Sunday, November 2, 2008

¡Ya hemos comenzado!

The day came and it has passed!  I ripped off the bandaid in one fell swoop and after being in this country for 1 year, 1 month, and two weeks, Agua Larga began construction on their aqueduct!  Por fin!  It was an extremely nerve racking Sunday night before our Monday work day.  Somehow I managed to sleep a little and I even managed to wake up at 6:30, drink some coffee, and get goin by 7:30.  the day was pretty successful.  A lack or organization was inevitable but I was happy generally with how it went.  And every day since then has been better and better.  We work Monday through Thursday from 8 to 3, and each day went smoother than the previous one.  Overall, the week produced a half-completed water intakes, about 15 PVC pipes(250 feet) buried three feet in the ground, and a very happy(albeit sore) volunteer.  My Monday work brigade is probably the toughest because they all argue and all try to impress everone else with their infinite knowledge on digging trench.  But each day gets more and more humble and by Thursday the workers were all joking with each other and myself.  

When they try to get serious and it seems like an argument might break out I butt in with my extremely high class humor.  One worker, who has enough money to possibly pay people to work for him, stated strongly that he would not pay more than 1000 pesos for a worker to work the four days in a month required of him.  This started an argument because construction work is usually valued at 300 pesos a day or 1200 a month if working once a week.  So I told him that if it were me I would need at least 1500 "besos" from him a month, but that either way I thought his lips would be extremely dry by the end of the month.  And he isn't that buenmoso (good-looking) anyway.  "Pesos" are the local form of currency.  "Besos" are kisses.  His face immediately changed from serious to strangely embarrassed and everyone died laughing at the gringo who just made a funny.  I laughed at it too, hell, it was one of the first jokes I made that everyone got right away and put them all in a better mood.  More than anything else that I did in planning the past week of work, that joke made me feel like I am doing what I am here to do.  I am helping them get the aqueduct built.  And as I have learned, the technical facets of the work are not the reason they haven't built one.  It is everything else.  Getting people organized, motivated, and 'de acuerdo' is the much bigger challenge.  I have spent a good amount of time designing and redesigning the aqueduct but I have spent much more time developing rules and regulations for the water comittee that everyone was in agreement with.  So the little joke of mine that kept people working and laughing as opposed to arguing was a big deal for me.  I guess I am finally starting to get a hang of this development thing.  Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is crack a joke so everyone just chills out.  Giving water to people is a serious thing and should be designed and constructed correctly.  But no one said work has to be serious. 

Coming up next week are one or possibly two small river crossings and a couple smaller components of the main line.  And for the first time in a while I have an optimistic outlook and don't dread the little challenges that I know will come along.  I'll just have to have a good joke ready...

1 comment:

Kira said...

ROB! Congratulations on finally starting construction! I'm so happy to hear the great news. I hope all is well with you in the DR. Talk to you soon!!!