Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Denis update

News and Tidbits from Derrumbado, Dominican Republic
February 20, 2010

Another sunny week in Derrumbado. Even after three weeks on location, sunblok lotion is still in order. Temperatures range between +30 degrees and occasionally drop to + 15 during the night. Humidity is usually a factor. No dry clothes in the morning, unless you bring them into the sleeping bag with you. When you get up, everything is moist.. For the locals, this is the “cold” season and many wear their jacket all day. The kids are rather interesting: they wear shorts, t-shirts and run around barefeet or in flip-flops at all times of the day and evening. They seem to suffer little from the cold and humidity. And the adults constantly say : “Muy frio”.

Newly minted vocabulary :
lightless not as heavy as before
lightlessness the state of not being heavy
mentally not ready to re-invent the wheel

Teams of experts have been identified:

the parging – plastering team : stand-up comedian Greg plasters, assisted by Raymond; the foreman tries to keep up with the flooding; Marie and Cecile sponge the parging smooth. One house = one day. Quite a feat considering the first house took the local crew 3.5 days.

The soffit team : Gerard and Jacques have it under control. The foreman just points to the soffits and walks away.

Have a wheelbarrow to fill ? Just call Louise and Denis

Have to move wheelbarrows ? Call Robert and Paul

Have an odd job no one else has yet tackled ? Call Cyrille

And what about Monique and Gilberte ? Wait till you hear their story.

Great news: cereal has been added to our eternal ham and cheese breakfast food items. It all started when one of us bought a box of cereal in San Jose and brought it up the mountain. Now a box of cereal is a regular at the breakfast table.

Interesting Tuesday : the Powerview-Pinefalls group joined our ranks. Somewhat of a surprise for both groups. We now total 20 and outnumber the locals within a half-kilometer radius. Picture the following SARDINE scenario: one bathroom (sorry: biffy without all the trimmings), one shower powered by our 7 imported shower bags, one cook, one small table for all the food, utensils, plates, etc..., 11 bunks in two buildings, tons of suitcases, personal items strewn everywhere, clothes of all types hanging from hooks, rafters, shutters and the occasional chicken walking through.

We have now completed two homes, have started on the paint and have finished digging out (pick and shovel) the foundations for the third home. Today we pour the foundations and begin the cement-block works, time permitting. Families moving into these homes are ecstatic. We would all be ecstatic considering it's a 1000% upgrade.

Evenings around the campfire in Derrumbado are most interesting. Every day, shortly after supper, our two 'adopted' locals, 13 years old Junior and 16 years old Carlos, take off down the road with a
wheelbarrow each, and return some 30 minutes later with huge loads of deadwood, gathered some distance away. As the sun sets, around 7:00 pm, Meme gets the bonfire going, people gather around and the evening is spent talking, singing, sometimes dancing. By now, most locals within our reach join us for this evening ritual. From a distance, way below, we can see the lights of San Jose. These campfires will be missed greatly.

Every day I become more and more aware of the demanding lifestyle of these Derrumbadians. The day begins at 7 and seems to end between 5 and 6 in the afternoon, with an hour' rest at midday. Women spend the day making meals over wood fires, washing, fetching water as frequently as 4 and 5 times a day, caring for the children, helping their husbands in the fields, when required, and tending to the animals. The men leave early, many with a mule, for the fields and the mountain slopes, to hoe, plant, sow, pick the crop in season, gather firewood, Everything is done by hand and is back breaking work. The staple food is rice, accompanied by beans in sauce and the occasional slice of fried salami. The big meal of the day is at noon. These young and old hard working, gentle, reserved and welcoming locals are incredibly strong. The first time you pick up one of the kids, you are surprised by their strength and weight. That delicate little girl is as hard as rock and can pack a friendly punch not to be ignored.

This weekend, its the beach and visiting the family in Sabana Larga, where we built a home last year. Monday, Gilberte and Monique are heading back home, Robert and Denis are off to the Nuestros Pequenos Hermanols Orphanage in San Pedro de Marcoris, where Father Edouard Banville works, to plan one of next year's missionary outreach programs and the balance of the group is back in Derrumbado till Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning, all volunteers will become tourists, taking temporary residence in one of La Romana's many resorts.

Wish you could all be here to savor the experience.

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