Sep 14 2014

Water for Pucutuni

I’d grown up thinking that having access to clean water was my right, when in fact it is a privilege—780 million people in the world lack access to clean water, moreover, 3.4 million people die each year from water-borne diseases.

CLANK!  The champagne bottle shattered into multiple glass shards as Vice-President Facundo struck it with a hammer. On Thursday afternoon, the entire team and members of Pucutuni, along with a representative from the muni gathered around one of the four concrete tap-stands we built for an inaugural ceremony, officially marking the end of our work in Pucutuni. We arrived in Peru determined to realize an entire school year’s worth of design. Three weeks later, we are leaving Pucutuni with a fully functional gravity-fed water system.

The first half of Thursday was spent making the final adjustments to the water system: stopping minor links, anchoring the water tanks, installing the spring box overflow pipe, and connecting the last tap-stand. When all of the finishing touches were made, we all gathered together to have a giant lunch. The women from the community had spent all day making a soup for us. Some of us were a bit nervous because they obviously have a different standard of sanitation but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the delicious food they served us.

With the input of the Municipality, the Community, ADRA, and our EWB group, we were able to complete a water system for the community of Pucutuni. We did have challenges along the way, like the road not being completed or the trench not being completed by the time we arrived, but that did not stop us from finishing our goal. Each one of us learned from this trip. The community learned how work with cement, the Municipality learned that EWB is the real deal, and we learned that it is possible to make a complete water system 14,000 ft above sea level. Most importantly, we helped make a water system that should last the families of Pucutuni years.

Though we may never entirely understand what it is to live without clean water (hopefully), the three weeks we’ve spent here in Peru have instilled in us a newfound appreciation for the luxury that is clean water.20140911-20140911-IMG_6946 20140911-IMG_6913 20140911-IMG_6951 20140911-IMG_6990 20140911-IMG_7002 20140911-IMG_7009 20140911-IMG_7025 20140911-IMG_7029 20140911-IMG_7043 20140912-IMG_1173 20140912-IMG_7066 IMG_6900

Sep 9 2014

Back to Work

Friday was a crazy day. We were in the middle of connecting all the HDPE pipe we had previously laid beside the ditch the day before. The weather was starting to get a little cold making the HDPE pipe hard to work with. We tried our best to get as much done in the cold but it soon started to raid. A few minutes later sleet mixed with raid came down, making it very hard to work. The closest hut was only a few paces away so we all headed for cover in the hopes the storm would blow over. As we sat in the hut listing to the pitter patter of the sleet on the tin roof we all were quite cold. Nobody really expected it to get this cold, but the few that had prepared quickly put on the extra layers. Soon the pattering noise on the tin roof ceased and we all eagerly looked out onto the mountain range in the hopes that the rain had stopped. The rain had stopped and in its place giant cookie sized snowflakes were slowly floating to the ground. In minutes the snow line crawled down to the takes that were above us on the hill and then down to the hut we were in. Don Fukundo took a little peak outside and came back with the bad news. The storm was not going to blow over as fast as we had hoped and the work would have to wait until the coming Monday. Cold and wet we all headed down the mountain and back to ADRA to prep for the weekend trip to Cusco. We needed to buy a few things and drop Jim off for his flight back to the States. The weekend was a welcomed change of pace and we all were quite happy to sleep in and have a little brake from the daily hike up the hill every morning.

Today, Monday, we headed up with hopes to flush out all the water system before we make the final connections. We where able to get the water flowing into the tanks before noon! Water was shooting out the pipes a good 10 feet away which made us and the community pretty excited. All we need to do now is to tighten some loose HPDE pipe unions and attach the pipe directly to the pipe stands. Tomorrow the community has promised us for the final stretch of trench to be finished so that they can pour concrete over the sand and gravel filter behind the spring box. We are almost done, we are just praying that the weather doesn’t slow us down.IMG_6827 IMG_6830 Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Sep 5 2014

The Kitchen, Sleet, and A Long Black Snake

The “Cocina” is one of the new buildings that has already been built at Pucutuni’s new location. Like the other buildings, it is made of adobe bricks and has a roof made of thin sheet metal. Inside there is a dirt floor covered with empty buckets and gas cans, some large sacks of unknown contents piled near a bed at one end of the building, and a large stone oven with a painting of a tree at the other.  Hence the name “Kitchen” written over the doorpost on the outside.  While you might ask why I had such an opportunity to observe the inside of the kitchen, the most compelling answer would be the sound of sleet pelting and rustling over the metal roof.  The kitchen had the most space to shelter all eleven of us, including five community members, for an hour while a short storm passed overhead.

