A Stoddart in South America

It's been a looooong week!

I haven't written anything on my blog this week and that is because of a very good reason. I have been exhausted. My week has consisted of sleeping, eating and working. And nothing else! Here is a quick summary of the week:


Monday's ride to work was not a smooth one. About half way. We got stopped by the police. 6 men and a gringa, in a beaten up, 30 year old pick up truck. I was expecting trouble. There was some discussion, some papers were required and I think they doubted ownership of the truck. Why anyone would steal such a vehicle is beyond me. But anyway, the police were not satisfied with the papers so the driver was asked to step out of the pick up. Now at this point I was completely expecting the police to shoot him at point blank range. But thankfully they didn't. As none of us would have been able to drive the pick up anywhere! After a while of discussion the driver was allowed to return and we were on our way. Once in Balanya, new week = new house and new family. And this family had, next to the usual amount of chickens, lots of dogs. And a very cute puppy called Rex!


Tuesday was hot! Full, blazing sun hot! And I was sat in it all day chipping blocks. I really quickly gave up on rubbing in my sun lotion. It was just spray on, wait 5 minutes for it to evaporate and then reapply. And I still got burnt!


Wednesday morning I went to Ciudad Viaje to help build an extra classroom for the Niños de Guatemala school.  We were only there for the morning because in the afternoon we were going to visit 2 other projects that Constru Casa have worked on. The first was a cooperation that designs and builds ecological machinery to try and combat the pollution issues in Guatemala. They have created a compost creating toilet and an irrigation system powered by a tower with a kinda cross-trainer pumping thing.

They give lessons to locals on how to live in a more sustainable manner, in a classroom that was built by Constru Casa. They also grow a lot of fruit, vegetables and herbs all of which they sell and they have some free range chickens and bunny rabbits. The second project was Tess Unlimited, where we visited their educational centre. It's a place where kids can go, for free, in the afternoon. Here they get extra classes in English, computers and cooking. Twice a month there is something called Kids Restaurant where the kids cook a 3 course meal for the public. Not an easy feat, considering these kids are as young as 9 years old!


How many guys does it take to mix a floors-worth of concrete?? 5 guys and a girl! And we made THE ultimate concrete mixing machine! Guy 1 mixing the semi-dry mixture into a slightly wetter mixture, guy 2 making the mixture even wetter and shovelling into buckets, guy 3 moving the filled buckets into the house, guy 4 pouring the concrete, guy 5 level if it out and then me, overseeing the whole operation (of course) and adding more water when it was all looking a bit too dry!  I think we managed to mix, pour and level the whole room in 5 minutes tops!


The last day of building. House 4 was finished at lunch time. There was meant to be a small ceremony in the afternoon but due to the Constru Casa staff getting in a small car accident (no one as injured - just the car) on their way to Balanya we had to just kinda wing it! We took photos with the family and the house. The mason gave a speech and thanked me for helping and the father of the family also said some nice words to me. I had brought them some bags of crisps and a 3l bottle of Pepsi (this seemed to be the families favourite snack combination) to celebrate the completion of their new home! As I was leaving the mother came and gave me a hug. Obviously a very emotional time for the family! And me too.

This was repeated at the first house I helped with. Only there I had an extra gift for the little boy. I gave him his very own masons kit. Complete with hard hat and a tool belt with all the tools he could need to build his own house!

I got a thank you gift from Constru Casa. A volunteer t-shirt and a group photo from the first day. Oh and some banana bread and orange juice, that because of the accident, didn't make it to the celebrations in Balanya!




Dear Claire thank you to much for your energy and lively way of describing life in Guate. Great that you went to el Ninos and Tess projects. I know them but have not been to them yet. You must have been in a rollercoaster of actions and emotions so reflect on it some days and dream back to the families who's lifes will change a lot. Gracias amiga que te vaya bien y bien viaje


As always, very nice writing...and the end gave me tears in my eyes and goose bumps...very emotional...you must be very proud of the help you are bringing there and you see the recognition from the families...great memories that you will remember for the rest of your life.

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