That’s right, folks. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the moment we’ve all been working towards for over a year now. I could ramble and make you wait even longer, but I think we’ve all waited enough already. And so, now I’m going to do my very best to give you a virtual tour of the completed school building! (Note: a big thank you to David Espinoza for taking these pictures!)

LOOK AT IT! (Ignore the fact that it’s orange and focus on the fact that it exists and is finished and that’s amazing!) This is the view from the “front”, as viewed from the soccer court (I say “front” because when you enter the property, you’ll see the other side of the building first because of how the property is set up… but this is the functional front of the building).
If it looks ginormous in this picture… well, that’s also how it looks in real life. The other buildings on the property are only two stories, so this one really does stand out.
Back view. You can see the small side of the building better from this angle… there’s the big part with the gabled roof and the smaller part with just a single sloped roof surface.
This is the first view of the building that you get when walking into the property. It’s not especially thrilling, but the side of the left building has no windows because the thought is that there will be more buildings along the left side of the sidewalk someday, as the school grows and needs more space.
Approaching the building… Thanks to this “tunnel” and the walkway above, the two sides of the building can be accessed by a single staircase.
The building is actually designed as two separate structures. The left side and the walkways are one, and the right side is another. You can see the joint between the two really clearly in this picture, at the right side of the second-floor walkway.
Looking back through the tunnel towards the property entrance from the soccer court.
Do you remember how the building was constructed around an existing bathroom structure? That’s what you see on the right side of this picture, with the decorated tiles at the entrance. To the left of it, there’s a big, new classroom.
These are the doors into the classroom by the bathroom. Debbie had the doors custom-made, like many other things in the building. That may sound fancy and unnecessary, but there’s not the same selection of standard doors, windows, etc. as we have in the States.
Inside the classroom! The mounting post for the projector is the thing sticking out of the middle of the ceiling (the thing that’s not a beam, I mean). I am so happy with how bright the rooms are, especially compared to the old classrooms! These lights are each more than twice as bright as the old fixtures, and their layout and design are far more efficient. The weird bump-out in the front wall is to create a flat surface for the whiteboard (with some storage space underneath, interrupted by a column).
Here’s the other first-floor classroom, located in the other “side” of the building, across the tunnel from the bathroom. Things really came together! You can see a smoke detector for the fire alarm system on the ceiling, and at the top of the wall between the door and first window, the internet system is connected!
There are a lot of nice, big closets in this building! It may sound lame, but it’s very necessary. Schools have a lot of supplies to store! That mess you see on the shelf is the internet equipment. The internet cabling goes from this point to each of the classrooms.
Staircase from the first floor to the second.
There are a bunch of cool bamboo details like this throughout the building. Also, admire that nice, sleek outdoor fixture that took us way too many hours to find.
Second-floor hallway. This is the view from the staircase. You can see the joint between the two buildings in the walkway. Also, remember how worried you were that the transition between the brick structural wall and the cement board/drywall wall would be ugly? WELL, check it out! (The structural wall is the one facing us, with orange tiles on it. Around the corner, the green-tiled area is cement board (starting after the thickness of the brick wall). Seamless!
I do love that mountain view! Even if they are mostly brown mountains. The walkway is super wide, but the thought is that they’ll put low lockers/cubbies between the columns for the kids to store their stuff.
Now we’re all the way at the end of that long hallway. These are the windows outside of the classroom above the big first-floor classroom. Please, take a moment to appreciate these windows. This is really the only building on the campus that has windows on both sides and can (hopefully) get a cross-breeze going to keep the classrooms cool. These windows also slide open, unlike most of the existing windows which are louvered and the worst thing ever… If you’ve never seen windows like that, it’s similar to Venetian blinds. They have a bunch of long, narrow horizontal panes of glass that are either rotated open to let air in or closed. I suppose it works, but my gosh those windows are a PAIN to clean.
The entrance into that same classroom. The exposed brick is pretty cool, especially on this floor where the paint isn’t orange (bit of a color overload when there’s orange paint + exposed bricks + colored tiles).
Inside. Check out all of that natural light! And the artificial lighting, of course. I’m just so happy with how they turned out. And we have acoustic ceiling tiles which I used to think were super boring but now appreciate for the acoustic marvel that they are. Without those ceiling tiles, every single surface in this room would be primarily reflecting sound, whereas the ceiling tiles help to absorb sound. As soon as multiple people are talking, that adds up to a very noisy room. Not good for learning!
This is the classroom next door, right above the bathrooms. It’s the most awkward one because of where the columns had to be placed (you can see one on the right side of the picture), but it’s still huge compared to the old rooms.
Okay, now we’ve left the above-the-bathroom classroom and have walked back towards the stairs. In this picture, the stairs are to our right, the other classrooms/hallway to our left. We’re standing on top of the tunnel.
Here we also have all of those not-so-attractive-but-necessary building elements, like the fire extinguisher, emergency light, and siren/strobe for the fire alarm system. I’m just happy that the fire alarm system came together!
The final second-floor classroom (through the doors on the right in the previous picture).
Staircase down to the first floor or up to the third.
Here’s another bamboo screen. It may seem kind of weird, but it’s there because the old building has a window on the other side. Rather than closing it in permanently, they made it so that there can be some flexibility in the future. They could replace the window with a door and connect the two buildings, or something else. Who knows? But that’s exactly why there’s a bamboo wall instead of a concrete one.
Going up the stairs to the third floor (standing on the landing and looking back the way you just walked). These bamboo pieces add some funky shadows!
The rest of the way up to the third floor… with your first glimpses of the bamboo roof!
Looking back from the top of the stairs, here’s a better view of the bamboo above.
Another mountain view!
Check. Out. That. Roof.
This is a “multipurpose” space aka who knows what it will be used for but probably lots of things.
The big challenge for Debbie and the structural engineer was creating a design that would span the entire space without needing any columns in the middle. It took some creativity (and a couple of crazy trusses), but they did it! And it looks awesome, at least in my opinion.
You can see how the bamboo pieces were all custom cut to fit together snugly. Those trusses were a big job!
This gives a good view of the trusses, plus some of the light fixtures! And that gorgeous blue box in the background is the neighborhood quinoa factory (obviously).
These columns are all crazy… #1
#2
#3
Looking back towards the stairs. In the back left is the kitchen/lab space, then there are two little bathrooms, the opening for the stairs, and a closet to store the plastic tables and chairs that they’ll someday use for multipurpose things.
And if you’re wondering what those pimples on the bamboo roof structure are, I’m afraid I’m responsible for all of them (this is why engineers and architects have problems… I know my stuff is ugly, but they don’t make invisible boxes yet). In the front, we have a smoke detector prominently featured, and then all of the lights have bright white junction boxes because that’s the only color they sell.
View facing towards the front of the property.
With all that green in the background, it almost looks like a lush and pretty place to live… Don’t be fooled, that’s just because the brown ground is cut out of the picture.
Also, a thrilling outdoor electrical outlet is visible in this picture. And an even more thrilling emergency light. Bonus points if you can spot the electrical box on the wall… it’s painted the same color, so it’s actually not the eyesore that all the rest of my stuff is.
Here’s the table/chair closet. Most exciting closet you’ve ever seen, isn’t it?
And don’t even get me started on the bathrooms! Can you say “gorgeous”? (hehehe)
Walking into the kitchen/lab
It looks so nice and neat from this angle…
…and then you look at it from here, and you’re like, “Ew, what is that mess of a box on the right side underneath the counter?” And the answer is, of course, an electrical box. Let’s all just pray that they add cabinets underneath the countertops someday so it’s hidden.
I like how you can see the other part of the roof from here. I just think it looks so cool! (Just telling you one more time, in case that hasn’t come across yet.)

So, there you have it!! What do you think? I know that it can be hard to get a feel for the building when there’s no furniture, so I have one more picture. Jocelyn’s classroom is all set up, and she sent me this after she moved in…

It looks so nice!!! I know you don’t have any concept of how small the old classrooms were, but this one is nearly twice the size. There’s still about a third of the classroom behind where this photo was taken.

I hope you find these pictures as satisfying as I do! It’s been a long year and a long project… we deserve a little satisfaction!

If you think we’re all finished now with blog posts, don’t get ahead of yourself. The building may be finished, but the blog action is just getting started! Next time, we’re off to Canta, a town in Peru that we visited for a long weekend (don’t ask me how long ago we went there… you’ll find out the embarrassing truth soon enough). From there, we’re off to do some more South America exploring! So really, the fun has only just begun.

My final days at EA were full of fun holiday activities, but I had to balance those with the work that was still going on. The construction was in full swing, and I wasn’t going to be around through completion which meant I REALLY had to make sure I had my ducks in a row before leaving.

This actually didn’t get finished until after I left, but this is that shade structure we were working on for approximately an eternity! (aka 4 months)

About one second after reviewing my to-do list, I gave up on the nice idea that I could get everything done before leaving Peru. There was simply too much to do, between finishing the drawings and organizing the documents/construction pictures/files in a somewhat intuitive way for someone else to be able to find information in the future. Instead of rushing to get it done and doing a mediocre job after working so hard to do a great job on everything else, I decided to leave the things that could be done remotely to the future… a big ‘ole gift from past-Lara to future-Lara (that present-day-Lara has been ignoring… I know, I know. I’m going to get it all done, I promise! I just know that it’s going to be a pain in the butt, and I haven’t built up the courage to face it yet. Past-Lara is always sending me the absolute worst presents. It kind of makes you want not to open them, you know?).

So, I made the electronic work second priority because I could technically do it from anywhere. That freed me up to focus on the things that I could only do while in Peru and onsite. I gathered info sheets/manuals/etc. for the products we used and scanned/filed them. I took pictures of the light fixture boxes to document exactly what was installed. I sketched a diagram to further detail the fire alarm system installation because it was happening after I left, and I was worried that the drawings alone were confusing.

