Greetings from Playa Balsa!
Things are moving along quite nicely here. The first hurdle was transportation. Getting a dug-out canoe large enough to move the amount of materials we needed required some searching. Originally I was walking 4 hours round trip to coordinate transport with a boat owner in Kusapin, which proved trying given that the ocean´s mood can change in what appears an instant. After many failed attempts to get materials due to weather, I ended up making a handshake contract with another boat owner that was only an hour and a half round-trip walk away, which proved much simpler to coordinate. We proceeded to gather 700 five gallon bucket sized bags of gravel from a nearby beach, transporting between 130 to 150 bags each trip depending on the weather. There were certainly some rough moments. Most notably being when we tried to unload 150 bags on a section of beach that ended up filling our 40 foot dugout canoe with water as waves continued to crash upon us. I found myself swimming around inside the boat trying to find bags of gravel to heave over the side to the transporters. Eventually we had the boat emptied of gravel but full of water. With 10 men inside the boat each with a five gallon buckets we emptied out the water and pushed the boat past the crashing waves and into safety, with only minor damage to the boat and much excitement.
Outside of gravel we made trips to Chirique Grande in search of cement. That trip in particular took 8 hours at sea, due to the 15 horse power engine we were forced to use. Then near the end of the trip we were top sided by a sneaker wave that nearly flipped the boat, but luckily lost no cement or passengers. During another trip we got 150 thirty foot long sections of rebar and enough tube to start the tanks and source captures. That leaves us still with some trips to get cement once we´ve used up the 50 bags we already bought and a trip to get the 400 twenty foot sections of tube we will need to pipe the water into homes.
The next task was then to move said materials to the construction site, which when carrying 94 pound bags of cement long distances, is no small feat. I´m continually amazed by the men´s ability to move heavy loads with no short-term negative consequences. After making two 25 minute trips carrying a bag of cement I felt as if my body would never fully function again and thus have learned my lesson that I cannot move the same amount of weight as the local men.
Currently we have two of the three source captures completed and have poured the floor and first section of the walls on one of four tanks. Given that I have approximately three months left in site, my new goal is complete the last source capture and three of the four tanks before leaving. I´m happy to announce that Playa Balsa has received a very capable and energetic Peace Corps Volunteer as my replacement with the local name of “Osi”. Over the next three months the community and I will be training her to take over the project and I feel confident that the project will be in good hands.
The community continues to work hard and prove to me that they were ready to take on such a large project. Recently my friend Tolichi from a nearby site visited to help me with the first three days of tank construction, furthering my appreciation towards the community as he spoke of just how impressed he was of the community´s efforts.