Day 6 – Saying Goodbye

Woke up this morning feeling grateful, but missing my shower. I’ve been wearing a hat lately that not only keeps me warm but also covers my unwashed, greasy hair. Today was our last day working with our first family and tomorrow we will be meeting our next family who we will be building a home for. It was a bitter sweet day, we were excited to finish our first house and present it to the family but were sad to say goodbye after the past 3 days of bonding and building relationships. We spent most of the day finishing the roof. After finally finishing as the sun began to set we presented the house to Senorita Juana and celebrated the inauguration with chips and cookies on the floor of their new home. Several members of our team gave speeches thanking her for opening her home to us and allowing us to help her. It had been such an amazing experience for us to get to know her and her family and work to construct their new home. She responded and thanked us for all of our hard work and explained how fortunate she felt to receive this new beautiful home.Image

Because today marked the transition period from one construction project to our new one, after dinner we all gathered in the cafeteria where in the middle of the room there were different items used throughout the past couple days for our construction. For example, there was a mini hut with boots, tools, and food, along with other items that together were meant to represent our adventure thus far. The lights were off and Sofí spoke which gave us the space to reflect silently as candles burned in the center of the room in honor of each family that we were helping to build a new home for, each with a unique history and unique circumstances. This moment of pause allows all of the volunteers to take a minute to reflect on the fortune, opportunities and advantages in life that they have. Sofí then sang a beautiful song to the group and we were given time to write something meaningful such as a phrase, idea or thought on pieces of paper in the middle of the room or just meditate on the experience thus far. This moment of refection was meant to be a regroup before we start our experience with the new family in the morning.

Day 5 – Hump Day

This morning we slept in a bit waking up at 7 rather than 6 because we had had a late night the night before and that extra hour was much needed. We had a bit of a relaxed morning and headed off to the site to finish the walls and put the roof on making it look more and more like a real house. The roof turned out to be much more time consuming than I was expecting. We had to use large 2x4s to lift the roof up and over in order to sit on top of the walls passing them off to someone up top. There were about 15 sections of the roof that had to all be put up and nailed together one by one. Several people were sitting on the walls or on the roof as they hammered in wood framings or the insolated panels as the rest of us were working on installing the 3 windows and the 2 doors. It was finally starting to all come together.

ImageImageImageToday was long and exhausting and ended with our whole groups laying down in the house with the roof unfinished all huddled to stay warm and looking up and the beautiful, clear, star-filled sky. Juanita, the 14-year-old daughter, came to the open door frame and asked if she could enter. One of my team members said come in but Juanita was hesitant asking again if it was okay for her to enter. I responded with, of course! This is your house! She finally had enough courage to come in and sit down next to me with her little sister sitting on her lap. Maria once again asked me what my name was. Then for the first time she continued the conversation by asking if I had a mom. I said yes and she asked what her name is. She asked where I was from, still confused after several conversations we had already had where I explained that I was from a different country. I asked her and her sister if they knew where the United Sates was and both said they had no idea. The girls were fascinated by my camera from the first day on site and when it ran out of batteries I had brought my iPhone to continue to take pictures. Phones were discouraged on site so the teenagers wouldn’t be tempted to upload pictures and chat with their friends back at home and were encouraged rather to be present in the constructions. I was the exception, as everyone knew that I couldn’t be contacting anyone with my phone here in Chile. I asked the girls if they would like to see a map to see where I was from. They both said yes please, so I got out my phone and opened up the map feature on the photos. Since I had taken pictures in Santiago, in Freirina and from my house in LA there were pins sticking in all of these places making it very easy to show them. I zoomed out and showed a map of the world, wondering how many times they might have seen a map. I zoomed in to where we were now and explained that we were in the North of Chile then zoomed out again moving us even more north to the United Stated and explained that I was from California, on the coast and from a city called Los Angeles. They seemed very fascinated and were fully engaged as I explained that you needed to take an airplane for about 8 hours to get there. Maria then asked if I had a picture of my mom with me. As I started scanning through my photos to find a picture of my mom and me to show her, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. I was already uneasy as I considered the likelihood of them ever getting to ride on an airplane or having the opportunity to visit a place like the United States. Starting from the beginning of my photo album, I scanned through pictures of my high school prom and graduation, pictures of concerts and music festivals I had been to, pictures of me dressed up and smiling with friends going to various parties and events in college and visiting beautiful places during summer vacations, I couldn’t help but reflect on all of these events; experiences that these two girls might never get a chance to participate in. Who knows if they would even get to wear a cap and gown and graduate from high school let alone get to experience all the fun I have had in college and living on my own these past couple years. I finally found a picture of my mom and me and opened it up, Maria exclaimed “que linda!” – “how pretty!” and it warmed my heart. Even thought she may not be able to experience any of the fortunate opportunities I have been blessed with in my life, I know we still have one important thing in common: We both have mother’s who love us with all of their hearts and would give everything they had for us. ImageWhen we arrived back at the school everyone entered the kitchen for another surprise activity. None of the staff members were participating so as I tried to sneak by with just watching, one of the facilitators caught me and thoroughly duct taped my hands together so I would have no choice but to participate. My partner had a scarf tied around her eyes and we both sat down with plates of pasta in front of us. The rules were then explained. The blindfolded person’s job was to feed both themselves and their partners as the person with their hands together could only give verbal instructions. It was a bit of a challenge with my poor language abilities but we luckily made it out with only a few casualties. After eating I was helped by one of my group members to slowly remove the tape from my hands when the facilitator who had taped them together came over and ripped the remaining tape off quickly and painfully giving me a hug and apologizing afterwards but leaving burning, red marks on my hands. I forgave him anyways. We all sat down in a circle on the floor as the facilitators lead a big group discussion about what it was like to be restrained and have to work together to eat dinner. They then explained to us that the blindfold and hands tied together were meant to represent our experience working with the poor as we blindly help people who may be constrained by their limiting circumstances. Everyone by now was comfortable enough with the group to share and address one another by name.

