Wednesday June 8th
Another good night of sleep in the tent makes it official – I’m glad I bothered to pack the tent even though we were limited on baggage allowances. The water tank was overflowing when we woke up, so apparently they just let the pump run all night. What a difference a day makes – feast or famine!
Mid-morning, the contractors Kiki and Don returned to pick us up as promised yesterday. Structural Volunteer Brent and Architect Jim joined me as we piled onto motorcycles (I can’t help but call them bodas) to head out to their site. We drove up the road, which climbs a good sized mountain just a half-mile up the road from the site. The house they are building is on the other side of the mountain about 10 minutes from our site. It was fun to see more of Haiti, and doing so did nothing to discourage my opinion that it is virtually indistinguishable from Uganda (other than the roadside signs in French and Creole).
At the site, we were pleasantly surprised at how well they were building the house. As Brent and I walked around we noted the many things they appeared to be doing well, while at the same time seeing a number of small things that would be easy to do better and could potentially have a significant impact on the performance of the building in a seismic event.
At the end of the tour and after we had told them how well we thought the building was being built, they asked us to please teach them so they could learn to build better. They had mentioned this as the reason for bringing us to their site yesterday, and their humble attitudes seemed to back up their request. So it felt to me like the perfect chance to show them the few small things we had seen that could easily make a huge difference in the safety of the building. So Brent and I showed them things like how and where to overlap their rebar, how far into the concrete to place the rebar from the surface of the concrete, and how doweling can help the building stay together in the event of an earthquake. We also explained to them that using a mixture of 1/2 to 1 to 2 to 4 of water, cement, sand and rock can make their concrete much stronger than simply mixing it up by ‘feel’ or ‘eyeballing it’.
We tried to do it in as culturally sensitive a manner as we knew how, mixing in compliments and pointing out things we noticed that had been done well. In the end, they seemed moderately interested in our recommendations, so it’s difficult to know if we stepped over a cultural line somehow. Maybe they really were interested but were embarrassed to act like they didn't already know what we were saying, or maybe they only brought us to the site to show off their work!
We boda’d back to the site, but on the way we stopped by each of the guys’ houses. They were very excited to show us their homes and meet their families. They were very modest homes – wood and mud shacks and extremely poor by Western standards. It was an honor though that they invited us in to see where they lived. They also tried to gather as many people nearby to introduce us to!
The rest of the day was mainly a typical work day, though just before our 8pm dinner the water tank ran out again. Fortunately, the pump was working so we started refilling it. But we still had to wait for 2 1/2 hours before there was enough water in the tank for us to start taking showers. Just another day in the life of living in a developing country. It makes you think sometimes, why was I so lucky to be born in a country where I don’t have to deal with such basic concerns day in and day out. I am grateful for it, but it’s hard to comprehend fully. These are people just like you and I, yet they have been dealt a very harsh reality to have to live with. Seeing the builder’s houses today drove this point home even further. Here are a couple of guys who are skilled laborers and have pretty good jobs, living in these mud/wood houses that are dark, reek of mildew and have very few of the conveniences we not only have but seem to replace every few years to get the latest and greatest model of. But I’ve noticed that the Christians I meet in these countries have joy overflowing from them in ways that a lot of people back home rarely or never experience. So really, I suppose it’s reasonable to ask who should pity who? It does bring up a lot of unanswerable theological questions though, such as why I was lucky enough to be born into not only a "wealthy" (by the world's standards, not by American standards) home but in a country where I have every freedom imagineable to work my way up the development ladder. Do these people in Haiti get more grace than Americans do since they've had such a tough life to live? It would seem right to me for that to be the case, but who knows.
Thursday June 9th
I supposed I could’ve mentioned the team members by now. It’s a great team and they are really smoking through the design quickly. I’ve never had a team this big so I was concerned about how it would work out, but so far it has been great.
The civil design team is Alan and Gary with intern Brett helping. Gary is a semi-retired professor from Ohio University who is one of those guys who has a positive attitude about everything. His experience and knowledge are only surpassed by his humility. Gary also helped by doing the survey. Alan is also a really solid guy from Oklahoma who is outside the U.S. for the first time in his life. Like me, he battles missing his family on the trip but he has done remarkably well for a first-timer. Intern Brett is a very willing helper with a servant’s attitude. He’s a really solid young man.
The electrical data gathering is being handled by Kirk Singleton, who is actually a trained aeronautical engineer. Kirk is gathering the data for Jim Cathey, my long-time volunteer electrical guru who has designed my last 7 or 8 projects. Kirk wanted to come in a learning role since it was outside his normal discipline, with hopes of being able to do the design for a project next time after he learns from Jim on this one. Kirk is a really nice and capable guy who reminds me a little of my brother Bret, which of course makes me naturally drawn to him.
The structural design is being handled by Brent, another former EMI intern who originally served in the India office. Brent is a fun guy to have around with a great sense of humor (it's 'great' of course because I think he’s funny!). It is really nice to have him along so I don’t have to do the structural design! He is being helped by interns Stacy and Clare. Stacy has added a lot of comic relief to the team too (she reminds me a little of my niece Danielle who lived with us in Uganda). She has also been doing a great job leading the team during our worship times. Clare is on her second trip as an intern (she’s been in our office since January). She’s from the UK and has given some balance to us crazy Americans.
We had a busy work day today, but by the end of the day we are in really good shape for finishing most all our work by the presentation on Saturday. It’s really fun to be a part of a group of talented people using their skills, especially when it’s for the noble cause of helping this local ministry. I do feel blessed to be a part of what this EMI team is accomplishing here.
Friday June 10th
This morning we awoke to a sunny day – the first one of the trip so far. The weather has been pretty uniform – cloudy and high 70’s/low 80’s with 90% humidity all day and night, but with afternoon rain that knocks the humidity down a bit and cools things off ever so slightly. So seeing the sun this morning isn’t necessarily a good thing – it makes me wonder how uncomfortable it might be this afternoon.
Today being our last full work day, everyone got to work in the morning after our devotion time. (Actually, 4 or 5 team members have been going on early morning hikes with Nicely, the #2 guy here at CEDAN who grew up in America and speaks perfect English. They’ve been getting up to leave at 6:30am to hike up a couple of the mountains around here.) We are really in great shape work-wise, and probably could present today if necessary. But having this ‘extra’ day will really help us finalize the report in this shortened intern semester – our goal is to complete the report before the end of July.
I’m really impressed at not only how fast the team has pulled everything together this week, but at the quality of work that’s been produced. I’ll attach pictures of the 3D site model Phyllis and Jeremy worked on – it’s amazing! Funny story – many of the Haitian workers for the ministry have seen some of the drawings the architects have produced on the computer. So today, a few of them gave us hand drawn floor plans of the homes they hope to build someday for themselves to see if volunteer Phyllis would draw them up on the computer!