Bug bites galore. I have no idea when that happened but grr they’re itchy. Blogging to distract myself.

By the way, a rooster just crowed. I mentioned last year (see “Fix it With Your IR Degree”) that Salvadorian roosters have no idea what time it is. It’s currently 6:15…p.m. There it goes again. Is this a universal rooster thing? Maybe it’ll wear itself out so it won’t have to crow at two in the morning.

Today was a glorious and successful day – we are finally caught up to our original schedule, despite our wild mishaps. It started off with finding a dead cat in the trash outside. We dropped by the village this morning so Catherine, Ryan, and Erynne could start working on the holes for the roof posts. We were pleased to discover that in a fit of proactivity, the community members had poured the third concrete slab at Domingo’s place. It appeared as though they had poured it on top of loose dirt (not stones) and, of course, we still had the eyebolts so they weren’t in the slab. But hey, they did it, which is actually more important than it being done right. It’ll probably work just fine anyway.

Bob, Ariel, and I took off for the ferretería in La Puerta. We decided to tackle the wood order first. We needed 72 pieces of various lengths, though we went easy on ourselves by making them all the same cross-section. For those of you who are curious – aka, just me – the wood pieces are proper 2 x 4s, as in, they actually measure 2 inches by 4 inches. They’re unfinished, but we could hardly expect to get pressure treated wood here. We had the option of getting conocaste instead of pine, but it would have cost six times as much.

Next began the challenge of figuring out how to most economically order the pieces of wood (they agreed to do all the cutting). This was made more difficult by the rapidly changing parameters of the problem. We began by measuring in feet, but Ariel then pointed out that everything would be priced per meter. When I had completed all the conversions, it became apparent that the ferretería guys preferred measuring in yards. So I started dividing by three as I told the guy the measurements. Then I began asking what lengths the boards came in to figure out the best divisions, at which point the guy told me the boards were “Cuatro varas.”

“Ariel, what’s a vara?”

“Ummmmm…a yard?”

“Pretty sure that’s yardas.”

“Cuántos metros?” said Ariel, still stuck on the whole metric thing.

“Cuatro varas.”

So ensued a ridiculous Abbot & Costello-style conversation in which every question was answered with a different unit. Meanwhile, Bob and I measured the boards in feet again, and discovered that there were two available lengths. When we had figured out how we wanted to cut them all, Ariel had been Spanishing again and informed us that there were actually four lengths, so we redid our calculations once more. I asked one of the ferretería guys to show me a vara on the measuring tape. From what I gathered, one vara is equal to about 32 inches.

A different guy helped us with the chain and PVC lengths that we needed, and he turned out to be much more useful. He even said he had a guy who could cut PVC lengthwise! We gave him a few sketches and my explicit wood calculation table – which I did in Spanish, by myself. Be proud. Yes it was mostly numbers. Hush.

There were a few more unit hazards but I think we managed to get everything clearly across. We’ll find out tomorrow – they should be delivering the materials to the community tonight. In case anyone is curious, a little bird named Wikipedia told me that a vara is an old-school Spanish unit equal to approximately 33 inches, but actually varies from place to place. It’s used in Texas too, for land deeds, but in Texas it’s defined as exactly 33 1/3 inches, because Texas defines things. Vara literally translates to “stick.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what they are – sticks stuck in the machine of ferretería communication progress. Screw varas.

About three hours later, we found Rubén yawning on a chair nearby, having befriended the parking director. We gave him a bottle of water and he fired up El Toro for the ride back to Porvenir. Catherine, Erynne, and Ryan had finished the holes at Domingo’s and were almost done with the ones at Luisa’s – with, of course, the help of a bunch of community members. They seemed to be doing all right, though Catherine for some reason found it upsetting that a dog had peed on her bag. Now she can match Ariel, whose backpack encountered cow poop yesterday. The three of them had also had to face off a few cows, apparently. One of them had just been born last night. Cannot believe those things can stand when they’re only a day old.

The most amusing contributor to the construction was a boy of three named Luis Antonio, whose hobbies included playing with the measuring tape. He and Catherine did some hardcore bonding. They measured approximately one trillion distinct dimensions of the sand pile, his hand, my hand, his height (42 inches! He’s growing properly!), his wingspan, and more practically, the depths of all the holes. Luis Antonio would pull the tape and Catherine would read out the measurement. They tried doing it the other way around, but we found that if Luis Antonio read the tape, the answer was always “Cinco!”

We completed the holes at the third site without a hitch. Luis Antonio’s mom, a skinny and gorgeous woman, is a million times stronger than me. We traded off digging one hole with a spear. Digging with spears is not that bad, but she made it look so easy.

The singing in the church nearby has begun again for the evening. Mike calls the woman “Our Lady of Tone Deaf.” Must mean it’s almost time for dinner.

Okay, now I’ve been fed. In the afternoon we went to meet with the mayor of San Jose Villanueva, the municipality to which Porvenir belongs. As we drove through the community with Rubén, more and more community members hopped on El Toro. They had really cleaned up. They smelled nice and were wearing clean clothes. Chepe even had two dress shoes to go with his two teeth. I was pleased that Luis Antonio’s mom and Orbellina both came – youth and female representation! Yay!

When we’d gotten about a hundred people into the truck bed (read: twelve), we made our way into SJV. At Mike & Susie’s we cleaned our faces and hands, said goodbye to Rubén, and walked over to the mayor’s.  He met with us relatively on time (even for US standards) and told us that the PIPA trucks are currently employed in carrying dirty water to fix the roads (yay!) but not clean water for people to drink until the end of January (boo). I hope you enjoyed my emotional cues there. It also turns out that the trucks can carry 12 cubic meters of water, not just 10, so it’s a good thing we ordered tanks with room for excess. The mayor also said that he could send “la maquina” to fix the roads by Thursday. Looking forward to seeing if he lives up to his motto on that one – it’s cumpliendo promesas. Ariel says it’s more like “mostly cumpliendo promesas…”

For dinner at Mike’s we were joined by the president of Adesco, whom we met the other night for pupusas. He brought us intriguing fruits – mamay, mandarinas verdes, and zapotes.

“Cómo se come?” asked Catherine.

“Con la boca,” said el presidente, laughing.

In other news, thanks to el presidente’s stellar memory, Mike has finally figured out that Ryan’s name is not actually Brian.

“So Mike,” said Catherine, “Are dead cats commonly put in the street trashcans?”

“Well…yeah. Why, did someone try to sell you one? That’s something they do.”

Anyway, Our Lady of Tone Deaf has ceased singing, which means we can finally have movie night. Buenas noches a todos!

-Grace