After arriving in Nicaragua with no problems, Ethan and I stopped having good fortune. Upon arriving in Cinta Verde on Tuesday morning, we found that the excavations had been dug meters away from where we planned on placing the foundation and anchors on one side of the river. Filling in the excavation holes was not an option because in our design, calculations were made assuming that compacted soil would be providing pressure in front of the anchor. This meant that we needed to redesign the bridge using the excavation locations. After resurveying the site on Wednesday, Ethan began redesigning the bridge so that we could continue with the construction process.
The rest of the team almost arrived on Wednesday as planned. One team member, Colin, had huge delays and flight cancelations in Chicago, which resulted in approximately 36 hours f total travel time, arriving an entire 24 hours behind the other team members. While Colin was sitting in an airport, the rest of the team went to pick up the cable. Of course, nothing goes to plan so what Ethan and I thought would be a one hour trip to the warehouse ended up being a full day of heavy, grease-filled lifting. We assumed that we would be transporting several tons of cable on a spool to our site and cutting the 1.25 inch diameter cable into five 90 meter long pieces there. Once Brandon arrived to pick us up in the morning, we found out that we were actually going to unspool the cable and cut it at the warehouse. After five hours of work, we finished with the cables and were able to begin shopping for the rest of the materials for the bridge at various ferraterias around Managua. With the truck fully loaded and a full day of hard work and sun on our side, we picked up Colin at the airport and traveled to Esquipulas where we stayed at a hostel for the night.
The next morning, we loaded up two pickup trucks and headed out to Cinta Verde. Once we were there, everyone started setting up camp. We will be living in tents in the school yard approximately 50 meters away from the bridge site for the eight weeks we are here. Four of us are living in single tents while three people share a “mansion” tent complete with a screened in patio. We found out the downside of living in tents a couple nights ago when it rained the entire night. Colin was sleeping in the most unfortunate spot of the mansion tent. At one point during the night, he was under a waterfall. Water was everywhere and we found out how quickly the river rises when it rains. At the beginning of the morning, we were unable to cross the river because the river was very high, muddy, and flowing rapidly. By late morning, we were able to wade through the river. It’s clear that one of the big inhibitors of our project will be rain. The more it rains, the harder it will be to complete the bridge on time.
So far, living in Cinta Verde has been great. At the school, we are surrounded by at least ten children from the community every minute we are awake. They spend all day working alongside us by carrying buckets of water, lifting rocks, or helping mix concrete. In the evening, they play soccer or listen to Aaron play his harmonica with us. We have amazing cooks that have been generous enough to spend most of their days cooking for us. Every meal has the typical beans and rice, but there is also something extra like chicken soup or fruit salad offered as well. A small kitchen was constructed on the side of the school to make lunches for the school kids, but now it is also being used to feed us. The Alcaldia in Esquipulas is spoiling us as well this year. I assumed we would be taking bucket showers or bathing in the river this summer, but they surprised us and had two showers built in a covered area next to the school.
We are currently behind schedule with constructing the bridge since those excavations were off, but with three amazing masons working alongside us progress is being made quickly. So far, one foundation and one tier are complete and the walls of the other foundation are half way done. The goal is that in the next ten days, we can have the towers and tiers finished.
Last week, our masons were concerned about community involvement since about two men showed up every day to help. We contacted the community leaders and organized a community meeting that was held on Tuesday. In the meeting, we made it clear that unless a minimum of six men came to work every day on the site, we would leave and help another community that was willing to work for their bridge. So far this week, the community has done outstanding in provided labor for the bridge site.
Now, it’s time to say good bye to Ethan. His help has been instrumental in starting construction. With all of his logistical work complete, we will be able to spend more time focusing on building and less on purchasing materials. Let’s hope the next week goes just as well as this week with a few less surprises!