That’s right, folks. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the moment we’ve all been working towards for over a year now. I could ramble and make you wait even longer, but I think we’ve all waited enough already. And so, now I’m going to do my very best to give you a virtual tour of the completed school building! (Note: a big thank you to David Espinoza for taking these pictures!)
So, there you have it!! What do you think? I know that it can be hard to get a feel for the building when there’s no furniture, so I have one more picture. Jocelyn’s classroom is all set up, and she sent me this after she moved in…
I hope you find these pictures as satisfying as I do! It’s been a long year and a long project… we deserve a little satisfaction!
If you think we’re all finished now with blog posts, don’t get ahead of yourself. The building may be finished, but the blog action is just getting started! Next time, we’re off to Canta, a town in Peru that we visited for a long weekend (don’t ask me how long ago we went there… you’ll find out the embarrassing truth soon enough). From there, we’re off to do some more South America exploring! So really, the fun has only just begun.
My final days at EA were full of fun holiday activities, but I had to balance those with the work that was still going on. The construction was in full swing, and I wasn’t going to be around through completion which meant I REALLY had to make sure I had my ducks in a row before leaving.
About one second after reviewing my to-do list, I gave up on the nice idea that I could get everything done before leaving Peru. There was simply too much to do, between finishing the drawings and organizing the documents/construction pictures/files in a somewhat intuitive way for someone else to be able to find information in the future. Instead of rushing to get it done and doing a mediocre job after working so hard to do a great job on everything else, I decided to leave the things that could be done remotely to the future… a big ‘ole gift from past-Lara to future-Lara (that present-day-Lara has been ignoring… I know, I know. I’m going to get it all done, I promise! I just know that it’s going to be a pain in the butt, and I haven’t built up the courage to face it yet. Past-Lara is always sending me the absolute worst presents. It kind of makes you want not to open them, you know?).
So, I made the electronic work second priority because I could technically do it from anywhere. That freed me up to focus on the things that I could only do while in Peru and onsite. I gathered info sheets/manuals/etc. for the products we used and scanned/filed them. I took pictures of the light fixture boxes to document exactly what was installed. I sketched a diagram to further detail the fire alarm system installation because it was happening after I left, and I was worried that the drawings alone were confusing.
My electrician best friend, Hector, and I strategized a few things that weren’t totally worked out during the design phase. I’ll admit that I was kind of hoping they would vanish or solve themselves, but that’s generally not how things work, especially when you’re the only one responsible for that aspect of the project.
I learned the most during this phase of the project. As I spent more time with Hector and understood more about how everything fits together, I realized where I should have designed things differently or been more particular about their installation. If I ever design a building in Peru again, I will do a MUCH better job!
One of the things I had been avoiding was figuring out the internet situation, but this was mostly because I knew it was going to be a mess. Let me try to explain, and if it sounds totally ridiculous, you’re understanding it correctly. The property has four phone lines used for internet. Ideally, we would get a new line for the new building, so we called the internet company to ask about doing this and they sent a guy to talk through it with us. Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Internet man: Well, we aren’t selling new phone lines for internet because we’re focusing on fiber. Me: Okay, then can we get a fiber connection? Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here. Me: When will it be available? Internet man: Sometime this year. Maybe. We hope. (Our translator Dina was there and said not to put much faith in this claim because they’ve been saying the same thing for years.) Me: … Internet man: There’s also another option! This is good for businesses and other clients who need more reliable service. It’s better than fiber and comes with any service or troubleshooting included. Me: Okay, can we get that? Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here. Me: Soooo… what do you suggest we do? Internet man: Wait for fiber to get here. It should be this year. Probably. I think.
Promising (not). I did at least get him to help me decide what to do for the cabling within the building. My goal was for it to work well whether it’s connected to a phone line or (maybe someday eventually) fiber and won’t be immediately outdated. Then, Hector helped to ensure that we were buying the right cables and connections and such.
Hector also installed the projector mounts, ran an HDMI cable from each projector location to a wall box at outlet height, and installed the HDMI outlets so there’s not just a cable sticking out of the wall. We didn’t order these outlets until later in the construction process, and I didn’t realize that they’d need more space in the wall than a typical outlet… so Hector literally drilled through the backs of the boxes into the brick wall to make extra space. I’ll admit, sometimes Peruvian construction methods frustrate me, but the “make it work” attitude came in handy in this situation!
I also made a teeeeny mistake with the wire colors. Basically, you’re supposed to use three colors in a certain order in the panel, and I mixed up the order. Luckily, Hector realized it before he connected the wires, and after a brief panic, I realized that it could be fixed by moving the circuits around in the panel. Phew! But, that changed the circuit numbers which meant that every single drawing had to be updated to match… it was a big headache, but crisis (mostly) averted!
The building still had a ways to go when I left. The major things: the roof wasn’t finished yet, and they weren’t planning to paint until January which meant that neither Debbie nor I have seen the actual completed building. It’s a little funny.
NEXT TIME… completed building pictures coming your way!! I’m VERY excited about this.
After our weekend of fun in Ica, I only had nine more days before I was leaving Esperanza de Ana! Since we were nearing the end of the year, not only was work busy, but there were special programs with the kids and families to celebrate the holidays. I didn’t want to miss out on experiencing any of that because I was overwhelmed with work, so I tried extra hard to plan out my schedule, blocking out the special programs and being extra productive during my work times.
