30 December 2009

Reaching Out in Ancón (part 1)

I bought my ticket for Peru in the beginning of December: not exactly round trip in the narrow sense but maybe in the broad sense of US to South America to US. Arriving around the same time as my friend Matt, he agreed to wait for me in the airport and invited me to stay at his parents’ house for the night. In theory this would help in the timeline of my acquiring a visa to later go to Brazil. If only we had woken up earlier than ten the next day! I got to the consulate about one minute past noon. Of course no one could take my documents since it was lunch time and they only receive visa request from 9:30 to 12:00. Oh well. Went back to Matt’s parents’ house for my first Peruvian meal: pallares y arroz.

That evening I met Hector at the airport in Lima, after some time searching for each other, and headed off toward Ancón/Santa Rosa, to the community of San Francisco de Asís. Thus began my stay in Peru.

Long days of hard work are punctuated with interactions among rowers & non-rowers, Peruvians & estadounidenses, young & less young. Sometimes there is a successful communication but, more often than not, there seems to be a bit of haze somewhere in the exchange. The people of this community have been incredible. Giving, gracious, welcoming, warm, eager to help, deeply grateful to have us here: these are all ways one could characterize the many wonderful characters of SFA that are working alongside us to create something special for the future of their community.

For the weeks I'm working at the Lake Union Crew Outreach Foundation project in San Francisco de Asís (Ancón) I will probably just pass along content from Rome Ventura, the director of Lake Union Crew and head of the construction project here in Perú:

Hello Everyone,

It's Sunday here and the Week 1 team is halfway through their time here already!

I know they are all happy to have missed the process of unloading, passing up the hill and stacking the 4,000 concrete blocks on Monday and Tuesday before they arrived! At 24+ pounds a piece it was quite a process and we are all glad to have it done.

Our 7 friends from Lesotho arrived on Thursday evening at 10 pm and frankly looked a bit shell shocked at the airport. They had trouble of some kind at each stop. At the border between Lesotho and South Africa, they were told that it isn't legal to have more than 4 people in a van without a permit....this meant delay, conversation and a bit of cash in order to proceed. (Since they cross that boarder often, this was new, surprising, and probably not even a new law....but hey, whatever it takes....)

When they finally got to the airport in Joburg 5 hours later, they were told their flight was full. Catherine and Emmanuel pressed on and they managed to get on the plane. From there they had a transfer ... which went better for them. Only their seats were all over the place, but at least they were on their way.

Once Hector and I arrived back at the site with them, they were very happily greeted by our volunteers and several of the locals who stayed up to be the first ones to meet them. Off to crash they went, with an 8 hour time difference, our wake up at 5:15 am was no big deal ;-)

Project wise, lots has gotten accomplished with this week's team.
  • We have a painting team led by Keith who is plowing through getting the whole steel building's primer touched up and re-coated as necessary. They've already begun the final coating process at the west end.
  • Steve has been leading a small army of people with shovels and wheelbarrows, digging the footing trench for the second terrace.
  • Conal has been leading the framing team who has been building the window and door buck-outs and building and setting the footing forms.
  • Emily and Lisa have been cutting, bending and tying rebar for the concrete.
Yesterday, everyone was drawn into action because we decided to see if we could pour the whole 2nd terrace footing in the half day that we work on Saturdays. We got up an hour earlier and hit it!
  • Steve and Conal set forms,
  • Lexi ran the sawyer station,
  • Em and Lisa followed with rebar,
  • Wayne ran the mixer,
  • Colette ran a troupe of local moms who were all over getting the buckets at the mixer station filled with gravel, rough sand, fine sand and cement. (She had them doing stretches while the mixer was spinning!)
  • Then came the 'boogie' brigade of wheelbarrows to the bottom of the hill!
  • The Lesotho team had experience with this! They would literally chase their wheelbarrow full of concrete down the sandy hill, braking as needed by dragging the legs.
  • Not everyone made the turn at the bottom ;-)
  • Fuchs had to show off by running back up the hill with his empty wheelbarrow!
  • David, who speaks Spanish, organized the group of people who pushed the empty wheelbarrows back up the hill, so the person who ran it down could get a rest.
  • Lots of cheering, lots of tired people, 7 hours later....60% of the footing trench was full.
We'll finish it on Monday.

