Friday, August 7, 2009

You have to love normal keyboards....

Hey ya'll!!

OK so I decided to make it one of my goals to teach everyone here that ya'll is a proper way to adress a group of 2 or more people in English. Haha ok, maybe not. All of you non-Texan readers can rest assured that that is not actually one of my goals.

So far our trip has been very successful. I am amazed that everything has gone according to plan and we have had no major glitches or set backs - unbelievable for an EWB trip! We have gotten a lot accomplished in a short amount of time and I have no worries about leaving while feeling as if something didn't get accomplished. All of the technical jobs have been completed! And I was actually interested in the dirt - I now know why Melissa is so obsessed! Haha. The site looks promising so far, at least from what I have seen and heard. The people are all very friendly and helpful. Everytime we pass someone in the village, a wave and usually a casual "hola!" or "buenos dias" is exchanged with a smile. Such enthusiasm and welcome is very promising and exciting!

The men of the village are also very helpful. I'm sure it is just a part of their culture that the men do the hard labor related to large projects, but it is slightly unnerving how much they take over the jobs we are doing. We all appreciate the help and it is definitely nice not to have to do all the manual work in the heat, but I do also wish that we, or at least I, got a chance for a little more hands-on work. Oh well, such is life! At least I still learn by observing! And they all mean very well by it, it is not controlling at all, just helpful. So all is well :)

The language barrier is a little interesting...Haha I realized that I have picked up very little Spanish in Texas. It is most inconvenient when hanging out with the kids, because they try to communicate with you and it's hard for them to understand that I have no idea what they are talking about...haha. But hanging out with the kids is wonderful, and teaching them English is great because they get so excited! I doubt much of it will stick with them for long, despite their avid note-taking, but the excitement is so adorable :) And their obsession with digital cameras is crazy!! We have become known as the white girls with pictures. They always ask for "uno photo!" and will run over to you and push others out of the way to get a view of the picture just taken on the tiny camera screen. One poor kid even got a bloody nose from one espeially crazy round of photos....But he was ok :)

It is interesting noticing the common threads between cultures all over the world. Through my limited travels, it is easy to see that basic emotions are expressed in the same way through body language and the basic gender traits are similar all over, as especially portrayed in the children, who don't hold anything back. This is helpful in attempting to overcome language barriers and also interesting in observing basic human nature, which has always been interesting to me.

Well, that's about it for now. Sorry if this blog is slightly scattered or chopy, but I tried not to repeat too much information that Melissa and Cara have conveyed and I am trying to finish the blog before our meeting with the entire village at 5 (which actually means about 5:30 or 6...haha). Well Adios for now! I can't wait to see where the next several days take us! :)


Yay a computer!

Hey everyone!

So we have had a very successful 5 days so far. We made it safely to the hotel Monday night right as it was starting to get dark with much thanks to Evelio for driving our awesome van (named Bertha). On Tuesday, we were driven to the river and got a look at the site and we also got to meet the committee from the town. Wednesday, we went back to the bridge site and tried to do all of our technical analysis. I say try because the community members tended to do all of the physical labor for me and I pretty much just stood around waiting for others or talking to the locals.

Catherine and I took a water sample from the river and tested it and then tried to cross the river (which can be easily maneuvered by hopping to and from various rocks as the water is surpirsingly low for the rainy season). However, apparently we made a big deal about trying to get to one rock so the men then drove the truck across the river to pick us back up (which was totally generous and unneccessary. Across the river, there is a very steep, slippery hill that must be climbed to reach the fields. Once on top, the fields stretch on in all directions. There are at least 500 acres, possibly even 1000 (very rough estimate done by myself), on the other side that are used for their crops. As a farm girl, I was very impressed and in awe.

Having done most of the technical stuff on Wednesday, yesterday and today was more about getting to know the community. The principal of the school asked us to teach English to the children in the classrooms. So we tried. Key word is tried. Having taken French and not Spanish in high school (and having too good of a teacher) I keep speaking French words before I can come up with the Spanish. So my class was interesting. But apparently, I had a good class and they were always well-behaved and they retained some of my words. Yay! Erin and I went into another class today and taught more English for an hour, and we sang the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" which was a blast. During the kids' recess they asked me to sing it again with them. (I was surprised they could tolerate my singing).

