Monday, January 29, 2007

La Romana, Dominican Republic, Part I

The smell of burning sugar permeates the air. Finally clean after a day covered in dirt, sweat, sunscreen, and skin-burning cement. All around the twenty person room, the teenagers bounce and babble with a vigor that somehow only appears after the work is done. For the moment the power is on, the toilets are flushing, and the showers are lukewarm. Life is good.

It is the little things that remind me I am in a poor country. The other night the power stayed on through the night for the first time since our arrival. Yesterday when Kristi and I were in the showers, we lost all water pressure. We laughed from our stalls, wondering if we would get the chance to de-suds. Our dorm toilets have a note reminding us not to flush the toilet paper and to "go fish" if we forget. Gloves sit on the back of the toilet specifically for fishing. Every time I go to the bathroom, it takes constant effort to throw my TP in the trashcan.

Brushing teeth reminds me of camping. I am a pro at water bottle brushing, but with a faucet in front of me, I have a tough time remembering not to use the water from the tap.

I spent half of last week's construction time working on benches for Pastor Matrine's church at Batey Brador, which is actually where I went to church last Sunday. As a group, our construction team moved somewhere around 112 tons of cement, rubble, dirt, etc last week. We built two structures for the hospital's air conditioners, poured the cement base for the elevator shaft, painted 175 roof panels, and cemented another layer on the roof; which will eventurally become the third floor.

To get cement and dirt to the roof, we use a pulley. It takes a couple of people for the 94 pound bags of dry cement. The buckets of dirt weigh about half that.

Here in the DOminican, the local guys really don't expect women to be heavy lifters. More than once I have gone to lift a bag of cement only to have someone run over and yank it from my hands. I knew I could pull a bucket of dirt to the roof myself, however, to get our leaders to allow it took some trickery. I stood holding the rope and talking about whether or not they thought I could do it. Of course, they said no, but while we were talking I was actually pulling it up (discretely of course). The face he made when he saw that bucket up at the top was priceless. After that I was allowed to pull buckets up all morning. it was in the sun and I was sweating buckets, but I had a blast.

Saturday we had a truly relaxing Caribean day. Moises, the hospital administrator, arranged for us to take a Catamaran to an island beach. We enjoyed sailing, doing Caribean dances, and just plain relaxing.

Now we are starting out on a new week, that I am sure we be full of entertainment, opportunity, and stories!

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