I am used to things moving really slowly here in Peru, especially in regards to progress on a project or paperwork. So, I am still trying to figure out how things came together so quickly this past week. Whatever the magic of last week was, here is what the progress looked like in Collona.
Monday morning: The morning started off like a typical Monday morning, lurking around the municipality to check in on papers and see if there was any change in the status. To my surprise, the paper I had been waiting for, what seemed like my whole service, had been signed by the mayor. This meant the project was officially approved by everyone in the municipality and the project could get underway!
Monday afternoon: My spirits had been lifted due to the success of the morning, but I knew I still had to schedule an official groundbreaking ceremony in Collona with a lot of the top official municipality workers. To my surprise, they wanted to schedule the meeting for the following afternoon, I was expecting to wait at least a week for all for all of the starts to align.
Tuesday afternoon: As I was sitting in the truck heading up out to Collona for the groundbreaking ceremony is when I knew this project was actually going to come to fruition! The ceremony we had in Collona was short but a nice touch to the project and made it official.
The mayor giving a very inspirational speech!
At the ceremony, we talked about the history of the project, how many people from all over the world (that’s you guys) have been very active in the project and have made it possible. Each invited member of the muni gave a short speech and talked about different details of the project, including myself. Afterwards, the mayor and I had the honor of shoveling the first dirt, representing the start of the project. A few other people shoveled some dirt afterwards, and then some rock was also lifted up, I am guessing it also symbolized the start of work. Lots of pictures were taken, hands were shaken, and tamales were eaten. The community members had worked together that afternoon to cook us tamales, with cheese, and hot chocolate. It was the perfect welcome ceremony, and more official than anything I had planned on doing.
Struggling to hold the rock, notice how I didn´t help with this part.
Shoveling the first dirt.
Wednesday morning: I headed out to Collona early in the morning with the municipality truck, filled with the first few tools we needed to bring up there, such as helmets, shovels, picks, and chalk to mark the ground. I went out with Mayra, the volunteer who will be the next WASH Volunteer in Faique, Henry, the head contracted engineer, and Fidel, the head contracted construction guy who is in charge of all of the community workers.
Fidel, the head construction guy!
Wednesday afternoon: After a full day walking from house to house in the community and marking the exact spot of where the bathroom will be, we gathered together to have the celebratory drink of rompope. We wanted to recognize the first day of work on the bathrooms, and introduce Mayra to the traditional drink of Alto Piura.
Check out that hole for a bathroom (and my sweet hard hat)!
Helping make the rompope.
Mayra and myself with rompope!
Thursday: I spent Thursday in Faique showing the new volunteer around and teaching English class. Luckily, this didn’t meant the progress in Collona had stopped. The community members of Collona decided to work in shifts of five people, 8 hours a day, for 6 days a week, and then they would change workers. It is a lot of physical labor, but luckily the municipality put in the budget enough money to pay each of the community workers for the hours they work-an added bonus to the project!
Friday afternoon: Another trip to Collona with the engineer to drop off 15 bags of cement and check on the progress. For this trip I spent more time in the car than in the community, but it was still good to check in and answer the few questions that the community had.
How Peace Corps volunteers get paid…food from the field. I recieved at least 20 ears of corn.
Saturday: I didn’t have any transportation out to Collona, but I still wanted to make it out there to check on the progress of things and see how I could help. The walk up the mountain has become one of my favorites and after a really busy week, I enjoyed the time outside and the chance to do a bit of exercise. Once I got to the community, I checked in with the workers and played around with kids. It was a good afternoon, and even though I wasn’t of the most use, I still felt like my presence was appreciated out in the field. I also made a note of the materials we need to bring up on Monday.
The base of the house of the bathroom.
The first half week of building went pretty well. I can already tell I am going to learn a lot by being the “supervisor” of the project and the head liaison between the community members and the municipality. Of course there will be problems and situations to solve during the 60 days of construction, but hopefully the trust I have with the community members and the municipality will help resolve these problems without too much headache.
It looks like I will be heading up to Collona at least 3-4 times each week to check on progress and see what other materials I should have the muni send up. I know the next two months are going to fly by due to being really busy coordinating everything for Collona and trying to keep up with the rest of the projects I have going on outside of Collona.