Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

La ultima dia!

Hello again!

We have safely arrived to Guatemala city and have had the best, most relaxing day this month! It feels so great not working at seven am! We even got to go shopping today at the artisans market which was absolutely beautiful! For dinner, we went to the miraflores mall and ate at a diner! It was quite the change from tortillas and beans!! We even got to walk around the mall and see what was there! It's such a nice mall with four floors and a movie theatre! Chelsea and I even got manicures! We finally feel like girls again! Our nails were so disgusting from all the dirt, rebar, wood and concrete! It felt really good to get a manicure and it cost only ten bucks! Sweet deal!!! But more about our final day at the community!!

As I mentioned our last day consisted of building the wooden railings of the bridge! The last major component of the bridge! It was great last day because we had the right number of men and the right amount of materials for once! It was a long busy day but it ran smoothly and we got to finish!! We even had time for a photoshoot on the bridge! It was only the Ewb team though! Guatemalans didnt want to take pictures! Around six, though, we packed up and went to the school! We came back to a lot of people just standing around waiting for us! It was mainly all the men who had worked with us for the past month! Seeing them just made our day be ause we truly have developed strong bonds with these people! It's nice too see that they care and want to say goodbye! Due to our starvation, since it had been a long day, we didn't go to the school to have a formal meeting! Andrew and I said a couple words to express our gratitude and excitement and then the Guatemalans took over! It is a custom for everyone to get a turn speaking if you such desire! And so we listened to about ten people give heart felt thank yous for the bridge! It was nice too see that they appreciated us and wanted us back very soon! They even asked for us to do more projects with them! After the meeting we Took some more pictures and were finally on our way out! It was our final very bumpy journey back to our hotel! It was quite sad but it was understood between the team that we were all speechless as to what had happened just now. This day had marked the end of a roller coaster ride, which we didn't know would end. Only four weeks ago we were sitting with the leaders of the community telling them we are trying our best but his bridge might not happen and you'll be left with two holes. Now we were in our van on our way home to the hotel, knowing we had finished what we thought was unachievable four weeks ago. All of us were extremely speechless and not yet relieved! Haha we were basically waiting to tackle one more problem but in reality there weren't any left. We had beat all odds and made a miracle come true for his community. It truly was the perfect team effort, on part of both the Ewb team and the Guatemalans! The Guatemalans worked hard every day along side our guidance and the Ewb team utilized their creativity to solve problem after problem. I cannot say that we had a single day without one problem besides the last day. This Ewb team is ready to take on the world and definitely can trouble shoot anything! Not only that we also know how to build a bridge now :) practically in any country :). Hahaha. This effort on both groups of people has been tremendous and I don't have enough words to explain it! All I can say is it has been a miracle! One of which we are still trying to figure out.

After this glorious day at the community, we returned to the hotel to clean up and then head to Ernesto's for our final dinner! And let me tell you he did not let us down! It was the best meal yet and we were so thankful for him. Not only did he give us home cooked meals every time we went! He took on a significant role in the project when we needed him! And best of all he became our friend! W can now officially say we have two great friends in malacatan! One is our community and the other is ernesto! It feels so good to have made some awesome connections! Friendships were made everywhere! Within our Ewb team and within Guatemala! After our meal we returned back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our travels today! And I mentioned earlier, we arrived safely and are now in hotel miraflores! Chelsea's sleeping but I'm still posting hahahah.

In my opinion, I could not have asked for a better month. Yes there was chaos at first, lack of materials, lack of help some days, and multiple misunderstandings due to culture as well As soil issues the first week. But despite all that, each and every day was extremely productive and that is why this bridge was built in its entirety. This team never gave up; we all supported each other in every moment of discouragement! We kept pushing and it all paid off! There was no way we were returning back the united states without a complete bridge! Determination and love for the project and each other got us through this month of difficulties! We laughed and cried together. We enjoyed the happy days and supported each other on the not so hot days! It was all I could ask for as the project manager! Could not have brought a better team down or asked for a better community. Those men worked their butts off! It was incredible to see how much 20-80 guatemalan men can achieve in one day. Congratulations to the community and ewb team for the completion of the bridge! Si se puede ( yes we can).

I will be posting pictures of the bridge on photobucket. But for now if you go to Ben berwick's blog you will be able to see preliminary photos!!!

Over and out.

Esta terminado. Si se puede!!!

