Freedom! Jocelyn, Julie, and I walked out of EA and practically skipped down our street towards the bus stop, ready for our weekend of fun to commence. Living and working within the walls of EA can feel a bit containing, and sometimes, even just stepping out onto the smelly, dirty street is enough to make you feel liberated.

We were headed to Ica, a town about three hours south of Chilca by car. Julie said the bus took five hours, and I was foolishly optimistic when maps said it would only take three. I thought, “So maybe it’s four on the bus. How could the bus add TWO hours to the time?” Well, I still don’t know the answer to that, but I can confirm that it took the full five hours to get there. The bus wasn’t very crowded, so we stretched out in the back row and made the most of it.

By the time we reached the bus station in Ica, we were exhausted. I think that the definitive crushing of my hope for a shorter bus ride really took it out of me. We decided to walk the 15 minutes to our hotel to stretch our legs out, and walking through the streets of Ica, I felt like a small-town girl in the big city. I don’t know why exactly, but I think that in my mind, Peru only consists of Lima and Cusco and then tiny towns like Chilca. Ica is by no means big, but it is definitely a city. The streets were bustling, and it made me feel like I could really enjoy living in Peru if I was somewhere like that (aka a real city) instead of in the boonies.

This is the Catedral de Ica, right off the main square. It was damaged in a nearly 8.0-magnitude earthquake in 2007, and the restoration work is still “in progress”… but probably mostly waiting for more money.

Saturday was our big day of fun! Julie had been to Ica before and had done a day tour that included a bunch of little stops and then, the main event, a dune buggy ride and sandboarding. This was the primary motivation behind our trip. I had learned only a few months before arriving in Peru that sandboarding was a thing there (thank you, Instagram), and when I committed to serving at EA, I decided that was my sole tourism goal for the year. And so, with time running out, off to Ica we went!

Our strategy for finding a tour was to go to the main square. That was the extent of the plan, and that was all we needed because the moment we crossed the street into the square, a guy came over trying to sell us a tour. Annoying, unless that’s what you’re looking for. We went to the tour office, checked out what was included, signed up, and paid 35 soles each (about $11). Does an $11 day tour sound too good to be true? Well, it was in Spanish… but we knew that going in. I wasn’t too concerned because for me, everything beyond sandboarding was secondary.

Casual dinosaur sighting on the streets of Ica… Also, I made a silly mistake and had gunk all over my phone’s camera lens until halfway through our tour day… so excuse the blurry pictures and give credit for any not blurry ones to Julie and Jocelyn who contributed their photos to the cause (thank you!)

The tour started with a cathedral in town named after the patron saint of Ica, Señor de Luren. The church that stands there now was just completed in 2019! So, we got to see it when it was still hot off the presses. The original church was heavily damaged in the 2007 earthquake, and the new one is, according to our guide, made entirely of concrete. No bricks. This is supposedly an “anti-seismic” design.

Señor de Luren Church
Side note, look at how pretty the courtyard in our hotel was! A little spot of green in the desert.

I wasn’t totally sold on that… I’m no structural expert and maybe it is an anti-seismic design, but she was saying it like the fact of it being concrete automatically made it anti-seismic. I don’t know that I believe her about any of it, actually. First of all, what an expensive way to build a church! Second, it seems like a strong enough earthquake would still crack the concrete. Third, what a crazy heavy roof! Bricks are usually used not just to save money but also to reduce weight. It seems silly to use all concrete. And I don’t think I was misunderstanding her because of the language barrier (especially since construction/building material vocabulary is my specialty).

This seems like a good place to make a disclaimer that I’m going to say all sorts of things in this post (like “the entire church is made of concrete”), and I make no promises about accuracy. Between the fact that guides make things up all the time and that I could only kind of understand our guide, I actually promise that some things are wrong… count it as a cultural experience because international living is primarily composed of getting things wrong and having no idea what is going on.

