Tuesday, January 15, 2008

John's Topographic Survey

So today it really felt like I was in the Peace Corps. I went over to John's site to help him with his topographic survey, since we are all helping each other out to have some English speakers around because it makes it a little easier. I woke up a little late, a little before 8 o'clock (I was supposed to be at the highway by 8:15 am. Anyways I got to the highway, picked up a carro publico (a little less safe, since they cram four in the backseat and two in the front...but I ended up riding solo in the front seat), since it came before the Javilla Tours bus (the nice buses that run along the highway with great frequency), then got on a moto (motorcycle) in Altamira and off I was to John's site. When we were about halfway there it started raining, and the moto pulled over so that we weren't driving in the rain. After it calmed down a little bit we continued on our way and I got to John's a little after 9 am, so practically right on time in Dominican terms. Rob on the other hand is completely Dominicanized and arrived at 10 am. After that we had to cross a river to get into John's site, and since it has been raining like crazy here the river is a bit swollen. Mind you, I had my computer in my backpack. We crossed uneventfully and continued to John's house where we had a breakfast of boiled plantains and coffee. This was actually my second breakfast. My first breakfast at 8 was hot chocolate and some bread, one of my favorite breakfasts actually, on a nice crisp winter morning.

After that we gathered everyone up and we hiked up to the source where John's aqueduct will be getting water from. It was probably about a half hour or forty-five minute hike, sometimes on a path, and other times through thick brush. The views at his site are spectacular, so there was never a dull moment on the hike up. We got to the source, talked a little bit about his plan for the obra de toma (intake works) and then we started doing the survey.

I'm going to get into the technical stuff a little bit here, so if you don't want to get bored, you might want to skip this paragraph. Doing the topographic survey consists of using an Abney level, which is used to measure the angle between points, and a long tape measure (100ft), obviously to measure the distance. Knowing the distance and angle, you can figure out the difference in height between the points by multiplying the distance by the sine of the angle (in degrees) (I know all you guys remember your trigonometry). In doing this along the entire route (from the source to the last house that needs water) we get a accurate enough survey to design an aqueduct.

The hike on the way back obviously went a lot slower since we had to stop every 50 ft or so. At times were on extremely steep inclines that were completely muddy since it had been raining. And actually, for a good chunk of time it was a nice downpour and we got soaking wet. Let me tell you in case you wanted to know, that old Abney levels do not work to well under wet conditions. Water leaks into them and fogs up the lenses. So every couple points we had to ask this 80 year old dude if we could use his shirt to clean it off, because he was wearing a jacket which kept his undershirt dry.

As we got nearer to the houses, some of the workers kept dropping one by one, since it was now later in the afternoon, and no one had eaten lunch. After a long and grueling hike back, we were treated to a nice lunch of chicken and moro (rice cooked with the beans). Rob ate everything in his bowl, which was quite a feat to accomplish. He said that he had never been so full since he arrived in the country. It was now about 5 o'clock and Rob and I were both needing to get back to our sites.

John accompanied us out, and when he was crossing the river, it was deeper than he expected (since we crossed at a different point on the way in) and he tripped a little and lost one of his sandals. On the other side of the river was a moto waiting to take me and Rob back to our sites. Yes, three grown men rode on one moto. I have actually only done this once before (but the third person that time was a little old lady whose moto she was riding had broken down), but I guess Rob has done it a lot, so I took the middle, as I really didn't want to fall off the back. It's really not as dangerous as it sounds, and Rob didn't fall off the back. Our moto driver was pretty cautious too, driving at speeds which even I thought were a bit slow for around here. This would also be my first time riding a moto on the highway, as usually I just take the moto to the highway and then get on a bus from there. But this was easier, and I was tired, and I didn't feel as though it was my day to die.

On my way back into my site I stopped at the little supermarket to buy a bottle of hot sauce, since I figured it's about time I spiced up some of the blander food. It was really funny when I brought it out for dinner and the little kid in my house asked me if he could try some. Now most Dominicans are not accustomed to spicy things, my little host brother included. When he put a drop of it on his tongue he just about fainted. It was hilarious. Also at the supermarket I bought my favorite chocolate candy bar, a Crachi (pronounced Crotchy in Spanish). I think I'll post about my obsession with Crachi another day. And yes, in case you were wondering, I did share my Crachi with my host family. They licked it, munched on it a little, and overall, my Crachi was a big hit.

So there you have it, more proof that I actually do work here. By the time I post this, if it is not raining like cats and dogs, we'll have done the topographic survey of Rob's site as well. If anything eventful happens during that, I'll be sure to post it.

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