Archive for June, 2013

Peru House Project – June 26, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 26th 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

Living La Vida Loca

After two months in Peru, I think I’ve come to accept the fact that I am not just visiting to do a quick project, I am living here.  I figure, if I’m renting two apartments (the one below shares a compound with an orphanage in Urubamba) in a country for more than an entire season, and I go to the market everyday to buy food, and know people in the street, I think that qualifies as “living.”  Of course, my Spanish is getting just good enough so I can make myself misunderstood.

my second floor apartment in urubamba

I have stopped thinking that I can maintain a close continuity with my life in the U.S. during my absence, but I look forward to resuming my routines and my friendships when I return.

The project is going well—the walls are up and the wood forms for the beams in place—and I feel strong, even though I continue to deal with persistent and tenacious intestinal parasites.  (Ah, the pleasures of working in the field.)  And I had to extend my return date till August 19th so that I can complete the project.  That has always been part of the MicroAid plan: stay till the project is done.

There will be three weeks down-time at the beginning of July, while the ceiling-beam concrete dries.  I will head to Mancora on the north coast and visit my friends there and surf.  Better than watching concrete dry.  :0)  When I return to Urubamba, we will remove the wood forms, finish the walls, plaster the inside, stucco the outside, pour the floor, and install the doors and windows.  (That big wall in the background is not part of our house.)

It feels strange to miss the northern hemisphere summer—we just had the winter solstice here.  The solstice is a big reason to celebrate the return of the sun and the longer days in the towns in the Sacred Vallley and the Inca-Quechua-Spanish culture—lots of interesting festivals, but freezing temperatures—at night, especially—11,000 feet in the mountains. (Above, a potato competition in the country where they invented the tuber—2,300 varieties.)

As I type, I am sitting at the worksite in an overcoat, with a hat pulled down over my ears.  My gloves are off as I type this draft—to be sent later when I have Internet—but my fingers are getting numb.  More later after the thaw.

Filed in Peru Projects,Peru Travel Log | Comments Off on Peru House Project – June 26, 2013

Peru House Project – June 20, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 23rd 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

Another Brick in the Wall

Things continue to move forward with our disaster recovery project in Peru.  The Ormachea-Hermoza home now has walls and we are preparing to pour the concrete ceiling beams and roof.

you have to keep the concrete wet for seven days so that it cures correctly

At that point, we will have to wait three weeks to remove the wooden forms.  There was much debate as to whether we needed to let them cure for a full 28 days—the time it takes for concrete to completely dry—but after consulting with my construction experts in the U.S., we all agreed (including the local builder) that three weeks would be adequate and safe.  During that time, I will visit friends in Mancora, on Peru’s northern coast.  Better than watching concrete dry.  :0)

I have extended my trip to accommodate the schedule so that I can be here to see the project to completion.  That is part of the MicroAid strategy—which differentiates us from other recovery organizations—we stay till the project is done.

the column foundations are 1.2 meters deep

People appreciate being able to say that they support and organization that helps survivors of disasters in a direct, efficient, and complete manner.  I oversee every aspect of a project and make sure every penny is accounted for.

snow in the mountains from the site - 15,000 feet

Personally, I am extremely pleased; although it’s strange to be missing the northern hemisphere summer—it was the winter solstice, here, recently—but it’s beautifully crisp and cold here at 11,000 feet in the Andes.

The solstice is a big event in these towns in the Sacred Vallley and the Inca-Quechua-Spanish culture—lots of interesting festivals.  But freezing temperatures—at night, especially—11,000 feet in the mountains.  As I type, I am sitting at the worksite in overcoat, with a hat pulled down over my ears.  My gloves are off as I type this draft—to be sent later when I have Internet-—but my fingers are getting numb. More late, after the thaw.