Thursday started just like the last ten days have all started since I arrived in Peru.  We began our morning ascent at 8:40, and the last of us reached the top at 9:20, completing a mere 40 minute hike that used to take us over an hour.  But while it was almost hot in the morning, we already knew that the weather could change quickly as dark clouds loomed over neighboring mountain tops.  Today we had to haul up a bigger propane tank and nozzle because the afternoon winds pick up so strongly that our little handheld butane torch can’t produce enough heat to fuse our HDPE pipe.  But with our new torch, which could almost be compared to a flame thrower, we had no problem to heating our welder.  Little did we know that we would later want to light the torch just to keep ourselves warm.

While the day was still sunny, we divided ourselves out to accomplish as much as possible before the weekend starts.  Together we removed the forms from a tapstand and found a nearly perfectly formed and finished tower ready for use (we’re a little proud of it). Then we split up to continue laying out pipe, hooking up the tanks to the rest of the system, and reconstructing the springbox. But when we met for lunch, the ominous clouds began to appear, and it wasn’t long after we set back to work that the sleet and rain finally reached us.  Wes and I, completely exposed at the top of hill, resorted to hiding behind one of the tanks while trying to tighten a few more fittings.  By the time we finished, our pants were soaked, snow had begun to stick on the mountains around us, and the rest of the crew, being somewhat wiser, had already found shelter in the Kitchen before they had gotten too wet.

So we sat in the semi-dark room of the Kitchen for a short time. Some were reading, others sleeping, while most of us were thinking and talking only occasionally. Sleet on metal isn’t quite as loud as rain on metal, so it was still possible to do all of these things.  Unfortunately, the other half of our crew—Jim, Bryce, Josue, and their five locals—had to weather it out because they were in the middle of pouring concrete into the forms for the springbox valve box, so we didn’t really have it that bad.  But it didn’t take long for the storm to pass, and before long we were out in the open again trying to rapidly make up for lost time.  Perhaps the best part of the entire day was when the sun finally broke through again around midafternoon.  Practically everyone stopped to see the sun coming through the clouds and reaching the mountains and absorb some of the warmth.

We dried out pretty fast, but the one thing that really could have benefited from a warm day was the one roll of two inch pipe sitting at the top of the hill.  Because of the types of fittings that we bought, we realized late in the day that we actually needed to use the entire roll.  The problem was that the pipe was so cold that unrolling it was like trying to bend a tree trunk.  Worse, we started unrolling it from the inside rather than the outside, which meant that every loop had to be yanked out separately as we slid the roll down the hill.  The result was a really long, black, snake-looking pipe that ran in loops down the hill rather than a straight line.  And by virtue of my positioning at the bottom, I was responsible for untwisting the loops until the pipe could be laid in the trench.  The pipe was still so stiff that I could lean against the curled end of it for a break when I needed.  But we eventually got it in the trench, and tomorrow we’re going to try to run water through it before we take a break for the weekend.


Everyday we’re getting closer to completing the project, and learning new tricks along the way, whether it be fusing pipe, pouring concrete, peeling potatoes with your fingers, or wrestling with a 100 meter long python. If you ever encounter one of those, let me know.  I might be able to give you a couple tips.