Inside the church. It was PACKED… it seemed like maybe they were having First Holy Communion because there were a bunch of girls in white dresses. But maybe not.

We made two food/drink stops that weren’t my favorite, but I’d say that liking 5/7 things on an $11 tour is pretty good. We ate “paciencias” at a bakery. They’re these traditional crunchy cookie things, but they flavor them with oranges which, in case you didn’t know, I despise. Later, we went to a winery, and since I don’t drink, the prospect of “free” wine and Pisco (a traditional Peruvian brandy made by distilling fermented grape juice… yum…) wasn’t particularly exciting. I sniffed all of the wines as part of my campaign to develop sommelier powers without ever actually drinking… and well, they all smelled like wine. I guess I need to keep training. Pisco is one of those things that burns your nose when you sniff it, and to really savor the flavor, you’re supposed to swish it around in your mouth, coating every surface, before you swallow. Julie followed directions, and based on her face and my still-tingling nose, I don’t think I missed out on much.

The other stops were much more my style… weird and quirky. There was a 7-headed palm tree which I don’t quite know how to explain. It’s like the palm tree split from the roots into seven different trunks that are all running along the ground like serpents.

Panoramic view of the seven-headed palm tree. Is this not the weirdest thing?? Running along the bottom, you can see one of the trunks. The root system is behind that green area in the middle-ish of the photo.
So strange to see them snaking all over the place. You can see that one of them even goes underground and comes back up… there’s a gravel path running over the underground part.

The palm tree technically is in Cachiche, a teeny town right near Ica. Cachiche is “famous” for the witches who sought refuge there after escaping the Inquisition in Europe.

Legends say the tree is so messed up because it was cursed by a witch who was sacrificed there. The last known witch died in the 1980s, and before she did, she predicted that when the palm tree’s seventh head sprouted, Ica would sink. It sprouted in 1998, and that same year, a nearby river overflowed, flooding Ica. Now, the seventh head is trimmed every so often to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Loving our weird tour

Our next stop was fitting after the visit to the palm tree. We went to the Cachiche “Witch Park” which was just completed in early 2019. It has seven statues of witches, each representing one area of witchcraft: health (medicinal herbs), wisdom (palm and card readings), love (bring a picture of your desired beau, and in three days you’ll be inseparable), money (amulets to bring fortune and find jobs), virility (for man problems, or if a woman couldn’t have kids, she could take a potion and have up to 17! geez), nature (white magic to remove negativity), and huarango (evil and sorcery).

Health Witch with her bird and cauldron
Wisdom Witch with a book and an owl
Love Witch with some flowers growing out of a skull. Not sure what that means but it seems ominous.
Money Witch with a cauldron of gold coins that will give you good fortune if you touch them (the sign on her also literally says “Don’t Touch”… but the guide offered us all the chance to claim our fortune despite the rules)
Virility Witch showing us how to best accessorize with skulls
Nature Witch looking fabulous in her leaf dress
Huarango Witch wearing a strangely pleasant expression for being the witch of evil and sorcery
I appreciated the themed trash cans… cauldron, anyone? Also, this is functionally how most public trash cans work in Peru – they’re suspended and can be flipped over to dump the trash out when someone comes around to collect it.
Gargoyle protector of the park

I’m not sure why the evil and sorcery witch is called huarango, but that’s the name of a tree that grows in desert climates, like in Ica. There are huarango trees in the park, some as old as 400 years, and they’re important for preventing erosion in a place where not much else can grow. One of the ones in Witch Park is extra special – you can hug it to make your dreams come true (and then you’re supposed to come back with a thank you offering once it works… the guide gave an example, “like a bracelet!” Very affordable, these witches).

