So the past week has really flown by. On-site there's been more brick-laying - the seventh and final layer of bricks for the foundation of the school is now complete - and we have been constructing column supports with re-bar and wire. Our concrete mixer (like every mechanical item we touch) is currently broken so pouring the footings is temporarily stalled - our friend and Eduardo's driver Gercione is on top of getting it fixed. Which brings us to an important part of our project that I have ignored so far in the blog - local support, which has evolved entirely different than we expected. Local support has been so crucial that we have taken it for granted. Over the next two blogs or so, I'll do my best to describe some of what our Brazilian friends have helped us with.
Tito (Eduardo's nephew) and his parents Fatchima and Fiao:
Ethan's long-time friend and Portuguese-teacher has kept our spirits high and our costs low. As our truck that we had "repaired" remains in the shop in Cuiaba (a long uninteresting story), Tito has been clutch in transporting us in the Pantanal, and between Eduardo's lodge and Pocone (two hours with Tito driving), along with in and around Pocone for our many errands. We come to Pocone to arrange construction materials deliveries, pick up more tools, visit our civil engineer, take out cash, and re-stock the pantry among other things. For overnight trips to Pocone, we stay at Tito's for the night and for world cup days we have been hosted by many family and friends, and fed like kings.
Crucial for our budget, Tito took care of bargaining for us in Pocone - visiting construction houses and finding the best estimate. For our first building, the school, this saved us well over US$1,000. And by the time we order all the materials and transport them to site, this bargaining will be what has made construction costs of both the school and field station within budget.
And onwards to his gracious parents, Fatchima and Fiao who own a fazenda near Eduardo's lodge in the Pantanal. Fatchima and Fiao are hosting five of our GIEU students for their twenty days in the Pantanal, and have also hosted the whole group for all of the Brazil football games, and two accompanying bonfires (one celebratory, the other lamenting).
And most important in my mind, Tito & Co. solved one of our biggest challenges - supplying clean water daily for our thirsty crew of 22. Our options previous to their help was slow charcoal-filtering that couldn't keep up with the demand, boiling water (a slow tedious task that also ran the kitchen propane tank low), and trying to arrange water pick-up in Pocone (two hours away) with tourist trips. This headache disappeared overnight, and we now receive fresh, clean, and often cold water daily from Fiao and Fatchima.
Tito is in the right corner with the water tube whip to keep students in line.
He is our master of miscellaneous tasks including fence building, stake collecting and sharpening (he insists that they are for vampires still), repairing water pipes that we rupture, fixing the generator/cars/anything else we can break.
Most recently, he has been helping us in conducting the census for the region between Eduardo's lodge and Porto Jofre (an hour drive), and on the Cuiaba River. The greatest challenge of this school is that families are scattered, and transportation for most of the students will involve a daily boat and bus journey. More to come later on how PCER, Eduardo's Jaguar Ecological Reserve, and Pocone's Secretary of Education will share the responsibilities of running the school. Tito took Ethan and a crew of GIEU students down river to collect census date including names, ages, level of education, parents' literacy. Along with the census, we are starting the hiring process for a boat driver, bus driver, and cook from Porto Jofre.
Tito is the one not-steering the boat in the photo above.
Currently, Tito is back in Cuiaba (three and a half hours from Eduardo's lodge) awaiting the arrival of his first child, who is due any day now. We are anxiously awaiting news, and will be sure to keep you updated.