Saturday, November 28, 2009

The container arrives...

The long-awaited phone call signaled “action,” which in campo-style means rounding up a few more hands and the dust on the roadway indicated the truck was heading our way. One of the regular workers called out to me to show me the dust cloud and within a few minutes the truck was in sight.

It was around 2 o’clock and after taking over a week to fill the container, we were both a little anxious as to how long it might take to unpack it. You see, they don’t have a 40-ton tow truck to lift 27,000 pounds of cargo, so we had to get back to basics - lifting just the container itself which weighs about 4,500 pounds - empty. But the “many hands make light work” ditty certainly was true in this case. Nine men and a little boy (a second-grader who is the son of the full-time gardener/handyman) emptied the entire 8 x 8.5 x 20 foot cargo space in one hour and a half and 30 bottles of beer!

Jey-hu was the “inside” director and I was the “outside” director. He guided them on which items to take off and cautioned them in sign language (his Spanish lacks the full capabilities for detailed instructions) as to weight and fragility. I guided them to the ‘kenai,’ an outside, covered building with sides but no windows or doors, and showed them where to place the items based on use - books in one corner, kitchen supplies in another, tools and garden implements over here and personal gear over there. My Spanish was barely up to saying ‘a qui,' and “gracias” over and over due to incredible fatigue from sleeping on an air mattress for 10 days that simply could not stay inflated.

One of the most exciting parts of this adventure has been living without refrigeration for these past two weeks. Getting our refrigerator here and carried down the hill to the dining hall was more than exciting... it was a total pleasure to have a drink of cold water today!!!

One of the worker’s wife and his children came to watch the excitement, and there were other family members who were not involved in the moving watching with interest everything that came out of the box. The antique oxen yoke caused great hilarity, the exercise system brought puzzled looks, and all the boxes of books caused great shaking of heads as to why anyone would have that much to do with those things.

Two “cerveca” (beer) breaks helped smooth the way and the next step was getting the container placed on the site where it is going to stay.

We were fortunate that our host’s wife’s father knew someone in San Gil who could tackle the problem. But when he showed up with a 1960’s version of a two-tonner truck, we were not sure what the outcome might be. Still, you can see from the pictures here, just how accomplished the two drivers were and how successful the whole operation was.

It was Jey-hu who said later, “If I’ve learned anything today, it’s to get out of the way of these Colombians when you set them to do a task. They may not do it the way we would in the U.S., but they find a way and with their particular tools, and they get it done safely and quickly.”

And today, when we gave them a bonus for their efforts, they were grateful and pleased over what amounted to $20,000 pesos each... or approximately $11 per man. That will get them at least 10 beers or two or three meals, their choice. Below you can see the group of workers watching all the action.

By 5 p.m. all the excitement was over - probably one of the more interesting things to watch in Barichara recently - and both trucks were headed back down the hill, one to San Gil and the other to Bogota, six hours away. You can see our community all stopped work on this little casita in order to watch events unfold. This house is a "rammed earth house" a common sort of construction here. The walls are almost 2 feet thick keeping the house cool during the day and temperate in the evening. More on this in another blog.

As everyone headed home, we were left with boxes and boxes to re-organize, unpack and find places for things. And we were also left with a curious sense of family because it was due to all the families involved that we were able to realize the dream of having the container arrive here, get set down here and have all the pieces fall into place safely - for everyone.


  1. Thank you for your kind comments on my web-page, I need to do some catch-up reading here. I have missed lots. As you will understand I have been so very busy with the book and all the publicity it has produced!! They are selling so very well and I am thrilled as all will help with my desire to support MM. Please don't worry I will reserve a copy for you and send when you are ready.(it is taking approx five days to reach the US) We are going into a second run now, as sales have exceeded our first thoughts. Many are buying for Xmas gifts I believe. It is a lovely looking book and the photos don't do it justice. Could have done with your expertise here. Anyway please let your friends know that they can buy online and that prices include postage and packing anywhere world-wide. I am going back now to catch-up on your adventures -take care now - and enjoy it all.
    Sincerely Susie.

  2. Thank you, Susie -- I have been following your activities with the book and highly recommend people go to your website to order it - not only will it support the Multiple Myeloma cause, but your words bring comfort to all kinds of situations. I am delighted you have experienced such success with it! Best to you and Hamada during this holiday period and catch up here when time allows... Sandy