Belize Blog Post 3 - The Dragon is Digging

Belize Blog Entries

Day 18 - 27th
5:49 PM 27-Oct-2012
Saturday
We don't work on Saturday (the organization is run by Seventh Day Adventists, so they keep Saturday as the Sabbath, vs. Sunday) So we went out on a drive in the afternoon, I got to show Dan some of the sights. We went across the hand cranked ferry, and after we'd drove a few miles past it, he realized he forgot to take the picture. So that's twice I've forgotten my camera, so we'll have to go try that again!

Anyway, will keep this post short so I can post it while I have internet. By for now!

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In case anyone missed the earlier notes, Dan is a friend of my Dad's, from Wenatchee. I got to meet him briefly just before Dad and I left to come down here, and then we picked up Dan at the Belize airport a couple of days ago. Kind of fun in a way I guess, me being here only 2 weeks, showing a new guy around, then turning him loose to see how fast he can find things. Although he was a former police officer, so I guess that should count for something right? The worst though is learning how the locals drive, so we don't stand out too much... passing on blind corners is our favorite so far! hehe

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Ok, now I'm posting again after we left the restaurant with the wifi. Dan and I had chicken fried rice, and also sweet and sour chicken, and 2 pops each, for a total of $30 Belize, or $15 US. Plus we got to use the internet for about 3 hours each. So I think we almost made money tonight!

I also got to test my laptop battery, in that I used wifi for over 3 hours before it ran out of juice... not too bad for a laptop I bought used from ebay! I am seriously loving my Panasonic Toughbook CF-74 (if anyone at Panasonic is reading this, and you'd like to have a new laptop tested in authentic third world jungle environments... lets talk, ok?)

In other news, we tried some 3rd world canned Tuna. If you ever see a tuna can branded "Ocean Flavor" beware... might also work as a laxative in a pinch. Apparently a dollar saved is not worth it. In a somewhat related note, the local Shell gas stations have very clean restrooms. Thanks for that!

All in all, today was a good day. I think days spent resting, eating meat (sorry vegetarians, its just not working for me) and driving around the country side, then finishing up with 3 hours of web surfing make for a good day. As opposed to 10 hours in the hot sun digging a hole. There might be a follow up government funded study on this theory. If you happen to work for a department of the government tasked with making happy workers... lets talk, ok?

That's it for now!

Day 19 - 28th Sunday
Dug holes for another stupid gate.

Filled some holes in the driveway.

Then went for a nature walk.

The end.

Day 20 - 29th Monday
8:31 PM 29-Oct-2012
Dan and I dug some more holes today, and also poured some concrete for the second gate. We have a form ready to pour the first pillar for the gate, but ran out of daylight so will pour it in the morning.

We brought out 3 boys and 4 girls to help today. They are hard workers, but are still kids. The funny thing was we had one of the girls, who was out to do cleaning of some of the volunteer rooms, help us with digging. She didn't really have the strength, but she stuck with it better than the boys.

There was the normal running around trying to find stuff. Just after I brought the kids out to do the work, I had to turn around and go right back to the same place to get some keys that were forgotten. By the time I got there, someone else had brought out the keys, so I made the whole wasted trip. It all adds up, especially when the gas costs $12 a gallon ($6 US a gallon).

We officially have the money we've been waiting the last 3 weeks for, to order the roof materials. But from what John said, (the project leader), he started the day with 7 checks, and at the end of the day, he still had 7 checks. So nothing got ordered. And we know we have a lag time from when the materials are ordered until we see the stuff. This gets really frustrating. Especially since we know we're doing a lot of busy work. No one needs a gate built, yet. Maybe eventually, but not now.

Should be a big heavy day tomorrow.

3 weeks I've been in country, and I am having a difficult time pointing at any one thing that has been worthwhile. Bit frustrating.

Day 21 - 30th Tuesday
7:23 PM 30-Oct-2012
I hear reports that New York is dealing with a hurricane. I have not had internet access for a few days, so I'll just say my thoughts are with anyone in the New York area. The rats, well, hope they drown.

We did more concrete today, and poured our first pillar for the fence and gate. That in itself is either good, or bad. We'll just leave it there. I did learn how to mix concrete with a mixer today though, and I think that's better than mixing it by hand in a wheelbarrel. Still heavy, dirty, dusty work that I'd rather pay someone else to do.

