The Job Site

Piedades Norte Travel Blog

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Luis' Old House.

Piedades Norte is an impoverished countryside about 30 minutes from San Ramon. However, we took the bus every day, so it was more like a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and a 40 minute ride up the colorful mountainside. The voyage back each day was the same, except the 20 minute walk often had a 2-hour-long break at the bar... and it was pouring rain! It rained every afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. Pretty much on the dot every day! There were maybe only five days all summer that it didn't rain.

We were the only international volunteers at our job site. There were two guys from the neighborhood who helped us: Andres, who was 19, and a guy maybe about 21 or so who we called "Adam Corolla", because he had huge eyebrows. We could never remember his real name, and i still don't know it to this day.

This is the job site after two weeks.
Luis (the owner of the house we were building) paid them about $1 an hour to help out with the construction. Luis, of course, helped also. And so did his friend Amado, who we called "Parra" (maybe that was his last name, i don't know why everyone called him Parra).

Parra and Luis knew each other from work. They were police officers in San Jose. They worked shifts of "two weeks on and two weeks off" where they would live at the station in San Jose for two weeks and come home and be off for two weeks, kind of how firefighters have the "24 on, 48 off" here in the States, but a bit more extreme. Luis was on an extra long vacation though so he could help work on his house.

Here's the site after two months!

From day one, it was obvious this would be no cakewalk. Luis was an interesting character. No matter how hard we worked, he never seemed gracious. His personality was a bit dry and standoffish, but it never turned us away from helping. His family, on the other hand, was very social and seemed incredibly gracious for our assistance. His wife, Margarita, frequently called us inside and made us tortillas. She loved hearing our stories about the United States and always asked us questions. We couldn't believe she would walk to San Ramon once a week to get groceries. Margarita was indigena (indigenous), Luis was criollo, so the children were half indigenous. Karen was 4 and Esteban was 2. We called Karen "Periquito" because she talked too much. I convinced her to call Blake "Burro" because i thought it was hilarious, so he convinced her to call me "Tortuga" since i wasn't as fast of a worker as he.

Karen and Esteban.
Karen loved learning English phrases and loved teaching us Tico slang. She would run down the mountain after school happy to come teach us new songs she learned in class also. And, like all girls, she was always asking us to take her picture, haha.

Anyway, we found out the other international volunteers didn't do half the work we did at our job site. Katarina and Tom told us they would sit on the roof and smoke cigarettes all day. We could see Nessa and Darcy across the mountain. They would always be on coffee break. Haha, no offense, they were all really cool, but at our job site, Luis really had us work hard. The first week was constant digging, digging and digging until we finally leveled the side of the mountain so we could begin construction.

Then came the materials.

We had to move these materials down a mountain five days a week. i didn't expect it to be so hard, but it was so much worth it.
Luis couldn't afford to pay a tractor to bring supplies up and down the mountain, because the road was a tiny pathway that only a smaller tractor could maneuvre, which meant it could only carry less and would have to make more trips. We tried it one day, but it took too long and was a waste of money for Luis, so, instead, he had us haul the materials -- rocks, cement mix, bricks, mortar, reinforcement bars, etc. -- down the mountain using wheelbarrows. It sounded easy enough, but let's not forget it rained every day, and pushing a loaded wheelbarrow down a winding, muddy mountain was no easy task, nor was pushing the wheelbarrow back up the muddy mountain. But we knew it was for a good cause, and sometimes it was even fun to slide through the mud with loaded wheelbarrows. It was kind of like go-karts.

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Luis Old House.
Luis' Old House.
This is the job site after two wee…
This is the job site after two we…
Heres the site after two months!
Here's the site after two months!
Karen and Esteban.
Karen and Esteban.
We had to move these materials dow…
We had to move these materials do…
Piedades Norte
photo by: JimLNA