It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Ahuachapan, El Salvador for almost a week now. The work days have been long – our hands are blistered, our muscles are sore, but we’ve all gained much more at the end of each work day. Working side by side with the family members and local masons, we’ve learned so much about their lives in El Salvador and how much they’ve been looking forward to the new house.
The past two work days have finally begun to show evidence of progress.
House #2 was totally painted, the sink was in, and the masons were setting the floor tiles. The septic tank pits were another story – we’re blaming the hard rocky soils for the slow progress in digging.
We were encouraged to work on different sites and for the first time, I had a chance to work on site #1. We sanded the concrete walls on day 5 and then finally put a concrete wash/sealer on the walls today. This brought much satisfaction as it began to look more like a finished wall.
Valerie, the CEO of Habitat Dane County, was showing me how to sand the concrete walls with a small piece of concrete block. This was a good exercise in building patience. The purpose of this was to sand off the extra grout and prep it for the wash layer, a mix of mostly water and some concrete mix that “sealed” the masonry units prior to painting.
I found myself hypnotized by the fast paced concrete mixing process. First, you fill the wheelbarrel with one part sand, one part gravel and dump into a pile. Second, add the concrete and start mixing it into a pile.
After the mixture is scooped, spread, scooped, spread, you make a “volcano” and pour water in the center. Scoop, spread, scoop, spread…. Before you know it, you have a concrete mix they call “chespa” ready for pouring into the rebar filled concrete masonry cells.
Habitat for Humanity International, otherwise known as Global Village, strongly encourages cultural exchange. When the local habitat team suggested we challenge the local masons and workers to a game of football (soccer), we all chuckled at the idea. What’s more American than a water ballon toss and s’mores making event?