Today we headed out bright and early to the community. After some quick instructions, we split up among two sites that we would be digging water reservoirs for. (I say we, but yours truly sat out on the digging fun after coming down with a short-lived GI bug). The reservoirs are really more like trenches about 3-4 meters long, a meter deep and a meter wide. Quite a bit of digging…. and then add in that the dirt is bone dry – a very challenging task. Three guys (mostly the locals) were using pickaxes and two to three were shoveling the loosened dirt out of the trench. The trenches will be lined and covered with plastic to help preserve water during the dry season.
Fran and Lori, both retired art teachers, headed to the school during the morning and taught an art lesson to eight eager, bright-eyed kids. The kids at the school range from 1st to 6th grade. Mike accompanied the ladies and played a very well-received game of “pelota,” throwing tennis balls against the wall and watching the kids bounding around to retrieve them. All the art supplies and balls were left at the school for future use.
At lunch we gathered at the community leader’s house and spent some time interacting individually with the locals. Afterward, we headed down the hill to the “creek,” (now completely dry), where this particular family had a well. After chasing away a snake, we began filling little baggies (I’d suspect about 1 quart volume) with dirt. The baggies will be used to plant new fruit trees for the community growers. The dirt had to first be loosed by pickaxe and then several people (our people and community members) sat around the dirt holes scooping dirt into bags.
One of the little kids, “Brandon,” helped Mike fill his bag with dirt and “organico,” (not a real word), some dry leaves (to provide plant matter for compost). After completing that task, we headed home. A good dinner later and some ice cream and we were spent.
I do feel like it’s important to mention that when we come here, the needs of these people are plain as day… lack of access to education, water, consistent healthcare services, access to the city (roads), busses… to name a few. However, I admire them a great deal as well. There is a resilience in these people that allows them to endure in difficult situations to a degree that far surpasses our own frail ideas of hardship. It takes much more work to survive here, even on a basic level, to provide food, water and shelter. In response to this reality though, their family ties are so strong. It is normal to have multiple generations living in the same house living and working together. This means more mouths to feed, but it also means more hands to do the work, more ways to cooperate, more shoulders to lean on… more ways to be needed and more freedom to need others. There’s no illusion to maintain that they “have it all together.” Even young kids help care for their siblings and their elders… learning in this way where they come from and where they are going, not being shielded from the harsher realities of life. And still they face it with joy and optimism. I can’t help but think that they are more in tune with real life and each other than many of us are.
Tomorrow will be our last day in the community. We will pack more plants and have a fiesta for the community (pinata included). Get ready kids, Lance is bringing the balloons!! 🙂