Bathrooms with Claudia & Harsh
We got home at 2am again last night but surprisingly felt great all day today. The day started off with a 10am meeting in the neighborhood with Maria Eugenia, Emiliana, Sandra, me, Harsh, Akshay & Lathan. The themes of discussion were: the current bathrooms, the Quito conference, J-term plans and the workshops.
We know that the bathrooms we built in January were bad. There are no other real words to describe them. It’s not like we didn’t try -- we tried so hard (especially Jason who is amazing!) --but we all make mistakes and unfortunately that mistake lost us a lot of trust in the community. Maria Eugenia spent a solid 10 minutes telling us about how important quality was for the bathrooms this time around and we really tried our best to reassure her that this time would be different. I actually do believe that. In general we are making good progress on the bathrooms (got to go home by 4pm today!) because Harsh really knows what he’s doing and Angel is always there to help us if we ever get stuck. Anyways, a big mistake this year was not forcing a meeting between the woman who gets the bathroom, Maria Eugenia and Refresh Bolivia. I told Maria Eugenia to meet with Sandra who is receiving the bathroom, to explain what it was and that it was a pilot. And even though she reassured me that she did and that Sandra knew we would be somewhat experimenting -this was just not the case. I’m sure a meeting did happen but I think it’s just impossible to actually communicate what we’re going to do without us actually being there at the meeting. For J-term the board usually comes a week early and I think that within that week we will definitely have to meet with those receiving bathrooms to really show them pictures of what the process will be, especially because they have never seen/built these types of bathrooms before.
We have decided to go to the Habitat III conference by the UN in Quito, Ecuador that takes place in October. That being said we now have to look into logistics. Right now it seems like 3 ladies from the community, Maria Eugenia, me and Harsh will be going. We think it will be a great way to make connections --networking is key in these types of organizations. Also I am from Quito so food and accommodation will be covered since we will just be staying at my house.
For J-term we have to pick between two different communities. One that has no bathrooms but would be a 15 minute uphill hike for the volunteers and pose high levels of difficulty to get materials to. Cement is a big consideration since last J-term the boys had to carry 100 pound bags of cement up a hill for a whole day. The other community is definitely more accessible and has an interesting method of marking a plot of land as bathroom territory. Sometimes they dig holes to make it a trench system but sometimes they don’t. It would be great to ask more questions about this in the workshops. Next Sunday Akshay and I are going to go see them, so that will help our decision.
Regarding the workshops: a big problem is that the same women aren’t coming to each workshop. They understand that they have to but they just aren’t doing it. Hopefully tomorrow’s workshop will lead to some solution to this issue. If not then we have a serious problem because in order to be a CHW you actually need to go to the full 8 sessions.
Akshay and Lathan then left and me and Harsh stayed doing the bathrooms. For the bathrooms on the top layer of cement --the floor--there has to be two holes. One that is for the actual toilet and then the other that has to be covered by a cement lid. This second hole has to go into the digester and has to be big enough for a shovel to go in a scope the compost out. We finished this and then started working on the valve --Harsh will write more clearly about this tomorrow (hopefully if I can get him to write an entry). It really seems like we’re on track and will finish on time. At 4pm Rodrigo came to pick us up and take us to his country house.
Definitely the nicest house we have ever been into. Rodrigo in general is the nicest person I’ve ever met. His house had llamas, alpacas, toucans, parrots, all the cacti in Bolivia, the oldest phone of Bolivia, a museum, a pool, a random staircase that led to nowhere to overlook the property and in general it was just massive and filled with grass and trees. Words can’t really do it justice so here are some pictures --that also don’t do it justice.
Afterwards Rodrigo took us to his favorite spot in the city, high up on a mountain overlooking all of Cochabamba. It was an incredible view and really let you see the entirety of the city. No skyline though. It was also cool because we were clearly at the opposite side of where we build the bathrooms. We love hanging out with Rodrigo because he’s one of the nicest, most caring, open, friendly and overall amazing human beings on this planet. But his lifestyle is incredibly different from the people that we are building the bathrooms for/ the community that we spend most of our daylight hours in. Sometimes the contrast of realities really gets to us. One time when I was in South Africa I spent the day in one of its largest townships (1 million people) doing research on HIV/AIDS. Afterwards we went into one of the nicest beaches in Cape Town. Today reminded me of that day. It’s crazy how different the worlds people live in are.