I’m going to focus this post on the non-work events of my final days, and next time, I’ll talk about work. Even though I was only around for 10 days of December, I think those days were more eventful than any other month in terms of the electrical work!
With the Christmas season and the end of the school year approaching, there was a lot of fun happening during my last week. We had two Christmas events, one with just the kids and one with the entire families. At the kids’ event, each class performed a dance or song, and it was so fun to watch! The age 2-3 class is all girls, and they danced to Spanish “Let It Go” while wearing Ana and Elsa dresses (yes, the Frozen craze is international) and looking like it was the best day of their lives. It was adorable. After all the classes performed, they got their Christmas presents. Each teacher picked a boy gift and girl gift for her class, and I was amazed by how well they did at picking things everyone would like. That’s a hard job!
The next day, we celebrated family Christmas. You know how, when you’re used to seeing someone in one context, it’s disorienting to see them in another? Like when you see your elementary school teacher at the grocery store or a coworker outside of the office. Seeing the kids with their siblings and parents felt like that. Of course, I knew their parents existed, but I never had any reason to meet them because my job was separate from that part of the ministry. I loved getting to see another side of the kids and pick out which ones are like exact mini-replicas of their parents. We sang some Christmas songs, and then things got competitive. Each teacher planned a game for her class, and the kids played with a parent as their partner.
After the games, everyone crammed into the cafeteria for a Chocolatada, a Peruvian Christmas tradition where people gather together to enjoy panetón and Peruvian hot chocolate. Panetón is similar to a fruit cake and originated in Italy. Now, it’s been co-opted as the official Peruvian Christmas bread. The classic has dried fruit inside, or there are variations like one that replaces the fruit with chocolate. Now, that sounds like something I could get behind… but the bread itself is orange-flavored! I despise oranges, so as you can imagine, I can’t quite get into panetón. Peruvians looove panetón and everyone buys them (I don’t think anyone makes them) and gives them to everyone else for the holidays. It’s kind of like Christmas cookies in the States but not homemade and not delicious (in my personal opinion, at least, which clearly isn’t that of the majority).
Anyway, part two of this tradition is hot chocolate, but it’s like no hot chocolate you’ve ever experienced. It’s made with evaporated milk and special chocolate bars (rather than powder), so it’s incredibly thick. Then, you add cloves and cinnamon and BUTTER because obviously the evaporated milk wasn’t thick enough. And then you drink this with your panetón and feel like you’ll never eat again. Don’t get me wrong, it was good… but one cup was enough to hold me over for the rest of my life. Oh yeah, and remember that Christmas is during Peruvian SUMMER, so you’re drinking this world’s thickest hot butter-and-chocolate while also sweating. WHY.
My second-to-last day of work was an in-service day. The EA program directors presented their 2020 action plans, and each planned a game to help break up the day. And that’s how I found myself playing musical chairs with my coworkers. I started next to Jim and told him “fair warning but I get a little competitive” which is true, but I was mostly kidding! He apparently took it as a threat. WELL, in the end, it was Jim, me, and one chair. When the music stopped, I was in position for a win. I committed to the sit… and Jim pulled the chair out from under me! He immediately felt guilty because I was clearly going to fall and tried to catch me which ended with both of us on the ground. I declared myself the winner because he had clearly cheated, and there were not only multiple witnesses, but video evidence! (Side note: I need to get myself a copy of that video…)
I tell you this story not because I want justice for this outrageous act but because it provides important context for what comes next. After this musical-chairs sabotage, Tony (Jim’s wife) approached me about being part of Jim’s birthday surprise. You see, it’s a Peruvian birthday tradition to crack an egg on the birthday person’s head. They were planning to sing for the three December birthday people, Jim, Julie, and me, so I would be in the perfect position to avoid raising suspicion. Previously, I had said I would never participate in a birthday egging because I would hate to have it done to me, but I felt like Jim had it coming! And so, this is the story of how I got my revenge on Jim but also a lesson about how vengeance is never the answer. Enjoy this video:
I’ll explain a couple of things:
The singing you hear is the tail end of the THREE birthday songs that are sung: Happy Birthday in English, Happy Birthday in Spanish, and Spanish Christian Happy Birthday. It’s endless.
I have the eggs stored in the waistband of my leggings so that I can clap along and keep Jim from getting suspicious (note for the future: pants with pockets recommended).
During the songs, he’s trying to tell Julie to get an egg to crack on MY head (rude, Jim), and she refuses (what a good friend)… and as the song ends, he pretends to crack one on me. Little does he know… Ha! Gotcha, Jim! But while he’s trying to wipe his egg residue on me (and I try to guilt him out of it because I had literally just showered), Eddy and Brenda run into the kitchen and get two eggs to crack on my head! Karma. And then Eddy chases Julie around the kitchen, she dodges one attack (the egg ends up on the floor), and after the video ends, she runs outside and he eventually gets her too.
Lessons learned: never celebrate a birthday in Peru, what goes around comes around, and hot water is not recommended when washing egg out of your hair.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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!
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).
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some pictures to catch you up on the progress!
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!
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?
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!)
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?
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!
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.)
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.)
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)
Sunday – church, birthday brownies, and the second half of North and South
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.
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).
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!