Today was a wonderful day. We didn’t have frejoles (beans) all day long!!!!
We all got into the vehicles once again to be taken to our day of work. Some went to the high school to work on computers and paint, some went to the clinic to see patients, some went to the veterinary clinic (and I use that term loosely, as it is a tent with a piece of plywood for an operating table) and the rest of us went into the little town of Las Foasis (sp?) to work on septic tanks and outhouses. I chose the latter because I had not done that previously.
We were taken to a home that was at the top of a long steep drive. No vehicles, only animals on the driveway. They had already dug the hole, which was probably ten feet deep and 5 feet by 5 feet and had built block walls to make a square for the septic tank. I held a long piece of rebar while Cecilio cut them into 5 foot pieces. Then I was asked to backfill the hole, which was back breaking work. Two ladies, both of whom were pregnant (Christine and Maria), helped me backfill. The soil was sandy clay and heavy on the shovel. We did this for about 1 1/2 hours. While we were doing this, the men used the pieces of rebar and tied them together in a grid. Some other men cut boards to put over the top of the septic tank and then laid the rebar over the boards. They then made a form around the rebar. While all this was going on, they were mixing cemento (cement) on the ground, using sand from the river and ready-mix concrete. They mixed the sand and cement then opened a hole in the middle to form a volcano, then poured water into the volcano-like pile of ready-mix concrete and proceeded to fold in the dry ingredients, adding water as necessary. This actually worked very well. They brought the cement mixture by 5 gallon buckets and wheel barrow to us and we poured the cement on top of the septic tank to make a lid. As it was filled, they pulled up the rebar grid to set more in the middle of the cement top. They smoothed it out and left a hole at the top so that a pipe could lay in there. Beside the septic tank was an outhouse-type building made of wood with 3 sides on it. They poured more concrete mixture on the floor and smoothed it as well. Then they placed 2 concrete blocks towards the back of the house closest to the septic tank and on top of that put a very small ceramic commode. It had a strange looking spout at the back which they were going to attach to the 4 inch pvc pipe that would lead to the septic tank. They cemented the bowl on top of the cement blocks. Instead of using pvc glue, they heated the plastic with fire on a stick until it fit the spout. They poured water in it to be sure it would drain. There was a j-bend in the commode, so no smell could come up the commode pipe. And there we have it – an outhouse with a septic tank!!!! They put a steel corrugated roof on top and I think the 3rd side will remain open. I made good friends with all of them when I brought out my camera and took pictures. They love to see themselves in the camera. I let Christine wear my ray-bans and took videos of the children. They call me Barbie. Not the figure part, but I guess it was the straw hat and sunglasses. 🙂 We also made a make-shift see saw with a piece of wood and a banana tree root for teh fulcrum. That was great fun. Everyone laughed and we are now BFF.
We went back home for lunch and laid down for awhile and returned at 2:00 to build another one. We had three different teams working in the village in the morning and in the afternoon. Marshall and I worked together. We went to another house in the afternoon and their plan was to have an indoor bathroom. We built the same top, but fortunately we did not have to backfill. Unfortunately, the pipe was too short to reach the septic tank. Someone suggested that we move the house :-). I really didn’t do much work in the afternoon. This was my “ambassador” part of the day. I brought bubble gum for the children and they literally came out of the woodwork. They obviously knew what to do with it because we had a bubble blowing contest that lasted forever. I also took photos and videos of everyone and it was a great hit. The kids would fight over who would sit next to me. They touched me all over and looked at my backpack. I had to show them everything inside of it. Since we were unable to finish at that site, we left to go to the other 2 sites. All the children came with us. We walked across the street and across the soccer field and found Mark, David, Guy and George working that side. They were mixing concrete for the pad over the septic tank. We stayed for awhile, but bringing all the children was obviously a big distraction for them, so we left for the other site. When we arrived, Debra and Blake called me the Pied Piper with all the kids. The kids held my hands and I had a string of them on each side of me. Blake is now queso grande (the big cheese). He brought out his peppermints and everyone enjoyed that. He gave us all peppermints,as well as the adult workers.
We found out that they would dig sand out of the river and would put it through a screen to get the big rocks out. They would load it onto the back of an ox cart and bring it to the various sites. The project is much like Habitat for Humanity. They apply for the latrine and have to be approved. They are all actively involved working, so it is not just us doing the work. Not all Hondurans want the septic system, which is odd to me.
We were invited into the house to see how they were shaping the pvc around the commode spout on back. They were heating it in the oven, which was very rudamentary. The oven was made of clay. Marshall and I were given a gift by Dena, whose house we built a latrine for. She had made flower vases and gave us each one. We left them promising to return manana (tomorrow). Marshall and I were given a gift by Dena, whose house we built a latrine for.
It was an amazing day. Each day for me has been different and was meaningful in different ways. I am not sure which was the best. Painting a school on Monday and playing with the kids in the yard, working with the new computers and having fun with the teenagers and my travel companions was great on Tuesday, then meeting the villagers and speaking with them today was truly wonderful. I am actually learning a little Spanish!!!! It is different from Mexican Spanish, though. My Mexican menu Spanish is getting me nowhere, and they will correct me. 🙂 Our princess for the day would be Meghan.
Tomorrow will be a different kind of day and I will report on that. It’s been wonderful. I have made many Honduran friends and American friends. I can’t believe we are already on the downhill slide.