These are some electrical-unrelated pictures, but enjoy anyway… They decided to put a band of colorful tiles to brighten things up and also to help protect the walls. The old building doesn’t have tiles like this, and the bottom part of the wall is covered in pencil marks and marker lines, plus it’s just really dirty from people touching it. So this should hopefully help and is easier to clean than paint. Also, check out that gorgeous emergency light above the blue/purple tiles to the right! And that black hole next to it is for a siren/strobe for the uninstalled fire alarm system. AND this is a good picture to see how the wall facing us is structural – it’s made of bricks and then stuccoed – and the one containing the window isn’t. That wall is metal framing with drywall on the inside and cement board on the outside. They look pretty different now, but the goal is for them to look the same after the building is finished. WILL THEY? That’s the real question. Tune in next time to find out! (Wow, what suspense!)
Check out those pretty windows! Debbie found some window builders in the neighborhood, and while they did a bit of prep work ahead of time, when it was time to install the windows, they were cutting glass and assembling the frames and everything onsite to make sure they fit perfectly. This one is still missing the glass on top… it’s two sliding panes so the windows can be opened.
The roofed area to the left is the kitchen/lab, and to the right with the drywall-in-progress is two bathrooms (in the front) and a storage closet (behind).
Another view of the completed part of the roof. And you can also see the only column that’s freestanding in open space. Pretty impressive that they made a bamboo design to span the entire multi-purpose space without any columns in the middle!
Second side of the roof finally taking shape! Those trusses are crazy. Also, I know I just made a big deal about no columns in the middle… Those are temporary supports.
Teamwork! One guy is sitting on a piece of bamboo while the other cuts it. Strenuous work
This is standing under the already roofed area. You can see that the other side of the roof comes in below the finished roof… which meant that a gutter was extra necessary to keep water from dripping inside… which I suppose sounds basic, but you’re not guaranteed a gutter on these buildings, and the ones that exist are basically half of a PVC pipe running along the edge of the roof.

My electrician best friend, Hector, and I strategized a few things that weren’t totally worked out during the design phase. I’ll admit that I was kind of hoping they would vanish or solve themselves, but that’s generally not how things work, especially when you’re the only one responsible for that aspect of the project.

I learned the most during this phase of the project. As I spent more time with Hector and understood more about how everything fits together, I realized where I should have designed things differently or been more particular about their installation. If I ever design a building in Peru again, I will do a MUCH better job!

One of the things I had been avoiding was figuring out the internet situation, but this was mostly because I knew it was going to be a mess. Let me try to explain, and if it sounds totally ridiculous, you’re understanding it correctly. The property has four phone lines used for internet. Ideally, we would get a new line for the new building, so we called the internet company to ask about doing this and they sent a guy to talk through it with us. Here’s the gist of the conversation:

 

Me and Hector!

Internet man: Well, we aren’t selling new phone lines for internet because we’re focusing on fiber.
Me: Okay, then can we get a fiber connection?
Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here.
Me: When will it be available?
Internet man: Sometime this year. Maybe. We hope. (Our translator Dina was there and said not to put much faith in this claim because they’ve been saying the same thing for years.)
Me:
Internet man: There’s also another option! This is good for businesses and other clients who need more reliable service. It’s better than fiber and comes with any service or troubleshooting included.
Me: Okay, can we get that?
Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here.
Me: Soooo… what do you suggest we do?
Internet man: Wait for fiber to get here. It should be this year. Probably. I think.

Promising (not). I did at least get him to help me decide what to do for the cabling within the building. My goal was for it to work well whether it’s connected to a phone line or (maybe someday eventually) fiber and won’t be immediately outdated. Then, Hector helped to ensure that we were buying the right cables and connections and such.

To give you some context… The building along the right is the current classroom building, and the second floor has rooms where teams stay when they visit.
Our new building is straight ahead (obviously), and the already-roofed part is somewhat hidden behind the existing building.
And… we have lights on the roof! I actually didn’t get to see this… Debbie sent me this picture a few days after I left. But it’s very exciting!!

Hector also installed the projector mounts, ran an HDMI cable from each projector location to a wall box at outlet height, and installed the HDMI outlets so there’s not just a cable sticking out of the wall. We didn’t order these outlets until later in the construction process, and I didn’t realize that they’d need more space in the wall than a typical outlet… so Hector literally drilled through the backs of the boxes into the brick wall to make extra space. I’ll admit, sometimes Peruvian construction methods frustrate me, but the “make it work” attitude came in handy in this situation!

I also made a teeeeny mistake with the wire colors. Basically, you’re supposed to use three colors in a certain order in the panel, and I mixed up the order. Luckily, Hector realized it before he connected the wires, and after a brief panic, I realized that it could be fixed by moving the circuits around in the panel. Phew! But, that changed the circuit numbers which meant that every single drawing had to be updated to match… it was a big headache, but crisis (mostly) averted!

The HDMI outlet is to the right, looking all nice and clean and not indicating in the least the chaos happening behind. So you plug another HDMI cable into your computer and then into the wall, and you’re connected to the projector!
Debbie took this picture while walking by at the beginning of the wire color crisis, not realizing that at this moment, my brain was turning into dust and I was trying to disappear into the ground. Clearly it wasn’t going well.

The building still had a ways to go when I left. The major things: the roof wasn’t finished yet, and they weren’t planning to paint until January which meant that neither Debbie nor I have seen the actual completed building. It’s a little funny.

Me and Debbie with our building on the day that I left! I think this is actually the only picture we ever took of the two of us with the building.

NEXT TIME… completed building pictures coming your way!! I’m VERY excited about this.

I think I’ve maybe had half a second to catch my breath since I last wrote. My gosh, the last four weeks have been insane. I don’t even know where to begin… The first two weeks were busy, but that was expected. We had two church groups come back-to-back, and team weeks are always crazy and exhausting. Then, instead of having a chance to recover, Debbie and I had to scramble to put together up-to-date drawings of the entire property. I’ll talk about that later. Let’s start with the team weeks so I don’t start rambling. This will be long enough as it is.

Staff, team #1, and kids (pic by David Espinoza)

The first team was from Gateway, the same church that sent the last team we had in July. I had met the two team leaders on the July trip, so it was both fun to see them again and to meet the new people who came with them. I was nervous going into the week because I was totally in charge of the service projects for the first time (Debbie was still at least somewhat involved during the other team weeks), but it ended up being great! It was nice to have more autonomy and be able to adjust the plans based on how things were going without worrying about overstepping.

The team only had 8 people which, I have now decided, is the perfect size for a team. It was enough people to get things done but not so many that I had to manage like 20 projects at once. I had people working on just a few different things, giving me time to slow down and help with the work rather than having to constantly run from group to group to supervise.

One of the women is a hairdresser and gave everyone haircuts! Sooo… look at my hair! So long!
Andddd… it’s gone!
I’m donating it, so I laid my little ponytails out in my room to dry. Does this make me look like a psychopath?

They did a ton of little things here and there, but the big project of the week was to build a bamboo shade structure in the front entry area where the kids wait for their parents to pick them up and parents wait for meetings and such. In the summer, the sun is brutal, so without any shade, it’s not the most welcoming environment. I had some big dreams for how much work we could accomplish each day… I actually thought we would have the structure assembled by the end of the week. Ha! We only got as far as finishing the foundations and cutting/prepping the bamboo for the structure. Still, they did an awesome amount of work, and it was super precise which is the most important thing.

Patio pre-shade structure. Here we have the footer locations marked out, but my gosh I wish I had taken a picture of myself inside one of the foundation holes we had to dig. They were intense. Thankfully, the construction crew let us use their concrete mixer for the foundation concrete because otherwise, I think we would have finished one per day. Each hole took about 4 wheelbarrows of concrete to fill! Can you imagine hand-mixing that? NOT fun.
Cutting the bamboo for the shade structure
Bracing the columns. This is as far as team #1 got with the assembly.
Jocelyn, me, Julie, and Debbie. The team made these shirts to help fundraise for their trip, and they brought some for the whole staff!
One of the side projects: The endless job of fence-wickering. We use wicker, the same stuff they make wicker furniture out of, to help secure the posts, and the wrapping takes FOREVER. Approximately. (pic by David Espinoza)
Mural touch-ups! (pic by David Espinoza)

At the end of the week, it was sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but we had only four hours to mourn them in the airport food court before the next team arrived. Julie, Jocelyn, and I said hello to the next team with as much enthusiasm as our “it’s 1:30AM and we’ve been at the airport for five hours after an entire day out” selves could muster (for me, it was “not much”).

Lima day adventures!
We walked around the hipster/artsy part of Lima, Barranco, where there are a bunch of funky murals.
Pretty flowers in Lima!
The guy at the gelato place put so much effort into molding this beautiful swirl that I felt like I had to take a picture.

And so, team week #2 began! We got permission to skip the usual Sunday activities because we “looked like death” (accurate, I’m sure) and spent the day sleeping instead. That night, it was right back to work. Thankfully, the second team was similarly fun, small, and easy to work with, so what could have been a disaster of a week was actually pretty good. They kept working on the shade structure from the week before and got the frame assembled! They also rebuilt an entire bamboo fence and planted some ground cover… it was a busy week!

With the columns all braced, we filled up the bottoms with concrete to tie them in to the foundations. (See me in the back? With the hat and my fresh haircut.) (pic by David Espinoza)
Here’s the current status of the shade. We have to get a little more bamboo to finish off the structure, it needs to be treated with the insect stuff and varnished, and then we’ll put the shade on top… soooo we’re kind of close to being finished? ish?
Disassembling the fence to clean the posts and get rid of the termite-ridden pieces. (pic by David Espinoza)
Cleaning the fence posts (pic by David Espinoza)
We ended up having to replace more posts than expected, so we had to run to buy more bamboo in the middle of the week. How do you transport 6m bamboo in a van? Well, it looks something like this.
This is the view from my seat where I held onto the bamboo for dear life and prayed that it didn’t slide out of the back… and that I didn’t slide out of the back with it. We all survived.
Here’s the fence! You can see the new, green bamboo mixed in because that’s all we could get at the store, but it should dry out in a few weeks and will all be the same yellowish color. We still have a bunch of finishing work to do before the fence is truly complete, but since it looks pretty good, I’m pretending that it’s mostly done.
Planting more green! (pic by David Espinoza)

We all hibernated the weekend after they left. I felt like my brain was complete mush, plus I was physically exhausted from running around for two weeks (this is me giving you excuses for why I didn’t write an update that weekend).

We managed to sneak off to the beach for a couple hours one Saturday morning. You know, in an attempt to fool the world into thinking we have lives outside of work.
Crab!

I would have loved to take it easy the next week and use that time to pull myself together a bit, but NOPE! No time for that! Like I mentioned before, Debbie and I had to update our drawings for the entire property to submit to the municipality. They’ve submitted drawings before, but the electrical drawings were a disaster. Besides the fact that I don’t think they look very nice, a lot of the information on them isn’t even correct! Or it doesn’t even make sense which gives me very little confidence in the people who are approving them. I suppose we could have just submitted similarly incorrect drawings again, but if you think I could ever convince myself to do that, you don’t know me at all.

And so, the next week and a half were spent mostly on that. Thankfully, the deadline kept getting pushed back. I thought originally that I was going to have 1 day to finish them. Now, I laugh that I ever imagined that was possible. I mean, I could have had SOMETHING done, but it would have been embarrassing. Instead, I spent 7 days squinting at my computer screen and tearing out my hair trying to understand the current drawings. Oh, and we had another surprise day off of school/work for All Saints’ Day… but I had to spend the day working because of the darn drawings. (Don’t talk to me about this as I’m still a smidge bitter.)

As a result of my weeklong vigil in front of my tiny computer screen, I’m pretty sure my brow is now permanently scrunched, and I have a hunchback and arthritis in my hands (no, I’m not dramatic at all. NEVER). So that’s good. But, what’s actually good is that my drawings are now finished, they look beautiful, and they’re kind of correct. And still kind of not correct, but it would take weeks of poking around the property and head scratching to fix all of the problems. (That’s one of my goals for the rest of my time here.)

Want to hear the worst story ever? Great, here it goes: Once upon a time, someone (who will remain nameless) dropped a mercury thermometer. It broke. The next 1.75 hours were spent cleaning up the mercury and estimating how many years the experience was cutting off the ends of our lives. The moral of the story? Don’t drop your mercury thermometer. And if someone else does, get outta there ASAP and don’t make the mistake of being a good friend and volunteering to help with the cleanup.

Finally, through all of this, the building project has gone on. We have walls! The drywall team has been hard at work putting up the interior walls, plus the few exterior walls that are drywall. They’ve also been installing the acoustic ceilings in the classrooms! We have a carpenter building the doors and window people making the windows. And the regular construction crew is still hard at work on the stucco and pouring the finished floors. We hired an electrician, and he’s getting ready to start pulling wires next week! And we went on a shopping trip to buy the classroom lights and some others, plus wire and outlets and eeee!! This is really happening!!! I’m excited. I’m terrified. I’m excited. I’m terrified. I’m only here for another month. AHHH!

Anyway, enjoy these pictures, and hopefully I’ll talk to you soon!

Putting up the insulation in the new drywall walls!
THIS is why you always design closets into your building… so that you don’t have to run a thousand electrical tubes up the side of a column into a single box of chaos like this one will most definitely be (also because never has anyone ever complained about having too much storage). Thankfully this is going to be hidden behind some drywall, so after it’s closed in I can pretend that it’s not such a disaster.
Remember how last time I told you about Milton and my horrible experience draining bamboo after it was treated in the bug-killing chemicals? Well, this is the solution to that problem. Much better than having to drain each piece one at a time!
It’s starting to shape up! New walls and some stucco
More stucco. Isn’t it looking good??
Bam! It’s like a real building now! Totally closed in (well, besides the unfinished windows and doors… and the missing roof… but you know what I mean).
View of the nice, stuccoed front
First floor classroom. Now, it’s just missing the tile floor… and the windows… and the lights… and the door. But like, it’s almost there.
Second floor classroom. Look at how pretty it looks with the ceiling tile in and the nice big window holes!
This is what 45 classroom light fixtures look like in the back of the van. Also here (but hard to see) are about 15 rolls of wire, 50 outlets, 20 switches, a few other light fixtures, and various odds and ends. Things are happening! It’s becoming too real!

Can you believe September is over??!! I can’t, and I also can’t say that I’m very happy about it. It was a great month! Everything was normal – no crazy modifications to the schedule or extra things to worry about. The rest of the year isn’t going to be quite as calm. I know that the next few months will fly by even more quickly than September, and I’m trying to keep myself from stressing out about it! We have two team weeks in October, scheduled for consecutive weeks. November will be filled with the chaos of trying to pull together the finishing touches on the building and freaking out that I’m going to run out of time to do everything on my list. And I’m only going to be here for about a week and a half of December, so it barely counts at all. Ahh!

I could drag you with me down the black hole of swirling thoughts that keep my stress level at a steady higher-than-it-needs-to-be, but instead, I’ll spare you and talk about the last few weeks since I haven’t been doing very well with my “weekly” posts (a consistent theme, it seems).

The building. My gosh, the building. We have all three floors in place, and they’re starting to work on the finishes! EEK! There’s still definitely a lot to do, but the general shape of the building is there, and it’s huge. This is the only building on the property that has a 3rd story, and it’s so cool how much more of the neighborhood we can see from up there! It’s probably not cool for our neighbors because now we can see over their walls, but oh, well. Our one neighbor has a 2nd-floor balcony facing our property, so it’s not like privacy was ever much of a thing around here.

This is about where we left off last time… plus a little formwork on the second floor.

Over the next few weeks, it’s going to start looking like a whole new building. Only the brick walls are up now, and they’ll begin working on the drywall soon which means that we’ll really be able to see what the spaces are going to look like. Currently, they look super nice and well-lit by daylight, but that’s because most of them only have two walls! On top of that, Debbie is working on finding people to build the doors and the windows, and the electrician is going to start coming more regularly to start the wiring. Oh!! And the roof! The roof is going to be supported by a bamboo structure, and we started the whole bamboo preparation process this week.

Anddd BAM! This is where we are now!

On Tuesday, I got to work early and helped Milton, the maintenance guy, get everything ready for the bamboo delivery. Debbie was at the bamboo store picking out the individual pieces of bamboo… 180 pieces of 6ish-inch diameter, 6 and 7-meter-long bamboo. Yes. 180 pieces. Together, Milton and I supervised the removal of the rubble pile on the construction site, followed by the digging of a “pool” to be used to soak the bamboo in anti-bug chemicals. Yum. Then, he and I created an area for the bamboo to be stored while it dries. When I called Debbie to tell her we were ready, she said that the delivery truck was already en route! Geez! Then we had to unload it all which, thank goodness, the construction guys helped with. Even with the help, it felt endless! So now, we have a LOT of bamboo. And it all needs to make its way to the 3rd floor eventually.

The front-end loader clearing away the rubble pile. This is the same guy who cut practically every single pipe on the property when he came to dig the foundation holes, so we were supervising him extra carefully this time. The only problem? No one remembered that there was a wastewater pipe running straight through the space where we wanted to put the pool. So yeah, that got cut (whoops!) and subsequently fixed the next day after we realized it was something important rather than just random, buried pipe scraps (because that actually is a possibility here. There’s so much junk buried on the property that you really never know what you’re going to dig up).
Ready for the bamboo! The area on the left is to store the pieces, and the “pool” on the right is to soak them in chemicals to protect against bugs.
180 pieces of bamboo! Whew!

On the topic of transporting things to the third floor… have I told you about how they move bricks there from the ground? I don’t think I have. They throw them. Yes, they THROW them. Watching them get the ceiling bricks to the 3rd floor was my favorite thing. One guy stood on the 10ish-foot-high pile of bricks… and I’m still not sure how it seemed like it never got any shorter because he was taking bricks from the pile he was standing on, but anyway… He threw them one by one to a guy standing on “scaffolding” (aka one board on a shaky metal frame) about halfway up the second floor who threw them up to a guy at the edge of the third floor who threw them to a guy in the middle of the third floor who put them in a stack. Three throws per brick. No pressure. I have a video, but Debbie told me not to post it because “it’s not really how they’re supposed to do things”. Maybe it’s not the safest in theory, but while watching them, I never felt like there was anything to worry about. I can show you the video another time.

THIS is the pile of ceiling bricks they had to throw up to the third floor. What. The. Heck.

Here are some pictures to catch you up on the progress!

Starting to build the formwork for the second-floor ceiling/third floor!!
The brick structural walls are going in as well, as you can see in the back. I’ll never get tired of seeing the building change so quickly!
Front view… they had to put up some protective netting to make sure nothing fell on any kids going to use the bathroom (which is below the netted area)
The formwork for half of the floor. They still need the second half (up to the brick wall in the back) and the area to the bottom left above the corridor.
They put in the half-wall railing along the 2nd-floor corridor! And that guy standing at the top is there to pour concrete into the column below him. It looks like he’s standing on basically nothing… and that’s fairly accurate. This is their version of scaffolding.
One of the walls on the first floor with pipes for a bathroom on the left and tubes for the internet on the right.
Same wall after the stucco job… it’s like there are a bunch of secrets hidden within this wall!
The ceiling bricks are in place!
Putting the finishing touches on the third floor before the pour. The electrical guys are working on getting the million electrical tubes into place.
The finished slab! The two bricks sticking out of the middle are for drains. We actually weren’t there during the pour (stressful) because we were at our church’s women’s conference, but we were happy to see the finished product when we got home the next day!
Exposed brick walls outside of the second-floor classrooms.
This is how they get the concrete up to the third floor for the columns. Since the concrete mixer is on the ground, they mix it down there and then send it up to the top in 5-gallon buckets on a pulley system.
Three men working on three parapet walls.

Outside of work, the last few weekends have been super fun! Since “birthday weekend”, we’ve been doing our best to put things on the schedule for the weekends, no matter how simple. The first weekend after “birthday weekend”, we didn’t go anywhere crazy or do anything elaborate, but we did take some time on Saturday to play outside. Jocelyn and I started off playing 2-square (not the most exciting game… it ends up being a social time while simultaneously bouncing a ball between us), and eventually, Julie and Debbie joined and made it a full-on game of 4-square! Everyone gets a little competitive (though probably mostly me), so it was a lot of fun. It’s kind of ideal that there are 4 of us; it’s the perfect number for nearly every game. We should take advantage of that more often!

The following weekend was the women’s conference at our church. I didn’t know what to expect, and even if I did, I think my mind would have been blown. It’s quite the production. There were over 800 people there, and not just from Peru. There were big groups from Mexico and Argentina, plus people from Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile… craziness! The weekend was full of performances and different speakers and really amazing worship. It was fun to be a part of it. And the speakers were in English with translators, so I didn’t even have to focus super hard to understand what was going on. Julie, Debbie, Jocelyn, and I stayed overnight in Lima on Friday and Saturday, and besides having a great time at the conference, it was so nice to be outside of our property walls for a change!

 

I don’t know how to even begin describing this. We were driving through Chilca on a Tuesday night when we ran into this marching band blocking the street. They were getting ready for a “toro loco” (crazy bull)… aka this dude wearing a bull mounted on a metal frame and covered in FIREWORKS. They played a song while he danced around and fireworks went off. It was ridiculous. And also kind of terrifying. You couldn’t pay me enough to wear that thing! And when it was over, the band dispersed, like that was the only reason they all gathered together. It took maybe 3 minutes total, and it was three of the strangest minutes of my life.
The staff before heading off to the women’s conference!
A picture from one of the worship sessions during the women’s conference. So many people!!!

Last weekend was actually Jocelyn’s birthday weekend (unlike the fabricated Julie-and-Lara birthday weekend), and we went to the zoo to celebrate! It’s interesting to visit zoos in different parts of the world because while the major animals are the same, there’s a ton of diversity in the other animals depending on where you are. This zoo had so many varieties of birds and monkeys because they’re all native to South America, and some of them were things I’d never seen before. The highlight of the day, though, was in the “international” section of the zoo… they had three 1-month-old baby tigers!!! EEE!! They. Were. So. Cute. I could have watched them all day. There was a huge crowd around because the obsession with baby animals is universal. I mean, how could you not love them?

BABY TIGERS!!!! Definitely the highlight.
Part of the zoo’s botanical gardens
The zoo crew! Me, Jocelyn, Vanessa, and Julie
I kept staring at these zebras, confused because I didn’t think I’d ever seen anything like them before but almost certain that it wasn’t my first time seeing a zebra. Turns out, there are three varieties of zebras. These are Grevy’s zebras which are less common than the other varieties. They also have much tighter stripes…
…as you can see. These are the more common Plains zebras which are probably the ones I’m used to seeing. What strange animals.
Sea lion blur!
Monkey island and monkey tree.
Pretty zoo landscaping.
In case you’re curious about what you’ll get if you order a hot dog at a Peruvian zoo… They put those crunchy fries on top, and the “ketchup” is NOT normal ketchup. It’s weirdly pink and doesn’t taste especially good.

Anyway, as you can see, we’ve been busy, if only because we’re making up ways to keep things interesting. But the building project is definitely heating up, I’m starting to accept the reality that we have two team weeks coming up, and we’re all bracing for a truly busy October. Let’s see how long it takes for me to write again! (Ha!)

Blowing out our ?-shaped candles

It’s been a fun couple of weeks! Ever since I got back from the States, I’ve been feeling so much more at ease and like I have some sort of control over what happens each day. I’m working on not needing to be totally in control in order to feel okay, but it is nice to at least feel like I have my feet on the ground instead of being sent this way and that by whatever wind happens to blow at the moment. I’ve pieced together a routine for the mornings and evenings during the week, and since our schedule is much more regular when teams aren’t here, I’ve actually been able to stick to it.

We’ve also been trying to be more productive with our weekends, getting out and doing things instead of rotting away in our apartment, and that’s been helping too. When all you do is work and rot, life passes by incredibly quickly. And it gets old and boring. I’m neither old nor boring, so why should I let my life be?

 

Mountains and moon
Super clear night! Check out those mountains in the background and the moon up above!

Anyway, I’m letting myself get sidetracked before I even begin! Work has been 1 part fun and 1 part tedious. The fun part is the construction! Two weeks ago, they finished laying out the bricks and the conduit (for the electrical wiring) and everything for the first ceiling on Module 2. I had to check the box locations and how they ran the tubes to make sure it all matched up with my plans, and that Saturday, they poured the concrete! This isn’t the first pour they’ve done, of course, but I had the best view of this one. I went up on the third floor of Module 1 and watched from above. The pump truck came in and set up, then the concrete trucks came, and I got to see the whole pouring procedure from start to finish. It was awesome! And since I was technically on the site, I had to wear a hard hat the whole time which made me feel like a big deal even though I was literally doing nothing but taking pictures and trying to stay out of the way.

Here are some pictures so that you can experience the fun! Also, the thought has just crossed my mind that you might not find this nearly as interesting or exciting as I do, but try to imagine that you helped to design a building, have a strong case of imposter syndrome (aka I don’t feel like I’m completely qualified for the role that I’m playing) (though don’t let that worry you because I truly am confident in my design), and despite that, people are listening to you and actually doing what your drawings say… and the building is going up before your eyes. Welcome to my life and the reasons behind my super excitement!

More bricks for the ceiling
Adding the bricks in for the future floor/ceiling. This is Module 2 (I’m standing on Module 1, on the third floor, to take this picture). The area on the left side is going to be the corridor. The completed two sections of brick are a classroom.
Putting in PVC pipe for the future wiring
Working on adding in the conduit for the 1st floor lighting/fire alarm/ceiling fans and 2nd floor outlets
Lots of PVC pipes
So much conduit! This is where everything needs to go to make it back to the panel, so we have a lot of tubes coming together here.
Two of the construction guys
I was creeping around taking pictures, and the guy on the right yelled for me to take a picture of them 🙂
Nearly ready for the concrete pour!
PVC pipes for formwork clamps
Looking down into the biggest beam in our building. See those PVC pipes inside? The wood is clamped together with the help of steel bars running through those pipes, making sure that it won’t move during the pour and the beam will come out exactly as it should. Thanks to the pipes, the clamps can be removed after the concrete is in place.
Module 2 completely ready for the concrete pour
Okay, time to pour!
Pump truck unfurling its arm
This was so much fun to watch. This is the pump truck for the concrete. It has this super long arm so that it can reach every point on the floor.
Pump truck with its crazy arm
Look at it stretching across the building!
The concrete pour
This is how the pouring process goes… The guy at the bottom in the white is controlling the pump truck’s arm. The guy in the green shirt is guiding the tube to make sure the concrete goes where he wants it. Then, the two guys behind him come through with vibrators to help the concrete settle and make sure there aren’t any air pockets. The guy in the orange uses a rake to even out the surface. Finally, the guy in the back in the grey comes through with a piece of wood and smooths it out. Whew!
Nearly halfway finished
Making some good progress
Working in the final section
Just a little more!
The finished pour
Finished! (well, except for the last corner but essentially finished)
Junction boxes and conduit cut into a brick stairwell wall
Future light locations in the stairwell! This is going to be a regular light and an emergency light
Concrete-mixing station
Column-pouring day! Here’s the concrete mixing station. You can see the piles of sand and gravel next to the mixer, plus the concrete and water are nearby. Can you see the shadow Lara nearby?
Guy on a ladder with a bucket of concrete
After the concrete was ready, they put it into 5-gallon buckets for this guy to carry up the world’s most rickety ladder. He handed it to the next guy who walked it over to the guy on the “scaffolding” who dumped it into the column
Using the vibrator to get any air pockets out of the column
Module 2 columns
The new columns!
Parapet wall on the 3rd floor
The 3rd floor in Module 1 is coming together too! It’s going to have a half-wall, so that’s what you see the beginnings of here.
Parapet wall with columns
Parapet making good progress!
The building from behind
So tall! And there’s not even a roof on it yet!

Two weekends ago was a big deal, not only because the concrete pour was on Saturday morning (working on a weekend is not the best, but that was cool enough that I could get over it), but also because Julie and I declared it Birthday Weekend and created a schedule of events for Friday – Sunday. For those of you who know when my birthday is, this may seem strange… because it’s in December. Same with Julie’s. BUT, ever since we realized that no one is going to be around during our actual birthdays, we’d been talking about having a joint half-birthday party. Well, that would have been in June, and June was a busy month. And so was July. But now, things have settled down a bit, and what better way to celebrate than with a 2/3 birthday party! (Interestingly enough, not my first 2/3 birthday party. I used to throw those every year in high school… but that’s a story for another time.)

Neighborhood mountains
We had a nice, clear day for once. Look at how pretty the mountains look!

We didn’t go TOO crazy with the event planning because no one is going to sign up for an all-consuming not-actually-your-birthday weekend. So, this is what we ended up with for the schedule of events:

Friday night – pancake dinner followed by a bonfire dance party (including s’mores because why else even bother with a fire? Certainly not because we just like smelling like smoke.)

Bonfire and s'mores!
Post pancakes, mid-dance party/s’mores-making

Saturday – concrete pour (not an official part of the birthday events, but part of the schedule nonetheless), hike to the green mountains near the neighborhood (same thing we did the weekend before, but it was such a nice break that we wanted a repeat), eat cheesy bread (the easiest way to make a good day into a great day), and watch the first half of North and South (a fantastic 4-part mini-series based on a book by Elizabeth Gaskell)

Selfie in the green mountains
The hiking crew! Me, Debbie, Julie, Jocelyn, and Dina and her daughter Rachel
Funky cacti surrounded by green
Weird green desert
Me with the green mountains
Such a pretty view!!
Green mountain view
Seriously, how much better is this than brown mountains?
The girls with their backs facing the camera, looking out over the neighborhood
Debbie, Julie, and Jocelyn were all wearing different EA shirts

Sunday – church, birthday brownies, and the second half of North and South

Me lighting the second candle on our birthday brownies
Birthday brownies!
Blowing out our ?-shaped candles
Make a wish! Do you like our candles?
Me and Julie with our brownie "cake"
The “birthday” girls

The weekend was a great success! Debbie and Jocelyn even obliged our request for presents and gave us chocolate bars and mini-Oreos. And they sang to us and let us blow out candles even though we hardly earned it. It doesn’t get much better than that! Everyone who participated in any or all of the events said that we need to do it again sometime, so we’re currently in the process of assigning every remaining weekend to someone’s birthday celebration. It’ll probably be Julie and my turn again in November. Kidding! But it was fun having an agenda for the weekend, and I think we all realized that we need to keep planning things to look forward to, or else time will go by without a passing glance.

Playa Yaya
This past weekend was slightly less eventful, but we dragged ourselves out of the house to the beach! (The beach looks kind of nice in this picture, but don’t be fooled. It’s pretty gross, to be honest, and you couldn’t pay me enough to go swimming in the water.)
Me laying in the flowers

I’m back in Peru! I got in late last Monday night and spent Tuesday wrapping my head around the fact that they poured another floor while I was gone. That’s right, we have a 2-story building now! And even though there are no walls on the third floor, we can walk up there and see what the view is going to be like when it’s finished (the other buildings on the property are only two stories or less, so this is a new experience for us). Essentially, all the third floor means, view-wise, is that we will be able to creep on our neighbors exceptionally well. Like the ones next door who have a pool that we’re all very jealous of (though to be fair, we already knew about that thanks to the drone).

Mountains from the 3rd floor
3rd story views
View of the new building from behind
As you can see, we have two stories on the left (Module 1) and one story on the right (Module 2). The existing bathroom building is in the middle (with the bricks piled on top).
Construction site
With our new view from the “3rd floor”, you can get great pictures of the rest of the property. Here’s the construction site, and at the top of the picture, you can see the septic gardens (top right) and the equipment/workshop building (top center).
Concrete mixing area
Here’s the area where they do the concrete mixing (bottom left). You can see the piles of different materials, and they usually have the mixing drum right in the middle. The long, bamboo-fenced area running along the top of the picture is where we store a lot of construction materials (for maintenance and stuff, not for the actual construction project). And you can kind of see the neighbors’ pool deck.

As I was saying, the construction has made big strides since I left. I was a little sad to miss out on some of the fun, but no need to get too upset about it because there’s still much to do. Now, they’re starting to work on the first-floor ceiling on the other side of the building (Module 2). I wasn’t super involved with the foundation phase up until they started the ceilings, but now they’re finally installing electrical-related things which means I have more to do! As they’re laying things out, I’m making sure that everything is in the proper location and that it’s going to work the way I designed it. It’s crazy getting to see it all come together!

Ceiling scaffolding
There’s nothing like a good scaffolding forest…
Looking through the roof supports at the existing building
Standing in the second floor hallway looking towards the new building… these buildings are going to be connected when we’re finished!
Module 2 in progress
Ceilings coming soon! The beginnings of the ceiling for the first floor on Module 2!
Boards covering half of the Module 2 classroom
Halfway there!
Module 2 from above
Adding in the steel for the beams
Junction boxes on Module 2
You can see the little, white electrical boxes sitting on top of the wood. Those are for the lights, ceiling fans, and smoke detectors in this classroom.
Stack of bricks on the ceiling formwork
Nearly ready to start adding the bricks!
Looking up at the ceiling
This is what the ceiling scaffolding/formwork looks like underneath after the bricks are added. Between the bricks, above where the wood planks are, is the poured concrete.

I’ve also had fun getting to be somewhat hands-on in the construction process. For example, the electrician came last week to direct the construction crew on where he needs tubes for the electrical wiring, and first, he and I walked around and made sure that we were happy with the locations of the devices. I chalk-marked the walls in the stairwell showing where I want the lights, and he and I talked through some locations for the electrical boxes. This is way more than I would be involved with on a job in the States. There, the engineer essentially just shows the way they want the system to work and then leaves the details to the electrician. Here, I had to include much more installation-related information on my plans, and now, I’m getting to see it all through. How cool!

Me and the electrician on site
Me talking to the electrician and looking very official in my hard hat (though not wearing appropriate footwear).
One of the guys standing on a board spanning between a ladder and a water drum
Do you like this work platform? Very safe… Don’t worry, he’s not doing anything dangerous… just using a saw to cut the channels in the brick wall for the conduit
Box and conduits set into a wall
Nice and ready for some wires!
Mason putting stucco on the wall
Applying the stucco
Half of the wall with stucco, half still brick
Stucco job in progress
Mason smoothing out the stucco
The mason working on the stucco. I’m still not quite sure how he manages to get it from this lumpy mess to completely smooth. He’s using that piece of metal in his hands to level it out a bit, but that seems like a very long process
Finished stucco wall
Smooth!

Besides the construction, things have been nice and chill since I got back… well, with the exception of actually getting back into the country. I had a little scare in the airport on the way in because I’ve already overstayed my welcome for the year. You can technically only stay for 90 days each year without additional paperwork. When the lady at immigration told me I had already exceeded my allowance, I was worried that they were going to put me right back on a plane home! But thank goodness they let me back in, only giving me a 30-day visa instead of a 90-day… which just means that I definitely can’t leave the country again this year until I’m sure that I’m ready to be gone for good, and when I do leave, I’m going to have to pay 60-days’ worth more for the exit fee (that’s the punishment for overstaying your visa, a fee that accumulates for each day beyond your allowed stay).

Aside from that whole mess, though, things have been good. I’m not feeling overwhelmed or overworked (yet). I’m happy to be back working on the project. It’s been a fun week of hanging out with the roommates and getting back into some good habits. I think my trip home came at just the right time, and now I’m back and feeling ready to have a strong finish to my time here.

I want to make the most of the time I have left, so I’m trying to be more proactive about doing things on the weekends. On Saturday, Julie, Jocelyn, and I went on an adventure walk (aka a hike, but Julie thinks that doesn’t sound fun enough). The mountains near where we live are usually nice and brown, adding some extra brownness to the rest of the brown of the desert landscape. Since it’s been such a humid and misty winter, some of the mountains have turned green! I don’t know how so many little plants managed to spawn in such dusty ground, but I’m not upset about it! From a distance, the mountains look like they’ve just gone a bit moldy.

Road cut out of a brown mountain
Spot the moldy mountains
A half-green, half-brown mountain
How weird is that line between green and brown??

We’re starved for green landscapes here, so we decided to take advantage of this favorable development and investigate. What does that entail exactly? Well, we had to cross over one row of brown mountains before getting to the green ones, so we looked for a path that didn’t seem too exhausting. We walked from our property through our neighborhood and the next one until we got to the foot of a low point between two peaks. I thought maybe that would mean it was easy to cross over. No. I was wrong (rare occurrence, but happens every so often).

It wasn’t “easy”, but we made it over after nearly 30 minutes of walking up a mountain slope that might as well have been vertical. Seriously, it had to be at least a 75-degree incline. And then we had to walk around the mountain on a skinny, slanted path, only one foot-slip away from a tumble all the way down the steep mountainside. The verdict? Not the best route we could have taken, but live and learn!

 

Climbing up the mountain
Julie and Jocelyn having so much fun…
The neighborhood from the top of the hill
The neighborhood!
Selfie at the top
We made it!… to the top of the “gap” between mountain peaks
Jocelyn walking on the little path
The long, winding path around the mountain
Selfie in the wilderness
Our discussion topic at this point: “When I imagine the wilderness, it looks something like this.”

After that, though, it was heavenly! We learned that the moldy green is mostly wildflowers! There was practically a line separating the brown from the green, and after we crossed over, it didn’t matter how steep the path. We were too busy raving about the smell of plants in the air and the fact that there were actual flowers (no irrigation system required!) and marveling at how much happier we felt being surrounded by green life instead of brown dust. It was magical.

Pretty green mountains
It’s like we’re not even in Chilca anymore! (spot the Jocelyn)
Green mountain selfie!
Just happy to be here, breathing in the fresh, plant-supplied air
Green mountains
It doesn’t even look real!! Such a vibrant green
Me laying in the flowers
Just happy to be here
Mountain color progression
Contrast… Green to less green to less green to BROWN
Cactus in a field of green
Despite the addition of these new plants, we’re still in the desert!
More green
Can we live here? I’m moving.
Line of identical little houses
We walked through this weird little neighborhood on our way home. This is what they usually do when they’re marking out plots to be sold. You get this wonderful patch of dirt and this completely customized hut with your purchase!
Little, purple flowers
Flowers!!! SO MANY FLOWERS!
More purple flowers
Can’t. Get. Enough.

On top of all of that, and I’m sure that I cannot possibly convey the extent of my excitement for this next part, we discovered a new neighborhood gem. One of my favorite things to eat here is cheesy bread… exactly what it sounds like. Cheese + bread = Lara dream meal (I’m very easy to please). Our usual cheesy bread supplier is at least a 15-minute drive away, and it’s been closed for the last couple months with no explanation. BUT we recently discovered that there’s another cheesy bread place just a 15-minute WALK from where we live. We walked there to check it out at the end of our hike, and they have now been quality approved by us. This is life-changing! (no exaggeration… it doesn’t take much) I’ve never meant it more when I say that the future is looking bright!

Cheesy bread
Cheesy bread!!! This one has ham in it too
Us with an American flag at the beach volleyball court

Whew! It’s been a while since we last talked, but for once, it’s not because I’m just super far behind on updating you. This time, the delay is because of a much-needed vacation! I’m actually in the States at the moment, and I have been for a couple of weeks now. I’m headed back to Peru soon, but it’s been a very refreshing time catching up with friends and family.

The last two weeks in Peru before I left were fun and busy. During the first week, we had another mission team visiting, this time from Kansas City, Missouri. Like I said in my last post, this was an extra exciting team week for me because the team included a couple of electricians!! I spent the two weeks before the team came trying to get everything ready for their service projects, and the electrical projects added some extra complexity into the usual planning. It was cool, though, knowing that I was going to get to watch everything come together. I guess it’s kind of the same with the building project, but that seems like a much more overwhelming situation whereas the team projects feel manageable.

Brown brown brown neighborhood
The neighboring neighborhood (hehe) where a bunch of our families live. You can see some of the team members climbing up the hill!

The demographics of this team were also a little different than what is typical. Often, there are a few team members in their teens, maybe one person in their 30s, and everyone else is 40s and up. This team had the whole range of ages represented, but there were more 30-somethings than the usual. It felt a bit like hanging out with my friends from home which was a lot of fun.

The team with our neighborhood in the background
The team!
The team's boat heading out to sea
Headed out on the boat ride! I haven’t been joining the teams for the boat ride recently because last time I went, the water was really rough and I mostly spent the ride with my eyes closed trying not to puke. Not my favorite feeling.

On top of all that, Betsi’s (a 3-week intern) mom came with the team, and Betsi filled her in on how much we like brownies (we’re basically in a constant state of desperate for anything that feels like home). She brought 5 BOXES of brownies with her. Talk about an MVP. They made three of them during the week and left two for us! I know that this probably doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but just trust me. There’s nothing better than having our weekly Sunday movie night with a warm brownie on the side.

Selfie with Dina and Betsi
Me with my friends Dina (she’s a translator at EA) and Betsi

In general, it was a great week. The brownies didn’t hurt. Also though, it was fun working with everyone, they got an amazing amount of work done, and the results of their hard work were super visible. For example, the property has felt very dark since the construction started because they took out some of the exterior lights, and there weren’t very many to begin with. The electricians installed a bunch of new lights outside, so the night after they put them up was the first in a long time where I was confident that I wasn’t going to unexpectedly walk into/trip over anything while walking around the property. Imagine that!

Electricians at work
The electricians installing some switches for the irrigation pumps we have underground
Disassembling the temporary roof on the bathroom
There’s been a “temporary” roof over the bathroom building for the last 5 years, but it needed to be removed because part of the new building is going on top!! The team helped to disassemble it. This new building is getting VERY real!
The bathroom without its roof
No more roof! And within an hour, the construction team was already storing materials up there… probably not the best idea structurally to have stacks of bricks on a roof not designed to hold them… but no one else seemed to think it was a problem sooo here we are.
Parade in Chilca for Peruvian Independence Day!
Colorful Barranco buildings
Lima sightseeing with the team!
Friends!
Jocelyn, me, Betsi, and Julie in Lima

I was the most excited about the lights along the sidewalk. They’re the first lights that I’ve picked out that I haven’t just felt neutral about. Usually, I’m picking things that are simply functional. These are functional, AND I think they look cool. They turned out exactly how I hoped, and the fact that we found lights that were actually what I was looking for is a miracle in itself.

Linear lighting underneath the walkway roof shade
The new walkway lights!! Aren’t they cool? (Feel free to keep your opinion to yourself if you don’t like them.)
Pump house with a new over-door light fixture
This is also the best thing… The front of this building used to be completely dark, so good luck trying to find the keyhole to unlock the door. But now there’s a light right above the door! And it’s also overgrown with the passion fruit vines, but that doesn’t matter for lighting the keyhole.

I’m going to totally overuse the word “exciting” in this post, but I’ve accepted it and you should too. Do you know what else was exciting? The construction! GUESS WHAT? We have our first ceiling!! It’s crazy because now I feel like I can really begin to imagine what the new building is going to look like. It’s the ceiling for the first floor on module 1, and that’s the side of the building that’s adjacent to the existing 2-story building. There’s a railing between them still, but you can climb over it and move from construction site to existing building. It’s awesome.

In the process of preparing to pour the floor/ceiling, they put in the electrical conduit (the tubes they’ll run the wires through) for the lights on the first floor and the outlets on the second floor. I had to dimension my drawings… talk about stressful! I had to make the exact final decisions about where things should go, and now there’s no changing my mind because it’s literally set in concrete.

Getting the ceiling ready for concrete
Almost ready to pour concrete! The big brick area is over/under classrooms. The corridor is the bricks to the left. The stairs are the bottom right where there is SO MUCH steel
Formwork in place for the stairs
Future stairs!
Electrical conduit zig-zagging the future ceiling/floor
This mess is all of my electrical conduits. Not quite the same way it would look in the States… Debbie and I went and checked to make sure that everything was in the right place before it was time to pour the concrete.
Ceiling with tubes in place
It looks like someone threw a handful of giant spaghetti at the roof and then decided to use that as a guide for the tube placement.
Pouring the ceiling
Pouring the ceiling!!!! We had two concrete trucks bring the material, and it was crazy how quickly it went compared to when they’re hand-mixing it
A dude with a board texturizing the top of the concrete
I was totally fascinated by the whole process. This guy came by after they made sure there were no air pockets in the pour and finished it off
Wet concrete on the stairs
Stairs!
Almost finished pouring the concrete
Just a little bit more…
Module 1 second floor!
The next day… voila! New floor!
Debbie using a hose to water the concrete floor
Debbie watering our new concrete floor to help it cure
Module 1 second floor with the beginnings of a wall and some columns
Wasting no time after putting in the floor… it took one second before they were working on the walls and columns for the second floor!
Two brick walls on the second floor
I love how quickly the walls go up
Finishing the second brick wall
Almost there!
Back view of Module 1 and the bathroom building
It’s starting to look like an actual building!

Since I left for vacation, they’ve been working on the ceiling on the second floor. Eek! It feels like they spent forever getting set up for the first ceiling, and I wasn’t prepared for Debbie to send me a picture of them already working on the next one. I feel like I’m missing too much! But I can’t be in two places at once, and this really has been a nice break. So, who even knows what it’ll look like when I get back? We’ll be surprised together.

Oh! I almost forgot. One more exciting thing! Every four years, in the year before the summer Olympics, the Pan-American Games are held. It’s like a mini-Olympics just for countries in the Americas. This year, Peru was the host country! Julie, Debbie, Jocelyn, and I bought tickets to watch beach volleyball. I don’t think any of us were expecting much, but it was a ton of fun. We cheered on a bunch of random countries until the last match where we got to see the U.S. women beat Paraguay in the quarterfinals (they ended up winning the gold). It was cool getting to see an international competition live. Now I feel like I need to go to an Olympics someday!

Us with a Lima 2019 sign... and the "9" is cut off
We asked someone to take our picture… and this is what happened. LIMA 201!! Hahaha
Selfie with the sign
We decided we’d better just do it ourselves
El Salvador vs. Guatemala men's match
There were two courts: the “A” court with the big games, and this one, the “B” court with the losers’ bracket games. We went here first and had fun being 4 of maybe 7 people in the stands. We picked whichever country to cheer for and then screamed our heads off.
Selfie at the main volleyball court
At the main court
USA vs. Paraguay beach volleyball game
We moved closer before the USA match, and we ended up with awesome seats!
Us with an American flag at the beach volleyball court
Julie, me, Jocelyn, and Debbie with Karissa Cook of Team USA! We only saw one other group of U.S. fans, and we asked them after the game if we could take a picture with their flag. Pretty sure they were Karissa’s family because they called her over to be in the picture too (and she listened to them haha).
Rebar for the beams and the beginnings of the ceiling formwork

I feel like a broken record, but I’m going to say it anyway. Even after the team from Hudson left, the following two weeks were still chaotic. I’m sure you’re not surprised. More surprising would be if I actually said that a week was calm and relaxed. Ha! If there is such a thing as a calm week here, I have yet to experience it.

The Hudson team left on a Saturday night, and by Monday, we were already planning for the next team, coming just two weeks later. It seemed like an early start, considering we started planning for Hudson about three days before they came, but we had much more to figure out this time. This team was bringing electricians with them! We were all super excited about this, but probably no one more than I was. It’s nice to have people around who speak the same language (in this case, I’m referring to the language of electricity… hehe), especially because I’ve been trying to troubleshoot some problems, and it’s hard to do that without anyone to bounce ideas off of.

On top of that, we had a looong list of electrical projects for them to work on. It’s always exciting when people with very useful skills come, and we do our best to take advantage of their knowledge and abilities while they’re here. That meant that I had to do a lot of planning to make sure that they could work efficiently, like making diagrams showing what we wanted, figuring out how/where lights should be installed, and buying the equipment and supplies we needed to be prepared.

Besides the electrical stuff, we had a bunch of other mostly finished projects that needed to be completely finished sooner rather than later… so we were hoping that the team could get them done. Practically, I think that smaller teams are better because everyone can really get to know each other. When I’m puzzling over how we can possibly finish everything that we need to during a team week, I wish that every team had 40 people.

Sesame seed-covered cookie
Debbie and I were out shopping for supplies, and I smelled something amazing… usually the air smells like garbage, so this was an especially welcome change. I followed my nose to a little, hole-in-the-wall bakery, and Debbie asked what smelled so good. I had my doubts when the woman pointed to this cookie, but it was SO GOOD. Moral of the story: trust your nose.

Aside from the planning work, there was some extra excitement as well (I know, there’s always something extra). A few of the Hudson team members stayed for one more week to do a medical clinic, plus we had a short-term intern, Betsi, who arrived the night the team left and stayed for three weeks.

Debbie "proving a point"
It was Betsi’s birthday, so we went to buy her a cake! This is Debbie proving to me that she doesn’t need a new organization system in her purse because her car keys are “right here!” She has things from her purse under both arms and her chin while also balancing the cake box. (If you’re wondering why I’m not helping, I was already holding her water bottle and mine, some snacks we bought from the bakery, and our notebooks.)
Betsi with her birthday cake
Happy Birthday Betsi! It’s a Peruvian tradition to crack an egg on the head of the (un)lucky birthday person, but Betsi made it clear that she wouldn’t be happy. I’m with her.

