Belize Blog Post 9 - Seeing Red Roof!

Day 58 - December 6th - Thursday (Continued...)

I took a break from work and stuff today, went into town, and just got away for a while. I also got my visa renewed, for the second time now. A visa in Belize is good for 30 days, and it costs $50 (Belize, or $25 US dollars). After getting the visa taken care of, I went back to my Chinese place for some food, and the internet. There are also internet places, but I've found a few places with good food that also have wifi. The Chinese place is often empty during the day.

After getting my fix of Chinese and internet, I left some time after dark. There is a bus stop on the edge of town, and about half way there is a grocery store. I usually stop there for supplies, in this case some soap, cookies, and Snickers bars. The basics.

At the bus stop I watched a couple locals trying to hitch a ride with any trucks that went past. The guy closer to me asked where I was going. "Cotton Tree" I said. A few minutes later, he had a pick up stopped that was going our way, so we jumped in. Saved $1.50, and it was a great night to be riding in the wind. Even saw a falling star. Go figure.

Once we got close, I tapped the roof of the truck, which apparently is the universal signal for "slow down, I'm gonna bail". The pick up pulls over and I wave Bye and yell Thanks. Walking in the long driveway I was blown away by how bright the stars were. Lately its been raining, or overcast, and I'm usually not out in the open after dark anymore.

Over all, it was a good day. I need more days like this. But work is why I'm here.

Day 59 - December 7th - Friday
Half day today. Well, the day was still long like always, but we only worked till 1pm, as is the Friday tradition.

I did more welding with the MIG welder, and Mike welded with the big Miller welder. The welding is now done on the first building, and we have 6 or 7 trusses up on both dorms, and the dutch hips are done on one end each. Stuff is really looking great now, but we're out of steel again. Wonder how fast things could roll if we actually had materials when we need it. We'll be doing some more finish up on the welding, they've been standing things up and tacking as they go still.

Anyway, it felt nice to relax this afternoon, and no work on Saturdays.

Day 60 - December 8th - Saturday
A day to rest...

Went back into town for more wifi and Chinese. There HAS to be a joke in there somewhere :)

Anyway, I have been trying unsuccessfully to download a program the last couple times I've been to town, the connection has been slow at times. Anyway, I finally got it today. For the geeks, I downloaded WAMP, which is a local web server, so I can test web pages that I'm writing, without being on the internet. It has PHP, Apache, and MySQL all rolled together. Maybe something else too, I forget what though. Anyway, if none of that means anything, the Chinese food was good.

I caught a bus home around 6pm, and made the walk down the dark driveway just before it got completely dark.

Will probably do some welding tomorrow. Or maybe I'll slack off and something else.

I did a look online, and saw the MSRP for the welder I might just have to buy. Its around $4000, which is actually less than I had expected. This will sound like an infomercial... its got a big honkin' generator, so I could live off grid. It could power most power tools that I'd ever need. Even a Plasma Cutter. And of course, it is a welder. Now all I have to do is build a trailer so I can pull it behind my motorcycle... :)

Speaking of motorcycles... wow, the weather the last few days has been really nice... I miss my motorcycle!

Day 61 - December 9th - Sunday
Sunday, used to be fun day, now its just another work day...

Since Sunday is kind of an optional day, I figured I'd sleep in a bit more, got up around 7am vs. 6am. That was nice. Ate a relaxed breakfast, drank a few cups of coffee, and was up on the roof a bit after 9am. Not too bad.

Today was more "finish up what the other guy started" welding. I'm getting used to the idea, it almost even makes sense. A crew of 3 or 4 guys put the trusses up and do a quick tack weld to keep it in place. If you had 3 guys waiting for you to finish the whole weld, that would really slow things down. So you just stick it in place, and move on. Then I go around, either with the little welder, or in the case of today, I gut to use the big Miller welder. Just take my time, get a good pace, and settle in to do my best. Today I was doing some good welds, some great welds, and some really not so good welds. The trick is to do more of the good ones. Part of today was welding the steel brackets together, that's where things really come out looking good. So in a way, I know I'm mostly doing a good job, its just really difficult to make a good weld in the galvanized, especially when its so thin.

Will be fun to weld something that's not galvanized, and maybe even not 12 feet off the ground! Dreaming of the day...

Welded pretty much a full shift today, short lunch, then welded till about 5pm. Was pretty tired by the time I got everything wrapped up and put away.

so here I am, its about 7:30pm, and I'm wiped out.

Day 62 - December 10th - Monday
Wow, today felt like a Monday. The only thing worse than a Monday, is a Monday after you worked a full shift on Sunday!

