I am not a good worker. In fact, I’m quite lazy. These Christian missionaries are excellent workers — busy bees, if you will, carrying on with various tasks around the school: paining the small wooden chairs and desks, painting the railing on the staircase, painting everything. I can hear the hiss of the spray and I can smell the paint as I sit in my classroom of blue and red painted school furniture. I’m quite certain I would be of little use to them and perhaps a slight detriment because I am not by nature a workman, but a creative intellectual of sorts, a wonderer, a dreamer. I suppose you could call writing work, but alas, I am on a working vacation down here!
However, I’ll still check in on Pichillo or Franklin Roosevelt Baez (his real name — I told you they love Americans down here!) in a minute. When I first got here El Presedente and I drilled in a lot of ceiling “triplex” boards — very thin-cut plywood. Drilling into steal takes a lot of stout, muscle and angling for leverage into the drill. We had but one impact gun among us. The other drill would take up to two minutes of non-stop all-your-might pressure into the gun. And the damn thing often poked through, slipping past the metal. Anyway, we got a lot done that day, Pichillo, me and a bunch of other guys working the scaffolds in the classrooms.
The next day we went to Bethel — a large hacienda/estate with a long stony uphill driveway lined by a long concrete fence complete with graffiti messages of Christ, leading up to a big metal gate under a concrete archway. This place was donated to the Christian educational cause by this rich Swiss lady, Ramiro explained. Here we made concrete on the outdoor basketball court behind the house by the school. We made it the old-fashioned way and file the ceiling’s last block on the rectangular vocational/secondary school, hauling wheelbarrows and hoisting buckets all day. At one point, this tall skinny kid with a low blood pressure said, “Mom!” and passed the frick out.
Towards the end of the job, I took a break. I had worked pretty hard. I was all dirty and sweat. So I climbed up that ladder to the roof to assess the progress and take in the view. The sunlit clouds cascaded out to the Andes over the pastoral landscape of maize, scattered livestock and verdure. What a sight!