And we're finished! We can't believe we're saying that! Yesterday we finished the railingsand that means the whole bridge is officially completed! The only thing the community needs to do is paint the railings. They have the paint and the paint brushes so it will be done quickly, hopefully today!!! They also have to maintain the bridge meaning putting water on bridge for a week to help cure it and not stripping forms until February 22nd. The community has agreed to this and promised they will follow our guidelines!! I will post more about our findings and our final emotions tonight! But we really finished everything in four weeks! It's the best and fastest bridge ever built.


Curb your enthusiasm!!

Two days ago we finished the curbs on the bridge!! That was the last concrete pour of this trip! For Chelsea, Andrew and I we were so happy it was the last because that meant no more rebar and concrete! It was a great moment! We didn't have to cut or tie any rebar! And I didn't have to make sure mixers and water were at the site during each pour! I would say it was a great day! We finished forming the curb in the morning and poured at two! It took all of twenty minutes to pour and then we waited till it was dry enough to strip so we could put a broom finish on it!!! After we finished the touching up we called it a day! Unfortunately it was our last night with Melvin and we had to say good bye to him too! But the best part of the night was after dinner at the hotel when Yvonni, our waiter, gave us presents! He gave Chelsea and I coin purses and he gave Ben and Andrew saddles! It was so cute and Chelsea and I "awwwwww-Ed" forever!!! Hanaha

Well that was two days ago stay tuned for more.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pour = Success

Today we poured the deck! We got to the bridge site at six am and began work by six thirty! That's a whole hour earlier than the other days!!!! But we needed to start early, here was so much prep work to be done!! It was crazy butwe'll got it all done two and a half hours! We then started pouring the deck! And within an hour things were kind of iffy! The bulkhead at the end of the bridge was slightly bulging! We had to deal with that as soon as possible so more problems didn't ensue. Then the deck ends also started bulging out!!! It was a crazy moment then because if we let it go we'd have a wider and crooked deck! So Ben quickly braced it some more! During that time we stopped pouring but the minute he was done we began again! We did not run into any more problems after that; it was great! The pour went smoothly and we finished in about five hours! It was great! After we finished all the men had their lunch break but the Ewb team kept working!!! We were putting the final finishes on the deck, putting in curb rebar and getting it ready to cure! Around three o clock the community had brought in a new reporter who pulled me away from my work and asked me questions about our organization and university! It was great! Then he took a picture of the Ewb team! We were all covered in concrete though, especially Rod!!! But it's okay this project will be published in the Guatemalan newspaper on Friday!--and according to Melvin it's one of the bigger newspapers in Guatemala!!!! So I would say we had a pretty awesome day! So now were gonna celebrate by having a big feast at Ernesto's!!!!

See ya on the flip side.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Home stretch!

Well i haven't blogged in a while! I am very sorry!!! But on the good news we only have one more week!!! Woooo! So excited! But even though we goop home so soon we have so much left to do! But before I talk about that let me tell you about the last four days.

I mentioned on Wednesday that the wood wasn't arriving on time! Well it hasn't arrived on time yet! We didn't get the 2 by 10s until Thursday so we didn't finish the boardwalk of the deck till then! Then on Friday we really had to hussle to get everything we needed to get before Gary his skills left! We had a great work day on Friday after waiting for the wood all day Thursday! But unfortunately our luck wasn't that great! On saturday, the generator broke on us. The meant we lost three hours of work on Gary's last day of work! It was unfortunate but we still did get a good amount done! Btw we bought a new generator for one week! I know crazy huh! And then today, we didn't have Gary but the five us worked extremely hard and all the formwork is completed! We will be putting in rebar tomorrow and hopefully pouring the deck on Wednesday! It's been quite a ride this past week but let me tell you that the whole team knows how to troubleshoot in any situation! We have learned so much about how different life is here and how to deal with different situations on the spot! We have made it work this far and we are almost done! Wish us luck!

The daily construction is one thing but community interaction is the other thing! The comite and the mayors group wanted to take us out to dinner before Dr. Veness and Gary left! It was great, we got to meet all the leader and express all of our thoughts. After we ate, the communityleaders went around and each of them had a little speech. They all basically said they were very surprised with us and the project as well as very thankful for giving them this bridge. The mayor even asked us to continue helping the community with other projects! We said we'd be open to it but we want to finish the bridge first. Dr. Veness also spoke and thanked the community for having us! Then I finally made my speech! It was scary but I said what the team was thinking! It has been a great group effort even though it was bumpyat first! They really appreciated it and the dinner wasa success!

For Gary's and Dr. Veness 's last dinner we ate at Ernesto's on Thursday! It was great; the potatoes were to die for and everyone but me loved the shrimp! ( I don't eat fish) the dinner was awesome and a lot of fun! We had another dinner at the hotel on Saturday and we all said our goodbyes! It was so sad! I cried! They are both awesome people and a huge help in the project! It couldn't of succeeded this much without them! I hope they make it back safe and hope they email us to let us know! We miss you guys already!!!

