The ancient Egyptians had the well-known custom of burying their dead pharaohs alongside their wives* and servants, as well as furniture and food for a comfortable afterlife. Now that we’ve found a dead rat, we can really send off the trashcan cat in Alexandrian style. Or we could, if Bob hadn’t removed the rat from the toilet with a post-hole digger and deposited it in the garden. We wonder if the rat explains why that toilet’s been broken – maybe it got stuck in the plumbing and finally floated to the surface. Anyway, it kinda smells in there, which has limited our shower quantity to one. I smell slightly less than rat residue, so I’m waiting on my turn.

Our day began quietly, or as quiet as driving up the rocky road into the village can be. It was eerie because we encountered barely anyone on the road, and Chepe did not make his usual appearance from the trees ahead of us. I was a little concerned that maybe the community had copped out on us, as they had with Duke’s bridge project. We wouldn’t be able to do the day’s work alone.

We drove up the ridiculous hill to Chepe’s to get one of the tanks to bring to the site by Luisa’s house. We managed to tie it down on its side to the rails of El Toro like a miniature PIPA truck. As we were working on that, we heard a machete thwack in the bushes. Luis Antonio appeared, accompanied by his grandmother. She was singlehandedly clearing the path to the concrete slab we’d poured. She told us that others had cleared the other side of the path, and in fact, all the trees that had been there were gone. What had once been a one-foot-at-a-time trail with face-whipping branches was now the width of a generous one-lane road. Well then. I am beginning to believe that the PIPA truck could, in fact, make it to Chepe’s tank site.

Catherine and I took the sneaky back path to Luisa’s while everyone else went with El Toro in case it got stuck in the trees. The tank made it about 10 feet tall. There was still no sign of anyone else, but as Catherine and I walked down the path, we began to hear voices and more thwacking. At least eight guys were nonchalantly felling the trees that had overgrown the road to Luisa’s – the same fingertrap trees that had snared the ferretería truck just three days ago. Maybe it’s time I got myself a machete for my own daily life, I thought. What was more impressive than the tree cutting was that they were chatting and ragging on each other. Hardly normal behavior in a community that doesn’t get along.

Apart from that though, today was a Murphy’s Law kind of day. We had to readjust the post holes at Luisa’s a half dozen times. The lamina wasn’t the same width as the roof sides. Why? It was 3 x 1. It should have fit. 3 x 1 what, you ask? 3 yards by 1 vara. Seriously, who DOES that? Once again, screw varas. We needed to actually cut some pieces of lamina to make up the difference. Nothing was level. The rubber band for the post level had vanished. The PVC was kind of flimsier than we expected. We decided last-minute that we needed to paint the posts with a protective coat, so we’d have to delay putting them up another day. The nails we bought were crappy and way too soft. Community members were getting grumpy and impatient for some sort of result. And let’s face it, so were we. As each mechanical mishap stacked up, our communication skills got worse and worse.

But you know what? We survived the day, and it wasn’t like we did nothing. Chepe produced a gallon of wood sealant, and they painted all of the wood at one site. It dried in time to start assembling. He also sharpened up some snips for the lamina, though later we discovered that our battery-powered drill made a straighter cut. Catherine’s sillybandz sufficed to affix the post level. Bob pointed out that flimsiness wouldn’t be so bad in the PVC, since we needed to shape it to our will anyway. Most amusingly, Chepe and Gilberto got into a competition to see who could hammer the wonky nails the straightest.

In all, we completed two of the roofs, lamina and angle braces and all, though we haven’t elevated them to the posts yet. We lined up the holes at one site and put up the posts and cross braces (the wind will test those tonight). In fact, I’d say we accomplished quite a bit. Hopefully morale will be better tomorrow.

In other news, I learned an interesting construction tip today. If you were ever going to attach corrugated tin lamina to wood, you’d probably expect that you would put the nails in the little valleys. That’s what I thought, because the nails would force the lamina to abut the wood. However, the community members were unanimous in saying that the nails should go in the tops of the corrugation mountains, because the valleys collect water, which would cause the nails to rust faster. Boom. You just learned something.

Also, other good news. The maquina came today and fixed the short route to Porvenir, so it will take half as long to get there now. It even cut away the fallen tree. Promesas cumpliendo-ed. Best wishes to our readers from home. Check your toilets.

- Grace

*There were also female Pharaohs who probably didn’t have wives.