Today was the hump day, day 5 of the 10 day experience and I caught myself several times throughout the day counting down the days until I would be boarding the plane to head back to my house. I was exhausted and feeling extremely dirty and tired and dreaming of home cooking and a warm, cozy bed to sleep in. Today I thought a lot about the Chilean pride that I was experiencing and trying to think of something in America that was as unifying as an experience as this. I think this experience is one that many high school students take part in here in Chile. This type of work allows them to come together and work toward a creating a better future toward a more just country. It allows the students to live in conditions, with no shower, sleeping on the floor and eating cheap food that might be somewhat similar to how the poor families live every day of their lives. I think this is a wonderful experience for the students to not only feel a connection to each other and to their country but also to learn about some of the issues that persist in their country. It is a very unique opportunity that benefits both the volunteers and the families that they work with.

Day 4 – Continuing the Conversations

The next morning we started the day once again with coffee and bread followed by a meeting in the courtyard. Everyone circled up and we played another chanting/singing game that I couldn’t even begin to explain called the “train of love.” Then the facilitators explained that it is important for us to continue to share with the families and converse with them. Today we would be given an assignment to fill out the answers to several questions pertaining to the family and things like their income and education and dreams for the future, without letting them know that we were interviewing them. When we got to our site after a cold and cloudy bus ride we sat in a circle on the floor we had finished installing that previous afternoon. Our team leader went through each question that we would need to fill out in the evening so we could discretely incorporate them into our conversations with the family. We were a little ahead of the other groups so the panels for the walls hadn’t yet been delivered so we decided to make our way across the road to join the family in some morning tea and more bread. By this point the bread had gotten pretty old, the only thing that kept it bearable was the varying spreads that were put on them.

Our group in an attempt to relieve our boredom decided to make up a dance. We all got on top of the floor as a few members took charge and choreographed moves that had to do with construction work as a battle between the boys and the girls, it was pretty funny. It sure did make the time pass because we headed back to the house after for lunch, still waiting or the wall delivery. The conversations with the family continued during lunch and through the afternoon when finally we received the panels. Today, Maria the 5 year old, seemed to have forgotten my name that she learned yesterday because she had come up to me plenty of times started her conversation with “what is your name” just wanting to hear my response. The jokes continued throughout the day to keep everyone laughing and having a good time. After putting up the walls and hammering nails into each panel we went back to the house for tea since today was even colder than the previous two days. Image

