Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 7 in Honduras

A day of relaxing…ISH. Most of us decided to go zip lining over the Honduran forest. Sambo Creek Canopy Tours was our destination. It included 16 zip lines that zigzagged across the mountainside, with the longest one being over half a mile. It held a beautiful view the Caribbean Ocean. We could see as far as Roatan. Below us were cascading waterfalls, both cold and hot, so steam rose like clouds over the trees.

Before we left the hotel we had to sign waivers that said things like: I acknowledge I will be doing an activity that is not up to the safety standards of the United States, Europe, etc. I recognize that there is no medical attention readily available.

It was all of our first time zip lining. We didn’t know how physical the activity was. But man, what fun we had.

One of us got hurt. OK, it was me. I was coming in to the platform at the end of the longest run. I was going pretty fast, and couldn’t really get myself to slow down the way they had taught us. The instructor was helping someone get started on the next zip line, so was late to position himself to help me stop.

I saw it coming, but figured I’d use my legs on the tree to cushion my stop. Did you know that everything is slick when it’s raining? My feet slid up the tree (kind of sprawled, really), and my tuckus took the brunt of the stop.

I will be bruised for a while. It only diminished the fun for a few minutes.

After we finished the 16 line run, we walked down to the hot springs where we enjoyed the natural setting, with hot water running down one waterfall, and cold water down the other. A masseuse was on hand to give us 20-minute massages.

We returned to the hotel to leave for El Progresso where we will spend the night. It is only a half hour from the airport, instead of the 3-4 we were in La Ceiba.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 6 in Honduras

We loaded up the bus, said goodbye to the Hotel Doama, and headed into Nueva Mendes one last time. Our hard work was done. Left were the final steps of installing the pump.

We are all tired, but eager anticipation energized us.

Last night after we left, the men of the village poured a concrete slab around the well site. We left at 6pm so they worked mostly in the dark, one bulb hanging from a tree to light way for them.

By this morning it had hardened enough to stand on. We pulled out the submersible pump we had left in overnight and began dropping 150 feet of pipe…the final pipe…one more time.

It was hard to get an average well depth from Dennis and Nugget. Sometimes they only drill down 25 feet (we wondered what the team did the rest of the week…sleep?), at other times 50’ or 80’. The deepest well they drilled last year was 120’. Our well was 150’. No wonder we were tired.

Since our well was so deep, Living Water had sent a new pumping system that helped deep wells work better. This is the first time they’ve ever installed it.

After dropping the pipe into the well, we dropped the plunger and the water drawing mechanism, then capped the well with the hand pump and we were ready to go.

We spent the next hour dedicating the well, and reminding the children about some of the hygiene tips they’d learned.

Then we all gathered at the well and Brad and Erik tried to pump up water…emphasis on the tried. Then Chris and Josh tried. Then Justin tried. Then Dennis.

It’s a little anticlimactic to work hard all week in anticipation of the moment only to have no water come out of the well. They think they know what the problem is, so the Living Water staff will return tomorrow to fix it. They’ve promised to send a picture of our well with water coming out.

We packed everything up and started our drive back to the Palma Real in La Ceiba. Upon arrival we quickly changed into swimwear and had a glorious swim in the Caribbean Ocean. Beautiful. Tomorrow is a rest day. Well deserved. We have plans, but you’ll have to wait to hear what they are.

I’m going to try to load some pictures on FaceBook, but Michelle was picture happy…there are over 1,000.

Day 5 in Honduras

Apologies…this was posted the morning of day 6 because we had no internet yesterday.

We got to sleep in today…30 minutes. Yahoo! We’ve decided that the first day that we were here there were 24 hours. The second day lengthened to 48 hours long, and today was an eternity.

It was supposed to be an “easier” day. It was less muddy to be sure, but no less easy. I’m sure our weariness factors in to the “how hard was it” matrix.

After the usual devotions, breakfast and ride to Nueva Mendes, we began by testing the depth of the water in the well. We found that there was 100 feet of water in the 150 foot length…a great sign.

Next we got out the plunger (doesn’t look like ours at home, but does the same thing). A past team returned home after their trip to Honduras and invented it for the purpose of plunging the well. Before this they did exhausting work at it for sometimes up to 8 hours. This plunger made it possible for the well-drilling machine to plunge for us, turning the process into 80 minutes. The purpose was just to help clean out the gunk.

After plunging we fitted the well with an air compressor hose sunk to the bottom. The thought was that we would literally create a vacuum and blow the rest of the gunk out of the well. Hah. It kept getting plugged so we had to do it the hard way. By putting smaller pipe down the well until we reached the bottom, and flushing the water up and out. A hundred and fifty feet of 2” PVC gets heavy. It took all of us to hold, screw in and lower the pipe.

Did I mention the sun was shining? Beautiful and hot.

Next came the submersible pump. Again, after pulling up the 150 feet of 2” PVC, we attached a 30 pound pump and had to lower it all again. Even heavier.

It will pump out water through the night, trying to fill the well with clean fresh water from the aquifer.

More children, more men, more women. Lots of laughter. Erica, our 16 year old for North Carolina has boys of every age fawning over her. Whenever they ask her to be their girlfriend she just replies, “Mean daddy!” Smart girl.

Let’s see…big spiders…salamanders…screaming women…that about covers the day.

Tomorrow we assemble the pump and dedicate it with the community. Then off we go, back to La Ceiba for a day of rest. Well deserved, I might add.

