Nov 22 2011

Wrapping it Up

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.

-Cameron


Nov 22 2011

Pics so it happened

As promised, a few photos:

Apparently Cameron's hat makes a great bird toy

The new school site at Nueva Suyapa

Friends from Luis Garcia


The classroom at Luis Garcia


One of the workers at Luis Garcia


Curt's new job - bird perch


Nov 21 2011

Lunes

Hola!
Cameron and I are working on our Spanish. We stopped today to photograph a culvert that is in the process of failing. (Curt and Chris stayed in the car because for some reason they are tired of me going on and on about every drainage system I see. Cameron still has to appear interested at least until he passes my class in drainage this quarter!) We managed to talk to the landowner who stopped by and confirm that the problem was caused by water running over the road even though he didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish. It’s amazing what you can communicate with “Hola” (hello), “aqua” (water) and a LOT of pointing and hand gestures.

We’re all feeling a little more encouraged today. Yesterday, the municipality mobilized their project team and today when we got to the site about 9:15, they had made real progress. We talked about some tweaks to the design and got to an agreement on how it’s going to be finished up. The biggest problem has been getting materials. We think we’ve worked out a way to get the pipe they need so if that goes smoothly, we should be in good shape.

It was really interesting to talk to the engineers and officials. Some of them speak a little English, with others it was gestures only. Poor Chris was trying to translate three conversations at once. A couple times, we got to the point we thought we understood each other, then went to find Chris to be sure that we really were talking about the same thing.

We were getting pretty quick results today. At one point, we agreed, “the ditch needs to go here.” 5 minutes later, I turned around and there was a man with a pick axe putting the ditch there. It looks like they maybe able to complete the project in time to fit with our schedule after all.

After our inspection at Luis Garcia, we visited the site at Nuevo Suyapa where we’re hoping to do our next project. We clarified what they are hoping we will do and what we need from them. If all goes well with Luis Garcia, a group will be coming back in March to work out the final community agreement.

Then, Chris and Curt headed to the bank after dropping Cameron and I at the hotel. They get the joy of standing in line at the bank while I get to blog. (Works for me!) Cameron and I visited the store down the street from our hotel since we didn’t have time for lunch today. They have some amazing bread and cheese. And for the first time ever in Honduras – I found Mountain Dew!!! It was SO exciting. But their jalapeno bread was even better than Mountain Dew. They also had some chileno pastries. We could not communicate well enough to find out what was in them. They showed us some chileno cookies which looked like carmel but these were with the savories. So Cameron got some anyway and it turned out to be olive, onion and spices in the filling. They were really good but we weren’t sure what they had in common with the cookies. Our theory at this point is that they both came from the country of Chile?

Curt has the cord to upload pictures so we’ll have to upload pictures later.
I’m sure you all are eagerly awaiting all my pictures of sewers and storm drains, but Curt will probably insist on using some of his pictures that have people in them!

I’m still pretty tired since yesterday was such a long day, but I wanted to give you a quick update on what’s happening. We seem to be making good progress so we’re happy about that. And we’re having interesting adventures and eating great food which makes it even better.

One last food story – yesterday our guide told us that when the Spanish met the Mayans, they gave them a hot drink made from cacao beans and chili peppers. When they gave it to the Spaniards, they said “chocolate, chocolate”. As we all know, the Spaniards took the deliciousness that was chocolate back to Europe and improved everyone’s quality of life. What we didn’t know was what “chocolate” means. Apparently, we’ve all been enjoying “be careful, it’s hot” for the last 400 years. (I don’t know if that story is true, but I want it to be!)

Thanks for all your prayers and support. Tomorrow we meet with Rotary club, finish up our revised agreement with the municipality and meet with the school on their maintenance plan. We’ll keep you posted as we can.

– Melodie


Nov 20 2011

Copan, etc.

We want to apologize for the delay in updating the blog on the developments here but we all hit the hay early last night as a result of the three hours of sleep on the plane. We arrived safely in San Pedro Sula yesterday and hit the ground running. After some preliminaries, the three of us and Chris, our faithful ally, headed up to Luis Garcia to evaluate what we were hoping to be a finished drainage system. However, when we arrived and looked at what was supposed to be a finished product, there still appeared to be a long way to go. The skeleton of a security fence was up and the roadside drainage ditch was nearly done, however the work around the schoolhouse and its foundation had not begun, and the problems of erosion and undermining of the foundation seemed to be worsening. After some discussion with the project managers from the municipality, we all agreed to break for a day and evaluate where to go from there. Some crucial decisions are now to be made, so your prayers and support are greatly appreciated.

