With the beginning of rainy season tire packing over the past two weeks has slowed considerably . . . . but we continue to forge ahead with the walls when the weather permits, and the 9th course is complete, with the 10th in progress.  Accounting for the rain we should be able to complete the 13th course within 3 weeks.

In addition to this normal rain, tropical storm Agatha hit Comalpa on May 29.  Overall the project sustained the intense rain (15 in.) and winds (40mph) well, but we did have a few drainage problems.  Our site drainage system was not fully complete and consequently water built up at the lowest part of the site causing some erosion.  Because of this erosion the latrine fell into its own hole, and a portion of the retaining wall collapsed.  Both issues are completely fixable and avoidable in the future, but it was an unforunate setback.  And quite a surprise to wake up in the morning and find the latrine unusable!  Compared to other parts of the country, however, I think we were very lucky and well prepared for such a storm.  The existing workshops and ones in progress had no major problems.

To rectify the situation we are working the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter from North Texas who were here earlier in the year.  We are rebuilding the retaining wall with a new drainage system as well as implementing a long-term drainage strategy for the entire site.  Additionally we built a temporary latrine to last about a month while we build a permanent dry-composting latrine, that was already part of the school design.  A water-proof sealant is also being applied to the entire roof, and repairs were made to one of the roof canals. 

The plus-side of so much rain means our rain-harvesting system is underway.  The water level in the tank finally got high enough that we were able to fill our pila (sink) from the tap connected to the tank.  In the days after the storm much of Comalapa was with out municipal water and/or electricity.  With a rain-fed system at the school we had plenty of water. 

The electricity situation could be changing soon as well.  The process to connect to the municipal system is underway, and if all goes well could be complete within a month.  The paperwork is almost finished, and we have begun constructing a concrete column that will hold the meter box.  And next will prepare the interior of the workshops with wiring and switches so that we are ready when the electricity actually arrives. The solar panel we have works great, the only problem it is not a big enough system to meet all of our needs.  We have a solar system fully designed but are lacking the funding to purchase and install it.

Work continues on the Phase I Building Manual, which will be used by LWH staff, volunteers and interns. The manual will thoroughly explain the process of the first vocational workshops and will help all people involved better understand LWH’s building practices.  We are also making revisions to the site design and looking ahead to building the dry-composting latrine, completing the retaining walls and the Earthbag classrooms in 2011.