Posted by: iainjhunt | March 1, 2011

El Guabo Update: Breaking Ground

Getting around in Waslala is not quite like getting around on an underground subway system or 6-lane paved highway that people may be accustomed to in the United States or other developed country.

Let’s take the community of El Guabo as an example, where we have just broke ground to build Water for Waslala’s next community water system.

El Guabo is close enough to central Waslala that you could almost call it suburb, especially as the town’s population continues to sprawl. However, between Waslala and El Guabo lies a monster of a hill that can be a bit tricky to climb over for the retired Magic School Buses that serve as the primary mode of transportation between Waslala, El Guabo, and all points beyond. Just recently, after a heavy rainstorm, I saw a bus stop at the base of the hill to apply chains to the tires so that it could have enough traction to reach the summit. And the last time I was in El Guabo, I watched the bus crawl most of the way up the hill… huffin’ and puffin’ black diesel fumes like the Little Engine that Usta-Could… only to stall, back down again to the base, unload half of its passengers, and then try it again (still full enough to be considered standing-room only in other parts of the world).

Although El Guabo lies no more than a stone’s throw from town, the hustle-and-bustle of central Waslala and the lonesome tranquility of El Guabo are distinct realities. Their location just between town and country makes for a world of contrasts for its citizens. An electricity grid has not yet been developed in El Guabo (or at least the bulk of the community). Yet, folks in El Guabo earn a hard but dignified living off the land– an option that a lot of people in town don’t have. And, as readers of this blog already know, the people of El Guabo don’t yet have reasonable access to a reliable, clean source of drinking water.

The heartiness and motivation of the people in this unique village have made for an auspicious start to the project, even before a single pipe or bag of cement has arrived in the community. Over the past couple of days, the community brigades have been busy at work, excavating at the water source, hauling sand and rocks, and making preparations for when the group of Villanova engineering students to arrive this week. And we will really kick things off with the construction of the intake works.

I have a feeling that the mutual enthusiasm of the arriving students and that of the community will be self-reinforcing, and together, we’ll build not only the heart of the water system, but hopefully some kinship between two communities that are slightly more distant apart than central Waslala and El Guabo.


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