The precious resource of Water

Trip Start Sep 05, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hands On has been sending a team of volunteers to the remote village of Con Con for several months to complete a water irrigation and water treatment Project. Con Con is a two tour bus ride from Pisco plus a slew of other rides on small chicken buses which eventually get you to a dusty road across the river Canete from Con Con.

A cement canal was built years ago to carry water out of the River Canete and to the villages of Con Con and Rumadilla, and it was damaged by the earthquake to the point where it was no longer functional. The obvious result was that all the crops, which is the entire makeup of the local economy, were dying because they no longer had water. About a month and a half ago, Hands on volunteers finished repairing the canal, and now the water runs freely to the crops and the homes.

The next phase has been to fix the water treatment plant which was the source of water to the taps and appliances (if they had them in the homes). The plant itself was well built and worked for a couple of years, but five years ago due to lack of proper maintinance, it went out of service. I´ve learned an incredible amount about water treatment this past week, and it was facinating to learn that water can be treated, and often is in the western world as well, by a simple filer system which uses sand and rocks. The Basic plan is that the plant draws water from the canal, and it is first pased through a massive tank, the size of a small bedroom, of fist sized rocks. This is a first pass to make sure nothing large remains in the water. The second stage it passes through a tank of small rocks with a layer of sand on top. The sand all must be a specific uniform size. Alter several weeks of running the water through the system, natural and good bacteria begin to build up in the sand. The good bacteria of course eat the bad bacteria. The last stage involves pumping the water to an elevated resevior, at least as high as the final destination of the water where gravity takes it via pipes to all the houses along the line.

The work itself invold washing rocks and sifting sand in order to fill up the tanks with clean rocks and sand. They system blocked up because the proper materials were not used to fill the rock and sand tanks, and they were never cleaned. These were not some of my more inspired moments during Project pisco, but it was none the less much needed work, and we managed to have our fair share of fun.

The highlight of the week however was the party we gave for the family which housed and fed us for the week, and had been housing and feeding volunteers for several months. Two of the volunteers made a trip into Canete to get the necessary supplies for the feast we were to prepare for the family. They managed to find several kilos of red meat, a chicken, loads of vegetables and a grill to cook it all up. I dont think the family had seen this much food in a long time, and we took over their house in order to prepare it all. The ensuing evening was pure comedy. It wasnt until after the meat had been cooked that we discovered that it might not have been cow meat that was purchased, but but perhaps the much tougher male version...bull. Even the gringos struggled to get our teeth into the meat despite yearly dentistry, othodontisty and general education about taking care of our pearly whites. To no suprise, the members of the family in the house of course had no such luxuries, and that left most of them without the proper oral weaponry to actually eat the food we had given them. They took it all in good humor though, we all laughed our way through dinner. At one point, the paterfamilias, Jorge, was gumming his meat to the best of his abilities, and he managed to loose his grip on this prized piece of bull meat and it went airborne. It bounced off several hands before landing safely back in his grasp and he began shouting ¨lo vivi, lo vivi!¨ meaning ¨It lives, it lives!!¨ Erica, who had spent much of the week cooking our food and cleaning up after us when we made a mess couldn´t help but refer to her dinner as the ¨toro viejo¨ which means the ¨old bull¨ In the middle of our meal, Diego, the Argentine who had been preparing the met came to the head of the table to slice up what he had cooked in order to serve it. You have to immagine, Diego with his long hair covering his face, standing at the head of the table in clothes unwashed from days and days of working wielding a huge meat cleaver. With the meat splayed out, he began hacking at it, lifting the cleaver fully over his head in order to apply the needed force to the meat just to cut it up. The family, already nervous because they were unable to eat the food we had prepared, were now looking more nervous than ever. By the time the night was over nine gringos had been cooking for 4 hours to prepare a meal for the family. Two of the women in the family manage to prepare two meals a day for nine of us gringos in roughly an hour and a half. We had taken over their house, made a massive mess and fed them food they could barely eat.

This was all in good humor though, we, and they were all aware of the comedy that had unfolded.
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