Jocelyn hugging the Dream Tree
This statue is of the “last known witch” who died in the 80s. There’s a story that she helped a boy who had a speech problem when he was young, and he grew up to be a politician and commissioned this statue as a thank you.
Satyr/faun in a tree. Because why not?
There was also this bas-relief at the park, showing the seven-headed palm tree with a bunch of skulls (I’m seeing a theme) and a lady who I assume is a witch. So maybe this is her cursing the tree? Maybe she’s just inspecting a skull she found there? Who knows?
Me, Jocelyn, and Julie on the gargoyle bridge, nice and blurry (oh, silly Lara)

Finally, we were off to the main event of the day – the dune buggy ride and sandboarding!!! I didn’t have any expectations for the dune buggy, but it was so much fun!! We got strapped in, and our driver went zooming up, down, and around the dunes. Julie took a picture of me where I look so happy that I might explode, and that’s pretty much how I felt.

If this face doesn’t scream, “Best day of my life,” I don’t know what would.
I promise this corny pic wasn’t our idea. The driver insisted, “Trust me, it will be a great picture!” (and then he cut off the front of the dune buggy *shaking my head*)

That was even before the sandboarding! We got to do two sandboarding runs each, and Jocelyn and I both spun out on the first one. You’re supposed to put your legs behind you in a V to help you go straight, but I thought it was to slow you down and I didn’t want that! Oh well, live and learn. The second run went better, and even though I was totally coated in sand at the end, it’s possible that I’ve never been happier. My journal that night said it was “literally the best thing of my entire life”. That might be an overstatement. But it also might not be. I can say for sure, at least, that it was absolutely worth the 1-year build up, the 10 hours of round-trip bus ride, and the $11 tour! It would have been worth more than $11 to me standalone, honestly.

Sunglasses and mouth covers strongly recommended for the dune buggy and especially the sandboarding… unless you like sand in your eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s going to end up everywhere else, I promise you, so better to at least protect your face.
Because apparently it’s normal to take pictures on top of the dune buggy?
Also recommend a headband if you ever find yourself sandboarding… unless you’re going for the lion’s mane look, then you’re good without one.
Spot the sandboarders
Sand, sand, nothing but sand as far as the eye can see.
Huacachina is a desert oasis… a little spot of green (including the water… eek!) in a sea of sand. Despite being in the middle-of-nowhere Peru and being VERY far from Lima, it’s actually a very popular stop for international tourists, especially backpackers.
The dune buggy fleet
Still on a high from the dune buggy ride. We’re also fully sand-saturated at this point. I had about a bucket of sand in each sneaker and my pant pockets. Gross.

That was the end of our tour, and when we got dropped back in Ica, we decided to make one final stop at the Regional Museum of Ica, an archaeology and history museum. They had some cool stuff there, including a whole strange tribute exhibit to my favorite bean, the pallar (pai-ar) (butter bean), but the most interesting was the exhibit about mummies. There were some actual mummies there, and the signs explained how archaeologists can sometimes use the mummies’ bones to determine a person’s cause of death or to learn things about their culture. It was cool and disturbing, which I think is what they’re going for.

Behind the museum, they have a scale model of the Nazca Lines. The model is, of course, still HUGE. I’m a horrible estimator, but I’d say it was at least 20x20m (or more??). And there’s a tower that you can climb up to view it. Since I don’t know if I’ll ever see the actual Nazca Lines, it was fun to experience them on some level.

The Nazca Lines. If you’ve never heard of them, it’s like Peruvian crop circles. Sometime between 500BC and 500AD (probably the whole 1000 years because 1. there are SO MANY lines and 2. what other activities did people have to entertain themselves?), people dug shallow depressions into the soil to form lines, geometric shapes, and animals! They’re so big that the best way to see them is by airplane… or in the backyard of the Regional Museum of Ica. To get a sense of scale, there’s a tower shown in the top right of the picture that’s 42 feet tall at full scale.
I’m actually more intrigued by the construction of the replica than I am about the actual Nazca lines. Whose idea was this?? Was the idea person also the one who executed the project, or did they make someone else carry the burden of their crazy dream? How long did it take them? And why??
Bird!
Monkey!