When we got back at the school we were later than usual so we had dinner right away. As I continued to meet other people in other groups staying at the school I noticed the most common question I got was “why Chile.” As in why, of all places had I decided to come to Chile for my summer. Of course the most simple and straightforward answer I had was that I have a lot of family here since my mom moved with her family from Chile to the US when she was 2. The American influence in Chile has always been something I’ve taken for granted but as I continue to converse with people it has stood out more and more. Everyone here listens to music and watches TV and movies made in the US. Everyone I meet knows at least a little bit of English because English classes are just part of their curriculum starting when they enter school in kindergarten. The impact of that hit me when I was talking to someone who told me she didn’t know any English and she asked me where I learned my Spanish. I told her I had taken 4 years in high school and then I made a trip to South America two years ago. I asked her if she took any English classes in school and she said yes, for about 12 years so far. Even though she says her English isn’t very good I’m sure it can’t be that bad having taken classes all her life. I am often asked what kind of music I like and I always respond with all sorts of kinds then usually I am asked if we have reggaeton in the US, which we don’t. As I started to think more about it, we don’t have much Spanish music at all, we have a few songs but generally all of the music my generation listens to is in English. In Chile the music listened to by most of the youth is half in Spanish and half in English. While the Spanish music is really fun, it is also comforting for me when a song that is popular in the US comes on and I am able to sing along of course with everyone here singing along as well. I started to think of this influence and then extended it to TV and movies. It is very common to go to the movie theatres to see a movie in English with Spanish subtitles. A lot of movies are dubbed but many people would rather read the subtitles since they had been trained to do so since they first started reading. Thinking back to my movie watching past, I’ve only seen a very limited number of movies with subtitles and when I do I’m often disappointed with the amount of attention that is taken away from the movie by constantly glancing up and down the screen to read and then back up to see the scene. I can’t even imagine watching half the movies I watch reading subtitles. The relationship between the USA and Chile in terms of media is by no means equally reciprocal. A sense of guilt started to weight me down as I thought of how little I knew about Spanish and Chile and how much everyone here knew about English and the US.  This influence changes a bit when we are talking about the poor in Chile. Their limited access to quality education makes it so they have very little exposure to the English language and limited knowledge of the culture and geography of the US. Many still greatly believe that they would give anything to live in the “land of freedom and opportunity” that I call my home.

After dinner we filled out the answered to all the questions and then gathered in our groups separately spread around the school. Each group was given the responses of another group and were read the circumstances of their family. The story we heard was a single 18-year-old mother of a 3 month old who live in a house about half the size of the family we are working with along with the woman’s father who is an alcoholic. We discussed how these conditions varied from our family’s and focused our conversations on the struggles of an infant living in the same house as an alcoholic. This situation was shocking to me because the young woman is just two years younger than me living with no water or electricity and she has a baby. I couldn’t even imagine how stressful life might be for this poor girl. We talked about her dreams, which were similar to Señorita Juana’s, to create a life for her children that is better than her own. They both hope that their new living situation will allow for more stability that will hopefully allow their children to lead successful lives. I hope so as well.