Really though, things went pretty well. I was welding all day again, running around with the little MIG welder. The guys are really good about helping me lately, which is really nice. I usually don't even have to ask, they'll see me moving and they'll go grab some cords for me. That's good, because I'm not very good at asking, or knowing what I really need help with. Guess I should work on asking, and delegating more.

It was hot in the afternoon, like it sucked the life out of you. Some how, I don't know if the guys were thinking that far ahead or we just got lucky, but we spent the last 2 hours welding on the shady side of the building. Nice way to finish the day!

Day 63 - December 11th - Tuesday
Hot. Humid. Exhausted.

Otherwise, a pretty good day :)

Weird, really, it has been cooling off, then today, WHAM! Even the local guys seemed a bit warm.

Some of the soffet is going up already. Not sure what that really means, but I did drill a lot of holes in something called soffet. It looks like metal, even. I'm officially roofing, and construction, challenged. Hard to believe I actually built a roof once, and still don't know any of these words.

Goes to show, anyone can help here!

Did some more welding in the morning, have a new burn and blister on my arm for the efforts. Note to self, when you are done welding something, it still might be hot 3 seconds later. Probably best not to lean on the glowing red part. Yeah that left a mark.

John designed a fairly medeval looking door lock, for our temporary, construction doors. So I spent part of the afternoon welding those together. I'm not sure they would survive the savage hord, but it will definitely slow them down.

The crew from the Home has been over here the last couple of days, getting the place ready for a big group of volunteers who are coming soon. I'm a bit afraid. Just when I finally got things figured out, have a routine, and know where to find the peanut butter, its all going to hit the fan. I had planned to just leave when a group was coming, but then I remembered I won't have any travel and fun money until I get around to doing my tax returns. So that's going to be a while. I still might sneak off to the jungle and hide. In the mean time I'll charge my taser, just in case.

Day 64 - December 12th - Wednesday
Its 12-12-12 today. Just thought I'd mention that.

I actually didn't do any welding today. In fact, I never touched the MIG welder, and wasn't on the same building that the Arc welder was welding on. A day without welding... I was ok with it, actually! There was welding to be done, but Mike took care of it, as I had used up all the wire for the MIG welder yesterday, and when Stanley bought more wire, they gave him the wrong stuff. Poor guy, he has had a tough time lately, goes to get stuff, and its not ready, or its on back order, or they give him the wrong stuff. He spends his whole day driving around the country. I've been there, when I first got here, Dad and I did a lot of running around. I think our ratio was something like 2 hours driving around vs. 1 hour actually working. We spent whole days in the truck. I liked the driving around part, but its a tough way to build something!

Anyway, I drilled a few hundred holes, popped some rivets, put in some screws, and now the first building has nearly all of the facia up on the roof. Thats the vertical "face" that covers the end of the trusses, or so they tell me. We also in the same process put up all the angles that will hold up the soffets, which are the horizontal panels that hide the bottom of the truss that would hang over the side of the building. Next time you're hunched up against a building to get out of the rain, look up. If you see trusses, there aren't soffets. if you don't see trusses, there might be soffets. Or it might be dark.

I took a break from the roof in the morning, and attempted to fix the washing machine. Here at the volunteer house, we have 2 stacking washers and dryers. Both dryers work great, but one of the washers hasn't worked since I got here. Since we are expecting visitors shortly, it was decided having 2 washers fully functional would help hold off panic and chaos. Anyhow... I don't know if having 9 years experience as an aircraft mechanic, plus a few years as a computer technician makes me qualified to troubleshoot a washing machine or not... well, actually, I'm not a qualified welder, either, so who knows how that works here!

It was kind of cool though, since I had both washers side by side, I just ran them both on an empty cycle, to see what worked and what didn't. Its very helpful to have a "working example" next to the one that's not working, so you know what noises are normal. The not working one does fill with water just fine. It even stops filling with water at a good point. It even drains when it should. The lights work, the door lock locks and unlocks. Heck, its working pretty good, me thinks. Everything except the agitation part of washing the clothes. Absolutely nothing happens there. At all. No motion, no noise, nadda.

Since they're stacking units, I have to move the dryer off first. Turns out there are only 2 screws on this model holding them together. From there, I noticed the picnic table is nearly the same height, so I grabbed a couple scraps of lumber, and slid the dryer onto the table. Perfect! Coffee break time.