Filed in Peru Projects | Comments Off on Peru House Project – June 20, 2013

Peru House Project – Shout Out

Jon Ross on Jun 23rd 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

Erin

A complete oversight all this time: I have neglected to mention Erin O’Rourke, an expat American living and teaching English in Urubamba.

with angela

She directed us to our worthy beneficiary family, and has been our MicroAid interpreter since my preliminary fact-finding trip last year.  Erin knew that the Ormachea-Hermoza family had lost their adobe home in the floods of 2010 and had been living in tents and shacks ever since.  That introduction, her language skills, and her patience have proved invaluable to us and especially to the family.

winter solstice - sunset over the andes

The fate of life that leads MicroAid to survivors of disasters is truly remarkable.  Our heartfelt thanks to Erin for her help!

Filed in General MicroAid Updates,Peru Projects,Peru Travel Log | Comments Off on Peru House Project – Shout Out

Peru House Project – June 12, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

6-11-13

The Ormachea-Hermoza home construction is going great.  The foundation is finished and we are preparing to pour the columns.

It was an exciting moment when we removed the wood forms from around the concrete base.

The footprint of the house was clearly visible.

marc fitting the wood form around a column

That gave the project a sense of reality and inevitability—no turning back, full steam ahead.

up we go

I marked the occasion by buying the crew a few big bottles of beer—the celebratory elixir of choice among construction workers the world over—and joined them for a traditional Peruvian round of drinking (even though I don’t drink beer.)  Sitting in a circle, using one glass, each guy pours himself a glass, then passes the bottle to the next guy while he downs the beer in one gulp.  No lingering, no sipping—pour a glass, chug it, hand the glass to the next person until whatever it is you are drinking, no matter the quantity, is gone.

the maestro pouring chicha

Cheers to that!

Filed in Peru Projects | Comments Off on Peru House Project – June 12, 2013

Peru Travel Log – June 10, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

6-10-13

Pisac Poseurs

The crew works six days a week, so on Sunday, Melissa, Erin, and I went to Pisac, the other quaint tourist town, after Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley.

ollantaytambo tranquilo

Terraced Inca ruins flow toward the town down the steep verdant hillside.  The wide floodplain below glitters with the snaking Vilcanota River and irrigated fields.

Pisac itself is geared for tourism, being the first town in the valley that you hit after leaving Cusco.  We saw more white people and heard more English than anywhere in Peru.  The main plaza is filled to capacity with stalls selling souvenir everything: alpaca scarves, “Inca” figurines, “natural” artists’ pigments, and llama keychains, in addition to fruit, vegetables, and roasted meat on skewers—probably guinea pig.

Overheard at one of the stalls: an American dad saying to his teenage son, as the kid hands over $15 American dollars for an ”authentic” Inca keychain worth about 2 soles, “Once you make a deal you have to stick with it.”  Talk about roasted meat on a skewer!  Is that true?  I’m from Los Angeles; I’ll have to ask Mike Ovitz about that one.

Filed in Peru Travel Log | Comments Off on Peru Travel Log – June 10, 2013

Peru Travel Log – June 8, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

6-8-13

Eating for Two

Just rid myself of some kind of intestinal parasite after three weeks trying to use a local homeopathic remedy: eat a big handful of mint leaves upon waking up and just before going to bed.

urubamba market - my mint dealer

Ultimately, I had to resort to antibiotics, but because of my total aversion to them and my mild state of denial, I wanted to try the natural cure first.  After local advice and some Internet research, I was convinced of the efficacy of the minty-fresh leaf.  Apparently, the mint should cause an environment in the gut that the parasites don’t like—at all.  It should send those critters running for the exit—so to speak.  For a little while it seemed to have worked, but alas, no, they came back angry at being annoyed.  So, I had to go for the nuclear option and bomb them with Cipro.  That worked.  Now I just have to reestablish all the good bacteria in my system.  Luckily there is a real Korean restaurant in Cusco with authentic kimchi, which will help.

the real deal at sa rang che

I might also continue the mint regimen, as I was beginning to enjoy my morning and evening “salads.”  Ah, the challenges of working in the field.

Filed in Peru Travel Log | Comments Off on Peru Travel Log – June 8, 2013

Peru House Project- June 7, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

6-7-13

Rebar Madness

Bending, cutting, setting… rebar—this foundation could support the Freedom Tower.

