Today was a pretty relaxing day filled with a lot of waiting --really proving that to work in Bolivia patience is a virtue. We started off the day going to the supermarket (IC Norte) to pick up some remaining supplies for the CHW training sessions and groceries for today’s lunch and dinner. The taxi ride there was eventful in that I (Claudia) did not have small bills to pay the taxi driver so I had to go into the supermarket and buy a pack of gum to get small bills to pay him. Other than that the general transaction and shopping was straightforward. Then I returned to the house to pick up Lathan and Akshay --who were busy making a great lunch of mashed cauliflower with vegetables (tastes better than it sounds!) to go shopping for the bathroom materials. We went to a part of “La Cancha” in the Av Republica.
This part of the market is characterized by having construction materials: concrete, rebar, wire, glue, toilets, showers, sinks, plastic --these are just some of the things we purchased that are available in this part of the market. After we purchased the available material we hired a truck to take us to the bathroom site and to places that sold bricks and wood. Brick and wood places are often found in kilometer 3-4 outside of the city and thus a truck is needed to get to them. First we purchased bricks --this transaction was fairly short and the most noticeable thing was a tool that allowed a worker to carry 8 bricks at a time. This tool was extremely useful in loading the bricks onto our truck in under 10 minutes, a laudable feat since we purchased 300 bricks. Then we moved on to purchasing wood. This proved more difficult because all the measurements that Harsh (our engineering chair) had given us were in feet and we had not thought to convert it meters. Thus, we had to double check each of the measurements the cashier was writing down to ensure that she had made the right conversions. Her conversion process essentially consisted of stretching out a tape measure to the lengths we asked her and looking at the centimeter measurement across the inches measurements. That is to say, she did not use the simple conversion factor of 1 inch = 2. 54 centimeters. Thus, the task of converting was fairly difficult. Then we had to wait for the workers to cut the wood to our specifications. Overall we spent around an hour and a half at the wood place.
Then the truck took us to our bathroom site -- kilometer 7.5 heading away from the city and then about 1.5 kilometers up and over hills. Earlier that day we had called the woman - Sandra- who is supposed to be receiving the bathroom to warn her that she had to be home all day --she promised she would be. However, when we got there she was not home and all we found was her purely quechua speaking grandmother. Thankfully, one of Akshay’s 12 languages is slowly becoming Quechua so we were able to establish some basic conversation and she even helped us move bricks from the truck to the house. Moving the bricks took about 30 minutes and definitely made us wish we had the tool that allowed the brick seller to move 8 bricks at a time. After unloading the materials we paid the truck driver -who at this point was frustrated that we had consumed essentially his entire workday-- and took a trufi back to town.
The trufi was 118 and is known for taking the longest way back to town. We settled in for the ride, and Akshay began teaching Lathan some basic quechua phrases. One thing to note is that trufis can only take you to the edge of the market in town. They do not take us to our home. We got off the trufi and walked through the market trying to find bowls (which Akshay said we needed for the workshop tomorrow) however, the Cancha is massive and when we asked where they sold bowls the vendors simply kept pointing inside the maze of the market. By this point it was 5pm and we realized we had to leave. We bought some fruit and took a taxi back to the house. I then went to IC Norte to pick up some more ingredients for our dinner. Tonight’s dinner has been my personal favorite so far since it featured: steak tacos, cheese, mixed veggies, queso fresco, guacamole and flan! For the record, flan is by far the best desert in Bolivia.
After dinner my good friend Rodrigo --the assistant to the Minister of Justice of Bolivia came by to drop off some pickaxes, shovels and tape measures from his parents toolshop as a donation to our project. Rodrigo is definitely an interesting character since he is only 20 years old and holds such prestige in the Bolivian government. Stay tuned to hear more about him. Tomorrow we start work on the bathrooms and conduct the second CHW training session, that’s all for now!