Day 7 - Commander?
Trip Start Mar 04, 2010
12Trip End Mar 15, 2010
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Where I stayed
Pwoje Espwa Guest House
So if you look at the pictures, we have rebar sticking up every 6 feet or so and this is where each block column is to be set. The columns are made up of two blocks placed next to each other, and five sets high. The three pieces of rebar were to go up through the holes of the block and then we pour mortar in the holes to solidify the two materials together. Since I had tied the tops of the three pieces of rebar together at the top so they would stand up, this caused the rebar to lean towards each other and not straight up while the footing dried. When they threaded the rebar through the block a lot of them didn’t quite fit and were not aligned with our string above that marked where the edge of the block should be. They had to do some corbelling of the block to get it in the right place by the time they got to the top layer of block. I hope I explained this clearly! It worked out in the end but I’m kinda glad there aren’t any building codes and inspectors! I think I may have gotten yelled at! Once the rubble and mortar is filled in between the columns the foundation will be one solid unit and the funny columns won’t compromise the strength of the foundation. Hey, I’m learning!
All this helped me to make the rebar placement a lot more accurate and Kip figured out a way to keep the rebar straight up by using wadded up concrete bags to separate the ends and then tied it all together. Again, that sentence makes sense if you look at the picture!
I started by cutting all of the pieces that were to run horizontally in the footing before anything was placed. Chris and Kevin and a Jerry, one of the workers helped to cut and bend it all. When we were all ready to place it I had my little plan and directed the 5 Haitian guys where to put which pieces and then placed each corner stake using the plumb bob off of our marker strings above to get them in the exact spot. We tied them all together with wire and were ready for the upright rebar in about an hour. Junior was looking on the whole time (he is the foreman so he doesn’t do a whole lot of labor work) and after that whole operation I earned the name "commander"! I’m serious! I don’t know who started it but it stuck.
I took my new title very seriously and got some guys in line to start the upright rebar! I wasn’t able to get Rico because he is a very good mason and they had him working on the block on the other foundation. I still had Pierre Claude though and I just need one really good guy and then I got a younger guy to help him so that he could teach him easier in Creole what I was doing. I went along ahead of them and placed the first piece since I had the plan with the measurements. Then they came along and placed the other two pieces at the dimensions I had told them. I was on a roll and had asked Kevin, who was standing around, to make sure they were doing ok behind Kip and I. He kept coming back and standing around and I had to ask him like four times to stay back there and make sure they were good! Well we got done around 4 and I looked back at what had been done and they had reversed the measurements on all of the rebar behind me! Each piece was placed off by 1”. I was a little peeved at Kevin to say the least! I think that he is scared/intimidated by these guys and didn’t want to stand over them. Whatever. So in the morning I will have to go around and adjust the tied pieces with a hammer with one of the guys so they know the dimension for the next two foundations that they will be doing after we go home.
Besides that whole thing, today went really well with the guys and I think Chris and I really bonded with them and had a lot of fun! One of the coolest things to happen so far on this trip had to be the joking and goofing around that we did today with the guys. Honestly when you don’t understand each other at all but are still able to laugh and have fun it is really amazing. Again, I think the other guys were a bit jealous but you aren’t going to get much back if you don’t give a little! They are also all complaining about the language barrier but I haven’t felt frustrated at all. You can’t just sit there and talk to them about what you want them to do. You have to show them, and then do it with them. Personally, I just love working with the Haitians! They break out into song every once in a while and get really excited when you try to learn Creole. It wasn’t easy but I had my basics down pretty quick. Met is tape measure, Mato is hammer, Fe is rebar, and fil fe is the wire ties. I would try to type out one of the funniest moments I had with the guys but I really don’t think it will translate well. It’s one of those “you had to be there” things so I won’t even try!
Honestly I can’t believe how much I am learning with this experience. Just the leadership experience alone in priceless. I know that I am getting way more out of this trip than I am giving but I knew that was the situation going into it. I do hope that the respect that these guys are giving me will somehow reflect on all the other women they encounter and that they have a more positive view of Americans after this. Maybe not, but I am doing the best I can to represent the hard workers of America here in Haiti! Haha that sounds a bit self-righteous! Geeze.
When the work day was almost done three of the older girls came out to visit the site. They were probably between 13 and 16 and I didn’t notice them until Sam and Kevin came up to me and told me they wanted to talk to me and not them. Haha I was getting popular! So I walked over and met Diana and Patricia and another girl that I didn’t get her name. They didn’t speak much English at all so it wasn’t much of a conversation but they had fun touching my hair and trying on my sunglasses. I had Judex translate a little for me and asked them if they wanted to help and they said Oui! So we were standing around and one of them was trying to braid my hair and Diana was wiping the sweat off my face and then another one reached out and squeezed each of my boobs! Like she was checking to see if they were real or something! None of them reacted at all so I tried to not do anything but it was so funny I had a really hard time not laughing! I felt like a friggin’ doll. I’m glad none of the Americans were around! The Haitians really have no personal bubble at all.
I was really happy when I was called back to the quad where Donald invited all the workers in for a sprite and gave them a REACH t-shirt. I will be honest I was a little embarrassed by the whole thing because on site, we were on the same level and I was comfortable with that but then we were handing out t-shirts and getting photo-ops and it was all a little weird. I don’t know. I think it was just me. Donald gave them a speech about how good they were doing and thanking them and all that. Then one of them asked if they were done. It was pretty funny. He was assured that they were not done working! I can see how this would have been more appropriate on Friday instead of Wednesday. I know that all these guys need the work whenever it comes along. They are getting paid $10/day which is about 3 times what they usually get paid. Donald said that he really wants these guys to pick this up because he is planning on building these types of houses all over Haiti and he will need a good crew with him. I really hope it works out that these guys can be that crew. They all graduated from Espwa either as orphans or just attended school here. They are good workers and deserve a break!
The workers stuck around for about a half hour and then headed home. I showered up in the cold water which felt pretty nice today and then had dinner of a traditional pumpkin stew. It deserves a big ol’ YUM! The mosquitoes are really starting to get on my nerves. They congregate in the showers where you don’t have any bug spray on and they are all over when the sun isn’t out. I have to apply DEET about 4 times a day which I’m sure is not very good for my skin. Especially when you apply it before you go to bed and then sleep in it. I hate mosquitoes!!!