Day 8 in Cuba!

We have reached the end of another day, day eight to be exact. This morning started off like any other with a wonderfully prepared breakfast that included fresh fruit, eggs, and an assortment of breads–although today there was a large amount of work waiting for us. For the first day we were going to be working on the church where we have been staying. Promptly at eight o’clock Reynaldo, the man who ran the show today, came to find us and bring us to the roof. The mission for the day was to put a cement roof on a room. The goal was to have a three story building.

When we gathered on the roof there were already eight or more Cuban men eager to begin working and finish the roof of this relatively small room. It still amazes me how willing the church community is to help regardless of what they need. All of these men showed up to do very labor intensive work because without them the work would take much more time. Before the cement could be spread on the rebar and wood planks that make up the base of the roof, we had to make the cement. One lesson everyone learned today was that to make cement you need one bucket of water, two buckets of rocks, one bucket of Portland cement powder, and one to two buckets of sand. All these need to be mixed in a cement mixer and then spread across the ground to be shoveled around. Reynaldo and a few other workers gave us each a job whether it be shoveling rocks, sand, or cement powder into small buckets, getting water from a barrel into a small bucket, or shoveling and mixing the finished cement that was soon to be transferred to the new roof. When enough cement gathered on the ground a group of four students, instructed by Fran, began shoveling the mixture into more buckets.

Fran had created such a good system we all worked flawlessly. Four people stood on scaffolding, two on a lower level and two a level up and closer to the roof; two people stood on the ground; and a rotation of four more people shoveled and mixed the cement. Fran would tell each person when to start the shoveling and they would put two to three shovelfuls of cement into a bucket and that bucket would be carried up one side of the scaffolding by three different people and the workers on the roof would dump the buckets into a wheelbarrow and then put it down on the rebar. The bucket would make its way down the other side of the scaffolding to the person waiting on the ground. For the majority of the afternoon I was the person on the ground putting buckets down as well as handing them up the waiting people on the scaffolding. This was no easy task and I cannot even imagine how difficult it was to mix the cement with shovels and then have to put it into buckets for multiple hours. Such a procedure is a novelty to Americans because we never work in such conditions because our technology is so advanced. The kind of work we did today is very similar to that of the 1920s and 30s. It was absolutely amazing to see the succession of our work and how much of an impact we were making. By ten o’clock, we were half way done the roof and a couple hours later we were still powering through the work in direct sunlight but our energy was still high. We completed the roof just in time for lunch, one meal which I have never been more thankful for.

The afternoon we spent relaxing before we went to the park to play volleyball with the young communist group. When we got there a huge group of them were standing around and we quickly jumped in and began playing against them. Even though my skills are rusty, volleyball was still one of my favorite parts of today. We took the fifteen minute walk back to the church, which seem to be getting shorter but in reality I’m getting used to all the walking. Dinner was ready when we arrived and we were served a delicious Italian-American dinner of pizza and pasta and I took the usual second helping. The food here is so amazing whether they cook Cuban food or a spin on American food it’s always delicious, maybe a little too delicious.

This trip has already been such an eye opening experience and I look forward to what next week has to offer. Going from sweating while shoveling cement to relaxing on the beach, this country is a truly amazing place and I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.

Sincerely yours,

Lizzy Mahoney

PS. Mommy, I would greatly appreciate it if you made me cookies and brought me milk. I know it will be almost midnight but milk is one thing I really miss and you already promised cookies. I also want you to know that I love you and miss you so much, see you in a week!

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