After the pour, people showered and Ericka organized a van tour of Lima, the catacombs and a few other stops for an evening adventure. Naps on the way home ....


Hello Everyone,

It seems like forever since I've been able to write an update.

The holidays have passed and we are in full court press mode as we move toward the finishing weeks of this project.

pigTo back up a bit, we had an awesome whole pig roasted over a pit that Conal set up on Christmas day. It cooked all day long and you should have seen the carving effort! Not exactly your holiday turkey! It was great though. Really tender, done all the way through and Carol rustled up all the fixings to go with it. We had just a few

That morning our team of USA volunteers poured the first half of the concrete wall of Terrace #2 without any Peruvian volunteers since it was Christmas day, so we were totally beat and ready for the big feast that evening. Really a great atmosphere here. We came to work and that's what we did. Two of the three tines on the mixer even broke off during the pour, so we finished the job with a single paddle in the mixer. Fortunately it held up until we could get them welded back on the next day.

Week #2 Volunteers rocked on the big task of the week, which was to get the steel structure of the building fully painted....and they got 'er done! It really looks cool all bright red on the gray hillside.

As Week 2 transitioned into Week 3 Volunteers, the roofing team got new members, and we think the roof and the insulation will be done by the time this team leaves, next Wednesday. The big concrete floor pour is scheduled for Friday the 8th, so we'd like to be able to pour it all under the shade of the new roof and slow down the curing under full sun.

bldgblocksThe masonry team just finished the 5th course of blocks all around the building, which was the sill level of the windows and the first horizontal bond beam. That means lots of detailed cuts and lots of concrete that had to be mixed, but we got it done and felt very satisfied. Now it gets tricky....less blocks due to the window openings, but everything is now off ladders and scaffolding to hoist the blocks up over the vertical rebar that sticks up.

Oh yeah, and the porti-potti company's pumper truck broke down, so we didn't get a 'pick up' for 3 extra days. ....
There are official pictures from this project in the LUCOF Picasa album.

limasquarecowMy take on the Old Lima tour Ericka and Hector took us on in Week 1 is that we sped through a few sites and ran through the streets with barely enough time to take pictures or really take in anything. This is no one's fault. We couldn't leave Ancón until the pour was as complete as it was going to get that day, and we had to get to the catacombs before closing time. As there wasn't much time before sunset, we chased each other around a few blocks of Old Lima with Ericka pointing left and right. We headed to Miraflores where we really only had time and energy to eat dinner at Norky's (scrumptious rotisserie chicken - pollo a la brasa). People were mostly passed out on the way back to San Francisco de Asís.

machadoThe work in SFA has been very rewarding. Skill transfer among American and Peruvian volunteers has been pretty sweet. From my perspective, one of the best experiences, although lacking a bit since I was doing triple duty that day, was learning how to make Peruvian tamales from Miguel Machado. I've got a recipe and a date with some fellow volunteers to have some when I'm back in Seattle.


Another highlight was a bbq at the home of the local chef Sr. Fluker. He made anticuchos de corazón, chorizo, and bife - of course served with choclo peruano (Peruvian corn) and a Peru Libre.

Translating between English and Spanish has reinforced my "rusty" Spanish. Of course, locals are typically impressed with my agrammatical language skills. Fortunately or hopefully, I'm not transferring them to the Peruvians! One new ability I've picked up is block setting. I'm no mason, mind you, but I now know more than I did about setting courses of concrete blocks. All in all, the LUCOF project is turning out to be a mutually beneficial and rewarding undertaking. The people of SFA are so grateful for our presence and are working incredibly hard with us to build their community center. I cannot wait for it to be completed!