It’s hard to believe that I’m now over halfway through my stay in Nicaragua. This past week, we started back on the east side of the Ducuale footbridge. The east side is the lower of the two landings and a five-minute walk from the community center across the Ducuale Grande vehicular bridge.
THE EAST TOWER
We started off the week with formwork for the east tower of the concrete masonry unit (CMU) block and tied the rebar within the towers. By Wednesday, we finished the CMU for the east tower. I took an inventory of all the rebar that remained to be bent and the material on-site and realized we needed more, so I ordered it to be delivered the next day.
Ivan, one of the masons, continues on the CMU
block work for the east side of the bridge.
Staying dry through the daily heavy rainfall in
We laid out the transition beam excavation for the community volunteers and they started on the east transition beam excavation. But the rains started mid-morning and the volunteers were forced to stop. Ivan, Carlos, Esteban, and I worked on bending rebar at the community center on the covered porch for the remainder of the day. The team tied the transition beam rebar, and the community finished the transition beam excavations. From there, we poured the concrete within the east tower CMU.
The team sifts the sand for the mortar and mixes it by hand only using the fine uniform sand. I can now add masonry to the list of skills I’ve learned during my stay.
MEET THE FACES OF THE COMMUNITY
The masons Carlos and Ivan are two non-volunteers on site, as is Esteban, the construction manager for Bridges to Prosperity. Esteban coordinates material orders for us and the other bridges within the region and works on-site with us when he can. Carlos, Esteban’s son, is 22 and lives in Condega with his girlfriend and 4-month-old son. Ivan is 36 and lives in a small community outside of Condega with his wife and three daughters. He rides his bike 45 minutes to work and, if it raining hard in the evening, often stays overnight in the community center. In addition to this bridge project, Ivan also works as a mason building homes, as well as tending a farm with cows, horses, and corn.
OVER THE RIVER, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
We hire a cab driver who lives in Ducuale Grande to get to and from Condega. I asked him what he does when the river floods, and he said he parks his cab on the Condega side and swims across to get to and from home. One evening this week, on my way home, I shared a cab ride with a woman who was on her way to the hospital. She would not have been able to swim across the river in her condition.
IMMERSED IN THE CULTURE
Last week was Nicaragua’s Independence Day. Nicaraguans celebrate by setting off loud booming fireworks (bombas). The bombas started around 4 a.m. The first time I heard this, I thought it was a gunfight in the street!
Adios for now.