Well I guess I should stop talking now it's been a really long post with really bad grammar! So excuse me, I'm writing on my iPad! I'm posting more pictures of the bridge tonight! So be on the look out for that and wish us luck on our pour this Wednesday!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out of the hole

It's Dhara here again! Today was the quiet after the storm; a great day if I had to say! We stripped the formwork for the wing walls and they look great. The men worked really hard. Some stripped the form work, others took out the nails and piled them nicely, and others cleaned the form work. It was an amazing sight and the men were awfully quiet hence the quiet after the storm because yesterday was crazy! We poured four wing walls and things went wrong but everything worked out. The issues were all revolving the generator and concrete vibrator...go figure. We can't seem to find a working generator in Guatemala. But it all worked out, like it always seems too. But today was another day and we started the deck form work. It actually looks like a bridge! But as lucky as we are to be this far, there are other issues holding us up! We first need to get all the wood by tomorrow but it doesn't seem like it..people here just aren't punctual. They told us we'd get it today but we didn't even get half of it today! We are so frustrated! But we will handle it tomorrow as well as getting a working generator and concrete vibrator! We've got our work cut out for us tomorrow and the next couple of days but we're out of the hole at least!


Sunday, January 15, 2012


Well Hello!

It's Dhara here! This wonderful title is dedicated to our wonderful team member BRITTANY. WE MISS YOU AND YOUR TURKEY NOISES!!! But also, the team was making fun of me for speaking Gujarati! They said I sounded like a turkey. :( Anywho, I have a lot to update you on! So much has happened since the last post. It feels like a month has gone by already! Everyday is an adventure but our team never seems to give up! It's absolutely amazing! On a side note, I realize that the photobucket site is not working. Here is the new link:

So since the last post, we didn't actually pour the wingwalls on Thursday because we weren't ready. This doesn't mean we are behind schedule, though! We are now pouring both wing walls tomorrow morning hopefully! If everything goes smoothly, that is! So for the past few days we have just been getting the rebar and formwork ready for the wing walls. I have added those pictures to the photobucket, so now you can go see them! We did run into some issues with the materials though this week. We found out on Friday that we ordered way too much aggregate. In a way it is good because we can use it as backfill but besides that we really just lost money! (The company doesn't refund) So we are working on selling some of it so we don't lose money! Since we met Ernesto, he has been a GREAT help! He is helping us sell it as well as Melvin. The other issue we faced in the past couple of days was regarding the formwork! I had let the community take control of the wood (bad idea), so I didn't really think we would be short! Well the community doesn't have any more trees to cut so we can get wood! This is where we had to figure out how to get wood for the super structure by MONDAY! It was only three days notice! Dr. Veness and I, called Ernesto and asked him if there was any lumber mills anywhere! He really helped us out! He sent one of his workers with us to go to one of the lumber mills so we could get all the wood we wanted for a Guatemalan price rather than a "gringa price." Gringa is what they call us Americans. Leonel, Ernesto's worker, was an awesome guy and we got it all done and figured out in three hours! Another success! We truly have hit a lot of potholes on this project and we've overcome every single one. I am so proud of my team they have stuck by me and helped me out in every single way they can! So now this leads us to the concrete pour tomorrow. It will be an early day tomorrow! We are leaving at 6:15 (that's when Chelsea and I wake up on a normal day). But I am very excited to finish the sub structure and move onto the super structure! Hopefully we finish everything before we leave! :)

Now the fun stuff!! We had a pretty awesome dinner last night at La Estancia. Ernesto is a great cook and Gary even got to help out! He made some great vegetables with pineapple in them!! Gary is a great cook as well! Everyone else enjoyed the chicken, which is a special of Ernesto. The food was great and so was the conversation. We really have an awesome group of people who are ALWAYS sarcastic. They are making fun of me as we speak but I am too involved in writing the blog to have a reaction. I can never tell when Rod and Gary are sarcastic so I usually think they are serious and I freak out because I am just like that but I am slowly learning their ways. Ben on the other hand is obviously sarcastic so I don't take it seriously. (which is good). Anyway back to my dinner information. We had a wonderful dinner conversation, everyone was cracking jokes. We even got to see Ernesto's home, he built it himself. It is three rooms combined: a bedroom, living room and kitchen! It is filled with crazy art! It's also very unique!!! We all enjoyed seeing it and it added the finishing touches to Brittany's going away dinner!! Tonight we just ate at the hotel and that is where I am writing my blog. But everyone is paying their bills now so I should go. I hope this has been a great update! Comment :) and visit the photobucket!!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dinner Table Conversation

Hey all!

