3.21.2012: We headed to the site a little after 8:00a to continue on the house. There were many bricks to measure and U-blocks still needed to be made, but I wanted to try something different so I decided to help the masons lay the bricks. I liked it, though the scaffolding was up by then and it was a little nerve-wracking to stand and work so high up once they raised the boards – if you lost your balance, there was nothing but air to catch you on your way down. So needless to say there was a lot of shuffling on my part. We had two professional masons, or albañiles in Spanish, and I was paired with Luis, the younger brother of the other albañil, Franco. They were friendly and patient with my Spanish, and Luis demonstrated his acrobatic skills when Karen lost her balance while trying to climb up the scaffolding – literally swinging her back up as he balanced with one foot on the beam and the other placed on the narrow metal rail. You’re a hero, Luis! It was pretty harrowing, and I feel a little guilty for wanting to take a picture of it, but it was so dramatic! My bad, Karen.
After lunch, I had to switch back to making U-blocks because we were behind and some of the blocks we made had since cracked. The mason work wasn’t too strenuous, but working in the hot sun had drained me so I needed to switch tasks again after only completing a couple of blocks. A group of us joined Martha in making tortillas. It was cool watching her make the tortillas and attempting to make one myself, but seeing it done in such a small space with smoke everywhere and her children sleeping and/or playing on the dirt floor is an image I won’t soon forget. I look forward to seeing pictures of them in their new house with a clean, concrete floor. She handed us the finished tortillas with some queso fresca, a firm white salty cheese and a Nicaraguan specialty, as our afternoon snack. We thanked her and took it with us as we left the site – it was quite tasty.
Before returning to the hotel, we stopped by a nearby community where Habitat Nicaragua had made home improvements: brick add-ons to the metal dwellings similar to those in La Gallina. This neighborhood was slightly better off economically than La Gallina; even their stray dogs looked healthier. We met María Elida, one of the Habitat recipients whose testimonial video I watched before traveling to Nicaragua (see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUautGkbkD4 ) and her personality was just as warm and open as in the video.
Later that evening we had dinner at the Masachapa School of Hospitality, a beautiful bungalow-style hotel and restaurant where students learn the skills needed to enter into the hospitality field. The executive director of Habitat Nicaragua attended, as well as the Mayor of the Municipality of Masachapa. The mayor, who spoke no English and was translated by our volunteer coordinator, Elisa, gave a speech that at one point made me tear up because he spoke about the impact of out presence on the families in La Gallina and surrounding communities. It was moving and it further drove the message home how important this trip is and the work Habitat for Humanity does to enable safe and adequate housing for those who need it most.
We made it back to the hotel, and no sooner did my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep.