My recent days are dominated with identifying needy families to receive the gift of a stove, the training of how to use, care for, and install the stove, the order and delivery of the stoves, and ultimately the door-to-door delivery of the stoves and the installation. Once the stoves are installed I still need to photograph them and write the thank you letters to the donors (you can be a donor too!).
It's been a saga! I'll skip the boring details of having to do half the training myself because HELPS International did not effectively communicate with me or the fact that the truck going to pick up the stoves in Chiquimula was delayed on the highway because of a tractor trailer crash that stopped traffic for 6 hours on one of Guatemala's busiest highways (single lane nonetheless) thus ruining all the plans I had for unloading the truck in daylight that same day. Ah! My suffering!!
Each ONIL stove is put together with 11 concrete blocks (35 lbs each), 3 large cement pieces (230 lbs), 8 piece iron griddle (40 lbs) with a tool to remove the pieces, 8 ceramic tiles for the combustion unit, 2 metal interior pieces, 6 part stove pipe unit, two small wooden wedges to keep it steady and a tiny envelope with incidental wires and nails.
After the lengthy and exhausting process of unloading the 62 stoves (not the 682 concrete blocks - we make those locally), I get to deliver the stoves to each home - mainly so that I can know exactly where the house is, ensure that the stove is properly installed and get photos. The homes are scattered among 6 buroughs in Tactic (29 stoves) and 6 far flung villages (33 stoves).
I find myself with 3 unsolicited yet motivated helpers. The smallest offers his services first. He's 10. I agree thinking he can help load and unload the incidental pieces (the light ones) and I can pay him a little for that. He goes directly for the 140 lb concrete piece. Then his two cousins show up mid morning wanting to tag along. Hmmmm.
So we deliver 9 stoves yesterday morning and I dismiss the lads for the afternoon as I know there will be plenty of help in the village I'm going to and the regular workers where the stoves are stored always help load the hired pick-up.
We barely make 2 trips to San Antonio Panec as the hill is very steep and the vintage Toyota 1/2 ton has trouble climbing the mountain with either of the loads (2100 lbs and 1400 lbs respectively). We have to unload some blocks at the bottom and come back for them each time. I try phoning 3 of the recipients but I get giggling women at the other end, so my plan is thwarted once again. 2 families aren't home, but we leave the stoves anyhow.
The chauffeur picks passengers up on the way back to Tactic earning more income. He drops them off in the centre of town and asks if it's cool if he loads up some produce for his next trip before dropping me off 1/2 a km down the highway. Sure.
I watch resignedly as 2 young guys toss 300 cabbages from 1 pick up to ours for 45 minutes.
I spend some of that time waiting in the cab and staring at some of the bling hanging from his rear-view mirror and listening to the radio. The radio in this country really deserves its own blog post.
I should mention that it is unusually hot this day. Amber helps me out with some aloe vera (savila in Spanish).