Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two Sides to Every Story

The water finally made a comeback early Friday morning. It isn’t gushing out of the pipe 24 hours a day, but we’re getting decent pressure in the early mornings and evenings, which works for us. We refilled the 200 gallon gravity feed tank, and the pipe refilled the 1000 gallon tank. We’re not quite sure when that happened because we have a float valve so it runs whenever it’s running and then shuts off when it’s full, but in any case it’s full. The parts of San Antonio that are at the bottoms of hills have had some water, but the houses near the top of the hills still haven’t had enough pressure to get water into their houses. We got a little more information on the political situation with the water being shared between 7 Miles and San Antonio, and we found out that the farmers we’ve been calling water pigs really aren’t pigs at all. The pipe was originally put in with grant money meant to provide the pipe and hardware necessary to get water to 7 Miles. Water for San Antonio was not included in the grant, and the labor required to install the pipe was not included. The farmers from 7 Miles were either recruited or volunteered to install the pipe from the reservoir in the mountains down to 7 Miles. It ended up taking a month of their time, and they not only were not paid for the time, they lost a month of labor on their farms. They were told that their payment was that they would be able to irrigate their fields year round with the pipe water. When the next general election rolled around, somebody promised water for San Antonio, and the pipes were laid between 7 Miles and San Antonio. That’s when the trouble started, because there wasn’t enough water pressure to get the water to San Antonio if the farmers were irrigating – the same farmers who donated their time to work in a risky situation to get the pipe installed. When the water level is high and the pipe is in good shape, there’s plenty of water for everybody – the farmers from 7 Miles and people living in the village of San Antonio – but when conditions aren’t perfect, nobody is happy. Lesson learned: every story has two sides.

With Tom and Selwyn working on the water line from Monday to Wednesday, and with both of them being pretty tired when they were done, we didn’t make much progress on the property this week. They got all the boards measured and cut for the wall and ceiling inside the cabin on Thursday, and nailed most of the frame up on Friday morning. I had gone to San Ignacio on Friday morning and didn’t get home until almost 1:00, so I was in the process of unpacking groceries and making lunch when a truck pulled up at the gate. A couple of Selwyn’s neighbors hopped out, and said they had come to get Selwyn because Hilda, his wife, was sick. Hilda hadn’t felt well since Monday or Tuesday, and had been fighting a sore throat and an intermittent fever. She was hanging in there until midday Friday, when her fever went up and she said she had pains all over. So, Selwyn went home with his neighbors, and Tom did a quick cleanup and followed in our truck. They ended up taking Hilda to the hospital in San Ignacio, where they determined that the infection in her throat had spread through her system. The doctors at the hospital gave her six shots and some penicillin to inject at home, and sent her home. Tom and I did another US/Belize comparison, because Hilda’s total bill for the emergency room visit, the injections, and the penicillin to take home was $50US. The downside was that there was only enough penicillin in all of San Ignacio to last Hilda until Monday, so one of us has to run back into town to get more penicillin then. The other thing we have to consider is that while $50 for that treatment is very inexpensive by our standards, that’s two days of pay for a lot of the workers around here. We’re not sure how Hilda is feeling now (Sunday morning), but we’ll probably drive into San Antonio later today so we’ll see then how she’s doing.

Tom and Wilton measuring a board for the side of the shed under the roof peak.

Tom and Wilton cutting the measured board.

Tom and Wilton hammering up the measured and cut board.

I did get to do a little hammering Saturday afternoon!

Our Saturday project was to continue work on the tool shed. The plan was that we would both work on it, and try to get the front on, and the windows and door. I ended up not doing very much because when Wilton and Hector, two of the boys from next door, heard the generator and the hammering they came over to see what we were doing. Hector lost interest in a little while, but Wilton very enthusiastically jumped in and became the carpenter’s helper for the morning. I had the tough task of hanging the laundry on the line to dry, and sitting in the shade and drinking tamarind juice and trying to learn Spanish with Olmi and Daisy, Wilton’s mother and sister. Not a bad way to spend a morning! We didn’t get the shed done – it still needs two windows and a door – but we had a very pleasant day.

Tom had another diversion in the afternoon because Damion stopped by to see if he could use one of our propane tanks. Damion and the crew he works with have been way up in the Pine Ridge harvesting bay palm leaves to make thatched roofs for our neighbors’ cabanas. They harvest the palm leaves right out of the jungle, but that part of the jungle is a national forest preserve, and a permit is required to get the leaves. The permit specifies how many leaves can be harvested, sets rules about when the leaves can be taken, and dictates where the leaves should come from – and it’s usually not from anyplace where it’s easy to get the leaves out. So, they’d driven about 15 miles up into the Pine Ridge, and then another 15 miles on small fire roads to where they could get the leaves with their butane powered bus and trailer. After loading the trailer, and trying to start the bus, the bus wouldn’t start and acted like it was out of butane. This all happened on Friday, and the guys ended up walking all the way home – a five hour walk. They were able to make the distance a little shorter because they could take jungle paths rather than the roads, but it was still a long walk. So, on Saturday, they loaded a pickup with propane tanks so they could get the bus down. However, when they got there, they found that the butane tank wasn’t empty, but something was wrong with the fuel delivery system. When they tried to fix that, the end came off one of the hoses in one of the fittings, so they couldn’t change the fitting. So, they put the broken part in the truck and headed back down the mountain. Fortunately Tom had the tools to fix it – again! – and the guys plan to go up with the fixed part on Monday and hope they can get the bus running and down the hill.

1 comment:

David said...

Congrats on getting the pipe done, and water flowing! You're truely living like pioneers here... except for the power tools!