Sep 4 2014

Closing The Gap

Remember the large trench that prevented vehicle access from Huatabamba to Pucutuni? Well, the muni has stepped in and is closing the gap. For the last few days, a large bulldozer has been pushing large boulders down into the bottom of the trench, where flows a small stream, and shoving large quantities of soil on top. Although this new development may seem ill timed to some, as the delivery of materials for our project was completed nearly a week ago, we are nonetheless excited and happy to see the muni lending a hand to better the lives of its constituents living in far-away communities like Pucutuni.
With three days left until the departure our professional mentor Jim Wodrich, the team has been pushing the community members and working hard to reach the testing phase of our project. Before Jim leaves, we would like to test the gravity-fed water system we are installing to identify any problems it may have so that he can help us resolve them. The remaining tasks to be completed before entering the testing phase includes: improving the spring box, laying out hundreds of meters of HDPE pipe, setting up the two water tanks to be connected to the HDPE pipe, and connecting the tap stands to the mainlines directed from water tank outlets.
Although one can plan, plan, and plan, every now and then life will throw you a curve ball and your success depends on how well you can hit it. For the first half of the day, we were a bit frustrated as our two native Spanish speaking team members were both missing. They both rode with Pulsiano, our main man at ADRA Cusco after our routine visit to the muni in the morning. Not having our Spanish speakers slowed down our progress as ideas and tasks proved difficult to communicate to the community members. While waiting for our Spanish speakers, Braden, Chris, and Leighton began laying out the HDPE pipe and welding the ends together, using a method Jim had taught them during the school year at Walla Walla. The rest of the team began working on the spring box.
After eating lunch, we were surprised to see Pulsiano’s jeep driving up on the dirt road towards to Pucutuni. This was surprising because the road at the large trench was not completed. We later learned that the reason that they were late was that in their attempt to drive all the way up the mountain, the jeep got stuck in the dirt that had been poured in the trench to cover the boulders. They were saved when a muni 4X4 truck arrived and pulled them out of the mud, allowing them to continue their drive up the mountain to our project site.
Although we had a rough start in the morning, we quickly bounced back—hitting the curve ball and making a run for home base. With our Spanish speakers present, communication became much easier and we quickly assigned tasks to the community members. However, this period of progress became a bit bumpy when the welded valve box lid was finally delivered to the project site: it was too small! After some consideration, Jim decided that the best remedy for the situation would be to redo all the forms for the valve box instead of having a completely new metal lid welded. Under his direction the spring box crew rapidly rebuilt the forms and they are ready to be filled with concrete tomorrow morning.
At the end of our day, Braden, Chris, and Leighton had HDPE pipe laid out from the spring box to the two water tanks (about 600 meters), Wes and our trusty driver, Yuri, had begun setting up the tanks, and Jim, Dr. Nelson, Bryce, and Josue had the new forms for the valve box installed. Tomorrow we are hoping to complete the remaining tasks that are preventing us from entering the testing phase of our project.
Just as the gap between Huatabamba and Pucutuni is being closed, we too are on the verge of completing our work here in Pucutuni. We hope you will continue to support us in any way you can.20140904-IMG_652820140904-IMG_651020140904-IMG_6520

Sep 3 2014

Unexpected Suprises

This morning started like all our other mornings. We stopped in Pitumarca like usual but today we went there to find a welding shop. Yuri, our driver, found one in town and got the contact information. We need a welder to make the spring box and valve box lids. The lids should be welded by tomorrow morning. Once we made those arrangements we headed up to Pucutuni to finish the last tap stands before noon and then started rolling out pipe. While the tap stands were being finished in the morning Jim and Wes headed up to the spring box to finish digging up the dirt around it. This brought up a new dilemma. We found out that the original spring box was not build properly. As a matter a fact it was only functioning as a valve box. The work that needs to be done involves rebuilding the rock, gravel, and sand filter located on the capturing side of the spring box. The good news is that this improvement should double the current water supply. We expect to have the pipeline completed all the way to the first two tap stands before Jim leaves on Friday. We are almost there but there are always uncertainties like the one we had with the spring box. It’s a good thing we have an excellent team and professional mentor.

Sep 1 2014

Peru Vs. USA

Our day started at 6:30 with breakfast and then a trip straight to Pucutuni. We checked our tap stand bases and decided to start getting prepared to make the tap stand column. We made the column form with tin roofing and used cable supports to make sure the column wouldn’t fall over. We later filled the tin roof cylinder with a concrete mix. We were able to finish the first two tap stands today. We also headed up to the spring box to look over the current situation and decide on what was to be done. After talking with the community members we agreed on what was to be done. Tomorrow we will start working on the spring box. The tanks will also be installed and all the piping entering and exiting the tanks will be installed in preparation for the primary HDPE line that will come from the spring box. We are hoping to roll out the line from the spring box to the tanks. Each day we get closer and closer but there is still a lot of work that has to be done.
The community members have been asking for the last couple days to play a game of soccer with them and since today we finished a little early we were able to play a Peru Vs. USA soccer game. We expected to be demolished since our lack of oxygen was going to slow us down but we surprisingly ended the game 2-2. We might have a tiebreaker later but the EWB team is satisfied with our score.

