I spent ten days in Los Conocones. Ten days of love, adventure, hard work, laughing, learning, and enjoying life. Ten days and one life changing experience.
Sunday September 17 we arrived in Los Conocones to a group of joyful, smiling, and singing faces of our host families. I will be honest, I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach with worries such as my Spanish not being good enough or my family not liking me. Needless to say, that wasn’t the case. We introduced ourselves to be matched with our family members present. Marisela, my 20 year old sister was there waiting for me with the biggest smile on her face. As we walked back to the house we got to know each other and she gave me the rundown of the family.
Monday September 18: Work Day 1: Latrine. Caryn, Victoria and I were the first group to work on one of the six latrines. Our task was simple: build the base frame, mix and pour concrete, and build the house. It was a lot of fun working with the locals and learning so much from them. While they did a lot of the work (it’s a Dominican thing to have the men do all if not most of the work, especially when it comes to construction) we had time to play casino, the Dominicans’ favorite card game, and take turns riding the horses up and down the street. It took us all day to finish the work, but it was worth it. The rest of our group was working over at the school tearing down walls and starting the work building the new ones. At 5 we left our sites to clean up for dinner and spend time with our families.
Tuesday September 19: Work Day 2: Digging. I spent the day in a hole. Our task was to dig a nine foot by 4 foot hole for the latrine. Needless to say, we were the only group lucky enough to have this task. Travis, Sarah, and I spent the day taking turns playing in dirt. The hardest part was the digging, so Sarah and I left that to the cousin of the house and Travis. The men used the pick to loosen as much dirt as possible so Sarah and I could take turns shoveling the dirt out. It was long and tiring work that took us all day.
Wednesday September 20: Work Day 3: Painting. This was my first day working at the school. We had two different tasks to complete: painting the inside of the finished classrooms and mixing cement for the columns. It was a lot of fun seeing the school children so willing to help, especially with the painting. But let me tell you, using oil based paint was a big pain. It took us all morning to paint in a nice and even coat so it could dry and be ready for coat #2 in the afternoon. As much as we wanted to paint a second coat right away after lunch, that didn’t happen due to the humidity. The paint simply would not dry. But problem aside, we still found a way to have fun with all the kids there.
Thursday September 21: Work Day 4: More painting. What we didn’t get finished yesterday we had to do today. The painting didn’t take too long but it was more of painting and waiting for it to dry. So I helped out with the stucco on the newly built walls. It was fun watching the boys mix the cement and then them watching me do the real work of stuccoing the walls. Thanks to the pervious work I’ve done in Mexico building a house and the influence of my father’s handy skills, I was pretty darn good at stuccoing. Plus it was a lot of fun. We had competitions as to who could throw stucco on the wall and still make it look nice. Not sure who won exactly since we would laugh too hard to see. But the fun is all that matters. The work was again finished at a decent hour so we could wash up for dinner and spending time with our families.