Things didn't quite go to the script. I travelled back up the mountain with a group that was going to work on the stairs project, as I did yesterday. We got off together and my plan was to then walk the short distance to the little school. However, on the mountain, Greg, our site manager from the day before, was not there and I was pretty much the only person on the site who had an idea (limited as it was) about what we needed to do and how we needed to do it. We had about 70 students, one set of stairs to finish and another be to completed. So I hung around and helped get things started with the idea that I would head off to the school a bit later. I never did.
While I would have loved to spend some time at the school, I kind of felt that this was where belonged anyway. We got things rolling and pretty soon we were back in the groove. I was secretly looking forward to seeing the first set of stairs finished. The site of the second staircase was even more challenging. We had a lot to do in a day.
Greg arrived after about an hour-and-a-?half and took control of things. Once again, it was rocks and cement, rocks and cement. The lines were reformed, the cement was mixed in massive piles at the top of the hill, water and sand trucks rumbled up and down the narrow slippery mountain lanes dropping off their load, and groups scouted for more decent-sized rocks to add to the mortar. A couple of students, Riley and Lexie were assigned trowel duty. It was all system go.
As was the case the day before, the work was hard and grinding, and just like yesterday, no one shirked the task. I saw amazing things. Students almost buckling under the weight of a 10 kilogram bucket of cement refusing to take a break because they felt they would be letting the group down. Two girls from Trinity College Auburn, (whose names I as yet don't know but intend to find out) were incredible. For hour on hour, their toiled ankle-deep in cement mix hauling out full buckets and lifting them up onto the barrels ready for their entry on the human conveyor belt, then tossing back into the pile the empty ones once they had been returned. Maybe they were inspired by their teachers - Matt Turner, Marty Corcoran and Kevin Griffiths who were indefatigable - they even refused to stop for lunch.
It looked for a while that we wouldn't get it all done. But under Greg's direction and the unquenchable spirit of the group, the job was completed just before 5.00pm. We gathered together before heading back down the mountain and were addressed by Calixa, the community leader and site foreman, who gave a very moving speech thanking the students for what they has done for his community and explaining to them what a difference it would make to their lives. I wasn't the only one who became a bit emotional during that address.
Another group would be back tomorrow to finish everything. Three days ago, families had to trudge up a steep, slippery slope to retrieve water, get basic supplies or see other members of their community. By Friday they will be using a beautiful set of stairs. Not until this week would I have ever thought of stairs as beautiful...
I will rely on my tour colleagues to tell me about the experiences at the school, and will draw on their accounts and use their pics for my next blog entry. I still wish I could have gone there too, but I think I was guided to the place I was meant to be today.
Lots of students said that they would love to come back again in the not-too-distant future - there was so much more they wanted to do here. I feel that way also.
Maybe you could come too...