Today being our last full day here, we hoped to finish up all of our objectives including those that we had coming in to the trip and those that had evolved during our time here. The day began with a trip to Luis Garcia to see the progress on the drainage work and to meet with the community about repairing and maintaining the gutters on the school building. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised at the progress that had been made, even since the previous day. The drainage ditch along the road was near completion and some welders were putting on the iron grate over the ditch in front of the school entrance. Being pleased by all of that, we decided to focus our attention on the damaged gutters. After assessing the situation, taking some pictures of the gutters (which turned out to be useful later), and Curt playing handyman in trying to fix what we could, we decided it would be beneficial if we handled the problem ourselves. This being a key issue in calling the Luis Garcia project complete, we really had incentive to see it done. We asked the drainage contractor if he’d be willing to make the repairs if we paid him and provided the materials and he gave us a good deal on it, so that helped cement the decision.
The next item on our list was to meet with the mayor, public works director, and project engineer from the municipality. The objective of the meeting was to get specific completion dates for the individual items in the project and to clear up any remaining questions or revisions (which many had been made in the last few days). The meeting went well, so well in fact that they decided to take us to lunch! (Although I’m pretty sure that they were going to anyways, as it is probably part of their protocol) Leaving the business behind, we had a good time with them at the local Chinese restaurant. Having fried rice in Honduras seemed a little strange, but I came to terms that it was no weirder than a P.F. Chang’s in America. Curt provided entertainment with his Alaskan fishing videos, which they seemed to get a kick out of. While the good vibes were flowing, they decided to take us out to an eco-water park that the muni had built in order to show it off to us. We didn’t know where we were going at the time and why we were there when we did arrive, but we eventually figured out that they were just showing it off to us as the pride of the public works department. As Melodie puts it “Down here, sometimes conversation takes place where you don’t know what they’re saying and all of a sudden, you’re told to get in the car, so you do”
With time left in the day running out, we headed back in to Villanueva to pick up our gutter supplies. Amazingly, we only had to go to two stores to get all that we needed, which was based on Curt’s handyman list (He is slowly morphing into a civil engineer whether he likes it or not). So, with pipe and gutter twice the length of the car strapped on the roof, we headed back up to Luis Garcia. When we arrived, we unloaded the supplies and went to meet with the contractor. Following some explanation on the gutter repair and last minute instructions on the drainage works, we shook hands and took off from Luis Garcia for the last time, but instead of disappointment, this time we were filled with optimism and enthusiasm.
The opportunity to connect with the project and the people behind it all and the experiences I have personally had on this trip have reminded me what EWB is all about. I have learned so much in just four days from stormwater engineering, to project management, to working with local government. However, whatever personal experience and growth I may have received, nothing matches the fulfillment that comes from seeing two groups, with vastly different backgrounds and ways of doing things, come together and work for the betterment of a community. For this reason, I am so grateful for the opportunity to come on this trip and I now feel invigorated to do the work that it takes on the home front to make awesome projects like the one at Luis Garcia happen.