The community has been opening up to us and are very welcoming. Tonight we have a meeting that is open for anyone in San Jose to attend so that we can be introduced and answer any questions. I am quite excited and now have to go get ready.


A Real Blog?!

Okay, so I want to start off by saying that it feels amazing to be blogging on an actual computer. It wasn't easy to get one, but our friend Evelio came through for us. Just as amazing is the fact that I managed to figure out to navigate through our blog on my very own. Go Melissa.

We've had an extremely productive 5 days (4 if you consider that Monday was a travel day). We've completed our soil analysis (yay for rocks!), some water testing, hydrology, the topo...I'm sure there was more in there, but it's been a very busy 5 days and the rest escapes me. With the technical data collecting coming to a close we've had the opportunity to shift our focus towards building a strong relationship with the community. We've been lucky to have April and Evelio to introduce us around San Jose and we're looking forward to meeting with people in the surrounding area this weekend and early next week.

As I mentioned before we completed our soil sampling and in situ analysis Wednesday. Of the 3 boring holes we attempted, 2 hit rock right away. This is great news. The 3rd was only a potential site for the abutment and was 5 feet of soft wet clay. While it's an unfortunate material to bear on, it was a great excuse to play with our dynamic cone penetrometer that we hauled here from Delaware. As if that weren't reason enough to forgive it's lack of compressive strength, the hand augering that this system requires gave members of the community of San Jose a great excuse to help.

Today, the surveyer was on site gathering data for our topographic analysis. Peter Waugh and I went down to the river with him with the intention of helping, but were once again beat to it by members of the community who were excited to be involved. So instead we obvserved the data collection and conversed with locals to gather more information on what life is like in San Jose. We were also lucky enough to be shown a "short cut" to the river. For the record, a "short cut" in Guatemala apparently means "a path that is longer, takes more time and is more difficult to walk." Such fun. :-)

I need to pass the computer along while we still have battery power and internet access, but I look forward to keeping you all updated on our progress. Go Team Guatemala!!


ps: sorry for any typos, the spellcheck is set for spanish and tells me everything is wrong. Unfortunate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ipod touch

So all we have to blog with is an ipod touch so this will be brief. However we couldn't let our fans down.

It rains every afternoon haha. However the landscape is beautiful and green. The people are extreMely helpful. -catherine

Everyone is very helpful and friendly and we're having a good time :) weather is humid, like home (haha), and a little rainy... ;) -kelley

Hola mis amigos en la usa! Handled the soil sampling this morning, it was great to see people in the community so eager to help. Oh and it's raining...a lot. -melissa

Hey everyone! Things are going well. It has been raining a lot in the afternoons here and the weather is very hot and humid in San jose. The community and our contacts have been really helpful and supportive with our team. - Cara

Sunday, August 2, 2009

And we're off!

So, its 8:00 PM and we're getting ready to drive down to BWI . Melissa shows up to my house with a car full of metal things used for dirty activities. As this plethora of metal poles clangs to the ground on my front porch, we come across our first EWB-Guatemala trip dilemma; how do you pack a dynamic cone penetrometer for a plane ride? Huge duffel bag? Nope. Suit case? Nope. Baseball bat bag?! Nope.

Moldy lacrosse bag? Yeah, that'll do the trick.

Anyway, Sarah Dalton is now about to drive Melissa, Professor Santare, Cara and me down to BWI. At 2:00 AM. So if you see her, give her a hug... or a cookie... or maybe some coffee. Because she is awesome. We'll be meeting Evelio (our guiding light on this trip) at the airport and arrive in Houston around 8:00 am, where we should run into Kelley... (well, we'll run into her if she isn't already sitting in her seat. We have to switch planes in a little over an hour... that'll be exciting...)

By dusk (Guatemala time) tomorrow (Monday) we should be in San Jose Petacalapa, toughing it out in a hotel with a pool. And a water slide. Fortunately, we girls are just as skilled at forebearing gruesome conditions as the Cameroon travel team...