Some pictures to whet your appetite:
The process of moving the cement merits detailed exposition. The workers (and John) shoveled the cement into buckets that we had lined up (about 8 of them); these were the same buckets Ana and I had used to hurl water. I picked up a bucket, turned, handed it to Jen, who passed along to Ana, to the next and then the next, then, up the ladder, person by person (3 on the ladder), to the roof, where two caught buckets, passed back to another 2 who dumped into wheelbarrow, then another tossed the bucket down to a catcher we had on the ground who would then run the bucket over to the cement and place it down for the men. Repeat.
Some things that I learned:
1) When buckets are tossed 15-20 feet down off of a roof and are covered in cement, do not catch them with your bare hands.
2) Passing cement up in small 5 gallon buckets (that are completely filled) gets old fast. When rotating people on the ladder, make sure that the bucket-grabbers on the ground know.
3) As buckets hit the ground, they bend. This means that sometimes, buckets’ handles break as they are picked up from the ground.
4) Although I had clearly said that the girls (and women) could handle the cement-filled buckets (at 1/2—2/3 full), holding buckets that are overflowing is another matter entirely.
5) Teens (and adults) tire quickly when they are not used to this sort of work. Morale will drop. You should be prepared for this and plan accordingly.
6) Ask questions if the ladder is being put together/re-nailed while you are standing on it. Ask these questions after you get off the ladder.
7) There’s a natural rhythm that occurs when you’re working the assembly line right; this sweet spot makes the repetitive motion easiest. Aim for it.
8) Bending and twisting to retrieve buckets from the ground is not the best way to take care of your herniated disc.
9) It helps to understand the workers as they speak in Spanish. It makes your job with the buckets that much more fun when you get their jokes.
10) No matter how you place the buckets on the ground for the cement to be thrown in, they will be moved. And, if the line gets backed up, the buckets will be fuller than full. A faster line = a less filled bucket.
11) Buying pants that are too big for you because they’re on clearance is an okay idea. But they might not be the best to wear on the day that you’re working with concrete (especially if you didn’t bring a belt).
OH! And those construction gloves I had loaned out? I could have used them. After all the bucket handling, I tore several chunks off of my hand. You know the blood is bad when you can see it through the concrete covering your hands! Andres, Juan Carlos, and Ever (you’ll get his story soon!) all came out to take care of it. The three of them were super concerned that my hands be as clean and wrapped as possible.
Andres had a super-disinfectant/healer medicine in his first aid kit. It was a small bottle and the applicator was like plastic graph paper with holes. He warned me it would hurt–I have never felt an antibiotic or disinfectant that has stung as this one did. I never did figure out what our English equivalent is, but I know what it isn’t: iodine, neosporin, or rubbing alcohol. As we cleaned my hands, we realized that I had several other cuts. Andres wrapped them all up, together with Juan Carlos and Ever. I was almost like a kept woman! What a humbling practice of receiving care from another (or three).
When I returned into the work site, one of the workers, Rigoberto, (a 26 year old) gave me one of his gloves to use. I accepted, grateful to have something more than the dishwashing glove to protect at least one hand. What would come next?