Day 3 – Work hard Play hard

After just 6 hours of sleep we were woken up by one of the groups. With loud music they entered the classroom, turned on the blinding lights and did a dance in the center of the room encouraging us to wake up. Each group is assigned to three tasks throughout the week, waking everyone up and making breakfast, cleaning the bathrooms and cooking dinner. I woke up freezing and had actually woken up a few times on the cold hard ground because I couldn’t quite figure out how to sleep comfortably on my back because my side just wasn’t working with the ground so hard. We were supposed to be up by 6 rather than 7 so behind schedule already, we were told to eat our bread, brush our teeth, change and board the buses as quickly as possible. After breakfast we all gathered in a large circle and one of the staff members from TECHO had come for this day and had read us a story written about poverty and the disadvantaged in Latin America. This was to get us prepared and motivated for another day of tiring work. I had learned from the previous day and went to the site prepared with even more layers than I had already been wearing but it was still freezing outside. We finished installing the poles at lunchtime and awaited the big truck to drive by to deliver the panels of the floor. ImageSeñorita Juana and her daughters came out mid morning to give us cookies and juice and to watch the progress and converse with us. The daughters were both very intrigued and also confused by me when I explained that I wasn’t from Chile and spoke very poor Spanish. They spent some time trying to say my name “Chel-sea” correctly. Maria, the five year old, got it down rather quickly and was parading around saying it over and over.After lunch we spent all afternoon installing the floor and adjusting the panels. In order to measure the correct height we used a tube with water inside that you put up to the height of the pole and when the level is equal on both poles they are the same height.We were very meticulous about it however it got a little messed up and we had to adjust it for the floor to fit correctly by digging some up and readjusting the heights. This was very tedious and rather disappointing because we had spent so many hours already working to get them perfect. ImageAfter the sun went down it got even colder and Señorita Juana invited us in for tea time. We had to go in groups because she didn’t have enough cups for all of us. This is where we got to talk to her even more and learn about how she dropped out of school in the 3rd grade and had been living in this house with her new husband for 4 years now and works as a maid. The family seemed very pleased with our progress and liked to spend time up the hill with us as we worked. ImageWe had to stop working when it got too dark outside so we all gathered in their living room area. The 10 of us just barely fit but with the family we spilled out of the covered area and toward the middle of their property where they have a fire pit. Outside of their current house the father has two cars that he is working on, we learned that he works odd jobs here and there working as a mechanic as well as other things. Next to the cars they have two large pens with chickens, ducks, rabbits and they even have a pig. We learned early on that they have no bathroom so when we have to go we walk to the other side of the hill. They have limited water that is delivered to them by the state. They have a large generator that is very loud and runs two large lamps used for light at night. It gets dark early so without that light they wouldn’t be able to do much. I couldn’t help but wonder what they do in their house all day. Juanita goes to school and takes an hour-long bus, waking up at 7 every morning but Maria is too young for school. I learned that Juanita wants to grow up to be a doctor because she has a sick aunt, although I wonder what the likelihood of this dream coming true really is with her limited access to education and the family obligations she has here. I do wish her the best of luck though. The surrounding area of their house is very beautiful with lots of mountains and open space. Their home internally is very dirty, old and torn apart.

This was another day of getting to know each other so I learned a lot more about the family and also the other students I was working with. They all ask me questions about America. A few speak English so they were very excited to practice their language skills with me. The more tired I get from the early mornings and the long days, the harder it gets to keep up conversations in Spanish. The high school students are great at speaking very quickly and cracking short, fast jokes that for the most part seem to go right over my head. They do like to make jokes with their broken English to me as well so at least I’m not missing out completely.

After getting back to the school I changed into even warmer clothes and got into my sleeping bag intending to close my eyes for just a minute but ended up taking a solid nap before it was time to gather in the cafeteria once again. There are two university students who are in charge of our school and they are the facilitators who talk to us before it is time to leave for the day and debrief us afterwards. They run the games in the cafeteria before dinner. Today the game was a bit of a challenge for me so I found myself sitting out for most of it. Everyone sat in a large circle. The rules were explained rather quickly as if everyone had played this game at least once in their life previously. One person is “it” and they walk around the circle as music is playing and find someone’s lap to sit on and say “Te gusta” directly translating to “do you like me” but I learned early on that this really means something more along the lines of “are you interested in me romantically.” I learned that one when I told my cousin that “I liked” her boyfriend after meeting him for the first time..woops! Then the person responds with a yes in which case everyone must get up and runs for their lives to sit down in an open seat so they are not the last one standing. If the responder says no they must follow up with a because. For example, “No because I don’t like people who wear hats” then everyone wearing a hat must run to find another open seat. What made it incredibly challenging was when each responder said their terms everyone got up and ran before my brain could even process what they had said let alone check to see if that particular item pertained to me. The most entertaining for me was when they said blonde and if you’ve never been to Chile you wouldn’t know that I stick out like a sore thumb with my naturally dirty blonde hair. Thus, their standards for blonde are rather low so everyone who got up to change seats, to me would be considered to have light brown hair. Now, going into my third year of college I haven’t played these types of games in awhile however remembering back to my high school days our games weren’t nearly as rowdy. If someone makes a mistake or loses a game everyone sings a little chant while clapping, which is then followed by the person doing one of four embarrassing things that they are able to choose from. 1) Shake their butt 2) tell a joke 3) slow dance with their fellow mistake maker or 4) pole dance.

After dinner, which was the canned fish turned into patties with a side of rice, everyone gathered in the cafeteria for another activity. Everyone sat on the ground in a circle, the lights were dimmed and everyone closed their eyes. The facilitators stood in the middle and explained that the 87 of us represented all of Chile. They read aloud questions such as, what is the percentage of households who have running water in Chile or what percentage of children will graduate high school if their parents had dropped out. The facilitators then tap people on the shoulder to stand up. One person is asked to make a guess, usually very off from the shocking reality and then everyone opens their eyes to see visually the number of families representing that particular statistic. Some of the statistics were very alarmingly high and it was even more startling when you saw the number of people standing compared to the number still seated. After the activity we were split into our groups to discuss both the experience of the day, the conversations we had had with the family as well as how the activity made us feel. Many pointed out that they knew poverty was a big issue in Chile but didn’t realize that some of the statistics were so great and some of the circumstances pertained to so many people.