The medical clinic was great! It’s run by a husband and wife, a doctor and nurse duo, plus their daughter, who have been doing this for the last few years. At this point, they have ongoing relationships with some of the patients which is pretty cool. Often, when medical groups come in, they focus on the kids in the program, but this one is primarily for the parents, staff, and people connected to them. It’s a big blessing for the people in our community to be able to visit a doctor who really knows what he’s talking about! I could tell you dozens of stories about doctor-related headaches here. It’s hard to find a doctor you can trust, and sometimes, it’s hard to find a doctor at all! Once, one of the kids had a medical problem, and the staff had to take her here, there, and everywhere to find someone who would help her. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for that to be your ongoing reality.

I only popped in a few times during the week, but it was fun to see the clinic in action. People asked questions about whatever aches and pains were plaguing them, they gave out reading glasses to people who needed them, one of the moms brought in her 1-month-old baby for a checkup… It made me so happy that all of these people could see a doctor who really cares and knows his stuff.

Illuminated waves
Night ocean views in Lima
Googly-eyed head with grass hair growing out of the top
One of the younger classes made these little seed-heads. I’m pretty sure they’re essentially pantyhose stuffed with dirt and seeds. Once the “hair” started growing, they stopped looking like creepy potatoes and started looking kind of cute! And hilarious. Do you like this one’s hair tie?
Googly-eye head with a haircut
This one is a little disturbing… someone cut his hair and now he’s sitting on a bed of his own hair clippings. Eek.

In construction news, THINGS ARE HAPPENING! I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that the building looks more and more like an actual building each day… I’m still in “foundations” mode where I think that we’re going to move at a snail’s pace for the rest of forever, and we’ll never make it above ground. Silly me because like I said in my last post, we have walls! And now we have the beginnings of windows! And WE HAVE FLOORS! And they’re working on making it so that there are CEILINGS too!

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Duh, Lara. You’re just listing all of the parts of a building. You knew that they were building a building, didn’t you?” YES, I DID. But seeing it come together right in front of me is a whole bunch of insanity. And now, take a gander at the pictures and please also be awed by the fact that what was once a hole in the ground is now actually starting to look like something that could be recognized as a building.

Module 1 with completed brick walls
Finished walls in Module 1!
Module 2 with new walls
More walls in Module 2! And you can see the wooden formwork for a concrete bench in front of the building
Wall and columns in Module 2
After they finished the brick for this wall, they poured the columns so that the entire wall/column structure is working together.
Brick wall with a column in the middle
Here’s one of the wall-integrated columns.
Window holes in Module 2
This is how they frame out the windows in a brick wall. They basically pour mini-columns on the sides and frame out the top and bottom with steel and concrete.
Module 2 with formwork around the mini-columns
These are the same windows, now with the formwork for the concrete.
Window hole with concrete surrounding it
One of the finished window frames on Module 1. I’m so excited about these windows! These classrooms are going to have way more natural light than the other rooms we have.
Module 2 walls
The bench has been poured! (See above the blue tarp) and you can see the window wall going up in the background
The top 2/3 of this wall is going to be exposed brick, and the bottom 1/3 is going to be covered. Can you see the difference? The brick pattern on top is different, and they clearly put a lot more effort into making sure it looks nice and neat.
Freshly poured concrete floor in Module 1
MODULE 1 FLOOR!!! It’s like a real room now! They were still in the process of pouring the back of the room in this picture.
Construction guys preparing concrete for the floors
The concrete mixing station. For big pours, they’ll call a concrete truck, but even for these floors, they mixed the concrete themselves using this concrete drum. Concrete, gravel, water, sand, repeat. Pour days are always VERY long, and I’m sure they’re exhausting.
Ground level view of the new floor
This is just the sub-floor, so there’s going to be another layer of concrete on top of this… but we have a floor!! Can you tell I’m excited?
Floors in Module 2
Floor in Module 2! There’s a floor inside the classroom, plus they poured the walkway outside.
Concrete floor in the future staircase
Future staircase! It’s cool to see everything starting to take shape.
Sticks holding up some planks
Next step: ceilings! This is the very beginning of the “scaffolding” they built to hold the ceiling up.
Framing out the beams
These horizontal pieces of wood are where the beams are going.
Rebar for the beams and the beginnings of the ceiling formwork
Look at the steel where the beams are! And those planks in between are going to help hold up the rest of the ceiling.
More rebar for the beams
Almost finished with the beams!
Sticks to support the ceiling
Stick forest. Jocelyn was laughing at their strategy for making the sticks the height they need to be… what do you think? Seems very stable…

There you have it! See? It’s like a real building now. Hopefully you’re not bored of all of these construction pictures because there are many more to come. I think the process is fascinating! And sometimes mildly terrifying, but mostly fascinating.

Guys working on the brick walls

I barely had a chance to settle back in after coming back from the States. My first day back at work was a Tuesday, and by the next Sunday, the next team was here. Talk about a reality check! Not only was the actual team week full of extra responsibilities, but I also did more than usual for the pre-week preparation. Debbie put me in charge of making the work schedule and supply shopping list. No pressure! She was there if I had any questions, of course, but it was still stressful because I wanted to do a good job. Thankfully, the projects for the week were pretty straightforward, and we already had a lot of the supplies we needed. That made for a short shopping list… which almost worked against me because I felt like I must be forgetting something. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t! We had everything we needed, and the projects all went just fine. Phew!)

Green mountains out of the bus window
This is the craziest thing. These mountains are all usually brown. This is right near where we live. Recently, they’ve been turning green because it’s been such a damp winter. I wish they looked like this all the time! I like calling them the moldy mountains. The so green that they’re practically glowing, though. Radioactive moldy mountains.

This team was from Hudson, North Carolina, and it was my first time having a team come with a few people I already knew! When I was here in 2017, I was around for one team week, and it was this church. The only repeat people were the two team leaders, Rick and Kirsten, but it was exciting to see some familiar faces! Last time they were here, Rick helped Debbie and me with the soldering for our robots, so they hold a special place in my heart.

I feel like I say this about everyone, but every time I say it, it’s absolutely true… this team was so much fun! Team weeks are an extra burden no matter what because there’s simply more work to do, but there are things that can be made easier by a good group of people. Everyone listened and wanted to do a good job on the work projects, and on top of that, they were all interesting and entertaining people. We have a unique opportunity in being here to build solid relationships with people from all sorts of different places and backgrounds. It’s pretty cool!

Selfie by the ocean
Me and Jocelyn by the ocean on our team sightseeing day in Lima

We kept plugging away at the work projects, and guess what? The bamboo fence is finished!!! It only took like 3.5 weeks’ worth of work. Like I said in my last post, the team from Pleasant Ridge finished putting it together, but there was still a bunch of detail work left. My Hudson fence crew helped with some final sanding, stuffed the tops of the bamboo with this material that I think is a type of plaster? (not really sure about the English translation, but we put it in there to keep the kids from sticking trash inside – hehe – and to keep bugs out), reinforced the connections between the poles and the horizontals with wire and wicker, and finally, touched up the varnish job and varnished over their wicker wrap. Things I never thought I would do in my lifetime: wicker a fence. What a ridiculous concept! So yeah, that all took seemingly forever to finish, but now it’s done and I’m a bamboo fence expert!

Half of the fence
THE FENCE!
The fence with all of its beautiful, finished details
IS FINISHED! Look at that fabulous wickering! (Wrapping pattern designed by wicker experts Lara and Jocelyn.)

One of the other work groups kept going on the trench for the septic system. That has also been an endless project, and I still have no idea what they’re doing. I assume they did a good job… they dug and dug and the hole looks different from when they started, so let’s just say that everything went well.

Wooden thing getting varnished
One of the side projects was finishing these wooden covers. They’re going to go in the ground to cover holes in the sidewalks where we have water tanks/pumps/whatever other secrets are hiding down there.

The last big project was setting up an irrigation system for some new plants with the optimistic goal of actually planting them before the team left. Have you ever installed an irrigation system? It’s not terribly easy. I mean, I suppose someone thinks that it is, but that person has probably done it a million times. All I know is, getting the system to work across the entire planter was quite the feat.

The trench the team dug for the irrigation line to the new plants
The irrigation trench

Friday morning was a stressful mess of adjusting the pipes, raising and lowering them to try to get water to flow the way it needed to. It seemed like maybe it wasn’t going to happen, but after lunch, Debbie announced that we were going to plant the flowers! I can’t take any credit for getting it to work, but I was happy to share in the fun of planting. It was exciting to see that project finally coming together, too. If you count from when they started building the planters, it’s been a work-in-slow-progress since March!

Team members digging out holes for the plants
Getting the planter ready!
The irrigation tubing in the planter
Check out that beautiful irrigation line
The flowery plants that we put in
Pretty flowers!
Cutting off the bottoms of the plant bags
Getting the plants ready to go in the ground

In other news, WE HAVE WALLS! Sorry, topic change. The construction is moving! We’re making some VERY visible progress. WE HAVE WALLS!! Enjoy these pictures of the construction site that actually is starting to look like a building! AHHHH!

Brick walls in progress
Starting to lay the brick for the walls in Module 1
Walls starting to look more wall-like
A mere 5 hours later…
Finished walls in Module 1
We might as well stop now because it’s basically finished
Module 1 with its brick walls
Like… what is this? It’s like a real building! Almost. Nearly. You can see the formwork up for the column in the back right corner.
Brick walls around the future stairwell
Future stairwell
Pouring the concrete for a column in the dark
A little late-night concrete column pouring in Module 2
Module 2 with formwork-encased columns
Here are the Module 2 columns still in their formwork
Module 2
Module 2 looking good with those fresh columns
Module 2 pre-walls
No walls
Module 2 with some new brick walls!
Anddd walls!
Guys working on the brick walls
I can’t get over how quickly this happened in comparison to everything else in the construction process thus far! We went from no walls to all of the walls in like 3 days

And so, we wrapped up another successful team week. As always, it was sad to see everyone go. This time, I was half asleep because we didn’t say our goodbyes until about 10:30PM (I started feeling like I was falling asleep around 8. Is this old age setting in?), so it wasn’t as traumatic as usual. Plus, a few members of the team were sticking around for another week to do a medical clinic for the families, so it wasn’t a full goodbye. AND we picked up a new arrival from the airport, an intern, Betsi, who is going to be here for three weeks. So even though one busy week ended, it didn’t mean things were going back to normal. I’m not sure I even know what normal looks like anymore.