And that was basically the end of our Ica adventures! We stuffed our faces with pizza and ice cream that night, and the next morning, we headed back to Chilca. The return trip was mostly uneventful, until we had to switch from a bus to a combi (van) for the final leg of our journey. We took the last three available seats, and at the next stop, at least 10 more people loaded on. They were headed to the beach and were carrying coolers and pitchers of ice and other beach paraphernalia. We reasonably had space for maybe four people, so it was like being in a clown car. I haven’t been in such a crowded van since Armenia, and from the way the Peruvians were reacting, it clearly wasn’t a common occurrence for them either. Everyone was thrilled to see us go when we squeezed our way out at our stop, and I’ve never been so happy to see the barren brownness of our neighborhood. Home sweet home. What a way to end the weekend!

60-cent ice cream cones
The main plaza is a happening place on Saturday nights! We took a digestion lap after pizza and before ice cream

Helloooo! I know, this is probably like hearing from a long-lost friend who you never expected to resurface… but here I am! Alive and well and ready to bring you up to speed on all things Peru and beyond. I figure this is as good a time as any because who couldn’t use a little extra entertainment in their days right now? So, here’s my plan for the blog (keeping in mind that I’ve literally never followed through on a single one of these plans): I’ll finish telling you about Peru and the building project and some fun adventures. Then, I’ll finish talking about Buenos Aires because whew! We left off righttt in the middle of that trip (whoops). THEN, assuming it doesn’t take a full year for me to do those two things, we’ll do some South/Central America exploring together. And maybe someday we’ll make it back to Europe (to refresh your memory, we’re floating around somewhere between Poland and Germany, potentially lost forever).

Who knows where we’re actually going to end up with all of this (my money is on somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic as we get lost between Central America and Europe), but hey, anywhere is better than the increasingly familiar insides of our own houses, right?

Last time we talked, it was the middle of November. The building project was chugging along. I was getting antsy at the idea of leaving Esperanza de Ana in only a few short weeks. My workload seemed to be increasing exponentially, as it always does at the end of a project. One second you’re feeling fine, and the next it’s like you’re tripping over loose ends with every step.

On top of my actual work, I was trying to make plans for what felt like a million other things at the same time. My parents were coming to visit me in Peru, arriving on the same day that I was leaving Esperanza de Ana. Then, I was hoping to do some traveling around South and Central America for about a month and a half and coordinated with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for one trip and my brother for another. Except for the part with my cousins, I was responsible for most of the planning… and my head started feeling like it was going to explode. Too many moving parts and not enough time! We’ll talk more about those adventures later…

Despite being hectic, the end of November was great. The building kept progressing, and it was exciting to see some of the “finishing touches” coming together. The electrical team finished most of the cabling and installed all of the classroom fixtures. They started putting up the bamboo roof structure!

Sometimes, Debbie and I would look at the building, look at each other, and say, “Can you believe we did that? At the beginning of the year, it was a dirt patch. Now, it’s a building.” It was easy to get caught up in the chaos of each day, but there were those moments when the reality that we were actually constructing a building made us pause for a second and appreciate just how cool that was.

Classroom shaping up! All of the lights are installed in this picture (see if you can spot them! They almost look the same as the ceiling tiles), and the missing ceiling tiles are for the projector and future ceiling fans.
Last time I wrote, they had put the first couple of bamboo pieces in place. Here’s the finished bamboo framing on the first side of the roof. How cool does it look?! All that’s missing is the actual roofing sheets (kind of important…).
We have… the beginnings of a roof! And you can see more roofing sheets leaning up against the scaffolding, ready to be handed up the building to the roof. Classic.
Unrelated to the roof, but I needed another vertical picture… so here’s the second floor hallway! From a design perspective, I’m actually not a fan (at all) of the lights we ended up with in the hallways, but there wasn’t much to choose from, and these were the best combination of less terrible and more practical.
And voila! We have half(ish) of a roof!
“Interior” view of the roof
The “lab”/outdoor kitchen countertops in progress. They’re concrete, so you can see the steel reinforcement in place, and they’re starting to build the forms that give the concrete shape when it’s poured.
And… we have counters!
They had to build two bamboo trusses to keep from having columns in the middle of the roof deck. The construction of the trusses in bamboo is quite the process because, for the diagonal pieces, they need to cut curves into the ends so that the horizontals can nest perfectly in them. Trial and error and trial and error… eek.
One truss in place!
Starting to come together! And you can see that the windows are in place as well. So many exciting things at once!
The electrical panel in progress. It looks like chaos! But all of those wires are marked with information about what circuit they’re for… trust the process. I will say, though, that any other panel on the property basically looks like they left the wires at these lengths and then just stuffed them into the panel, creating a rat’s nest of wires. It’s horrifying.
LOOK AT THIS BEAUTY! Even if you have no idea what’s going on in here, please just try to appreciate it with me. All of the wire colors are alternating in the correct order, and Hector (the electrician) cut the wires to the right lengths so that they make a nice, organized curve into their respective breakers. If you ever saw another panel on the property, this would be an even more thrilling sight, but trust me when I say that they do not look nearly as organized.
I seriously just wanted to give Hector a big hug when I saw this. It looks soooo nice and organized. It’s like something out of a very wonderful dream!!!

The end of November also means Thanksgiving, and this was my first ever away from home (amazingly). I’ve missed a lot of holidays and events over the past few years, but in my family, Thanksgiving is our special “everyone shows up” holiday. The cousins come from near and far and spend days eating and playing and catching up on the year’s family gossip. This year, going home really wasn’t an option, and the only way for me to be okay with that was to not think about it.

Obviously, Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in Peru. This, combined with the fact that Americans are always determined to celebrate it, no matter where they are, led to the weirdest Thanksgiving of my life. The American staff had the day off at Esperanza de Ana, but everything else went on as usual. We went to a Thanksgiving party hosted by the American pastor of our church in Lima, and while it didn’t feel anything like Thanksgiving, it also didn’t feel like we were in Peru anymore. From the moment we walked through the gate into their front yard, it was like we had teleported to somewhere in the States. The default language was English. All of the food at dinner was recognizable. I think I felt the most culture shock at that party than any other time in Peru.

Jim, Jocelyn, me, Tony, and Julie at Thanksgiving dinner.

At the end of the party, we got into the car and drove back to EA. There, the kids were just finishing the after-school program for the day. It was like any other Thursday. I shut my eyes and tried to put my head back on straight, reminding myself that we had never left Peru. It was like we had gone into an alternate reality, and coming back was harder than I imagined it would be. Jocelyn and I agreed that the day did feel like something special, but it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. That was probably the best-case scenario.

The other good news was that we didn’t have a normal day of work on Friday. I don’t think I could have jumped right back into normal after that! We had a staff day which is a combination of training/professional, personal, and spiritual development/team building. It just depends on what Jim thinks the team needs. This one, since it was so close to the end of the year, was more of a hangout than a training. We went to this place on the beach for the day, and Jim had us start by reflecting on the year and sharing how God has been working in each of us. It was cool to hear everyone’s thoughts!

After that, we had the rest of the day to spend time together and do a few activities. Julie was in charge of planning one, and I suggested a sand snowman-building competition. There was a height requirement, but otherwise, anything went. My team definitely won, even though Julie refused to declare a winner at the end. I mean, come on! Look at us!

My “snowman” team! Delia, me, Irma, Mahidi, and Milagros (and Miguel, but he took the picture).

When we got back to EA, Julie, Jocelyn, and I ran to grab our bags and hit the road because we were going on an adventure for the weekend! On our way out, we squeezed past Defensa Civil, the property inspection people, who had come to look over the property… at 4PM… on a Friday. What is wrong with these people? Everyone was baffled. There must have been some end-of-the-month quota or something that they were trying to meet because they aren’t usually such a motivated group. Irma, the director, sent them away saying that they could come back another day at a more reasonable time because there was no one to show them around. Ha. (We also weren’t quite ready for them, so it worked out!)