After we were done pouring the concrete for the day, I spent the rest of the afternoon digging another hole. Of all the things I like or am good at, so far I've done none of them here.

I hear trips like this are character building. I also hear life is about experiences, so you can learn about yourself, and what you like to do. In my case, I'm growing a long list of what I don't like to do. Process of elimination I guess. And I'll have to be more clear in the future, life in the tropics is kind of wasted if its doing manual labor.

Day 22 - 31st Wednesday
6:03 PM 31-Oct-2012
Happy Halloween everyone! For today I dressed up as a gringo cement worker, complete with authentic concrete splotches all over me.

Dan and I mixed and poured a lot more concrete today, made form and poured another post for the new gate, and poured footings. There is one more footing to pour, and then 7 or 8 more posts. I should clear up any confusion I guess. The gate we are working on now is not related to the earlier gate I was working on. There is one gate at the highway, which was the warped and twisted wooden gate that I fixed last week. The gate we are working on now is a new construction, which will block the back half of the property off, keeping any visitors out front.

Anyway, I can now say I'm kind of qualified to mix concrete. Not rocket science I guess, the actual concrete formula has been figured out and is printed on the bag, I guess. Not sure, as the writing on the bags we have is in Spanish. Still, if you have a concrete mixer handy, you can follow along. First you put in some water. I never measure the first water, but maybe a gallon or so. Then you shovel in 5 shovel scoops of gravel. The gravel we are using has some sand in it. I suppose if you have really clean gravel, with no sand, you should go find some sand. I think it might be important. Anyway, with the mixer turning, the sand and gravel and water should be sloshing around nicely by now. Take a moment to get a drink, it seems to be best at this stage if the gravel is kind of wet. Next you dump in a half bag of cement mix.

I'm still not sure what the difference between concrete and cement is. I think it might be important.

Anyway, so you dump in half the bag of mix. There are some health concerns about the chemicals in the mix, so try not to breath it or get too much on your skin.

Next you start shoveling in more gravel into the mix. This might depend a bit on what you're planning to use the finished mix for, but if you add in 15 to 25 more shovel scoops, you'll probably need to add more water.

Pay attention here, this might be kind of important. Add water slowly. Just a little bit, then wait. The difference between not enough water, and too much water, is suprisingly small. Especially when you consider you have 25 pounds of concrete mix and most of a wheel barrel full of gravel and sand. It might be kind of like making pancakes, when you first mix them, it might be a bit thick, so you add more water. If you get too much water, you can always add more mix, or more gravel (to the concrete, I don't recommend adding gravel to pancakes, but you could experiment with raisens, chocolate chips)

By now you should be watching some really nice gray concrete mixing. You won't have any free standing water, you won't see any gravel or sand or concrete mix left, its just all uniform grayness. Now its time to put the "mud" into a hole or something. That's up to you, but by now I'm hoping you have some kind of idea of where you were going to put the concrete.

If you're short on imagination, I have read reports that there was an engineering school that successfully floated a concrete canoe. At least once. I don't think a concrete airplane has been flown yet, so you could try that. Do let me know how that works, ok?

In other news, I've now been here for over 3 weeks. I've been involved in building a table to hold a drill press. I've tried to fix a broken drill press. It was broken before we built the table, just saying. I've spent countless man days driving aimlessly around the country side, to find supplies and parts for various projects. I spent over a week on a temporary gate. I'm now well into a week on a different gate.

None of the above are even slightly related to building the roof, which is what I was told I was coming down here for. The drill press table was supposed to be for building the roof, but we may not need it for that. Not sure yet. So, on those odd days where I feel like so far, its been a complete waste of time, well, really, it has been.

Sorry, I wish I could say otherwise. The kids need a better place to live. At my best guess now, it might still be 2 to 3 weeks before we see the metal for roof building. I have heard that we might be seeing some wood this week, which will be used to build some covered porches and walk ways between the buildings. Just today, I saw some of the leading minds get together, and from what I could see, they were still playing with the design of the roof. Seems that might have been nice to work out months ago, when we had an architech on the project. But that's just my opinion. I think I may be the only one on the project who hasn't built houses.

Oh wait, but I have helped build a porch, and a roof. The roof I build was built and done in less than a month. And I did that mostly on my own. I have a bad feeling about this place. Anyway, October is done, and tomorrow is November. What ever that's worth.

By Carlin Comm posted on 2012-11-1