It finally stopped raining some time overnight. This was good news for the project, but I still did not know exactly what we would be doing. I was in for surprise!
The songtows and pick-ups were ready for us at 9 am. The rubber boots were already hot so I knew that it was going to be a long day. We drove about 20 minutes to Tigerland Rice Farm, the land that Mirror had purchased for the Hill Tribe.
The ride was awful! The rain had left huge craters in the road, and riding in the bed of an over-stuffed pick-up made sure you felt every bump. My butt was numb when we arrived.
As we arrived, I think all the new people were overwhelmed. This is a beautiful place - rice fields as far as you can see; green, lush hills; and mud. It was hard to get past the mud.
We carried our supplies to the hut here we would have lunch, were reminded to fill our water bottles and put on bug spray, then asked to meet our leader at a place along the path. It was not easy to get to this location as the mud was thick and slippery. As it turned out, this would impact our work for the day.
This road that we were on was used by many of the Hill Tribe people to get from Point A to Point B. Since the rain had left this such a mess, we were going to use the day to build a road. I had never done this before, and I am pretty sure that most of my fellow volunteers had not, either. But with about 50 of us, we had the labor to get the job done.
Our first task was gathering stones of a variety of sizes from the nearby stream. This would be the primary task of the bulk of the volunteers for the day. Although the boots helped keep the water off, these boots had no traction. They were not much more than rubber socks. It made moving about the area quite a challenge!
The Tiger family works the farm. Several of them were out leading us by showing us how the work was to be done. I am not an engineer (after all, there is a business school at Georgia Tech and we can't all be athletes!) so I am probably missing some key elements, but the process involved these steps:
1. Use bamboo to lay out the path or the road
2. Use rocks of a variety of sizes to provide a foundation for the road
3. Mix cement and pour concrete (I never remember whether you use cement to make concrete or vice versa?)
In my little brain, it seems simple, but i will tell you that this is the hardest work I have ever done! And I loved every minute of it!
It was so cool to see a muddy path be transformed into a usable surface. I spent most of the day alternating between carrying bags of rocks from a stream to the path and laying out the rocks so that our new road had a solid foundation. We laid large rocks along the edges, medium size rocks in the center, and smaller stones to fill in the gaps.
As an aside, the whole process reminded me of that old story about priorities. I wish I knew to whom I could attribute this but the basic idea is that you need to add the big rocks first, the the smaller rocks, and fill the remainder with sand. The message is that it you add the sand first (a symbol of our petty tasks) you don't have room for the big rocks (our really important tasks). I loved seeing this put into a real life setting!
Other than a short break for lunch, we worked for 7 hours. The cool thing is that the Tiger family realized that with all of our resources, we could make the road longer! So we kept adding bamboo and rocks until we ran out of cement. And the finished product was awesome!
When we finally called it quits, we were all exhausted. The Tiger Family asked that we wash off the equipment so that the cement wouldn't set. Then we filled up the Songtows and pick-ups to head back to Mirror.
After the ride that morning, I decided that I was too old to ride in the back of a pick-up so I found a spot in the cab. As we were pulling out, I felt something on my arm and asked loudly "what is this?" (there may have been a scream). Kitt Tiger, who was driving, reached around to the backseat and pulled this thing off me and said "that's a leech. It will start to bleed. Put this paper on it." He was very matter-of-fact, but I was creeped out!
When e got back to the Mirror, we all went our separate ways, in search of showers and clean clothes. I have never been as happy to have a clean shower and flip-flops! After 8 hours in rubber, non-breathable boots, my feet were very wet and sad. And although i did not have laundry detergent, I took my clothes to laundry facility at the back. It was then that I met the pigs!
When I initially toured our compound, I missed the pig pen. This was impossible to miss while you waited for your clothes to wash. The Mirror had four very large pigs in a far too small space. I admit that I know nothing about raising pigs. But these pigs, who ate all of our composted leftovers, seemed to be kept in a far too small pen. It is honestly my only complaint about Mirror.
When I finished washing my clothes, I was desperate to go to bed. But I knew I needed to eat fist. So I rushed through dinner and happily crawled into bed before 7.
Tomorrow I would start work in the rice fields.