Friday, January 20, 2012

January 19th

My hands have finally been destroyed. As I am a do it yourself type of gal and a very hands on learner, I decided to learn how to use a mallet today to break up concrete and brick in order to get the floor of our classroom ready to be leveled out. We had to build our classroom around where an old water tower was located and though we have moved the water tower, the supporting ¨feet¨ are still in the ground and need to be broken down. I have decided that the mallet is my favorite worst nightmare. On the one hand, it is great exercise for your entire body (more on that later) and it really lets you get all your anger out by constantly beating down concrete. These past two weeks have been really stressful and so beating and breaking down concrete today and yesterday has really helped me get my anger out in a more constructive, if somewhat destructive way. On the other hand, its hard, long, tedious work that makes you feel as if you are never making any progress (kind of the same feeling I get sometimes managing projects!). It is also dangerous and should never be attempted without safety goggles and a med kit on hand when the inevitable strikes and you end up smashing your hand instead of the mallet against the concrete.

A little more on how working a mallet can be great exercise (feel free to skip this side note but it entertained me while I was ¨malleting¨ this morning). My Peace Corps girlfriends are always complaining about how skinny I have gotten over my service, and while I know for a fact that it has little to do with what exercise I have done and more to do with the numerous times I have gotten amoebas and giardia (a water borne illness, not an STD), I have to admit that construction work is really great for building and toning muscles. So I would like to introduce what I call the ¨Shawshank Redemption Workout¨:

Shawshank Redemption Workout (You Know, Because That’s What Prision Inmates Do is Break up Large Pieces of Rock with Mallets in Their Free Time)

All you need is a mallet and some concrete. Oh, and some safety goggles! No weights and weird gadgets that make your body do strange things required. Basically you need to square your body off to whatever piece of concrete you are aimed at destroying and turn your toes out so that when you knees bend they go over (but not past) your toes. This will keep your knees in line and safe from getting strained or injured. Once you are in this squat position you may start swinging your mallet using one hand or both repeatedly against the concrete. I find that aiming for angles on your block of concrete works better than simply beating directly down on it since you will break off more bits more quickly that way. Please note: this is a one man job. If anyone else moves in to start some concrete destroying, move out of the way because you will most likely be hit by a large piece of concrete (and yes, this has happened to me and is a big joke between the foremen and myself….more so for them).

This workout will give you great toned arms, strong legs and a lot of blisters J

But enough of that and more on the project: Today was a great day. We had three of the five representatives of the parents show up and we are now putting up the final, horizontal column all around the classroom. We have made so much progress in so little time that I think I can safely say, barring a natural disaster, etc. that we will finish the classroom by the end of February or early March! One of the teachers also showed up today (classes start this Monday) and informed me that the first week of classes isn’t really for the kids to learn anything but to get the school in working order and thus the teacher s will be making the kids stuff bottles for me. I have kind of refused to stuff any more bottles and have yet to fill one this entire week. I think part of my brain died a little in the past two weeks sitting for hours on end stuffing trash into plastic bottles so this news is like a message sent from heaven for me. It also makes me a lot less stressed about the project because it means that we will definitely be ready to put the bottles up for this coming week and the following week, so that makes life even better. I also cheated on my ¨diet¨ that my doctor gave me while I am taking my amoeba meds and had coffee this morning, which always makes me feel like the colors are brighter and the world is just a happier place to be in. But this wasn’t just any coffee; its my secret stash of Starbucks instant coffee from Columbia (medium strength) that my bestie Kara gave me from her package that her mom sent her from the states. A day that starts with Starbucks coffee is always a good day (Note to my parents reading this blog: you may send me this coffee whenever, if you like).

Oh and one last note: make sure to always have a med kit on site. This may also seem like a no brainer but while my foremen and workers have gracias a Dios never been hurt, I have (not badly but I have nicked myself quite a bit and I am accident prone). But either way its just a good idea and a good investment.

One more note (sorry): Make sure when you are writing up your work contract that you discuss whether the workers will be working all day every day including days when they normally go to church because that is important and something that should be added to your work contract. I know people here tend to think that even though the work contract says 7 am to 4 pm are the work hours of every day, they can still go to culto and leave work at 2:00 pm. I am not going to raise the issue now with my foremen simply because it would be offensive to them for me to suggest that they miss going to culto during the week for the entirety of the project. But if you are starting your project out, talk about religion from the get go if you think you will be upset if people miss a couple hours two to three times a week because they need to go to church or culto.

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