Aug 30 2014

A Blessed Day of Rest

-Curt Nelson

Happy Sabbath from the Southern Hemisphere! Once you cross the equator, left becomes right, north becomes south, the Big Dipper becomes the Southern Cross, and I become productive. Hmm … 3 out of 4 maybe?

It’s been a challenging yet rewarding week. The short story – two days of buying materials, two-days of delivering materials to the project site at 14,000ft, culminating in the pouring of the majority of the concrete yesterday. The troops have worked hard and deserve a recharge. Later today we will take a local bus to Puno, spend the evening and night at a church members hostel, and tour the floating islands of Lake Titicaca tomorrow before returning home to continue installing the water system.

The work day typically starts at 7am with breakfast, followed by a van ride to the trail head, and a 1-hour hike to the project site. After a full day of digging, forming, hauling, and mixing, we return home tired, happy, dirty, and smiling. Whenever I sense work about to land in my lap, I pull out the camera and try and act like a photographer. I share with you a few of my work evasion efforts below.

My new best friend.

My new best friend

I'm learning to mug for the camera

I’m learning to mug for the camera

The end of a day's work

The end of a day’s work

Pucutuni, Peru

Pucutuni, Peru


Aug 28 2014

A Bump on the Road

Today started off with a bump on the road. The Alcalde had promised us sole access to the Muni’s black 4X4 truck until the delivery of materials from Huatabamba to Pucutuni was complete. However, during our routine morning trip to the Muni, we learned that the Alcalde himself had taken the truck at 4 am and that he wouldn’t be back until 1 pm. This was disappointing because we needed it to transport the wood we purchased to build the forms for the reservoir foundation and tapstands. Fortunately, the city engineer allowed us to borrow the motor-carga until the Alcalde returned—returning the truck back to us. Although we were grateful for the motor-carga, it took twice as long to get materials up to the project site, thus delaying our progress. Wesly stayed at Huatabamba to oversee the transport of materials to Pucutuni and at 1 pm, he rode down to the Muni to pick up the truck from the Alcalde. With the 4X4 truck transporting our materials, we were able to haul all the materials up to Pucutuni.


While the materials were being delivered, the rest of the team hiked up the trail to Pucutuni. Once we arrived, we began working on the form for the reservoir foundation. We were fortunate to have two skilled muni workers. It has been a struggle to get the Muni to follow through with their promise to provide 12 workers to help with the manual labor. The most we’ve seen in a day is 8 workers. Tomorrow morning, we hope to get the Alcalde to send up all 12 workers to help the community members.


We had lunch with the community members. We shared our sack lunches, which are prepared by Paulsiano’s wife every morning, with the community and they shared their lunch with us, which consisted of potatoes and corn nuts. The hour-long lunch break was spent guessing eachother’s ages. Apparently, Leighton looks 35 years old, while Bryce looks 25. After lunch, Braden and Jim oversaw the completion of the reservoir foundation form and the laying of the rebar. Chris and Leighton began digging the drains for the tapstands—one meter deep, while Bryce began working on the forms for the tapstands. Tomorrow we hope to start pouring concrete.



Aug 27 2014

“Do You Even Lift, Bro?”

