Our first working day at Guanin stands out as my favorite of the entire trip. We had divided into three teams the night before with the understanding that we would rotate to all teams throughout the trip. I started out on the water team. I expected to help with a few water tests as Severino, the director of Guanin, had written to us about a water system that was no longer fully functional. However, we were taken to another site to install a new well. A bore hole was already drilled through layers of limestone, most of the equipment was already on site, and a team of locals lead us through the process.
They informed us that the well was 100 feet deep, plus a little extra. Apparently, the hole was drilled until they hit water and then they went a little further. Once the depth of the water was confirmed, we cut slits into the bottom five feet of the pipe to allow water to flow into the pipe more quickly. While these slits are usually lines cutting into both sides about a third of the distance through the pipe, the leaders wanted to make it even easier for water to get in and prevent calcification from closing the slits by cutting gaping holes. We unsuccessfully tried to dissuade them but managed a slight compromise. The slits were widened rather than turned into holes.
With the slits cut it was time to assemble the pipe. This was quite a feat. The pipes were about 20 feet long and had to stand straight in the air to be glued to the next pipe. All the while, the pipe in the hole was growing longer, and heavier and heavier but still had to be held up. The locals brilliantly rigged a rope to help support the weight while additional pipes were added on. My contribution was painting a purple glue on both sides of the pipes.
With the larger pipe in place to protect the well, it was time to install the well itself. As it disappeared into the larger pipe, a small pipe was fitted to the end of it. More small pipes were added to lift the water to the surface. More glue was needed and my hands turned a distinct purple.
With the well in place, we paused our work to eat a delicious lunch prepared by the neighborhood. All morning we saw dishes arriving at the house. Now we tasted their delights.
After lunch, we helped the crew pour a cement foundation around the well. The cement serves a double purpose. It protects the well from polluted water runoff and prevents an enterprising passerby from stealing it. We weren’t able to pump any water on the first day since the transformer still needed to be installed. The local men had begun pulling the hundreds of pounds of metal up a wooden electric pole with a myriad of ropes and a pully but lowed it back down after the pole began teetering. They decided to install it on a cement poll a little further down the road. While Carlos secured it in place after considerable work, the wires on hand weren’t long enough to connect it to the pump.
We relaxed for a few minutes on the porch with a refreshment, then we noticed coconuts being cut down from the tree. Carlos was chopping the ends into a point with his machete and then cutting a hole just wide enough to drink out of. Fresh coconut milk abounded. After drinking the milk, he made another sharp swift motion with the machete to cut the coconut in two. Then he cut off a sliver of the side for us to use as a spoon as we scooped out the flesh. The first few coconuts held more of a jelly. Later on a few more closely resembled the drier coconut flesh we usually eat in the States. Before long a few more buses full of other volunteers arrived. It was the perfect ending to a hard day’s work.
Melody Metivier Jones