage. About 15 minutes and 80 pictures later I retrieved the camera. I must say that some of the best shots of the week came at the hands of these kids. I'll put some of them here for you to enjoy. Click on them for bigger versions.

After school it was back to work. We headed back to the worksite. Half of the brick walls were up and it was time to start chiseling out the light socket and conduit lines so they could run electricity. Doesn't look hard but the chisels were pretty much rounded at the tip.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Day 4 - The Morning After

2nd Day on the worksite. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one on the team that woke up with more sore muscles than I've had since I was 15. But it doesn't take long to forget about the soreness when you get to the job site and see the house waiting for you.

We certainly got a lot of work done on day one, and the momentum carried to the second day on the job site. We were able to clear out the foundation, and prepare to place the rocks for the floor. This serves as the foundation for concrete to be poured over. It's a time consuming process to make the rocks fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. But the end result is quite impressive to see.

Not to be outdone the team continued to trudge on in the back making some serious progress on the 240 cubic foot septic tank hole. Here Maggie, Brie and Bridget survey the progress.

Ultimately it was another fruitful day. Lots of progress was made and we are starting to understand the magnitude of the work in front of us. But at the end of every hard day of work it's nice to know that $1 22 oz pilsners, cool nights and hammocks await our return. Johnmark and Lea stake claim to their MVP Hammock status.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day 3 - First Day on Worksite

Day 3... First day on the job site. I think we were all excited to get up and get rolling on the first day. This will be somewhat short lived, and we'll all be beat by lunch time. But was exciting to get to the worksite, meet our work managers and get started with the heavy lifting. As you'll see in the pictures to come, this is not the type of work site your used to seeing in the US. No OSHA, no hard hats, and most importantly no power tools. This is brute force home building, and don't expect to see crown molding, or even dry wall. It is literally bricks and mortar, but it's a sturdy house and much better than a family living in a spare room in their mother's home.

The ladies (Diane Burke, Sue Wernke, Selam Daniel, and Jessica Avery) got us started. Task #1 was to clear out 6 inches of dirt from the floors, so that the rock and concrete foundation could be put in. Simple task except the dirt had to be shoveled out, placed in a wheel barrow, and wheeled 100 yards down a hill into a ravine.

At the back of the house, the team begin digging out (by shovel) a 6 foot by 6 foot by 7 foot deep hole for a septic tank. You'll see from the picture here, there is plenty more to go before this task is complete! Chad takes the first few whacks as Maggie and Briget await to jump in.

This was all before lunch, and as we made it back to the house for our first meal, it was a pleasant surprise to find a home cooked 3 course meal awaiting. The staple of all meals was a chicken-broth based soup. This was followed by a hearty meal, always with rice, but alternating between chicken, pork, beef and seafood. We were amazed the variety and quality of food provided for us at lunch. And for whatever reason the meal at which desert was served was always lunch, not dinner... but that energy boost was always welcome as we prepared for the afternoon of work.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Day 2 - Party at Night

I will post more in the coming days, as although I am doing the journaling after the fact, I'll just post as if it's a one-day-at-a-time post. That'll save me some time and hopefully allow you to follow a day at a time, rather than trying to read through a lot of long blog entries.

Day 2 didn't end at the home, as we were treated to a surprise party thrown by volunteers for the local Habitat Catamayo affiliate. They treated us to some salsa lessons, a few traditional songs, and a keen interest in American music and dancing style.... though it's pretty obvious that the latin culture, music and dancing was far superior to ours.

(traditional songs in spanish being taught by a volunteer)

(It didn't take long for our Ecuadorian friends to become favorites with our women volunteers... I mean, come on, they can actually dance... Sue Wernke (blue), Samantha Horton (white jacket), and Lea Katynski (yellow shirt) learn a few dance steps.)

Day Two - Traveling to Catamayo and Loja

Day 2... We leave Quito for Catamayo, our destination and location of the home we will be building. We have nothing planned for the day, but the agenda consists of visiting the city of Catamayo and the capital of the province, Loja. By the end of the day we'd play a pick-up game of futbol, meet our family, and check into what can only be described as an Oasis for Ecudoar - Hostel Campo Alegre - Happy Camp.

So we checked into our hotels and got our roomate assignments, strangely enough the 3 guys on the trip of 12 ended up as roomates (who woulda thought). Jessica Avery and Chad Schenk didn't waste long to make use of the hammocks.

After a brief moment taking in the beauty of our hotel, we set out for a walk up to Catamayo to use phones, check out the market and have a snack. The 10 minute walk was our first introduction to the Ecuadorian exaggeration, as it was 2 miles and a solid 40 minute walk to town.

After the walk we caught a ride back to the hotel in the back of a truck, and then made arrangements for our driver to take us 40 km away to Loja. In Loja, we visited a beautiful park, easily 15 acres in size. It took us only about 5 minutes after we pulled out the soccer ball to convene a pick-up game of futbol with some local Lojans. (Maggie in red pants, and Lea in
background are showing the boys how it's done).

After we couldn't play any longer, we caught the bus back to Catamayo to visit our work site, and to meet the homeowner. It was at this point where I think it finally hit me that I was in Ecuador and going to spend a week helping to change the life of a family. I don't think a better family could have been picked. The three girls (Liliana (15), and daugthers Joselin (7), and Magali (5)) could not be any more wonderful.

Selam and the family posing in front of the recently started home.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

First Night - Oct. 1st

Well we arrived late, but we weren't about to waste our first night in Ecuador. So about half the group left to head out to a salsa club (I believe named Seseribó) at the recommendation
of our friend Maria (native Ecuadorian who recently moved back to Quito, Ecuador after a 3 year stint in Cincinnati at Chiquita).
We were introduced to our first 'Pilsener', which apparently is the national cerveza of Ecuador. Now these are big beers. I'm not talking 16 ouncers, every place we had one of these they were double duecers.... a full 22 oz beer.

We also got our first taste of Ecuadorian prices. These large beers at a nice salsa club like Seseribo were only $1.50 (the most expensive price we found for beer all week). Chad Schenk, Maggie Brennan and Brie Rogers seen above enjoying the first of many to come for our Ecuadorian adventure.

Right about this time is when we all should have went home. The 'sipping' tequilla, was brought out... the fact that there is 'sipping' tequilla in Ecuador is all you need to know about the way they drink! Notice Johnmark's face for an idea of how tasty the sipping tequilla is.