Wave coming into the beack
We stopped at the beach along the way to Lima, and though I don’t think the picture shows it very well, the waves were huge!
The group walking through the pretty walk to the ocean
Sightseeing with the team in Lima
Foliage-covered walk down to the ocean
So much green! (This is all it takes to make us VERY happy. We’re very easy to please, after living in the brown desert.)
Me and a team member working on the fence

Remember when I said that I was going to post weekly blogs? Well, if you don’t, then please, continue to not remember. If you do, whoops. As you can see, things aren’t exactly going as planned. The thing is, life has been VERY busy. I know, life anywhere is busy, but there’s something about being here that makes everything a little bit harder and a little bit more tiring. Recently, with all of the teams coming through, it’s been extra hectic. When a team is here, we’re running around and trying to manage everything that goes along with that. When there isn’t a team, we’re running around and trying to catch up on the things that fell to the wayside when there was.

So, what has happened since my last update? That’s a big question! It’s been five weeks, but I’m going to focus on the first four right now because that’s basically the month of June and is already far too much to talk about in one post. The first week was another team week, two days after the previous team left. The second was a “normal” week, the third I was in the USA, and the fourth was another normal one. My gosh. Like I said, I definitely need to be better about writing updates because have a lot of ground to cover! Let’s start with the team week…

Team selfie on our way to Pucusana for lunch on the team’s first day

Last time, I told you about the team week with ACF, a Christian student ministry at Penn State. Usually, teams are here for seven days. ACF was here for TEN which is essentially a 10-day marathon. And on top of that, they’re a bunch of college kids with lots of energy (they made me feel old, but I’m surprisingly okay with it). So, at the end of that “week” we were, understandably, all feeling a bit drained.

They left on a Thursday afternoon, giving us only two days to recover before our next team arrived. This one was also 15 people, they flew in Saturday night, and we hit the ground running on Sunday. It was interesting going from the college crew to a team with more varied ages and skills. This team was from Pleasant Ridge, a church in rural PA. I can’t possibly say enough nice things about them, and it’s not even just because I’m putting this on the internet for the world to see. They were incredibly hard workers, fun and nice and interesting people, and thankfully very easygoing. It was such a joy to have them here.

Sea lions flopped on the rocks
So many sea lions! Also, the sea was INCREDIBLY choppy, and except for the moments when I opened my eyes to look at the animals and take these pictures, I was trying not to get sick from all of the rocking and bobbing we were doing. I don’t get motion sick easily, so it was an exceptionally rough ride.
Penguins on the rocks by the ocean
Can you see the penguins? I’ve never seen so many at once! Though this is kind of a terrible picture. They blend in a bit with the white poop-covered rocks.
Selfie with Pleasant Ridge at Huaca Pucllana
At an archaeological site with the Pleasant Ridge team!

We made an amazing amount of progress on the service projects! We had one crew, mostly of the younger guys, who continued the work ACF started on the trench for the septic system pipes. They worked like a well-oiled machine. I felt like every time I looked over to check on them, they had a new piece of pipe installed, the dirt filled in on top of it, and a new section of trench already dug out.

The three trench-digging guys working hard
The trench squad, doing an awesome job (Pic by EA photographer David)
Small remaining section of trench
Where the trench people left off. The pipe they installed stretches straight from here to the end of the concrete patio you can see on the left
The septic pipe route
Then, the pipe cuts diagonally along this whole stretch of dirt
The septic trench stretching across the property and under the swing set
Here’s that section before it got filled in. Look at how deep and skinny it is. I honestly don’t even understand how they managed to dig it so skinny.
The last stretch of septic pipe
And it goes underneath the sidewalk and through the grass patch… you can see exactly where it goes because the grass was removed during the digging process, and the grass around the trench died from getting stomped on so much.

My bamboo fence squad finished installing the fence posts, and at the end of the week, it finally looked like a real fence!  It’s a bit of a pain, though, because it’s one of those jobs that is 95% finished, but the last 5% of work seems to take as long as the first 95. There’s lots of tedious detail work to do after the posts are installed, and that’s slowly been getting checked off in the weeks since.

Two of the team members attaching vertical poles to the bamboo fence
The two most dedicated members of my fence team. They made it happen! They were determined to finish attaching the poles by the end of the week, and they did it! (Pic by David)
Me and a team member working on the fence
Me working with my fence post buddy! She and I worked super well together and helped with the attachment of the vertical posts when we weren’t off working on other things. (Pic by David)
The fence, nearly completed
The fence! The fence! They’re almost finished!!

Besides those two big jobs, they crossed off so many other, small jobs that have been lingering. For example, there were some concerns about the construction fencing near the school buildings because the little kids are completely oblivious, and there was a real chance of one of them wandering past and falling into one of the foundation holes on their way to the bathroom. We had some of the team members build a more substantial barrier using plywood which has been very good for the peace-of-mind of our teachers.

The soccer court with a new wooden wall
The new construction site wall separating the site from the school area. It’s so much better!
Team member taking some measurements for the construction barrier
Putting together the construction site barriers (Pic by David)
Some of the team members painting the workers' shed exterior
Finishing up a second coat of paint on the workers’ shed. (Pic by EA photographer David)
The new ties to attach the canopies to their frames
They also helped out with a project to fix the shade canopies we have. They were all falling apart, getting disconnected from the frames every other second. One of the team members and I came up with a new system for attaching them (see the ties on the corners and the middle of each side?), and so far, it’s been working!!
Julie toasting a marshmallow with her hat pulled over her eyes
At the end of the team week, we had the world’s hottest bonfire. Julie used her hat to attempt to block her face from some of the overwhelming heat while toasting her marshmallow
Me, hiding behind a chair to toast my marshmallow
We all had our own strategies for staying protected from the heat… mine involved sacrificing a chair to save myself. Just kidding, the chair survived unscathed. My fingers still nearly melted off.

Meanwhile, the construction has been steadily moving along. The foundations are finished! No more giant holes in the ground (so I guess there’s no more danger of the kids falling in, but definitely still better for them to be kept away from the site either way). It’s exciting/nerve-wracking/strange to see something that looks like a building finally starting to take shape! They poured the bases of most of the walls which means that we can actually see how big the interior spaces are going to be. I’m starting to go into a bit of a panic because this means it’s nearly time for some of my conduit to be installed (the pipes that they put the wires in), and after that, it’s concreted in which means it isn’t changing. I hope I didn’t mess anything up! Eek!!

Rather than trying to explain everything that’s happened, I think it’ll be much more effective to show you in a series of approximately 1 million pictures. So here you go! (Brace yourselves, it’s going to be a looong ride.)

Foundations of Module 1
Module 1 foundations, poured and with the formwork removed and the foundation coating painted on
Foundations with dirt haphazardly thrown on top
After the foundation hole was filled in… they didn’t do a very good job of compacting as they added the dirt, so re-doing that process correctly was a big pain.
Columns going into place in Module 1
Putting on the formwork for some columns!!
One of the construction workers leveling off the dirt in Module 1
Leveling out the ground. And check out those columns!
The dirt in Module 1 looking nice and level
Nice and flat!
Packed dirt in the footprint of our stairs
The beginnings of our staircase!

So that’s the first side of the building… and now, on to the other side:

Rebar for the building foundations
The steel for the foundations on the second side of the building (henceforth to be known as Module 2). The foundations for this building are CRAZY. Look at all of that steel!
Rebar for one of the big foundation beams running underneath the classroom
LOOK AT ALL OF THAT STEEL!
The foundations in Module 2 with the formwork for the concrete
The formwork for the foundations. This side of the building is just out of control. So. Much. Wood. So. Much. Steel. So. Much. Concrete.
Module 2 foundations setting in the formwork
After the concrete was poured for the foundations
Module 2 after the foundations were poured
A view from (kind of) above
Module 2 foundations without formwork
And the formwork was removed!
Module 2 with the beginnings of the walls in place
This is how it looked when I came back! The ground is getting filled in, and you can see the concrete has been poured for the bases of the walls!
Front-end loader moving dirt into the foundation hole
Starting to fill in the dirt in Module 2 with some help from our friend the front-end loader
Filling in the dirt!
Module 2 with some new formwork on a column
Getting ready to pour some more columns. You can see the new formwork on the middle column on the right.
Two guys working on wrapping the rebar around the columns
Working on the columns. Is this not the sketchiest scaffolding you’ve ever seen?

They have already installed the conduit that goes underground from one side of the building to the other, so I’m crossing my fingers super tight that I sized those correctly. My gosh this is a stressful situation! Why on earth did I become an engineer? I should have picked something where mistakes are more easily remedied. Not that I think I made any big mistakes (I already found and fixed a few little ones), but I think it would be abnormal for me to NOT panic at least a little about this whole thing. It’s my very first time having a design that’s all mine actually get installed. Sure, when I was working, there were a few projects where I played a large part in the design and felt a sense of ownership when I walked through the finished space, but this is different. This is me being trusted to make the major decisions and hoping more than anything that I’ve created a design deserving of that trust. No pressure or anything.

I’m rambling, I know, but I ramble when I’m nervous. I’m nervous. It’s weird because I really am confident in the work I’ve done so far, but it doesn’t matter. Until this building is finished, everything is installed, and it’s operating properly, I won’t feel completely at peace. I’m insane, I know. It’s going to be a long year of unrest, that’s for sure.

With all of that happening, it was probably a great time for me to take a break and go back to the States for my friend’s wedding. It was fun getting to catch up with friends, plus the week I had at home beforehand was so nice and relaxing. I think I needed it, and it left me feeling prepared to come back and jump right into the work ahead.

Sunset view from the airplane window
The sunset on my flight back to Peru

We had another team here about a week after I got back, so it was back to the chaos of running around and managing service projects and hoping that things go according to plan. It’s always fun to get out of the office and actually get my hands dirty, but it also makes for an exhausting schedule! I’ll tell you more about that week in my next post… which is coming soon (and by “soon” I mean definitely before another 5 weeks go by).