So, to have some time to think about it, we went to Copan Ruinas for the day! (I should note that it already was part of the plan going into it, as Melodie has not had a “touristy” day in her three trips here). This was the second time an EWB group has had the opportunity to visit the ancient Mayan city, but for those of us newbies it was an awesome sight to behold! In addition, our tour guide was great and seemed to have a never-ending stream of jokes to make light of the Mayan traditions and society. After that, we headed to Macaw Mountain, which was a tropical bird park set in the mountains outside of Copan. We were able to get up close and personal with Parrots, Toucans, and even got to host a Macaw on our shoulder. One especially took a liking to Curt and decided to chew (or whatever birds do with their beak) a hole in his sleeve. We then headed back to town and concluded the day by enjoying some smoothies and sandwiches, which included one called “Señor de los Quesos” that lived up to its name. And yes, we also did get some work done in discussing and preparing for our meeting tomorrow with the municipality on how to proceed with the Luis Garcia project. As I mentioned before, please keep us in your prayers so that we can make the right decisions and continue to be good contributors to the community of Luis Garcia.

-Cameron


Nov 19 2011

Good Morning Friends!

Saturday morning, November 19

-Curt Nelson

It’s 6am and we have a problem, Houston. It seems foggy this morning. I’ve  been informed that the fog is contained within my head. That could be the result of a friend I made last night.

We left Seattle right about midnight. I sat next to a young 3-year girl. I thought, “You know, you can never start recruiting these engineers too young”. So I struck up a real lively one-way conversation. She was much more intent on lifting up the arm rest, putting her head on her mothers lap, and becoming oblivious to me as her feet ended up cruising around my leg during the flight. Ah well, she smiled at me once so all was well. I think she will make an excellent engineer some day.

After a quick breakfast, we are awaiting our two-hour hop across the pond to Honduras where Chris Padilla is ready with 3 full days of activities. For now, Cameron and Melodie are well-behaved so there is no need to call their parents. Keep your fingers crossed, though.


Nov 18 2011

We’re off!

Most of  you knew that already, but we have achieved escape velocity.  We made it through security, although one of us who will not be named (not me!) left their bag at the gate.  Turns out security doesn’t like that.  After much groveling, we are being allowed to go with all our group and all our bags.   They didn’t even insist on detonating it to be safe.

Currently, we’re sitting in the Pasco airport waiting for our flight to Seattle.  Then we fly to Houston and San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  We’re having a little trouble switching from school mode to travel mode, but by Seattle, I expect we’ll have forgotten all the outstanding assignments.

For those of you who haven’t been part of the circus getting us ready to go, let me fill you in on the trip.  This trip has two main purposes: First, we need to confirm that the drainage system at Luis Garcia has been completed and is functioning correctly. We can’t start our next project until that is complete.  We’re hoping that all goes smoothly so that we can move to our second objective.  Our second task is to work with the community Nuevo Suyapa where we hope to build another set of classrooms.  In EWB, we focus on working with the community so we need to get an agreement with them to make sure that our project is what they need and it’s clear who’s doing what.

Since this is a monitoring trip, we have a small group.  Our fearless leader (not feckless, I don’t care  what you’ve heard) is Curt Nelson.  He’s an electrical engineering professor at WWU and the driving force behind our chapter.

Cameron Houman is our newbie.  This is his first trip to Honduras, although he has been an EWB member since he got to campus last year.  He’s a senior civil engineering major.  He thinks he finished his test on stormwater this afternoon.  Little does he know that I plan to quiz him on-site when we are visiting Luis Garcia.

I’m the last member of the party – Melodie Selby.  I teach civil engineering at WWU.  The guys will get their chance to respond as we keep you posted on this blog. We’ll try to take turns and update the blog everyday but it’ll be a quick trip so we may not be as faithful as we would like.

Keep us in  your prayers and stay safe over Thanksgiving break.