Once back from my break, I looked down inside the washer. Hmmm these are pretty interesting. Lots of wires, some cobwebs, a dead dragonfly, spiders, hmmm... looking down further I see a belt that probably turns the drum. Slide the whole washer out more, and grab my screw gun, zip zip zip and the back panel is off. Yup, the belt is good, the motor is still there on the other end of the belt, everything spins freely. Bummer, I was hoping to find something simple there. Now the real fun starts!

Back up to the top then, and open up the control switch thingy. Front panel comes off after taking all the knobs off, and a few screws here and there. Take the cover off the control, wow, these are cool inside. Really should have taken a picture of it, but if you've ever seen the inside of a music box, where the different notes are played by bumps on a cylinder striking the various reeds or springs, that's pretty close. Each function is controlled by a row of bumps on a drum. Water in, water out, spin, agitate, its all right there. Upon closer inspection, I decided that all looked ok, so I put it back together. Hmmm further into the beast then. Back at the bottom I traced the wires from the motor inward. First thought, gee, lots of wires for a motor. An electric drill has 2 wires. This motor has like 6 of them, I think. More like a stepper motor on a printer than any big motor I've seen. More on that later.

Since the motor seemed to roll freely, I decided the motor was probably not the problem. So I then looked at where the motor wires were going, and decided the next box was most likely the controller. Turns out it is in fact the speed controller, since I eventually found a trouble shooting guide taped inside the machine. Course by the time I found that, I'd solved the problem already!

Anyway, so I take the speed controller box out (2 screws, 2 wire connectors... about a minute), and shake out the bugs and blow out the cobwebs. Ewww... Go over to the table, grab my next cup of coffee, and start my investigation. First thing I notice is there's still a scorpion inside. Shew... shoo... shoe? Finally I poke it out with my screw driver, its playing dead pretty well, so I step on it just to be sure. Now I think I'm on to what the problem might be. There is a clear plastic cover over part of the circuit board, and the plastic is burned in a few places. So I take out some screws, pull off the cover, and wow, there's a hole burned right into one of the chips. I'm going to say that's the problem. Most likely caused by getting wet, or just random poor design, and we did have a dead scorpion there too.

Now its time to get the needed info together so we can replace the toasted controller. Mmmm toast. Ok, another cup of coffee, and some toast. So, I figure I need a manufacturer name, a model number, maybe a serial number. No problem, that kind of stuff is usually on a label on the back of the unit. This will be simple, I have the unit out in the open, I have the whole back panel removed... no label. Just a sticker that says something about voiding the warranty. I live to void warranties. Still, where's the info I need? Look on the sides, on the top, inside, hmmm... I start looking on the dryer, just thinking maybe they'd be in the same spot, no info on the dryer either. Odd... Oh, duh!

I open the door on the dryer, where you'd actually look if you were putting the clothes in, and sure enough, there's all the info I need. Go back to the washer, same place. Now I feel silly. I probably won't tell anyone how I missed that. Grab some paper, write down manufacturer, serial number, model number. Good, ok, now tidy things up a bit, sweep the dead bugs outside, line up the spiders according to species, and put my tools away. Not bad timing, its nearly lunch time!

With any luck, we'll be able to find the part locally, and I'll have it back in service pronto. Or we can just go native and not worry about it.

Day 65 - December 13th - Thursday
Another day without me welding. My burns are starting to heal up nicely.

Today we finished putting the facia up on the first building, and started putting the soffet up. I also am in the process of cutting some pieces of metal for the next roofs. Its one of the cuts where I can set up a jig and just switch my brain off. Rather than measuring each piece, I put a stop on the saw, slide the metal to the stop, and cut. Next, lather, rinse, repeat... always repeat.

In the afternoon, after work, I saw my dining area had been overtaken by the crew from the Home, again. They were cleaning. Again. Not sure how dirty they thought we were, because they had cleaned 2 days ago. Anyway, I grabbed a coffee, a water, and hid in the corner. I try to stay out of the way when the big cleaning happens, it usually happens kind of frantically. I'm more into orderly, methodically doing things. Eventually they left, then John and I spent the next half hour trying to find where they put things. The fun part is they had just done this, and none of the things were put in the same place as last time. We considered calling every 5 minutes to ask where something is. But my personal favorite idea is to go to the Home some night, clean for them, and put things away. That would take care of the problem.

Anyway, at present time, we have trusses standing on all 4 buildings. We are still not sure when more trusses will be delivered. At this rate by tomorrow we'll probably have used all the trusses we have available. Oh, and I am still out of wire for my MIG welder.

Stay tuned!

Day 66 - December 14th - Friday
Happy Friday!