Day 2 – Our First day of Construction

We arrived at the school a little before 7AM and were given our assigned rooms to set up our sleeping bags and pads. We were split up into three rooms, boys, girls and staff. I was unclear if I would be assisting Sofía in her position as “joker,” helping out with the cooking and the sick and other miscellaneous necessities, or if I would be joining a group, a “cuadrilla.” Because of my position working at TECHO I decided to set up my stuff in the staff room so I would be sleeping next to Sofía. I had a very thin, yoga mat like sleeping mat to go under my older-styled sleeping bag that I borrowed from my grandma’s sister to set up on the hard, cold tile floor. After setting up my stuff they had tea/coffee and bread with jam set up in the cafeteria for breakfast. The fresh bread hand made by the local panaderías in Chile is always delicious (although as breakfast and often a snack for the next 10 days it got old fast). After breakfast I found out that I would be put in a group so that I would be able to get the full experience of the Trabajos.  We met with our groups quickly and introduced ourselves; there were 7 groups of about 10-12 high school students and 1 or 2 advisors or “asesores” who were university students. All the volunteers had different levels of involvement with TECHO, some were volunteers who worked a few times a week in a specific “campamento” while for others this was their first experience working with TECHO. I was glad that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t done any constructing before. We got the necessary materials together to head out to the buses to be taken to our first site. ImageThere were 4 groups on our bus so we were like sardines, lined up shoulder to shoulder from front to back carrying shovels and chisels. The ride was about 20 minutes from the high school where we were staying as we crossed the river and the train tracks and headed up into the hills to reach the houses of the families we would be working with. The houses were pretty spread out; each group was dropped off a couple miles apart from one another to meet the family that they would be building a new house for. We met our family briefly in the beginning, eager to get down to business. Señorita Juana, the head of the household was accompanied by her husband, who was not the father of Juana’s two daughters, Juanita who is 14 and Maria who is 5, they all followed us across the road to the plot of land that would be the place of their new residence.

ImageAfter we asked where they would like the front door to face, the family watched as we began to dig the first hole. The first step, and probably most time consuming part of the construction is digging the 22 holes where we place wooden cylinders that must be equally level and spaced in order to create the foundation for the house. We were given lunch to bring to the site for Señorita Juana to prepare for us. At 1:30 we took a break in the construction to have lunch in the families current home. They had a room with a roof and 3 walls, opening up to the outside that had a very small kitchen and a couch with a table, where we ate our lunch. Next to the kitchen was a small bedroom just big enough for all of the family to sleep in. There wasn’t much room for anything else.

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After a quick lunch we continued digging and burying posts, it was warm when the sun came out but generally the wind kept it pretty chilly. The Municipalidad, the part of the housing department of the city of Freirina who were funding the new houses, came by to drop off a snack and to thank us for our time and our hard work so far. We worked up until the sun set and then the bus came back to pick us up. We all sluggishly boarded the bus as we headed back to the school for our first night sleeping on the floor.

When we got back to the school I went to the kitchen to help Sofía cook our first dinner and update her on my first day. Because of the tight budget I learned that my meals for the next 10 days would consists of mostly spaghetti, like we had for lunch, or this kind of canned fish and rice that we were preparing for dinner tonight. It wasn’t the most delicious or healthy food I had tried in Chile but because I was so hungry from the manual labor of the day it did do the trick.

In the morning before leaving to the site, we were told that we would be playing a game where we would have to know the names and important information about everyone of our group members. It was up to us to get to know our fellow workers very well throughout the day. The goal of the first day was to start the trip off with group bonding and integration with both the teenagers and the families we worked with. Everyone was meant to feel comfortable enough to talk to our groups and share thoughts and feelings about the work being done to help the poor.

