I got to the building site ready to meet the family who were getting the house we’d just built only to find no-one there. I hung around for 30 minutes after which the electrician and glazier arrived. The electrician cycled off to find the site foreman and came back alone to tell the rest of us that the house was considered finished and so no more work was needed. The glazier looked a bit miffed and after some swearing lessons gave me a lift to his next job back in San Ramón. All this only took an hour so I mailed the area manager and was told to take the rest of the day off, which is a mixed blessing in a town as exciting as this.
The area manager came to the family house where I’m staying, bringing a new volunteer to stay with the same family. She got unpacked and a short while later we headed off to a new building site.
The first site was some way out of town in a picturesque valley, with friendly neighbours and a decent local shop. The new site is right on the edge of the slums to the east of the town. A series of newly built houses lead down a steep hill to where we’re working, slowly replacing the corrugated steel shelters at the base.
Again unlike the previous site the two professional builders don’t seem particularly happy to see us and just set us to work moving a huge pile of mud and rubbish from the front to the side of the house.
Two and a half days solid work later and the three of us are about 80% of the way through the pile of the mud. The builders still haven’t said a word to us other than a vague ‘Hola’. The only people brave enough to talk to us are the local drunk or a chap wandering up and down the street carrying a baseball bat. He turns out to be the area security guard, protecting the locals from the drug dealers in the shanty town at the bottom of the hill.
As we’re eating lunch the police turn up in force to raid the house next door, dragging a woman away kicking and screaming. One of the crowd that turns up to watch the spectacle is apparently the beneficiary of the house we’re building. She’s covered in gold jewellery and drives off in a new Range Rover, suggesting she doesn’t really need a free house.
This, combined with the unfriendliness of the builders and the likelihood of getting shot at some point leads me to walk off site, closely followed by the other two, and request a transfer somewhere more useful.