Friday, December 12, 2014

Rot in our structures, facilities improvements, and general update.

I am currently in Leticia. Last week I met with an ophthalmologist from Bogota. She travels to Leticia once a month to treat everyone in the area. The jungle city has very few specialists (and no ophthalmologists). My eye infection is viral, not bacterial. I probably caught it in Bogota, as she said that there is currently an epidemic of viral conjunctivitis in Bogota. My eye has improved greatly, but will not be completely better until one or two more weeks have past.
Getting better
There is now electricity available in the village! This is provided by a company that has contracted with the Colombian government. They have power from a generator from 3 pm to 9 pm. People use freezers as refrigerators, which works to keep things somewhat cool throughout the day. I am trying to connect power in our structures, but it is a bit difficult. There is about a mile between the generator and the guesthouse. The wiring in the village basically consist of cut and spliced together extension cords running from house to house. At many junctions they did not even use electrical tape, instead wrapping the exposed wires in bits of plastic bag.

The good things with electricity are that we are able to have light during the night, operate and charge small electrical devices, and to one day have a refrigerator. A negative side is that the villagers spend more time watching TVs, sometimes listening to music that is loud enough to hear clearly 500 feet away, and spending less time talking, playing, working, or doing homework.
Our first light bulb!  Hanging to the side of this is Mark's blowgun.
Additionally, watching many TV shows and movies seems to be having an effect on the culture of the villagers. I have been told that as families watch shows were children are disrespectful to parents, the children are less well-behaved. Likewise, the soap operas that feature drama and yelling between spouses has led to more drama and yelling between the husbands and wives of La Libertad. I will not even try to theorize what the influence of consumerism, affluence, sex and violence seen on-screen are having. If there are any sociologists or anthropologists reading this blog (or if our readers know of any), I think this would make an incredibly interesting study.

Connected to the grid and our solar power system.  It may look messy, but it is electrically stable and works well!
The rot problems were worse than I initially thought. There was more rot in the kitchen, with about 1/3 of the walls and some of the floors needing to be replaced. All of the structures have insects called gorgojos eating the wood, and carpenter ants in some places. I believe the gorgojos are powderpost beetles. The new roof and paint should keep much of the rot from returning. From internet research we believe that the paint will kill the gorgojos (if they are powderpost beetles). With more adequate roofs and paint the external walls should not become as rain-soaked, which will help to reduce rot.
The kitchen wall under the sink.  This rot was unnecessary and was due to a faultily-installed sink angle.
The kitchen floor next to the stove.  This is carpenter ant damage.

We must also reinforce the dock and paint it with a mixture of tar and gasoline as a wood preservative. This is on the list of projects for December. Hopefully we will have volunteers in the village to lend a hand!

Additionally, we are installing a new toilet and giving the old one to Gustavo. We are helping him to build a new bathroom for his family and tourism business. He is using the project’s toilet a lot and not cleaning it often (6 kids and 3 adults are using it).
The 9 feet deep toilet pit.  I have covered it three times and other people keep uncovering it.  Why they keep uncovering it, I don't understand.  Three days ago a four year old girl fell in.  She started crying, but was unhurt.  Luckily they grow the kids tough around here!

Quest for wood
The amount of wood needed to complete the rebuilding exceeded our original wood supply. We went on an expedition to find a tree that would supply the needed boards. The tree had to be of sufficient size, type, and straightness to meet the requirements of the building project. Different species of trees are harvested for different reasons: posts that will be set into the ground; floors; walls; ceilings; handcrafts; or boats.
Oskar, our chainsaw man.  He is a good worker, a founding member of the Christian church in La Libertad, and does not drink.  It is good to have a sober lumberjack with a chainsaw.

Last Wednesday morning we struck off to the forest to find a tree. Oscar, our lumberjack, selected the tree, cut it, and used his chainsaw to mill the trunk into usable lumber. In this case he selected a tree called a mata matar. This tree has white wood when cut, but it turns red after 4 days. It is a very heavy wood, but has excellent strength, rot and insect resistance.
A small group of boys followed us out to the jungle to watch the tree being cut.
As long as the insects or things don't bite, anything is open to being picked up and played with.
While waiting and on the walk back from the site we found various jungle fruits like ubo (round, light orange-colored, sour, and tasting a bit like passion fruit), nejillas (sweet, floral taste, with little flesh) and uvas (a grape-like sweet fruit with a large, single pit).
This fruit looked like grapes, but were most definitively not.  They had a tough outer skin and a single, large seed.  The flavor, however, was slightly like grapes.  Very strange.
This boy is at the top of a thirty foot high tree picking jungle grapes.

Umberto with some ripe jungle grapes.  This is one of my favorite pictures.

Redirection of funds
Due to the rot and needed expansion of our facilities, the maintenance and improvement budget has doubled. It is very important that we make the improvements needed to preserve the buildings. We must protect our investment in the structures. While initially this is expensive, the savings over the long-term will be significant. A palm roof cost 1/3 of the price of a metal laminate roof, but must be replaced yearly, leaks, and is a haven for insects and rodents. A metal roof covers and protects the buildings more adequately, is more hygienic, and will last for more than 10 years before needing replacement.

We have redirected $1,000 from the pier project to cover the maintenance to the buildings. We had originally budgeted $2000 for the pier and dock improvements, and $1000 for building maintenance. However, I believe we have a good chance of using part of the $1,000 from the project as the village's contribution to build a much better pier with concrete.

Quick update on everything:
  • My sister Crystal and her friend Kaitlyn volunteered for a week in the village. They painted a mural of the world on the school and painted much of the guesthouse. It was great having them help out in the village. Thanks Crystal and Kaitlyn!
Painting the guesthouse.  This make the room not only more cheery, but will also help to prevent insect damage.
This is a 10 foot wide mural painted on the side of the school.  It was organized by Crystal and Kaitlyn and painted by the village kids.

  • We installed a new roof on the guesthouse.
Our old, leaky, rat and cockroach infested roof.  Good bye old roof!
Hello nice shiny new roof!

  • We replaced rotted wood in the kitchen.
Kitchen repair.  In the end we needed to replace 3/4 of the walls and half of the floors. 

Helpers for kitchen wall painting.  The kids are currently on their "summer" break from school.  They have two months free.
  • I had two village meetings at which we discussed the formal incorporation of the village. This may bring an additional $15,000 dollars into the village annually. I may take a trip to Bogota in the coming weeks to help move the process along.
  • We have three (and possibly five) volunteers interested in visiting the village during the next two months.
I came across this moth on the walk back from one of my meetings.

What is on the “to do” list for December and January?
  • Connect the kitchen and bathroom to the village power grid
  • Finish the roof for the kitchen
  • Paint surfaces
Gustavo's dog, Pelacho

  • Put in a zinc laminated counter top in the kitchen
  • Finish tiling the shower floor
  • Reinforce the dock
  • Weatherize the dock
  • Fix the project’s bathroom
  • Build Gustavo’s bathroom
  • Continued maintenance to Gustavo’s motor
Gustavo's motor for his boat.  The motor needs constant maintenance in order to operate reliably.  It is not fun to break down on the river.

  • Gutter the kitchen and collect the runoff water in a 1,000 liter tank
  • Go to Bogota to explore option for incorporating the village
  • Start planning the projects for which we will apply for government grants

That’s it for now!

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