Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm getting a goat soon!

What you see in front of you is my future goat's future home :)

Don Miguel and I built this shed in his backyard, seeing that I don’t have room for a goat where I live, unfortunately....

At any rate, I'm pretty excited. I’ve wanted a goat for a while, but I knew I had to build his shed first. So - now that THAT detail is out of the way I’m planning on going up to San Marcos and getting my goat THIS WEEKEND (should be awesome)

Everyone should know a couple things – first of all, it’ll be a male goat. I thought about getting a lady goat buuuuuut it probably wouldn’t have worked out for various logistic reasons. Second, this will be an eating goat – in about 10 months he’ll be butcher bound and we’re gonna have jerk stew for dinner. Lastly, I don’t have a name picked out for him…..yet (!!)

I’ll be posting a picture of him soon and I would love to have your input as to what he should be named. All submissions welcome.

Ok, so that’s the most important part of the post, but I figured I might as well include some pictures of the building process (Don Miguel’s kids helped out too). Here we are splitting bamboo for the fence; Don Miguel cracked each piece with the axe:

And I pulled them apart (arrrr)

Here the kids and I are sawing the corner support posts:

The basic frame:

Starting to come together:

Lashing the bamboo slats with bailing wire:

Done! This will be a goat house in like 3 days. I’m pumped.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Making progress

Things have been going great with my bottle school – we finished pouring the first set of columns on Tuesday, and we’ll probably start with the horizontal beams in the next couple of days. But it’s been a while since I’ve posted pictures; let me start at the beginning….

First things first, you have to dig a big square trench. Here's where the school is gonna go!

I dug out some of this dirt a little while ago; the afternoon rains make it thick and heavy (chopping it up is no piece of cake). So you have to take an occasional break:

Of course, at some point you’ll need to get sand delivered (for the concrete):

Then you’ll place the rebar for vertical columns and move onto pouring the cimiento corrido (honestly, I’m not even sure what this is called in English, but it’s the base of the building's foundation, the stretch of concrete running along the bottom of the trench):

Then you lay a few runs of cement blocks on top of the cimiento corrido, completing the foundation (you can’t use bottles yet, unfortunately :) ) That’s my program supervisor Carlos Julajuj on the left and community coordinator Don Miguel on the right:

Next thing you do is fill in some dirt and prepare the solera de humedad, which will be poured around the horizontal series of rebar running along the top of the foundation:

Jumping ahead, you can see how much progress we’re making:

On the day this photo was taken we finished the columns, which are formed within a wooden “box” into which you pour the liquid concrete. The novel aspect of bottle school construction is that you install a series of pins in both the soleras and the columns while the concrete is still wet - future pictures will illustrate why. Here’s one of the village kids helping out, putting pins into their holes at 20 cm intervals:

That’s our head mason Frainer mixing cement:

I had to help out, of course (shirt on my head = sun protection):

Then the wet cement goes into the column form:

All and all, things are going good. Tomorrow morning we’re going to deliver a bunch more rebar to the site, which should keep work moving at an even pace. People are motivated, costs are staying low thanks to collaborating organizations and everyone’s support means we’re making great progress. These kids can’t wait to get their new school!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slight insomnia or la pereza?

It’s been a while since my last post, maybe around 3 weeks, but I feel bad so here it is, 4:16 in the morning (I couldn’t sleep for other reasons) but I figured I might as well take advantage of stare-up-at-the-ceiling time, the dim glow of street lamps that paint my room.

(I also moved recently – I used to sleep in near complete darkness, light seeping in from behind a couple of room dividers, but now my entire room stays faintly awake all night.)

Part of the reason I haven’t been writing is all the rushing around. I changed houses, my supervisor came to visit, I’ve been traveling for the last couple weekends and frankly, things are just starting to seem banal. When I’m walking around my town, buying fruit in the market or eating fried chicken in my comedor, it doesn’t immediately strike me as an interesting thing to share (or so it seems). Then I realized, while laying in bed, that maybe I should just describe my state of mind.

For one, Peace Corps is starting to feel normal. Living in Guatemala – yes, it still makes me smile when I say it or realize it, using it as a refrain with friends to explain when something ridiculous happens. But it’s also more and more normal – I just passed 10 months here in-country, and I guess things seem less novel. You just shrug off bucket baths in the dark with cold water. You sleep through the late, late night crowing of roosters. You try to ignore the booming explosions of fireworks – I can hear a 30 foot roll of Black Cats going off right now, which means that someone’s birthday has begun. You just sigh when your new landlord lags for days on promised repairs, or you return to your new place and the floor is inexplicably covered in a ½ inch of water. It’s just Guatemala.

Then I write this stuff down and I realize, “Oh…that is kind of amusing.” :)

One other thing, about the traveling I’ve been doing recently – it’s tiresome, just the sheer hours I spend on rattling, janky buses, barreling down roads full of potholes or around fallen trees or piles of landslide from recent rains. It’s 6 hours to Panajachel, or about 7 hours to Antigua, which are the two locations, respectively, where I spent the past couple weekends. That’s each way, and then I have to go back home, and that’s why I spend so much time loading up my phone with podcasts. Here are some favorites, all available on iTunes (lemme know if you have any suggestions!)

Al Jazeera
KCRW’s Left, Right and Center
The Economist
APR’s Dinner Party Download
The Nation’s The Breakdown
Talk of the Nation
This American Life
Slate’s Culture Gabfest
KEXP’s Music That Matters
Elevator Hip-Hop

Also, here I am at my new place, having just taken a tuk-tuk across town with all my possessions.