After the game and dinner, we met back with our groups in separate spaces around the school for a discussion lead by the “asesores.” We started by asking trivia questions about Chile’s geography and the Chilean population and things along those lines. This was to inform the students about how much information they may not know about their own country. Then the discussion was opened up to ask about how the first day went for everyone.  Individuals shared what it was like for them to first meet the family we would be working with. Questions were asked to prompt discussion such as “did seeing the poor have an impact on you?” One girl said that she had always seen pictures and videos of people living in poverty but it was very different to actually see and experience how and where they live everyday. At the end of our meeting we were told that it was our job for the next day to get to know the family and continue to have conversations with them.

When we were dismissed to our bedrooms around midnight I brushed my teeth and quickly got into my sleeping bag to try to stay warm on this freezing night. The staff, all bundled up in their sleeping bags, sat up for the end of the day staff meeting. Each group leader was asked about their progress of the construction and about both the group’s dynamics and the dynamic working with the families. Then finally, after the long and tiring day the lights were turned off to get some rest.

Day 1 – Embarking

In preparing for my 10 days of construction I fortunately had my cousins, who had all been apart of some similar program that involved sleeping in a high school, so they all helped me prepare and pack so I would have everything I needed for my adventure. I’ve done a lot of camping in my life but I have never done something quite like this so I really didn’t have much idea what to expect. I was able to borrow my cousins backpacking backpack because all I had was a suitcase. I loaded it up with t-shirts, jeans, pajamas, long underwear and all the other necessary layers that would hopefully keep me warm enough during the cold nights (they didn’t…) I went shopping for the logistics like snacks and toiletries, I knew not showering for 10 days would be a challenge in itself so I bought plenty of baby wipes and hand sanitizer to hopefully help ease the filthy situation.

After a long shower and huge lunch, my cousin and I, joined by three more of my cousins to see us off, headed off to the bus station to meet the people we would be spending the next week and half with. My cousin Sofía was able to arrange it so that we would be going to the same school, which was awesome so I could spend my last couple days in Chile with someone from my family. After arriving to the bus station and signing in, we headed over to auditorium to watch a video and listen to the introductory speeches, made by some of the staff and volunteers of TECHO, to get us pumped for the trip we were about to embark on.

ImageThen we all met with our schools where we would be sleeping and loaded the buses. We left at 9PM, stopped once for dinner and then continued all through the night until we arrives around 7AM to our new place of residency for the next 10 days! I slept most of the time but sleeping on buses is never the most comfortable so I was exhausted when we entered the school. This all night bus ride leads us into day 2 of the adventure, where the real trip begins. Here we go! Image

The Work has only Just Begun

Tomorrow I head off to the north of Chile to the region of Atacama to start my 10 days of construction, my next big adventure! Every year TECHO does two large construction jobs, once in the summer and once in the winter where they travel all over Chile and to different parts of Latin America to build new Media Aguas which are shacks for the poor to live in. In Chile, they have stopped building the Media Aguas because they are temporary housing that, besides shelter, don’t really give families a good foundation for a better life. In place of the Media Aguas, TECHO has started to build Vivienda Progresivas, (Progressive Houses) an improved version of the shack like structure that allows for future development. These types of shacks are only built under certain circumstances, for example for families who will not qualify for permanent housing. This only happens in very specific cases such as the fact that you can only apply for a permanent house funded by the state in Chile once in your life so for the families who have previously owned a house but something happened to it they can not acquire the funding for another so they need another form of shelter such as the Vivienda Progresivas. This is only in Chile, around Latin America there are many places that are in need of the basic Media Aguas, people who are just plain and simple in need of proper shelter.

ImageAbove the TECHO sign is a model of what a Media Agua looks like. This big effort of constructions is a collaboration of volunteers from the staff at TECHO, students from both universities and high schools around the county and also individuals from other campamentos. Everyone is welcome and recruited to join in on the weeklong construction projects. This winter the big project will be sending a team to Paraguay in a few weeks, by bus, to build Media Aguas. Besides that big trip this week many groups will be going to the north and south of Chile as well as the coast to build.

I will be going for 10 days up north, sleeping in a high school with limited access to water, since Atacama is a desert, so it looks like I won’t be showering for the next 10 days. I think that might be the longest I haven’t showered in my entire life. That, in addition to the heat of the desert and the manual labor of constructing a house, I think I’m in for a dirty week. Well, at least it’s for a good cause. The adventure begins with an all night, 12-hour bus ride. Wish me luck! I won’t have internet access but I’ll be keeping tabs on my progress and sending an update when I return.