First, a BIG THANK YOU to the construction crew that worked so hard. You guys are so awesome!
Here's the latest email update from Jack with some interesting details about the past week:
"Almost right up to the last moment when the U.S. workers and their local volunteers quit working at four o'clock on Saturday, we were never without the logistical nightmare of getting materials to the men so they would not be delayed in their progress. Somehow, however, we managed it with the help of many people and especially Leslie (the Director of the Orphanage) who would jump in at the last minute with some magic solution if we did not have one. Some glaring examples included the drama with the concrete blocks we purchased from one vendor in the city. He told up up front when we ordered and paid for 3000 blocks from him that they were not his best blocks and he even gave us a significant discount for the purchase. I was leery from the first about this matter but I had one of the masons with me who physically inspected the blocks and said they were good, so we went ahead with the purchase. When the first 1000 of them arrived most of them broke and were completely unsuitable for use. We had already received blocks from another vendor that were very high quality, so when I learned about the broken ones, I had to rush into action to attempt to stop the vendor from shipping the last of the bad blocks and get out money back so we could buy more from the second vendor. Well, you can imagine how that cut into our day, with your mom running around with the only vehicle we had and me scrambling to get her back so we could go to the first vendor to get our money back and order some more blocks from the other manufacturer. We managed it just as the crews were about to run out of blocks.
There were unnumbered other cases like that then we were about to run out of sand and another time when our cement was running low. Late yesterday (Saturday) when I thought we had everything covered, the men who were mixing the mortar for the blocks had been using Lemon Joy dish soap as a stabilizer for the mix (they had brought along a large container from the U.S.) when the man handling that operation announced to me that he needed some more and that nothing else but Lemon Joy in his opinion would do. So with a second car that your mom had rented so I could get around while she ran other errands, I took off down town for the needed dish soap. Three hours later after battling traffic and searching a variety of small and large grocery stores and convenience shops along with a few street vendors, I finally returned with a bottle of dish soap (not Lemon Joy), worried that it wouldn't be good enough quality, and the guy accepted it just as his supply was about to run out. It worked fine, he told me later--a new lesson for him that all dish soaps may be the same after all.
The workers continued to press on through the week with that one goal in mind of completing the wall before 4PM on Saturday, as that was the time the Director of the Orphanage announced that he wanted to start with a "Thank-you" celebration that would include all of us properly clean and dressed up. Late afternoon Friday, looking at that deadline, Matt Ray, the appointed leader of the U.S. work group announced that they were going to work until dark. They did that and by Saturday morning the project looked very positive for being complete by the four o'clock deadline. As the group wound up things at 4:30 on Saturday and passed out their give-away tools to the local workers, three sides of this massive eight foot high wall was completed and there remained what the workers claimed, was only two more hours work for the local masons to do to complete the last wall. I had only one course of blocks to lay in a section about 75 feet long. Those men really cranked those last few hours, and when we loaded into the two vehicles to get ready to return to the hotel so the men could clean up and return to the celebration, their spirits were higher than I had seen them all week.
I didn't do much real physical labor or help the men on their jobs, other than running for this or that to keep them supplied with goods, so I had a lot of time to observe the U.S. workers on the job and when they took their frequent water breaks. It was impressive alone watching them work, but more so was their interaction with the children. Not one of them would return to the water dispenser without picking up their favorite child and playing for a few moments before they went back to work. It was obvious they were loving every moment of these not so frequent breaks, and were especially slow getting into the vehicles when we returned to the hotel at night. These guys were magnificent giants as they held and loved these tiny children and played toss ball or succor with the older ones. I can say how admirable it was to watch these interactions, and to in some way be a part of the process.
I'm sure it was good for the children too, as I heard some of the stories of their various demises, I was feeling that same compassion I believe the men were feeling as they loved and hugged these infants. I choked up myself on more than one occasion when I heard the stories of why some of these children were at the orphanage, and I am sure most of the workers felt the same at times. I was curious, for example, about one little 11 year old girl that especially bonded with me during the days I was there. So I got one of the boys who spoke English to ask her about her family. She it turned out was a new-comer to the orphanage, having been delivered there by an American who found her wandering alone in one of the Tent Cities. Both her parents had died in the quake and somehow she had gotten out or had been rescued unscathed from the rubble. I could hardly believe this story as I saw her smiling as she told her story, and the details were related to me. Her dimpled face and perfect bright teeth showed no signs of what she had gone through only a little over a month ago."