Well, the bridge is coming along just fine! Tomorrow we are pouring the abutment walls. We got the formwork for that up today, and it's getting easier and easier to visualize our bridge. We are so excited!

Aside from the hard work of the day, the EWB group experienced a pretty unique situation here in Guatemala. We ate dinner tonight at a hotel and restaurant run by our new friend, Ernesto. We ate dinner at his lovely hotel Sunday night as well, and we learned that if we needed a professional contact in Guatemala, such as a doctor, he's the man that would know one.

Well, Chelsea feels a bit sick from the heat and the sun. Ernesto, noticing this, calls a doctor to come to the restaurant. As all of us are eating at a dinner table, the doctor asks upon his arrival, "Who is the sick one? How many times have you vomitted?" After taking her to a private area to talk (as a result of our strong suggestions) he announces his diagnosis. I don't think the situation would have been approved by HIPPA.

Anyway, Chelsea is sleeping this off. Hopefully she will feel better in time to see the wingwalls poured! That will happen on Friday.

In other news, I've fed dying dog the canned food I had bought for him (refer to previous blog). I don't think there was any happier dog on the planet at that moment.

Visit photo to check out pictures of the trip!

Stay tuned for more,


Dinner Table Conversation

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Moves

Hola followers,
It's been two days since the second team has come in! It's crazy how much work we have finished! Complete turn around and you can see it! Sound the past two days we finished rebar for the footings and poured both footings! We're a day ahead almost; it's awesome. We just have to continue our progress! But unfortunately sickness is hitting us slowly but surely. We are resting more and drinking a lot of water. It's nice but with help from i don't know who a whole bridge is in the near future. Inthe super structure! That's crazy! Thank you so much for all of those who have supported and prayed for us. But a little more about our day today!

So we arrived early today because we are pouring concrete today for the footings. When we got there the men were all there. I would say about fifty people. It was over whelming at first but then we realized how much work there was involved. The mixers started pour at about 8:30 in the morning and Ben, Gary, and rest of team started the rebar on the near side. By twelve in the afternoon we had finished the far side footing and ready to pour near side. We thought that we would have to do it tomorrow but we didn't. It all worked out in the end. So by about three we were done pouring both footings and started rebar cages for the abutments. We ended up packing up early. So we headed home for some rest. Oh btw the way: the fun stuff for today was 1. Feeding dying dog. He wasn't dead! We were so happy. 2. We meet some kids our age between 18-21 and exchanged Facebook names. It was awesome! I would say good day.

Tomorrow we will be getting ready for the abutment pours! We are really excited. I am happy that we can see a superstructure in the near future. I'm adding some pictures from today! Stand by.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

A change of routine

It's so crazy that it's already been a week! None of us expected It to go by so quick. We really miss Kelly and Ted! I hope they had a safe journey home! Email us guys lol! But today was so productive up until twelve! We got everything we wanted accomplished. We formed up the far abutment and created a path for cement. (I don't know if we did those two correctly lol) But we also cut and tied rebar for the close abutment. I say for four engineering students without our mentors we did a WONDERFUL job. All the men were great! They helped a lot and have been since the first day. The craziness has settled because we finally have a strong foundation in the close side foundation. But it will probably pick up again next week with change of people. We are currently waiting for our new men coming in. Rod, Gary, and Ben will be here in less than an hour; we're so excited for them!

But on the fun side! We had a lot of time today! We came back to the hotel and switched levels to save money in our budget! We're saving a lot and I'm so proud of my team; they really stepped up and all decided to save for the sake of the project! We still have air conditioning, don't worry!!! After we switched rooms, we went to La Estancia, which is a restaurant and hotel recommended by Dr.Veness's friends. It was so delicious, they accommodated for all of our needs: vegetarians and gluten free! We ended up staying there for two hours, which is crazy but the owner was so interesting. His dad was a German Jew who had come to Guatemala before world war 2. We talked about the history of Guatemala after that and more about malacatan. It was so nice to learn about that and get a fresh new view about Guatemala. But that was our day. It was great fun and now were eating dinner and sleeping so we can start tomorrow at 7.



