Once all the cross beams were placed we turned to laying the deck boards. The wood we bought was too strong to penetrate with nails or screws (a testament to how long our bridge will last) and we quickly realized we would need more drill bits for predrilling. Ian agreed to make the trip to Matagalpa to buy them since they don’t sell quality bits in Esquipulas. When he returned on Wednesday we started the deck.
Since the cables have been up we have been able to put harnesses on and cross on the cables with ease. The group has been reunited at last and the work day is so much more enjoyable when we face it together. We now have daily meetings to discuss what has gone well and what we would like to change. Communication has improved and that has led to improved morale and productivity as well.
Everyone took their turn laying the decking including workers from the community and we blazed through it in two days.
With the bridge done ahead of time, Sam, Chepe, Louie and I made a day trip to Jucuapa Occidental to visit the community we worked with on last year’s bridge. It was wonderful to see all our old friends and to see our bridge standing strong, as if it was just built yesterday.
We also paid a visit to the school on Friday morning to deliver a set of Spanish-English dictionaries to the children. They love learning new english words.
On Saturday we all returned to our host family’s home for the first time since the group split up. We were so happy to spend time with them together again. They treated us to a feast along with the Jicaro baseball team, who coincidentally happened to be the community leaders as well. We enjoyed the food and took turns giving speeches of congratulations and thanksgiving for the completion of the bridge and the memories we made while doing so together. The Jicaro pedestrian bridge is complete! The rainy season will no longer isolate Jicaro from the school, the medical care, the market, and the job opportunities. We all feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this experience.
The feast was followed by a gringo (the slang term for people from the United States) vs. Nicaraguan soccer game. Despite having fewer players, Continental Crossings held their own and the game ended in a tie at 2-2 only when we ran out of light.
Sunday was the opening ceremony for our bridge. We packed all our things in the morning, shared one final meal with our family, and joined the rest of the community and the mayor’s office at the bridge for the party. There was food, a mariachi band, dancing, balloons, a ribbon cutting, lots of pictures with our new brothers and sisters, a blessing from the local priest, many large boulders rolled off the cliff into the river, and speeches given from all parties involved. The community was so grateful to us for helping them realize their dream of building a bridge. We, in turn, were just as grateful for the hospitality they showed us, for all they taught us about their culture, and for the relationships they fostered with us. It was an emotional roller coaster of extreme joy for the completion of our bridge together, and sadness that we would soon have to say goodbye.
Next up is a return trip to Cinta Verde, where we hope to build our next bridge. We plan to meet with the community, survey the crossing, start sample excavations, and go on adventures.
In other news, our bridge has so much freeboard (distance between the bottom of the bridge and the top of the high water mark) that you can almost finish peeing before it hits the water. Or so we have been told. None of us would actually try that, obviously.