Remember how excited I was months ago when they started installing electrical tubes? My designs were being put into action, and it was the coolest thing. WELL. That’s nothing compared to what’s happening now. They started installing the wiring this week, and the combination of stress and excitement that I’m feeling is slightly overwhelming.

The reason behind the stress is that I’m so much more responsible for the construction than I’ve ever been before. In my old job, we would make the drawings, hand them off to the construction company, and essentially just expect that things would be done as we designed them. There’s some back-and-forth with the electrical contractor if they have questions about the drawings, and we would visit the site a few times during construction to make sure that things were being installed as designed, but that’s it.

Here, Debbie and I are buying all of the materials ourselves. Her job has been much, much more difficult than mine because she’s truly been responsible for ALL of the materials while I’ve been focused on the electrical, but now I’m starting to get a sense of what she’s been dealing with since construction started. The electrician sends us lists of materials that he needs, but then I have to check them to make sure he’s read the drawings correctly and that his lists make sense. Managing materials and estimating wire lengths and such isn’t something I’ve ever had to do… and now I have to learn on the job while also acting completely confident so that the electrician respects my directions. AND I have to truly understand how everything works, down to the details, so that I can be sure he’s installing things correctly and explain how they should be installed if there’s something he’s not familiar with. AND I have to do that in Spanish which is a whole different adventure. I don’t know how my Spanish is in general, but let me tell ya, my electrical construction Spanish is rapidly improving. At this point, my Spanish in combination with my charades skills is enough to convey ideas so that the electrician and I can get on the same page. Basically, I half-explain things and make lots of hand-motions, he fills in the blanks, and I nod enthusiastically as he says the words I couldn’t.

Anyway, things seem to be going well so far. There’s still a long way to go with the cabling, plus they have to install a ton of lights and devices… but the first two light fixtures are in!!! And they look fabulous. Well, they look fabulous turned off. Nothing is connected to the panel yet, so who really knows? Eek now I’m thinking about the fact that they’re going to install all of this stuff and then connect it at the end and my gosh I hope it works correctly. That could turn out to be a very awesome day or a very terrible one.

Random funny picture of the week: This made me literally laugh out loud. This is butter… with security tags attached. Who knew butter was such a heavily shoplifted item? My guess was that they had an intern they needed to keep busy. “Hm… what can you do to help? AH! I know! Security tag the butter! Yes, yes, very important work. You have no idea how much money we’re losing every day on shoplifted butter.” “You’ll never guess what I made the intern do today. Hahahahaha go look at the butter!” The most expensive container is less than $3. Also, my personal favorite is the top shelf butter (by that I literally mean the butter that’s on the top shelf, not the fanciest butter) that is wrapped in foil and literally has the security tag TAPED to the foil packaging because there’s no tub to connect it to. This is an example of one of those times when I wonder what universe I’ve stepped into.

Welp, no need to worry myself about that yet! I’m already busy worrying about the fact that I only have about 3 weeks left here, and how on earth am I going to finish everything that I need to finish before my time is up?

