There are a lot of things Home Depot wouldn’t do, I’m sure, but we definitely covered most bases today in getting our materials. We started off the morning by going to the large ferretería in La Puerta. It only took about an hour and a half to order all the things we needed. Adjusting for El Salvador time, that’d be basically 20 minutes in the US, so we were moving pretty fast. I also successfully managed to describe an eyebolt in Spanish, by which I mean it took me about six attempts. The ferretería workers promised to deliver the gravel, sand, cement, and wire mesh for the concrete in the afternoon. We took the wood and nails for the forms and drove to El Porvenir.
Bob, Ryan, and I got out of the truck at the middle site, in between Don Chepe’s house and Miguel’s house. Ryan and I carried the wood up the hill to the hole we’d outlined yesterday. Meanwhile, Ariel, Catherine, and Erynne kept going to the other two sites to deliver the materials. As I was just wondering whether Miguel had put the shovels and pickaxes in his house, we saw him hop on the back of the pickup and join them. And thus began the story of Grace and Ryan and Miguel’s dogs.
It was easy enough to see where the tools were from the outside of Miguel’s cactus fence, but the thing about Miguel’s fence is that approximately five loud, large dogs live behind it. Let’s be clear about something – in El Salvador, dogs aren’t pets. Dogs maintain a strict quid pro quo relationship with their owners involving an exchange of food for guarding. And actually, the fence didn’t really contain the dogs as much as it defined the boundary that thou shalt not pass – they could easily just walk outside. Ryan and I approached the fence.
“Sit!” I said to the nearest dog. It looked at me and barked more.
“Siéntate,” said Ryan, from ten feet behind me. I raised an eyebrow at him.
“What? They don’t speak English!” he replied.
Well great. As it turned out, however, the dogs did speak the universal language of rock. I picked one up. I didn’t even have to throw it. All of them backed into the shade and stopped barking. I cautiously stepped inside the fence, trying not to accidentally make eye contact and set them off. I walked past them and grabbed the two pickaxes and two shovels, and so our construction began. Shortly we were joined by Chepe and other community members to help.
When we’d completed two of the holes and two forms for the concrete, we took a lunch break and waited for the truck to deliver the concrete materials. Around 3:00 the truck still hadn’t come – no surprise, as it was running on El Salvador Standard Time – so we walked over to the third site at Domingo’s house. Domingo wasn’t home and we still hadn’t spoken to him about digging in his front yard since last March. We went down to the springbox because Catherine, Ryan and Erynne had never seen it. The lid was open (go figure) and a bit bent. It looked as if someone had stolen four of the machine screws, but maybe they just fell out. The water looked very turbid. We’ll be doing some coliform tests soon.
Back at Domingo’s, while we were debating what to do with our remaining hours, the truck from the ferretería finally arrived. The truck attempted to back in through the gate (Domingo had finally come home). When it wouldn’t fit through, three of the community members simply uprooted one of the sapling fence posts, and thus began the chain of events in which Home Depot simply wouldn’t take part. We measured out a third of the materials in shovelfuls – 50 shovels of gravel and 100 of sand, four bags of cement, and one of the wire mesh screens. When those were off the truck, everyone climbed onto the bed with the remaining rocks and sand.
To get to the next site, we’d have to take the left fork past the conocaste, which led to a questionable road. By questionable, I mean that it wouldn’t be a road in the US. The “good” roads here consist of two concrete tracks for your tires. They’re very minimal.
“He’s going for it,” said Catherine. Just…going for it. We did all right at first – it was a bit bumpy, but not impassable. Then the trees around the road started condensing and leaning in. The truck stopped, caught in the branches like a giant finger in a giant Chinese fingertrap (or traponovio). Off to the left side of the truck was a casual drop which I knew would eventually tumble you into the river if you fell. Well then. This would be interesting. Have I mentioned that this wasn’t exactly a small truck?
The ferretería guys and some of the villagers hopped off and began hacking at the branches with their machetes. Bob got out to advise; Ariel got out to translate. The truck began to move forward again. And then stopped again. Started. Stopped.
We made an odd procession: Ariel and Bob walked in the lead, followed by about five machete wielders (Chepe randomly appeared at one point, no idea how he snuck in) walking backwards and hacking a path for the truck; next came the cab, with the rest of us and Miguel peeking over it – alternately trying to see and ducking to protect our faces – and lastly, Tomás and another community member sat chatting on the gravel in the back like nothing unusual was happening.
In fits and starts we finally made it to the site near Luisa’s house and began offloading another third of the materials. The same question plagued all of our minds… If this truck could barely make it through, how will the even larger PIPA truck even get to the tanks? The community members did not seem to share our concerns, just as they seemed to think that the PIPA can go up the hill by Chepe’s house. After the woodland tunneling, we’re beginning to believe them. Life, physics, and feasibility have different limits here, or so we’ve discovered.
We didn’t have to do quite as much clearing on the way back to the conocaste, though turning the truck around was an interesting endeavor that even the Porvenir men laughed at.
“Remember,” said Ryan, as we backed into a K-turn down a steep hill, “if it starts to flip over, jump to the SIDE of the truck.”
It didn’t flip over, but Catherine still curled up in a ball for the entire trip back to the conocaste so she wouldn’t see the precarious edge. Don’t worry, there’s a picture.
If you can believe it, the most challenging material delivery was yet to come. The third site was Chepe’s, with the infamous hill. The truck driver took one look at it and said nope. Again, we wondered about the PIPA…Someone suggested backing the truck up the slope as far as it could go. The driver agreed to try and got about three feet up before the wheels lost traction. One of the community members began shoveling the gravel onto the side of the hill.
Before he’d thrown two shovelfuls, Rubén showed up to meet us in his little red pickup. For reasons yet to be explained, the red pickup will henceforth be referred to as El Toro. Rubén suggested shoveling the gravel and sand into El Toro instead, because El Toro could make it up the hill. The ferretería guys complied enthusiastically and backed their truck next to El Toro. This was about the time that Bob said to Ariel,
“Gee, Home Depot wouldn’t do this!”
“Why are you laughing?” asked one of the community members. Ariel explained in Spanish what Bob had said. None of them understood why it was funny. This was, apparently, quite normal.
Entonces, El Toro made it up the hill with everything in it (I swear one of his tires left the ground by at least two feet), and we shoveled it off with the help of Chepe and Miguel and called it a day.
Miguel’s dogs were stunned to silence.
That’s all for today, except that Ariel would like everyone to know that she suggested the title of this post.