Monday, August 25, 2014

Rounding Off the Trip

Well, I guess Jeff never wrote his report (he claims he just never got around to submitting it), so I’ll start back on Wednesday. My Wednesday experience was a little different than everyone else’s. Something the team ate from the previous day hadn’t really agreed with any of us, and I was the worst off with an insane fever on top of nausea and stomach problems and spent the entire day essentially in bed. Thankfully, the rest of the team was able to trudge on without me. J

Wednesday was the day of our infamous experiment in NSCI. I think Shaili told you a little about it in the last post, but to recap, everyone in the community currently receives their water on a turn based system. During a family’s turn, they will just leave their taps completely open, and collect as much water as they can as it flows to their house for four hours. We had a hypothesis that if families weren’t hoarding water, everyone would receive enough, so we convinced the entire community to have faith in us for a day and only try using their taps when they needed water. Our results were a little alarming. When the fontaneros were ready to start the experiment by opening all the valves, the tank with water for the community was overflowing. In about 4.5 hours, the tank was empty. There was no way the 735 families in the community could have used that much water that quickly. And then, even weirder, the tank wouldn’t fill up at all again, not even overnight, when families shouldn’t be using any water at all. Do you know where the water could be going?

A family storing water in their sink

Dave running tests to measure the volume of water in the tank on Wednesday

Also on Wednesday, Nicole, Jeff, and Shaili went to present to a class of kids again. The students were adorable and receptive to learning about water, though they got a little crazy when the candy came out.

Children from the school participating in the drawing activity
Wednesday night, the group decided we could all use a warm shower and hearty meal considering how sick most of us felt. So we hopped on a Chicken Bus and headed to Xela. A chicken bus is the local cheap transportation for a lot of commuters in Guatemala. It’s hard to describe what riding it is like. I would compare it to riding a Rutgers bus just after a big lecture is let out. As soon as we all stepped on, the bus started moving, even before the door was closed! The workers of the bus are kind of crazy. They manage to weave through people and collect money while the bus is moving. If any of their passengers have a big bag, they will take it from them and climb up the back of the bus to tie it on the roof while the bus is going as fast as it can down the curvy roads on the side of the mountain. We surprisingly made it to Xela alive, and trekked across the city to our small hostel called Black Cat Inn.

The Hostel was well worth the journey. We were able to take the nicest showers of our entire trip there, which helped all of us feel a little better. That night, we had dinner with our new engineer, Carlos, at a nearby Italian restaurant. Italian food in Guatemala may sound a little unappetizing, but other than a couple of bugs, the food was delicious. The team left the dinner really excited to see what our future relationship with Carlos will be like.

Thursday morning in Xela we were greeted by a delicious huge breakfast. Especially of note was the French Toast that they fry. Absolutely delicious! We all decided we weren’t daring enough to take a Chicken Bus back to NSCI, so after buying some water from a local grocery store, we rented a van from a nice couple to drive us back.

Thursday in NSCI proved to be extremely interesting. As per usual, we split up into groups. Sandy, Dave, Nicole, Jeff, and I went to check the tank again, even though the fontaneros told us it was still empty. We also walked around to several different neighborhoods to see if they were currently receiving water. Unfortunately, it seemed only one neighborhood was, at extremely high pressure. The fontaneros asked if they could go back to the turn-based system now, as people were starting to worry about the lack of water, and we gave them the go ahead. Martin, Shivangi, and Shaili went to the schools to do a scheduled presentation for younger students. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding with the principal, and the children weren’t available to present to. Martin was able to think quickly on his feet, and got the children in the school yard to pay attention to an improvised presentation by bribing them with candy.

Martin presents to children in the school yard

Thursday evening we finally got to meet the Mayor. He was a nice man who seemed receptive to our presentation about our goals for the week and what we had done thus far. What stood out was the way he thanked us at the end of the meeting. He expressed a sentiment about how nice it was for the women in the group to leave their families to come to the community. His statement is just one of the many small ways you see the difference in culture between where we live and NSCI, where almost every female around our age is expected to cook, clean, and raise kids as their main job.

Presentation to the Municipality

Thursday night was by far my favorite. The community held a cultural festival for us! It started out a little scary, with some rogue fireworks that the Water Committee had purchased for us. Most of the night was filled with performances by students in the community of various ages, including traditional dances, modern dances, an Enrique Iglesia singing performance, and beautiful poetry about nature. The Water Committee also presented the team with gifts: a beautifully embroidered cloth thanking EWB, shirts for all the girls, and jackets for all the boys. The night ended with freshly made warm tomales and local sweet rice milk drink.

Children from a local school performing a traditional dance for us

Nicole receives a gift of an embroidered banner from the head of the Water Committee, Angel

Friday, the team got back to work. Sandy, Dave, and Martin went to hike the pump stations, and the rest of us split up to try to get as many surveys delivered as possible. Again, language ended up being a huge barrier in delivering a lot of surveys as some people only spoke Quiche, but the team was able to get a total of 88 done for the night! Friday night, we were planning to meet one last time with the water committee, but word didn’t quite get out as unfortunately Water Angel, the head of the committee, wasn’t feeling so well. An hour or so after planned, six members of the water committee did show up to the municipality, and we were able to present to them. After heading back, and having dinner, we started packing to prepare to leave for Panajachel the next morning.

Testing the pumps
Before leaving Saturday morning, we had one final meeting with some of House Angel’s friends who were leaders in the community. Most of them had been on past water committees. We gave them the same presentation as we had given the water committee the previous night, and then said our grateful good byes to Angel’s family before heading to the van. Right before we left, we found out one of Angel’s sons, Stephen, actually wants to go to Rutgers! I think we now all have a secret agenda to try to make it happen.
One boat, two tuk-tuks later and we arrived at Hotel Mikaso, where I am currently writing this blog. This place is right on the lake, which is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely a great background to write a ton of post-travel reports! This morning we even went on a horse-back tour through a coffee plantation! Unfortunately, Jeff didn’t enjoy the horse experience too well, but he finished off the tour on one of the guide’s bikes.  It’s crazy to think that in two days we’ll be heading back to the states!

The travel team during the coffee tour in San Pedro



    What was up with the neighborhood receiving very water at very high pressures?!

    Have fun with the Post-Monitoring Report :-)

  2. Did the inspection of the water system reveal anything about where all of the water could be going when it drains so fast from the Head Tank?

    Improv presentation in the school yard?! ok BOSSES