I have cement in my hair, more knots in my back than verterbrae, dirt in places where the sun don´t shine, and I can´t grip anything without looking like a new patient at the Betty Ford Clinic. This is the hardest work I´ve ever done outside of soccer and I´m actually enjoying it. I´ve used pick axes, shovels, sledge hammers, wheelbarrows, and they even let me run the cement mixer for a bit. Work typically starts around 9:30 in the morning and goes til around 1:30 when we have a delicious Peruvian lunch made for us by the respective families we are helping. Today we actually had grilled stingray, something I´ve never even heard of eating before. We then work til around 4 before going home and either hopping in the shower or diving in the ocean to clean off the mess accumluated throughout the day. Dinner is promptly at 6, unless there´s a soccer game, in which case everyone goes to cheer the team on against the nasty tour guides and then dinner is afterward. The night is then spent playing cards, having a few beers, and exchanging stories. For me, however, the night is usually over just after dinner as I crawl into my bed, which happens to be about as hard as the concrete we hammer, and I struggle to keep my eyes open reading a book.
I´ve made the strongest bonds of my trip thus far because, as you can imagine, all of us volunteers are constantly around each other. My ¨partner¨ has been the 21-year-old, professional soccer player/model, Jhonatan, cousin of the founder of the organization. Fortunately, we´ve been able to work together every day as he is a constant example for myself and everyone else; he´ll work tirelessly all day digging four and five-foot trenches and still have enough energy to play with the little kids surrounding our worksite yelling at us gringos to either give them money or give them wheelbarrow rides. We usually choose the latter.
Besides Jhonatan, I´ve also been lucky to become close with Harold, the founder, Harold´s brother, Edwin, and Harold´s sister, Carolina. Their family´s house didn´t succumb to the actual tremors of the earthquake a year-and-a-half ago, but it did burn down a couple days later and they lost nearly everything. A few of their family members died as well, but they all have been selflessly working nonstop to fix the damage as best they can.
So now here´s the pitch I assume some of you have been expecting: this cause has become very close to my heart as I have literally put not only the cliche of blood, sweat, and tears into it, but nearly every other bodily function as well (don´t drink the tap water). If you haven´t looked at the website yet, please do so: piscosinfronteras.org
I know that this time in the world is not a time to be asking for money for people in foreign countries when it is so desperately needed at home, so all I ask is that you promote the cause by telling other potential volunteers about it and keep it in mind for the future. The people here are some of the best I´ve ever met, and although I could have easily donated money and saved myself a lot of pain and discomfort, I take much pride in my ability to attempt to do something I´ve never done before and I will always be thankful for the experience I´ve had here and for the friends I´ve made.
Note: Please feel free to pass this on to whomever in an email or otherwise. Thanks!