Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PSF: Work

When I last left off, I was sleeping in the hallway, waking up sweaty. Later on I learned that it is widely referred to as the Ballsway.

Anyway, I made it out of the Ballsway and into the main volunteer house. I moved into a top bunk in the Surfer's dorm. I don't think any of us actually surf. Anyway, it smelled pretty horrible; a combination of a broken toilet that still got used for a while after it first broke, and a person who never showers. It was still better than the Ballsway.

The first few volunteer projects I worked on were interesting. My first full day of hard work was at Olga's house. Olga was trapped under a table for days after the earthquake, and she has now saved enough money to buy materials to rebuild her house. PSF provides the labor for people who can provide materials. I spent the first half of the day digging a U shaped trench for Olga's bathroom. The soil was soft, so it was pretty fun actually.

The trench:

That day I also hauled gravel in a wheel-barrow, which was not as fun because the wheel barrow was made for Danny DeVito to use, and if I lifted it higher than my thigh the front edge would hit the ground. I also laid some bricks for one of the walls of the house, and we poured a concrete footer. I never made it back to Olga's house, but she was really nice and glad to have us, so it seemed like a good project.

The Danny DeVito sized wheel barrow on top of a Tom Cruise sized mototaxi:

For the majority of my time I worked on one project, up at Las Dunas, a desert-like community that is a few miles east of Pisco, and higher up, which is why families fled there after the quake when the tsunami hit. (All of the volunteers fled there one day as well, because we were fearing a tsunami from the earthquake in Chile).

Las Dunas were uninhabited before the earthquake. Life on Las Dunas is hot, and there ain't a lot of shade. One thing it does have are some resilient people, most with great attitudes, along with great views of the ocean, sand dunes and mountains.

View from the top of Las Dunas:

A local church group offered to build some of the families new brick houses to live in. Currently, they live in modular homes, which are made of metal and something like plywood. Each lot has a front and a back space. Our job was to move these modular homes onto foundations in the back space (if a foundation existed). If a foundation didn't exist, we would fill in and level the lot and pour one.

To move a modular, we took off the outside walls, which left the frame of the house exposed. The frames had holes that were perfect for sticking bars or brooms or tools or whatever would fit to lift the house. It took about a dozen people to lift a modular, and a few to direct the move.

I'm pretty sure we did some minimal to substantial damage to a few of these homes, but it was what the people wanted to do. The other option was to de-assemble the units, which is as time consuming as a life-size, less exciting erector set. If you don't know what erector set is then you're wack.

So after we moved the modulars, there sat concrete foundations. A nice new brick house needs a solid concrete foundation, right? Sure. But not this foundation. We had to smash this motherfucker up and haul away the pieces. Most of my work at PSF consisted of this. The new foundations for the brick houses will need trenches, which will be dug by PSF volunteers (luckily I was out of there before this stage), which is why we had to get rid of the original foundation.

An already-moved modular and a ready-to-smash foundation:

These foundations ranged in thickness between a few inches and a few feet. At first, we simply wailed away at them with sledge hammers. One Peruvian guy came and helped us on a few of the days. I nicknamed him Iron Mike, and he earned it. This guy would take about 30 sledge hammer swings in a row. The idea of quality over quantity flew out the window when Iron Mike was in the house, and nobody would dare question him. You simply can't question that kind of effort. Normal people are pretty damn tired after 10 sledge hammer swings. At least stoners are. I wonder where Iron Mike is now... probably in a back brace somewhere.

So we smashed away. This worked alright, and we felt pretty manly, but there was another way. We realized we needed to weaken the slab before releasing our fury upon it. So we began to dig around the sides, and hammer pick axes beneath the slab, and pry it up before smashing it. Doing this, we were able to break off much bigger slabs. It became almost like a sport, because everyone filled different roles and we moved fast.

Luckily while I was there nobody got hammered or axed in the dome. Sometimes there were more than a dozen people working on one foundation, because there was nothing else to do, and that is simply too many people when heavy and sharp tools are being swung.

I also taught some English in Pisco. Initially, it was a real challenge. I was in a small classroom with 7 students who were about 11-13 and another volunteer teacher who didn't say a word the whole time. The first few questions I asked of the students were met with blank stares, and I began to sweat.

Eventually though, they warmed up to my goofy gringo ways and started to relax. By the end, everyone was laughing and seemed to genuinely want to learn!

I ended up only teaching English once. A few weeks later, I went back to teach again, but apparently it was a holiday, because the school was closed. I walked around the corner to ask if anyone knew anything about the school being closed. Other than being offered sex by a middle-aged, gold-toothed lady, I found out nothing... The sex was surprisingly good though!

I also went to Ludoteca, which is a child-care center. This was just as tiring as hard labor in the sun! The kids prettymuch went crazy the whole time and wanted to be picked up constantly. There was one husky kid there, and I pretended my knee was hurt every time I made eye contact with him.

No comments:

Post a Comment