Monday, June 11, 2012

The not so cool stuff in the country ...

I recently wrote about some of the cool and beautiful things in the cantons and posted lots of photos in an album on Facebook.  Today I was reminded of some of the uglier and not so cool things. 
You have to remember that I am here in the middle of a poverty ridden country.  And the people we serve live ‘en los campos’ – in the country.  And it is POOR out there. 

Most of you who read this blog have either been here or have heard a lot about the poverty and what we are trying to do here as a mission. 

This past couple of weeks we have been strumbuntzing in the cantons.  We’ve been doing a final verification of the slow sand water filters that people received a couple of years ago.  Making sure those who are using them are using them properly … if any need repair (lots have needed this and those filters have been repaired!).  We have found lots of rusted out diffusors and lids and really gross PVC tubes (the exit point of the purified water) so we have been replacing those.  We’ve been giving cantaros (water jugs) to the families actually using their filters (information obtained from a prior visit by Ismael).  We’ve been re-educating people about using the filter daily and other basic hygiene issues.  It’s been quite a bit of work, but worth the effort when people say that their health has improved … they have less diarrhea, fewer stomach issues … and something rather cool: in two different communities, 3 different families individually said they talked to their doctor about the filtered water … asking them if it was worth it?  Or if the carbon based filter they received from another project (another NGO working with water tanks) was better.  Dr. Vladimir, the director of our Berlín health clinic, said the slow sand water filter was the best!  He highly recommended the people continue to use them!  Hooray!

Entonces … este trabajo vale la pena!  So this work is worth the effort!  But man is it hot work.  We drive out to the communities but often times a home with a filter is well off the beaten path and we cannot get the pick-up anywhere near it.  Such was a case this morning.  Well, actually, 3 homes were well off the beaten path!  We were in Tablón Centro.  There are only 15 families actually using their filters in this community.  We didn’t think it would take us too long to deliver the cantaros.  We were wrong.

This is ok.  I really don’t mind the walking.  It’s good for us!  But Pastor (that is the man’s first name… not his title) lives WAY WAY WAY WAY (and I repeat: WAY) off the road.  First we took a turn off the main road and went down the smaller road in the pick-up to their soccer field.  That is where the truck had to stay.  Knowing how far we had to go, we took all the materials with us.  Normally we scope out the filter in each home to verify its use - then go back to the truck for the goods. 

We had 3 houses on this ‘road’ we had to walk – so we took three sets of material with us: 6 cantaros, 3 lids, 3 diffusors, and 3 exit tubes.  And we walked.  It wasn’t too far UP to the first house - only about a half kilometer.  And the next house was just a couple hundred yards from that.  Then we started the climb to Pastor’s house.  Good Lord.  Blanca, Cecilia, Ismael and I hiked.  And sweat.  And hiked some more.  And it was all UP hill, walking on a rutted and often slippery, muddy, poo-riddled ‘road.’    We finally got there and thankfully someone was home.  And also thankfully, they were indeed using their filter properly!  So we chatted for a few moments, sat in the shade of the house for a spell, gave the new parts to them and started the hike down. 

Photos do NOT do this hike justice

Pastor's home ... the pitted water jug is why we were motivated to give cantaros to our filter families

Now I’ve said before that it is absolutely beautiful in the country.  You’ve seen some photos.  You’ve seen some cool individual things … the countryside … the newly planted corn … the hills … the volcano in the distance … the myriad of flowers … the children … (go see my Facebook album for cool photos).

Well.  The mud is not so nice.  The rutted roads are not so nice as well.  The dirty faces of the children and their filthy bare flat feet with broken toe nails, fungus, cuts and callouses break your heart.  God bless them.  But to me, the children are still beautiful. 

Smells aren’t always very nice – but one ‘overlooks’ that and makes NO mention as to not offend anyone.  There is usually no realistic way to avoid the smells. 

The smells today were horrible.  There were lots of pigs where we were hiking.  Pigs have a peculiar and distinct odor.  There are no huge factory farms here, but even one or two piggies create an ‘interesting’ smell.  Of course you have their excrement mixed in the mud around people’s homes and the walking paths and roads.  And the excrement of the cattle, dogs, chickens, ducks, and whatever else is roaming the same paths people take.  Then you have the mangos and other fruits which have fallen and are rotting on the ground where you walk.  All this brings the flies. 

Piggies do roam freely all around (and often inside) homes

Rain water tank ... used for everything ... washing, cooking and yes... drinking.  But when it is filtered ... it is ok!  Even I can drink it then.  But lots of people chose not to filter.

Somehow the rainy season makes the smells more pungent.  And you always have to watch where you walk.  One house in particular was really bad.  I’m not an overly sensitive person – I can usually ‘weather’ whatever smell comes my way without showing ‘distaste’ – but walking by this one house today reminded me of the ugliness of poverty.

My friend Bob always said – you don’t just see poverty.  It invades your senses: you hear, smell and taste it. 

Walking by this house today really brought that concept home.   

Poverty stinks.  Figuratively and literally.

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