Encounters en la loma
To realize termites are consuming my bed. My NEW BED. Custom-made.
My dollhouse is crumbling around me...
And my enemigo raton is scampering along the zinc panels of my roof as I write.
I wake. Restless. Prepare cafe...Its already 5am.
And encounter my "Fiddler on the Roof" perched above the food cabinet. Daring me to open the treasure chest.
The daily duel to fight for a right to a tranquilo existence is butting up against the fury, creepy-crawly, squawky, squeaky, pajaritos.
Just the other day, in the midst of preparing a concrete floor for a latrine I am constructing in the back patio, I get a hairy surprise...
I go to the old outdoor kitchen, the rama', outfitted with a 3-stone firepit and cacao-masher. Old PVC pipes from a previous failed private water system hang in the rafters like molding spaghetti. I pull one out to make a mold for the ventilation tube in the latrine floor and as I tilt the tube down to pull it out, SWOOSH! and down slides Mickey, PLOP!, right on my head. He flails onto the ground with the force of my convulsions and screaming. And its a CHOMP and the neighbor's dog bites the thing hole, until the eyeballs pop out of the sockets.
Por Fin! Enough!
My project is presently on hold due to a land dispute. Absentee land owners, a frazzled nervous vieja with her ex-Trujillo Policia of a marido to refer to them in campesino terms, are opposed to passing pipeline over their heirloom farmland. But here in Las Batatas we're flies caught in the honey jar...red-handed so to speak. Some 100 pipes are already buried 2 feet underground and a termite trail crawls right over the landowners' hillsides.
We can't just pull the 50 pipes out. And we can't just abandon the project.
The landowners initially responded positively to the project construction. In campesino terms, they had the stamp of approval....under "la mata de 'mendra" the word was a GO. And then the son caretaker who cares for the cows had agreed and given us the pass to start digging. The son was there fixing the fences and tending the finca while we were sweating in the trenches on his family's land.
But. And there's the rub. I had told the community back in March that we needed documented confirmation from all landowners. We had marched up to talk to the two local owners near the water source already. And then my Dona's husband owns the other finca. This stretch of pipeline was the last straw. I went down one night with the alcalde (emotional sheriff of the community) when the woman was in town for the weekend. But she was a nervous-wreck when we arrived at the her neighbors. So we left without even a saludo.
When I go this last time to talk to the jefes, its a big N-O. Oh no you don't pass those pipes inside my finca.
I had gone down to the family's house in the neighboring pueblo of Yasica across from the church while they were in town for an anniversary funeral. A rainy dark day. The only community member who agreed to work on the permission was a younger woman in her 30s, a niece of my Dona. But of no aquaintance with the owners and their former life as Batatateros. Somehow, my Dona and the alcalde, both amigos by family of the owners, refused to join me on such a critical diligencia to secure the success of the water system project. Hmmm
And now I understand.
The husband was duro. We entered the conversation and he was aready livid and tired of me.
I felt crushed
I left defeated
Had I just waisted a year for nothing? To see a project of good-intention frozen by a cold hand.
I returned to Las Batatas to present the news. And tossed in bed that night, unable to sleep. Think.
I felt like a failure.
How had this been over-looked? I had worked, beginning in March to get permission from land owners. It just wasn't a good time when we went down the first time to communicate with the aforementioned landowners. The woman was a set of nerves and couldn't be seen.
But the question stands...when?
I pushed the community for the permission. But then, somehow, the fact that Milito, caretaker, family-member, confirmed to "Go Ahead" and work, we started.
I gave in then...Agreeing to this halfway pass.
The day after the fateful meeting with the owner, the community was prepped to lug sand from the river for various water crossings, the spring box and deposit tank construction. I opened the school and chose to break the news to the workers as they rose to organize for work.
I felt responsible.
I felt guilty.
I called my jefe
I sat like a castigated schoolchild as the community members convinced themselves of their rights...And how all along they had said it. They had warned me.
The stories formulated. Yes, they had warned me.
But this is how campo stories start. Talk yourself into a truth.
Whose to say they didn't talk themselves into the idea the owners first said "Yes" under la mata de 'mendra?
So progress is paralyzed.
The owners returned this past Thursday. The Father of the Church and the Sindico both agreed to support the effort to speak with the couple. Everyone in the Yasica area is privy to our jodona situation up en la loma. Everyone has their opinion, their piece.
We are onto the strategy of convincer.
But who the hell is willing to stand up and fight?
The fated evening (tonight) my Dona, an elderly fellow known as Chuoa, and myself, waited in the evening after the misa until 730pm for the Father to return after a church service in a neighboring community. We approached the house in the dark.
The couple was called for and they came to the door, the marido with a policeman's lantern cast upward. The light placing fire in his black eyes.
And he raged. Confronting the Father like a dog. Barking responses without listening. Throwing the Father's title on the floor. Snarling to throw the Church out of the fight. Questioning the Father's intelligence, a Godly man who had studied law and made a profession of representing the repressed.
The owner, threw us out. We would never have his word to placing a pipeline on his land. He had never given permission. He would not destroy the privacity of his territory, heirloom.
I could hardly keep from crying. I cried in silence. And watched.
And fought myself.
Who was I kidding? What game was I playing?
Sometimes my work is so far outside my experience I feel useless.
So now we are over convincing and onto other options.
Option One, we can fight la ruta de la mala. Mala meaning, by law.
We can see how many rights we can pull as a community that has a right to safe drinking water and can't find an alternative route to pass a pipeline.
Or Option Two, we can drop it and approach another spring source.
One I've already measured. Its not as strong, more susceptible to future contamination, and will not provide the same pressure by gravity. Looking at the survey results again, the tank location would have to be dropped 5 meters just to ensure it could fill with water. The first houses would have, at most, 5 meters of head.
Entonces, one source is secure by la naturaleza and jodona by ownership, the other is a safe go-ahead, but wont provide the consumers half the service they imagine.
My neighboring volunteer, Duncan, moves forward in his project as he takes off for another adventure weekend drinking or surfing. He shakes his head as I throw excuses for staying at home in the campo to attend meetings that fall through, convincing myself that I'm not wasting my time.
While on hold, I've started up English classes again and I go into the school when I can to help children learn to write and read. I take care of a cat i call Tigra.
I mop my house my house like a Dona and I've learned to wash sheets by hand in a streambed. I prepare cafe on cue. I fight battles with termites and rats. I accept that things wont happen today and are unlikely to get done tomorrow either. I practice Catholocism to plant ideas of forgiveness and acceptance in my stubborn head. And I am outwardly happy as I forget I have no friends.