Enjoy these construction/random pictures from this week…

This is a hole. It’s ridiculous. Milton and Eddy (two of the staff members) and one of the dads dug it, and I have never seen a more perfectly round hole. And it’s so deep!
To be honest, I really don’t know what they’re doing. It looks like they’re building a bunker, but it’s actually just for our laundry water. They’re going to put a big water tank in here with holes in it to let the laundry water seep out into the ground. That’s all I know.
Seems like a lot of work for a wastewater tank! But the water has to go somewhere, so here it is.
Starting the wiring on the third floor! Also, the finished floor is in, and the mountains look pretty.
Very exciting picture, I know… but in the middle of those white squares on the wall are white outlets! Progress!
Look at how pretty the lights are!!!
The roof! The roof! Finally, we’re going to have a roof!
This bamboo roof is quite the undertaking.
I was wondering how they were going to get the bamboo up to the third floor, and I got my answer this week. I don’t have an action shot, but they literally are just standing the pieces up straight and passing them up to someone on the third floor. Ridiculous. You can see a piece of bamboo leaning against the scaffolding in this picture… there’s still quite the gap between the top of the bamboo and the third floor which means they need to hoist it up above their heads for the third-floor person to be able to reach.
Fun sights in Lima… we came across this scene as we were walking down the sidewalk. I have no idea what these guys are doing (questionable whether or not they know what they’re doing), but WHY is that ladder just resting on the wires above? Please tell me that no one is climbing up the ladder like that…
Current status of the bamboo shade structure! All of the pieces are in place, and now it just needs some varnishing and the actual shade that’s going on top.
This is where most of our wastewater is processed. The purple plants help with the process. The green plants are “weeds”… but they’re actually tomato plants that are growing because of tomato seeds that have gone down the sink drain!
Look! There are approximately a million tomatoes growing.

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!

I know what you’re thinking. “Lara, it’s only been a week and you’re writing again? What, is the world ending?” I know, I haven’t been very consistent with this, but my original intention was to actually write weekly, so don’t be too surprised! And part of the reason I’m making such an effort is that I know there’s no chance I’ll be writing at the end of this week. We have two teams coming in back-to-back… aka as one team leaves Saturday night, the next team will be arriving which means we get no break at all for the next two weeks. Don’t get me wrong – it will be great. It’s always great to have teams here. But it also means that personal time is essentially nonexistent, and every workday is totally draining because I’m interacting with people all day and running around trying to make sure things run smoothly. So here I am, catching you up again before you can expect two weeks without a peep from me.

First, here are some pictures of the construction. I don’t have much to say because it’s all mostly superficial work now… so enjoy these pictures of things starting to look pretty!

Second floor with some of the posts removed. I like how you can see the bricks and the formwork from below even though they’re all hidden from above now.
Second floor from inside. Looking good! The right side of the picture will be two classrooms, and the corridor is to the left.
Third floor with the half-wall completed. Now all that’s missing here is the bamboo roof! But this is going to remain a huge open space which will be awesome!
I like this contrast… un-stuccoed wall to the left, pretty finished wall to the right.
The side of the building before stuccoing…
… and after! It was funny to watch like 8 guys working on one wall at the same time. They did that so they could get the stuccoing finished in one go, rather than having to do it in stages. It turns out better that way!
It’s so satisfying to look at the finished walls! And that crisp line above the windows is beautiful. When it’s painted, the first level will be orange (ick, but that’s the EA color scheme) and the upper floors will be off-white.
Electrical tubing going in! These will be hidden behind a layer of drywall.
Updated view of the back.
The building in context. Our existing classroom building is the one running along the right side of the picture, and the new building is in the back.

We had a funky schedule last week. Most of the kids were off of school on Monday. Brace yourself as I attempt to explain why (parents would lose their minds if this happened in the States). The school decided to have a mandatory event on Sunday, and then they cancelled school on Monday to make up for it. We found out about this about 2 weeks ago which, given how far in advance we usually know about these things, is pretty darn good. This is something I’ll never understand, though. How can you just change the schedule on a whim like that? And expect everyone to come on a Sunday instead?? This kind of thing is nothing new, though. There are approximately a thousand holidays and festivals in Peru, and every time one comes along, it seems like there’s literally no one who knows whether the kids will have school. And then we find out the day before. To me, it seems like SOMEONE had to know if there was going to be school, right? (If not, we have bigger problems than I thought.) So why is that person keeping secrets? Just tell everyone so we can all share in the joy of knowledge!

I may not understand how they can operate like that, but I have gotten to the point where I expect it and am not fazed by it. I mean, lucky for me, the kids’ schedules don’t affect mine very much. School or not, it’s all kind of the same to me. But if I was a teacher, I don’t know if I could handle it.