As is the usual Friday routine, we worked until 1pm today (through lunch, even!) and then are off the rest of the day. I spent the whole shift cutting metal, first with the chop saw, and then later I was working through the scrap pile, cutting with the small 4" grinder and a cut off wheel.

We didn't do any welding at all today, mainly because all the trusses we have are already standing up. Hopefully more trusses get here early next week. That's the otherside of paradise, its very pretty here, nice and warm, sometimes rainy, but its a real pain to get anything done on a schedule.

So for the rest of the afternoon, I'm doing some laundry, and will goof around on the computer. Nice to have some down time!

Day 67 - December 15th - Saturday
Its nice to sleep in, listening to the rain, knowing you don't have to go out to work when you get up!

Although I still did have to go out in the rain to get to my breakfast. The way the volunteer house is set up, the kitchen is in the middle, facing an open area, with picnic tables. There are 4 dorm rooms also facing the picnic tables, which are in a covered breezeway. But where I'm staying is set up as a "couple" room, more private, and its door way faces the outside. So to get to the kitchen, I have to walk outside. Not a big deal, but when its raining you get a bit wet, and in the dark, well, its dark getting around the corner. So you take a flashlight to see what you're stepping on, be it frogs, lizzards, snakes or snails.

At the moment, its about 10:30am, and I`m sitting out on the deck, watching it rain. Rain in the tropics is warmer, it can be pouring down monsoon style one moment, then taper off to a drizzle. I guess rain is what defines the tropics, the jungle. Its why its so green here. Its amazing how much water the ground here can absorb.

By the afternoon it had cleared up and turned out to be a really nice day.

I spent the afternoon installing and testing a web server on my laptop. This won`t ever run a website that anyone else can see, but I can create and test web pages where ever I am, and not go into town to use the internet. Then when I have it working, when I do go to town, I can just copy the page to my real web site, and it might even still work. Its hard getting used to not being connected all the time.

Part of the web site project I worked on today includes a database that I`ll use for the third book I`m writing. I had the idea a while ago, but hadn`t ever taken the time to do it. Since each day`s entry for the book is kind of a blog post anyway, I thought it might be cool to actually write it on a blog platform. One advantage of doing it this way, is I`ll be able to do searches through the entries and find things easier.

By the end of last night, I`d gotten the book project working and was entering the story into it. Life is good.

We have a new group of volunteers here now, some really nice people, a few adults and some kids. Its a fairly small group, but its just enough to mess up what we`ve found to be a normal routine. Nice to have someone new to talk to though.

Day 68 - December 16th - Sunday
Sleep In again! Well, by 6:30 I was awake, but I didn`t get out of bed till 7am, so that still counts right?

I will probably work on writing the book some more today, just relax and rest up for the week. I might also go in to town, haven't decided yet.


Nope, didn't go to town today :)

I ended up sitting out on the deck most of the afternoon with my laptop, doing some writing and other computer stuff. Almost like normal life used to be. The funny part was when I got tired of sitting on that stupid wicker chair. I mean, really, who thinks those might be comfortable? Anyway, I improved it a million times by putting a piece of cardboard on the seat. I might pattent it. The real improvement would be to set fire to it, but since its not mine, I probably won't do that.

The group that's here is pretty funny, the kids are having fun learning all the stuff here.

Its about 8:30pm, and tomorrow is a work day, so will probably knock off soon.


Day 69 - December 17th - Monday
Monday... not too bad for a Monday! Had some nice weather today, was a bit warm, but really sunny.

About lunch time we had a big truck load of lumber get here, it will be for the front building's porch. A bigger version of the porch we already built. Same design, just bigger. So, lots more wood! Our local work crew went to lunch, so Gary and I helped the kids unload the wood. I think they'll sleep good tonight!

Gary is our newest volunteer, he's here until end of December. We worked together today, got along great, he's got a lot of experience with this kind of thing, so if I pay attention I might learn again!

Most of today Gary and I worked on the soffets on the first building, they're nearly done now. They're all riveted up into tracks that we put up earlier. There are pop rivets about every 6 inches or so (ok I didn't measure, but there are a lot of them) I commented I hadn't done that many pop rivets since Desert Storm. Actually, now that I think of it, I probably did as many rivets on the trucks I used to build in Edmonton, but who's counting.

Tomorrow we'll cut the vents into the soffet, so that will be more rivets. Its been a while since I have welded anything, my wounds are healing nicely!

Day 70 - December 18th - Tuesday
HOT today! Even the locals mentioned it was pretty warm. I saw a few extra water breaks.