This morning started with an early breakfast and a drive up to Pitumarca. We dropped Wesly, Bryce, Chris, and Dr. Nelson at the Muni for yet another meeting with the Alcalde. They had to meet with representatives from Pampa Chiri to nail down some specifics on the signed Memorandum of Understanding and to figure out how we were going to transport the largest materials we ordered: eleven rolls of 100 meter HDPE pipe and two 2500-liter tanks to Pucutuni. Unfortunately, the representatives from Pampa Chiri didn’t show up to the meeting. Because Pucutuni is located 14,000 feet above sea level, one of the most challenging aspects of this project is getting all our materials transported up to the project site. There is a dirt road that reaches Pucutuni, however, there is currently a large trench at Huatabamba, a small town about one thousand feet below Pucutuni, that has prevented cars from driving all the way up to our project site. In the past, we had dump trucks deliver our materials to Huatabamba, and then the Pucutuni community members would carry them across the large trench and load them into the motor-carga. However, the motor-carga was returned yesterday, as it could not transport our large materials because it was too small.


Jim, Braden, Leighton, and Josue headed up to Pucutuni, but made a short stop at Huatabamba to cut the delivered rebar to our desired lengths. With the help of our trusty driver, Yuri, we were able to find a home that would let us borrow an outlet to plug in our power-saw to cut the rebar. Some of the community members arrived and helped with cutting and moving the rebar across the large trench. While we were cutting the rebar, we saw a black truck driving up the other side of the trench with Chris and Wesly in it. We later found out that Wesly was able to move the Municipality to provide a 4X4 truck that would be used to carry our large materials to Pucutuni. The community workers started loading the truck with gravel, sand, and rebar. In a few hours, all of the HDPE pipe and the two tanks would be dropped off along with Bryce and Dr. Nelson.  Meanwhile, the community members began carrying 50-pound sacks of gravel up a large hill to the reservoir foundation site, which has been completely dug.  The oldest person carrying those sacks was 64 years old! Yesterday, we decided to race them across the large trench while carrying 50-pound sacks of gravel. Needless to say, they kicked our butts. They ran up the trench like it was nothing, while we arrived at the finish line dropping to the ground and panting heavily—in our defense, they had altitude on their side. As soon as the materials were dropped off, the community members started loading the pipes and tanks into the truck across the trench. After nine trips, we eventually managed to move all the supplies up to Pucutuni, thus ending our busy day.

Steap Rebar Mateials Community with Wes 45 minute timelapse

Aug 26 2014

Mentor Musings

- Curt Nelson

The students have faithfully maintained the blog and so I thought to throw in a post if, for nothing else, comic relief. Which pretty much sums up my role here in Peru. I am Spanish challenged. So well members of our EWB team deftly haggle over prices, conduct meetings with the municipality and community, and tend to the myriad of logistical challenges so that time, materials, and people coincide at 14,000ft above sea level, I wander with my camera in an attempt to appear useful. Or look up long enough from my game of Solitaire, determine where the conversation is heading, attempt a witty comment, and return to my happy place.

Today, like yesterday, we have adopted the “divide and conquer” technique in the optimistic hope that we can reach our goal of completing the project before we return home. Jim, our technical mentor, and I along with Maria and Pulsiano (our partners) head to Sicuani, the nearest town that has the materials we need. We were the more “experienced” group, at least in terms of age. We hit hardware stores, recharged cell phones and cell modems, cut drainage pipe, bought 640 soles (Peruvian currency) worth of re-bar, stocked up on over-the-counter drugs to help with various minor ailments, ordered sand, gravel, and cementand settled in for the 1-hour drive home about 4 hours later. On the way out of town, we were stopped at a police check point, the auto was impounded, we were delivered to the nearest bus station, and told to arrange our own transportation back to the ADRA center. Which we did, laden with some of our purchases, including some unwieldy drainage pipe, a 14lb sledge hammer, bags of parts, yadayada. It all fit on a local bus along with our bodies and two hours later we were back at ADRA, although without a vehicle. We’ll make that tomorrow’s problem, we have enough other challenges for today.

Meanwhile, the students took the responsibility to encourage (a kind word) the municipality to get the materials up the mountain, and then spent the rest of the day hiking up and down, ferrying some materials themselves, but mostly, working the rocky earth with shovels and picks in hand,  side-by-side with the community members to keep the project moving forward. They returned well after dark, looking like coal miners straight from the mines, faces covered with dust and grime, hungry and happy.

And now, nothing up my sleeve, presto! A few random pictures of people and places that we have been blessed with.

IMG_4455 (Small) IMG_4615 (Small) IMG_4568 (Small) IMG_4553 (Small)