This boat appeared in the middle of our street a couple of weeks ago. They were out painting it last weekend when we went to get cheesy bread, and in the time that it took us to walk there, eat our cheesy bread, and walk back, they had painted the entire boat. Ha! Today, it was gone again, I suppose back to the ocean.

Anyway, Monday was a “holiday” for the kids, but we all worked anyway. Then, Tuesday was an actual national holiday. All of the schools were closed, and none of our programs were operating. We still “worked”, but it was a Staff Day which is usually a training and team building day for the national and missionary staff. This time, they did something a little different and it was more of a rest and reflection day. Jim broke down the Lord’s Prayer, and we had time to ourselves to sit and pray over/reflect on each part. It was really nice. I felt like God used that time to help me work through some things I’ve been sitting on for a while. It was hard, but I felt so much better afterward and like I regained a sense of direction that I had lost a while ago without even realizing it.

On top of that, it was just nice to have time to spend with the rest of the staff without having to worry about the kids! We played an elimination-type game together before lunch, and it was hilarious watching how competitive everyone got. It was one of those games where someone calls out commands (a little like Simon Says), and some of the commands require you to get into groups of various numbers. When a command was called, everyone was grabbing people left and right to drag them into their group to get the right number. I was practically in tears from laughing so hard.

I had already been eliminated at this point…

The rest of the week was basically just spent getting ready for the team. I went over my notes and plans, made a shopping list, went over my notes and plans again, checked to see what materials we have in stock, went over my notes and plans again, spent time worrying that I was forgetting something… you know, a very efficient use of my time. I think I have it all under control, I really do. But I won’t lose that feeling until the teams are gone and I know for a fact that I had everything planned to a T.

Friday had a “fun” surprise… Remember how Milton and I supervised the digging of a pool to chemically treat the bamboo for the new building’s roof? Well, they put some pieces in to soak on Monday, and Debbie asked me to give Milton a hand taking them out. “Okay,” I thought. “No problem. That’ll be easy.” HA! Joke’s on me. First of all, these bamboo pieces are 10-15cm in diameter and 6 or 7 meters long (sorry for the metric but that’s now the world in which I operate). Second of all, you know those lines you see on bamboo stalks? Those are the knots, and there’s basically a disk of bamboo there (so you couldn’t see straight through a stalk, for example). One of the dads worked to hammer a piece of rebar through all of the knots so that the chemicals could run all the way through the inside of the stalks… which meant that they were all filled with water. Which meant they were even heavier than before. And third of all, because there’s just a hole in the middle of each knot, the only way to get all of the water out is to stand them up nearly vertically.

Milton and I eventually got somewhat of a system down, but it was dependent on one person holding one end of the bamboo down against the ground (when all it wanted to do was seesaw up) while the other person walked their end up until it was completely vertical. The harder part was lowering it. There was one time with a particularly heavy piece of bamboo where I couldn’t keep the ground end down, and I basically nearly crushed Milton because as my end went up, the other one went down, and he was caught in the middle. At one point, we were holding a piece upright, waiting for it to drain, and he says totally seriously, “We’re going to die.” I burst out laughing but then also agreed with him… It did feel a bit terrifying every time. Thankfully, Debbie came to help with the last half, and with three people, the whole thing was significantly less precarious.

Milton and Eddy, two of the national staff, working in the bamboo treatment pool. Looks fun, right?
Milton and me holding up a bamboo flagpole. I feel like Milton looks a little tense in this picture, and I promise my smile is fake.

We now have 19 treated pieces of bamboo… out of 180. So, what I’m saying is, we’re nearly there! Ha. Haha. But, I do think there are plans in the works to build a structure to prop up the bamboo so that every bamboo-draining day isn’t the most terrifying day of everyone’s lives.

In conclusion, never bank on the accuracy of a Peruvian school calendar, chemically treating your own bamboo is neither as easy nor as fun as it sounds, and wish me luck for the next two weeks. See you on the other side!

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.