I got to weld today, finally! We decided to use the Flux Core wire we had, which doesn't need the shielding gas. It works, but is really messy, a LOT of splatters, etc. Gary and I are working together still, get along well, and he knows what he's doing, so that helps!

I haven't been this tired in a long time, not sure why, guess its just the heat. The kind of tired that just hurts.

Gary and I are getting the final little bits done on the first building, then it will be inspected, and then the actual roofing will be installed. They started putting some of the red roof on today, then remembered the inspection.

Parts of this seems to be going really fast, and then parts are painfully slow. The welding goes really fast, because you're going 20 feet at a time it seems. Then you get into the detail work, and its days in the same place. Or you go back to the same place over and over, first to put up the truss, then later for the perlin, then something else, then something else, then the soffet and facia, then...

A truck delivered another pile of trusses this afternoon, so I think we have enough to get all the trusses up on buildings B and C, which are the Boys and Girls dorms. We currently have half the trusses up on them.

Anyway, that's about it for now! More tomorrow. Pray for clouds, they help on a hot day!

Day 71 - December 19th - Wednesday
Seeing Red...
Today we started seriously putting on the roof today, on the first building. That means we're not welding anymore. This is HUGE really, because for the last, well, forever, we've been building the roof structure. Today we're actually putting on the red roofing metal. Very cool.

That also means now I have a flat surface to walk on. Its not level, but its flat! As opposed to all the trusses that I've been climbing around on. Kind of nice. The roof is "only" a 4:12 pitch, so not super steep. We spent the afternoon screwing the metal down on one end, and its going really well. The second end should go even faster, and the sides are flat, no details to cut around.

And I guess I can say I did the last welding on the first roof, just the way it worked out.

More people arrived here this evening, in the Dani Johnson group, Gary knows at least some of them. The numbers are swelling.

Our other group is leaving this coming Sunday. The kids are almost finished building the rock feature that's going to be the center of the car turn around at the end of the driveway to the volunteer house. Its pretty amazing how that's come together. There was a truck load of huge rocks cut into cubes around 12 inches thick, some are longer or shorter, but they're all about the same height. Way too big to be picked up and moved, it takes a couple of the kids to even tip the rocks over, using pry bars or pipes. So they've gone Egyptian (or Mayan I guess!) and put pipes under the rocks, and roll them over planks. They dug a ditch around in a circle, then put in sand to level, and the rocks go on the sand. They're going two layers high, even. Its quite a project. 4 girls, 1 boy, all high school age, 2 moms, and their paster from church. We're hoping they can finish it before they leave, it might be close.

Day 72 - December 20th - Thursday
There is now a full crew roofing the first building, they are really moving along well.

As for me, I'm welding on the second building again, putting on the soffet brackets. Elvis is my wing man, so life is good. We have a good rhythm going, he clamps the piece in place, checks it straight and level, and I weld it. We have 3 sections of scaffold set up, then put a ladder between them so we can probably cover about 50 feet without moving the scaffolds. Then the remaining part we just work from the ladder.

The groups really are fun to hang out with, there is a lot of energy. Kind of chaotic at times, but its good.

Today was another hot one, lots of water, especially when up on the roof in the sun.

I saw another truck load of steel trusses get delivered today, so I think we have all the trusses for building's B and C now, and maybe some for building A. Building D is the one that's getting the actual red roofing on it.

Think that's about it for now. I got some more pictures this afternoon after work. Really looking great now. We're all excited. Been a long time coming!

Day 73 - December 21th - Friday

The World Didn't End.

Today was a good day, A bit longer than I had planned on, but still a good day.

We finished welding the section I started yesterday, then I helped put some flashing on over the porch.

Then about 1pm, when I thought we'd be getting off for the afternoon, the lumber truck showed up with a medium sized load, which took us until about 1:30pm.While we were unloading the lumber, the steel truss guys showed up, but they unloaded their trusses for us.

I believe this was supposed to be the end of the world today, according to the Mayan calendar. But so far so good!

I did laundry this afternoon. Getting ready to move out of my private room for the next week, so that someone else can live in it. I'll be staying in one of the dorm rooms in the mean time. I'll get to pretend I'm socialable for a while!

Its about 11:30pm now, and the kids group hasn't gotten back from the beach yet.At least I haven't heard them yet, maybe they got quiet?

Day 74 - December 22nd - Saturday
Yay, I'm finally back on the internet. Think its been a couple weeks...

Gary and I drove into town, and here we are at the Yim Saan restaurant. Life is good!

More later!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2012-12-22