Last week was very busy and hard work. Monday we had an earthquake around 10am - just before we had to climb up onto the makeshift scaffolding which is basically planks of wood balancing on blocks and poles...not very secure. I seemed to be the only person who didn't feel the earthquake - not impressed :0( and still had to climb up onto the scary scaffolding to cement bricks. As usual the kids had no fear running up and down the ladders, chasing each other round the planks whilst I was holding for dear life in the corners trying not to look down!!
The family we were building for by now (Amelia and her kids) were providing us with a delicious lunch everyday (just as well because our host forgot to give us anything one day and its a long day without food). The number of kids on both sites rose to around 15 to 20 - mainly because the 'leader' Kevin (11) had told the others that if they worked hard we would buy them all presents! Despite all the additional help this house seemed to take FOREVER to build and a couple of days we didn´t finish until 5.30pm (normally 4pm).
We completed the house on Wednesday. Whilst the 'real' builders were putting on the roof we walked around the village (collecting more and more people & children as we went) to paint all the other houses which had been skimmed. We also had to repaint the houses that we had built in week 1 which was really nice as it gave us the chance to see the families again. The family that the other group had built a house for were the poorest family in the village. Their oldest son had died from a spider bite about a year ago and one of their daughters was bitten by a spider two weeks ago so was quite a stressful situation. Luckily the little girl is getting much better now after treatment and will be fine. When we returned to see this family we could see that they had completely cleared up their garden, had new bunk beds provided by the charity for the children and a stove. It was such a big difference and massive improvement of which they seemed really happy & proud!
Issi told us that we had to paint 14 houses and we all thought he was joking. By 1pm we had run out of water (only had one bottle each), were more than a bit peckish, and a tiny bit grumpy from all the heat and tiredness... Organisation is not a strong point here in Guatemala. At 4pm we were STILL painting houses and patience was running a bit thin. Issi kept saying "uno mas" after EVERY house we completed. However, one of the very kind people gave us all a small glass of coke and a bit of cake which raised spirits a little. Finally we finished at 5pm after painting 12 houses. Oscar (one of the people who runs the charity) arrived and presented the keys to the families. The husband for our family was away for a couple of weeks working so the keys were handed to Amelia. She burst into tears and gave personal letters to all of us which the children had drawn pretty pictures on. Even more emotional than the last time! This family was definitely our favourite and were so kind. We had bought a piñata for the all the children in the village and school shoes for the family. Amelia was disappointed that we hadn´t been around for lunch and so insisted that we ate the food now. So there we were, Suzy, Ian and I watching the piñata eating a massive plate of food in front of the rest of the village. Bit of an awkward moment but the food was delicious. We only had about 5 mins so had to eat quickly and jump into the truck to head back to Antigua. It was definitely a great end to the day, too much to explain really but was probably the best moment of the trip so far. When we were leaving the village lots of people were out in the street and the children were clinging to the back of the truck. It was very sad to leave and definitely felt a little pang of sadness that we wouldn´t see any of our new friends again...
Thursday we had the day off! I spent the morning doing Spanish - making up for the fact that I had missed a couple of classes during the week. Its definitely much better learning over the course of the morning rather than 1 hour each night. Kate and I decided to book a bus to Monterrico for the weekend - great plan.
Friday - bit of a nightmare day. Our next building site is a very difficult location to work on as there is no room and the land is on a slope. Digging the trenches revealed lots of rocks and boulders that we had to cut out...took forever. That evening we headed to the Black Cat for some cheeky nachos & drinks. Simon knows the guy who runs the bar and he agreed that we could bring in our own drinks! So laden with rum and red wine (not a great combo) we headed out for what transpired to be the best night yet. We ended up at a roof top club where there was a band playing live music. Was great fun, however getting up at 7am the next morning and hoping on the hot bus to Monterrico for 3 hours was not - will I ever learn?!
Monterrico was great fun. Kate and I spent most of the day lazing around in hammocks - just what we needed. The sand is black due to all the volcanos and the sea is REALLY rough so decided not to jump in on this occasion. We watched the baby turtles being released from the turtle conservation place (although we didn´t think that handing the turtles to people in the crowd for $2 or $3 was such a great plan as the tiny turtles seemed to be quite stressed). Nevertheless they were very cute and being a naughty tourist I took some pictures too! The sunset was great, dinner was not.
Sunday we got up at 5am for a mangrove trip. Quite tired as hadn´t really slept much due to the evil cockroach walking around our room, lots of mosquitos, the noisy fan and the heat! The mangrove trip was good, saw the sunrise which was very pretty, lots of birds, 4-eyed fish which hop across the water and lots of groovy trees with wierd things hanging down to the water, it was worth the early morning start and made us feel much less lazy when we spent the remainder of the time in hammocks, swimming in the pool and eating food.
Getting home was interesting. The minibus was quite old and very cramped. Our driver who was very nice was also VERY slow. As we neared Antigua which is all up hill he slowed down to 20kmph and stayed in second gear. After about 30 mins we broke down halfway up a hill in mosquito heaven. The engine was under the front seats and when the police arrived they decided to take off the radiator cap and everything in the van got soaked... We eventually crawled back into Antigua late Sunday evening.
This is now our final week on the house building project. We have been split into new teams and now have six volunteers instead of three which makes a HUGE difference. Today my group finished at 3pm! It really helps having three strong guys in our team - hurrah! So, now after my long chat - no more house stories I promise - I am off to Sky Bar, which as the name suggests is a roof top bar overlooking the whole of Antigua with three volcanos in the distance for a nice strawberry daiquiri before heading 'home' to what I hope will be a nicer dinner than last night...
Adios a todos!