BTW...My REAL AMERICAN DIET COKE was incredible!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 4 in Honduras

Well day 4 didn’t start out well for this blogger. Initially it looked like something I ate decided to run out of my body. I was a little worried given all of the horror stories I’ve heard through the years about digestive issues in a foreign country. Fortunately, for me, I am married to the pharmacy queen. Between prescription strength Imodium and prayer, things turned around quickly.

Devotions began at 6am. The Living Water team (who are Honduran nationals) love to worship. It’s quite convenient that I came with a worship team; worship with music and the Word, followed by breakfast.

After our daily trek to Nueve Mendes, we started the morning by reaming out the final 100 feet of the borehole.  The last 30 feet were tortuously slow. Because the aquifer is gravel based it was slow going to say the least. I found out last night that one of the other purposes of “Midnight” (see yesterday if you need to catch up) was to help the sediment raise to the surface. It’s viscosity is thicker than water. Water alone would never raise the gravel.

Lunch found us ready for the next step: casing the well. The process is to put 20 foot lengths of PVC pipe at a time down the hole. If all goes well, you only have to do it once. Otherwise, if there’s been a cave in, you have to take it all out and completely ream the 150 feet again.

It didn’t go well (no pun intended). We pulled it out, and started again. It was a little demoralizing, but not unusual in these cases.

By this point the sun had come out…ISH. It was warming up. Though I drank a gallon of water through the morning, I began to feel the effects of mild dehydration and had to sit down for a while to reinvigorate my body.

Can I say I am so proud of my son, Josh. He is almost 16. He has worked like a man this entire trip, cheerfully and uncomplaining, keeping up with us dudes (of course, it was pretty easy to keep up with me this afternoon).

Because we had to start again, we were told that we would be working late, probably until about 7pm.

The second time we began casing the well we all were more engergized. This was it. It had to be…none of us had the strength for more. We all agree, we can’t remember when we’ve worked this hard. We have easy lives in America.

After casing the well we had to flush out the slurry and the remnants of the dirt and gravel, which had a thick consistency. At times it almost looked like the chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s factory.

While we were doing this, the men finally had some time to talk a little more indepth with the locals. I talked to Bartajal. I asked him what clean water meant to his village. The thing that stuck most with me was his comment that during the dry season, sometimes they would go five days without water.

The women continue to do great: children in the morning and even more women in the afternoon.

Tonight I get to have a REAL AMERICAN DIET COKE. I packed it in my carry on from Houston. Praise Jesus!

Sorry there are no pictures. The internet is lazy and spotty, and we haven’t been at the hotel long enough each day to wait…wait…wait…

I’ll update you tomorrow.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 3 in Honduras

After morning devotions and breakfast, we got on the bus for the one-ish hour drive to Nueve Mendes. Time as an –ish means that I’m not really sure how long it took. We arrived at the church to be met by several men, women and children. The site of our well is in the corner of the church’s property. It is a simple one-room church with a polished cement floor, several pews and an outhouse to the side.

We greeted everyone around and then Nuggett began teaching us the drilling process. Since we have seven drillers (four from Dayspring and three from the east coast) we split into two groups.

Group one manned the drill: one person (the driller) controlling the up and down lever of the rig, one person (the assistant driller) doing the pipe fitting, one person checking the cuttings every five feet to see what kind of earth we were drilling through, and one person recording the results.

Group two prepared the “midnight” (that’s what they call it). It is a strange concoction of water and cement that is very liquid, but hardens to help shore up the borehole. We rotated through every position throughout the day.

The morning had started with the kind of mist rain that we are familiar with in Oregon, but soon it didn’t matter whether it was raining or not. Between the water from the drilling process and the water from the sky, the drill area became a slippery mud pit…worse with each passing hour. It was impossible to stay dry, and an exercise in futility to even think of worrying about the clay/mud mixture that would come up from the ground and spray all over our clothes.

Nuggett told us that the goal today was to drill down 120-ish feet. If  you read yesterday’s blog you’ll remember that I said they expected a total of 160-180 feet.

We found our aquifer at 120 feet, and continued to drill down to 150 feet. We had 30 feet of perfect aquifer for the well.

I didn’t think we could be wetter or muddier, but as we took off the 5-foot lengths of pipe, water and mud sprayed us in places we didn’t know we had.

With only an hour and a half left in the workday, Nuggett decided that we would put on the reamer (the drill bit that would widen the hole to the casing diameter), and try to ream out the first 40 feet of the well. We made it 50 feet before stopping for the day.

While the menfolk were doing the manual labor, the women began their day by teaching hygiene to the many kids who showed up for VBS. In theory, they would teach the same material (in an adult way) to the women of the village in the afternoon, but the women all showed up for VBS as well.

In the afternoon, with the help of Felicia (the head hygienist), the women sat and shared their testimonies with the women of the village, and vice-versa.

Larry, you’d be proud. I ate stuff that was new to me (but sadly, no peppers). I don’t love plantains. The empanada-like pastalitos were yummy. Ryan, are you sure you want your boots back? We were served real Coke for lunch. Yes, I drank it. I did bring two real Diet Cokes from home to help me break my DC fast tomorrow. I have had some Coca-Light, Michelle said it didn’t count (there aren’t many choices, and it doesn’t taste anything like Diet Coke).

Tomorrow I believe that the plan is to ream out the rest of the well and begin to place the casing in it. I’d guess we are ahead of schedule, but who really knows? Everything’s an ISH.