Saturday, February 2, 2013
Friday February 1st
Day 7 in DR; Day 3 for Rotary
After breakfast, we leave in the buses and SUVs at 8:30am. Our team is doing construction today, and we are going north, past the town of Guaymate, almost to the mountains, to a batay with name of Cabeza de Toro (Bull's Head).
It takes 45 minutes to get there. This whole area of many square miles of sugar cane fields around La Romana is networked with railway lines which are owned by the sugar company Central Romana. We pass frequent loading areas where the cane is brought from the fields and loaded onto rail cars for the trip to the refinery in La Romana.
One of the other teams was at this same batay yesterday, and we will continue their work, helping with the construction of two latrine buildings. There are 4 Dominican bricklayers, and our job is to mix the mortar, by hand, and to keep the bricklayers well-supplied with mortar and concrete blocks. It sounds simple enough but it's hard work because of the heat. Team members can work as hard as they want - or not. One member from the Houlton club is accompanied by his 17-year old daughter, Frankie, and she puts most of the men to shame. She is tireless and is always doing something: She finds things to do. She tells me that she was interested, but not happy, yesterday when we were installing filters because there was so much waiting around, and she felt she could be doing more. Today, she is in her element.
If you think you are hydrating enough in this environment, you're not. It's important to force yourself to drink lots of water. The hospital provides each of the teams with a huge cooler of ice water, another huge cooler of soft drink bottles, as well as lunch. Yesterday that was a large sub, and today it's a sort of paella - very good, and lots of it.
Previous teams - mostly church groups - have dug the pit, which is about 10 feet deep, and 12 feet wide by about 20 feet long. They lined the bottom and sides with concrete and concrete blocks, and poured a concrete slab on top, at ground level - so it is basically a septic tank. Now, we are building-up the walls and internal divisions to make the building itself, which will have 4 separate but identical compartments, going up about 12 feet, and which will have, eventually, a peaked tin roof.
On the other side of the batay, a hole has been dug previously for another latrine, but the rubble from that has been left too near the edge of the hole, and Dave (Fredericton club) and I have to move the rubble away from the edge with shovel and pick axe.
This is a very different batay to the one we saw yesterday. The homes here are not in orderly rows, and each is different, most of them just collections of corrugated sheeting not only for the roofs but for the walls as well. I learn that the reason for the difference is that this batay was not built by the sugar company. This batay has not received any filters yet, the priority being sanitation. At yesterday's batay, built by the sugar company, there were many small company-built outhouses, but in today's batay, I don't see any such conveniences, which means that these latrines are the first attempt at any basic sanitation here.
I notice that every home has a donkey, which the men use to carry sugar cane. One home has a wood oven outside, and the woman is baking cookies all day long. These are large - about 9" round and 3/4" thick - and ginger-flavoured: She offers me one, and it's delicious. She sells them to the batay and in town.
It rains periodically through the day. Some of the local batay boys are helping with the building tasks, and they scuttle for the shelter of the church as soon as it starts to rain. I find it cooling and refreshing, and I take off my hat and stand there letting the rain shower wash over me. One or two other Rotarians are not phased by a little rain either, but the boys are shouting for us to join them in the shelter. They must think we're crazy, and I'm thinking "It's not snow".
We leave the site at 4pm and head back to base for hot tub, pool, shower, drinks, relaxation and supper. Tonight, the members of the two La Romana Rotary clubs have been invited to join us for a social evening. The villa I am in is large enough to accommodate everyone with ease.
Posted by Greg J at 12:27 PM