There is so much reinforced concrete in the beams this house could be the first skyscraper in Urubamba.  It will definitely withstand any future floods.

uncle Juan

foundations for the columns are 1 meter deep

Speaking of which, the family wanted the ability to build a second floor in the future.  That concept is prevalent throughout the third world where building codes allow you to leave a house in what looks like an incomplete state.

this house is done—note the expensive fancy doors

MicroAid will build the family a complete first floor, but there will be rebar extending above for future tie-in.  Be ready for that image!  We still will have done our job—our first floor will be completely finished.  The boys, girls, and parents will have separate bedrooms, and there will be an additional common living room.  A side note: in many countries, you don’t pay taxes on an “unfinished” building.  Once, in Baja, Mexico, a friend commented on this phenomena; he said it looks like the whole country is under construction.  He was right—but we now know the reason.

Filed in Peru Projects | Comments Off on Peru House Project- June 7, 2013

Peru House Project – June 1, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 1st 2013

– YOU ARE VISITING THE MICROAID “BLOG FROM THE FIELD” PAGE –

– TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SITE PLEASE GO TO www.microaidinternational.org OR CLOSE THIS WINDOW-

Making it happen in Urubamba

On Monday, May 27th, we broke ground on the Ormachea-Hermoza house in Urubamaba.  The first MicroAid project in Peru is going smoothly, so far.

Ormachea-Hermoza abode since floods of 2010

On the very first day, the makeshift shack and tents, in which they had been living since the floods in 2010 destroyed their home, had to be taken down and the family’s possessions moved.

taking down the shack

All manner of detritus emerged from the dark dwellings.  Filthy blankets, tattered clothes, pieces of broken toys, chicken coops, disintegrating mattresses and sleeping pads all were seeing the light of day or the first time in years.  Good for them to be in the fresh, albeit dusty, air.

that inner-tube wil come in handy in the next flood

The regular construction day begins early: the guys show up for work at about 7 a.m. and get started soon thereafter.  There is a break for Chicha, the mildly-alcoholic fruit drink, at about 9:30 a.m., lunch at 1, then work till 6 or 7 p.m. One day, the break included a big plastic tub of chopped salad the guys passed around with one fork until it was gone.

Verena Ormachea-Hermoza with chicha drink

The first few work days have been spent bending rebar and digging the deep foundation-post holes.  There was a lot of mud piled up on the site from the floods in 2010, so to get a meter and a half below grade some of the holes are three meters deep—well above the heads of the guys digging them.

going down two more meters

I was informed yesterday that the sequence of construction here is to pour the columns and the second floor/roof, then let that completely dry for 30 days before building the walls then the flood slab.  Huh?

another site showing the technique

OK, even if not the floor, we usually do the wall foundations, then the walls, then the ceiling.  Well, with this schedule, I’ll have to cool my heels somewhere or a month, probably Mancora, before coming back to finish the house.  This will probably extend my trip for two weeks to a month.

Already my presence on the site is taking on a familiar pattern: deferential treatment by the workers and other adults, and a curiosity to the children, then a more familiar attitude, moving toward ignoring me—but always polite and courteous.  “Who is that guy sitting off to the side writing in his notebook and making endless calculations?”  “Oh, that’s Jon, the guy who came from out of the blue to give us a house.”  MicroAid style!

those mysterious numbers

Tomorrow, Melissa, my old assistant and potential MicroAid project manager, will arrive.  It will be nice to have the company, but also a responsibility.  I am wondering what really there is for her to do.  Even my presence at the work site is a bit superfluous as the workers are doing their job and I can only jump in here and there to lend a hand.  Language is an issue, in addition to possibly getting in their way.  “Necessitan ayuda?” has become a bit of a mantra.  “Do you need help?”  Answer: “No, gracias.”

chain-gang

I will see how Melissa operates in a foreign country, and in challenging living conditions.  I estimate, well, as she has worked in Guatamala, Indonesia, and Zambia, and has spent a lot of time living simply out of her car.  At any rate, she as paid her way here, and is always a positive energy.

first day in cusco in sanblas neighborhood

Filed in Peru Projects | Comments Off on Peru House Project – June 1, 2013