It’s hard to believe we’ve only been working three days. We have accomplished a lot, have hit our exhaustion thresholds and we still have 5 weeks to go!
We left Libreville on Sunday in caravan style. Gabonese volunteers from both villages drove us out. The long trip allowed us to get acquainted, stop for lunch of grilled meat and see a couple of the sites, as we crossed the equator.
We had a wonderful dinner on arrival with all the contingent from Libreville and our hosts here. Then we split up to go to the places where we’re staying. Terri, Mary and John are staying in Giselle’s house while Drew and Claire are not far away in the house of one of Giselle’s family members. Doug continued on to Doumandzou with Gaston and settled into Papa’s house. All our lodging is comfortable; there’s electricity a couple of hours at night and indoor plumbing features. We are cooking on gas stoves and everyone is bending over backwards to make us feel at home. And we do.
Monday was a planning day. We were met at the school by students who sang and handed us a floral bouquet. We all then headed to Doumandzou where we worked last year. The reception by the children there has made the whole trip (this year and last). Nguema’s children came running up to us with the most genuine, heartfelt hugs. Gaston put on a nice meal for us, that included a forest cat that Nguema had killed that morning!
To the work: we started Tuesday in Sam with demolition being the order of the day. In some respects the school this year is in better shape, in others in worse shape, including a leaky, unsalvageable roof. By noon we had ripped out all the windows, by the end of the day the roof was off and we were bringing down the ceiling and rotted out roof framing. The work slowed down a little as we got into the tedious job of removing nails and small nail clasps that the 1960s volunteers seemed to love, too much as we wrestle to rip them out.
We started dismantling the first of the teachers houses, sand and tin roof was delivered, as were loads of wood. (Thanks Bob). If you ask, you can hear the story of the scorpion and the black mamba.
Over in Doumandzou, Doug is working with Nguema and Gabriel on the school latrines, pouring the footings for the cement block pits and finishing digging the second pit.
Those of us who were here last year keep talking of differences and small reminders of the work, but mostly about people who just show up and want to help and pitch in.
We have other stories, of dipping in the small stream after work to cool down, of power tools, of new friends.
This Sunday, we hear there’s going to be a soccer match between the two villages. Who do we root for?