Friday, January 6, 2012

The Dying Dog

Hey everybody,

Brittany here, writing today's blog- hence the creative title! I will fill you in on that story later. First- bridge update! As Dhara has alluded to in previous blogs, we have been having problems with one side of the abutment excavation because the ground is softer (and filled with water) which was something we had not foreseen. However, the men of the village did a suberb job of removing the "muck" from the excavation and filling it in with sand, rocks, and concrete to establish a firm base on which to pour concrete. Chelsea and I have decided that the men of San Jose Petacalapa are, in fact, the strongest people in the world because they can haul bags of the afformentioned materials across difficult terrain with ease.

On the other side of the river, we've started cutting and tying rebar. Things are really starting to come together, and the villagers as well as the EWB team are really excited about this. In fact, the men are taking an extra precaution to protect our equipment (and sparing us the trouble of hauling heavy stuff all the way back to the center of their village) by sending six volunteers to sleep near the site and watch over tools and materials. They insisted on this form of protection, which really shows how enthusiastic they are about making this bridge!

Anyway, here's the dog story. Yesterday while we were working, there were a lot of dogs around the site (they belong to the men, something you can recognize by the fact that they follow their owners around just as their American counterparts do). There was one dog who had the saddest face you ever did see, and he was incredibly skinny. He would slowly follow Chelsea around, and lay down near her when she stayed in the same place. We didnt call him dying dog in expectation of him dying, but moreso because of his lethargic and depressed demeanor. He was like the Eyyore of dogs. Today, he was not at the site. We were a little worried about him because he was so skinny (I even bought a can of pedigree to feed to him today). All day, we were hoping to see him so that we could feed him and be reassured that he had not, in some terrible and ironic way, actually died. On our way out of the village this evening, after worrying about him in the back of our minds all day, we saw him. He was lying in the street, looking lethargic as usual, and completely indifferent to the fact that a large vehicle was rolling inches past him. We shouted and cheered for the dying dog and his state of being alive. It made our day along with, you know, the bridge coming together and everything.

Well, I am not as succinct as Dhara but I hope I've entertained you! Time for bed- more manual labor under the hot Central American sun to come in the morning.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"A Success"

At first today seemed like it was going to be a great day. Yesterday, we had done the major excavation and things kind of looked positive. But we quickly found out that the soil on the near side was way too soft for it to hold a bridge, and water was seeping in. We didn't know if it was from the river or ground water. We still don't know!! There was much frustration between everyone and we had to call it a day at three. We needed to reconvene and gather our thoughts and so did the community. I, Dhara, on the other hand had been out dealing with feisty hardware store owners getting materials and working on Guatemala's time clock, not my fast-paced world. I had to slow down and really work with them. We did run into some scary issues but they were resolved. The hard part was when I came to the community and found out about the abutment ground. So we did all go back to the hotel, talked for and hour, ate dinner, and came back to the community to have a meeting.
It was actually a wonderful meeting. We were connecting finally. No, all of our communication problems in the last two days weren't resolved--but it was a start. The community pitched in their ideas and took charge. Again, we did tell the community that this still may not happen as much as we wanted to. We said it will be a "monument of failure" if it doesnt get done. But we (Ewb) did not want to give up until we exhausted every option! We aren't quitters. The community said the same we want to continue and we'll help. So all in all it was a success. We decided to pump out water to see if it helps and dig more. Also to divert water with sand bags. Which they offered to start putting together at six in the morning tomorrow. It has been quite a day! But it is late here and I'm sure Chelsea is asleep so I should get to bed!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Malacatan Malacatan Malacatan

We have finally arrived to Malacatan. It was a long ride but Leonel, our driver, brought us here safely! We even got to go into the community and meet the Comte! Unfortunately, we found out that the community has not excavated,which is a setback but Ted says its fine! It will hopefully only push us back two days! We'll have a backhoe tomorrow to excavate so hopefully we can finish tomorrow but there are still some outstanding questions! Rebar and aggregate will arrive tomorrow too and the team will sort it out! We have our work cut out for us tomorrow! But I guess you'll know how much we finish tomorrow! Make sure to read tomorrow!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Houston Houston Houston

Made it to Houston in one piece andcthatvonly means me thing...halfway to Guatemala! We all just ate and now were starting to dose off. We have about an hour before we board again! The next time we blog we'll be in Guatemala! A dream come true! We didn't think this trip would ever happen but we're here! So surreal. But we're so excited to get started. We're already discussing work teams and strategies. That's all for now!


Adios Estados Unidos!


Estamos aqui en el aeropuerto!!!! We're so excited and tired (4 am currently). Oh yea Happy New Year everyone! We'll be boarding soon and will post from Guatemala city next! But before we get Houston's where we are headed! We're just crossing our fingers everything in country works out! Wish us luck and Wait for our next post!!! :)

You're friendly pm,