The first thing that surfaces from my bed is my arm scrambling blindly for my cellphone – my umbilical cord to the pixel world scrolling through my email. Sometimes it’s good news and I jump out of bed, sometimes I just bury my head in the pillows after one glance. It’s my own personal roulette wheel and it’s self-inflicted, make no mistake.
This morning the first email I read was: “[Donation Can] A donation of $200 has been made to Tio Nefta’s House.”
Bah, $20 I thought, and then looked again. Wait, that was TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! And so I jumped out of bed and skipped the crawl into awakening. Our good friend, Mark Savage and his family, had donated $200 and now we were only $290 from our end goal of $3,200. My uncle’s machete-carrying silhouette across the banana fincas late in the day when the shadows are long flashed before me. He smiled that sideways grin and push his bicycle along the dusty road. I missed him as I imagine a daughter misses her father. It’s always been the feeling I have for him. I’d been putting off a trip to visit him since end of July, but I was not about to arrive to Media Luna empty-handed, full of false-promises and the hot air of ideas to add to the desperate heat that is thick against your forehead in that finca that I’ve grown to know well. This morning brought me closer to fulfilling that promise I made him:
“Next time I come here we will build you a casita.”
Once out of bed the next email is from Stefan from ConstruCasa: Come on over at 9:30. Over the piles of dishes and the unmade bed I saw the clock turn 8:52. Who needs a shower? We rushed out of the house, past the marching bands, the hundreds of kids dancing to “JailHouse Rock” by El Calvario church and straight to ConstruCasa to talk logistics. Stefan is just the person for it, kindle, gentle, reassuring and patient. Here goes:
We will wire transferring whatever we have to them, about $2,900 and Stefan will send me all the wire transfer info. (This by the way is very rare in most Guatemalan nonprofits.)
The Plan (“Solo si Dios quiere!” mi abuelita reminds me)
- Departure with the albañiles or freemasons is now set for Monday, September 20 at 4:30 AM from La Antigua. I’m swooping them up from a gas station at the top of the hill in San Lucas and we will fly through the night and all through Guatemala City before rush hour even thinks about rushing in on us.
- We swing by Estanzuela to pick up Omar (Tio’s youngest son who’s expecting his first kid in October, so it’s taking some convincing to get him away from his wife for two days) and then head over to Media Luna, pulling in around 13:00.
- I introduce the albañiles, chain-smoking 73-year-old Alejandro and young freemason in training Feliciano, to Cousin Santos, Tio Nefta, and the whole clan. We eat in Media Luna.
- Around 3 PM (Yes, still on Monday and possibly moving into Tuesday) we drive back out to Puerto Barrios to find the nearest hardware store. I meet with the lawyer to start drafting up the contract with Santos and Tio Nefta. Damage: Q1100 or $138. Trust me I got him down from Q1,500.
- We crash at the Holiday Inn in Media Luna (Wi-FI and AC even). Riiiight.
- Tuesday we take care of business we couldn’t do on Monday. I take pictures like a madwoman. I leave a Flip camera for Santos to document the entire project with extra batteries of course.
- Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning we head back to Estanzuela and Chiquimula.
Everyone bring their petates or straw sleeping matts and mosquito netting and flash light. We either sleep under a kind stranger’s house, in the car, or in the empty church or school house.
- The building of a simple two-room house with bathroom (toilet and shower)
- Possibly digging another poso or well if the old well doesn’t have capacity for another toilet and shower. Could cost an additional Q1000-Q1200 ($125-$150)
- There will be no electricity connected, but they will leave the house ready with spaces for outlets and wiring when and IF electricity ever makes it to Media Luna.
- They will provide a spot for hanging Tio’s hammock.
- ConstruCasa will generate a contract in Spanish with the material lists that we’ll use to give Santos some guidance on the completion of the project.
We can add the following for additional costs:
- Another well for the shower
- Plastering (repello) and painting which increases the lifespan of the cinder. Added cost: $269-$306.25). Otherwise they have to wash the wall every 6 months. There is a new colored plaster called Prismacal which is Q45/Q50 per bag.
Here’s Stefan from ConstruCasa talking about the house:
For more videos and pictures click here.
This is when it hits me that I won’t be there when the house finishes because we’ll be driving to Oakland. It hits me hard, but I’d rather know he’s got a place to rest his head during that four months we’re gone then know he’s homeless during yet another rainy season.
When I come back in January, I tell myself, I will bring him a housewarming present. I will bring him pictures of all his family to hang on the walls.
When he wakes up everyone will be smiling at him.