The following post comes courtesy of Jack Smyley Wild (love the name and perfect for the author he one day plans to be) pictured right. Actually that’s rubbish on my part – he is an author today. Jack is a venturer with Romeo 7, and won a writing competition to get a place on Raleigh.

———————————————-

Friends, family and fans, Romeo 7 here with the first of three updates from the sparse cluster of houses known as (together with the densely-packed hills which encompass them) Quebrada Honda. For those of you who don’t know, that means you”ll find us on the map in Northwest Nicaragua, not far from Achuapa – a dusty, dirt-track, too-hot, rural conglomeration of wood, clay and many horses. We arrived here in the hills on Friday, July 29th after a 2 hour walk up muddy, vegetation-infested tracks! I think that everyone would agree that we’ve entered an entirely different world and on the first night (especially for those without any Spanish) that was slightly overwhelming and perhaps a little daunting. A good job then that the people here are so welcoming, warm-hearted and accepting. Our experiences in our various houses (we’re staying in pairs) have no doubt been disparate – but there’s a definite consensus that these people who – by our standards at least – have so little, are by nature the most generous: with their smiles, laughter, food, time, space and lives.
It’s Monday 1st of August now and we’re all settling in and adjusting to our new routine well. We’ve had, however, a few minor hiccups and incidents worth mentioning before I describe in greater detail, our day-to-day life and the important gravity-fed water system we are helping to complete.

Caught out in torrential rain yesterday, we took shelter in a shed containing sheaths of beans and a few chickens After a few minutes a local from the house beside us brought us a dead armadillo and a rather macabre impromptu photo-shoot ensued. Mitchell is slightly concerned that the photo I took of him holding the poor thing by the tail and laughing hysterically might prove detrimental to his prospects of a career in law. If I discover that he’s working for a reputable firm in the future I may have to send them a picture with a note attached, saying “Do you trust this man? I used to.” Maybe you have to know Mitch to find that funny – he’s a very funny guy.

So today we were attacked by a swarm of giant black wasps on the way to work. I think we had about six casualties – none too serious but all painful enough. I remember realizing what was happening, and just shouting “Run for your lives!” Jenny screamed for help but Waheedah was too busy searching for the beast which had trespassed down her top. The latter suffered a sting to the breast; the former, one on the head. They mostly missiled toward the hair, leading Bert to ask ‘Are they trying to steal our earwax?!’

Anyway, more about the people, place and project. The trench we are digging in which to lay down the tough, plastic pipe is coming on well. I think most of us would agree that it’s the hardest, most backbreaking work that we’ve undertaken – especially when we hit a rocky stretch, the sun beating down, and the slope is steep. Today we had all three, and everyone did well (we’re losing so much water through perspiration that we’re drinking as often as possible).

The trench, which was begun by the previous group at a natural underground spring where a water-catchment tank was built underground with cement and large stones, now runs about 600m or 700m from the high spring, down the mountainside, at an average depth and width of say, slightly less than two by one foot respectively. The remaining days will be spent digging roughly another 1400m of ditch, laying all the pipe (3 inch diameter), covering it all back over, laying a line of big stones above it, and finally, turning on all the taps in the 12 or so houses. – providing them with clean, unlimited water – both being new, and essential properties.

The locals are happy with the work we are doing; it will obviously change their lives for the better. I also believe they are happy to have us staying with them. We are strange creatures from an unknown land, capable of peculiar feats and prone to bizarre habits. In short, we are very amusing to them! Whether we’re beat-boxing, singing, juggling, dancing, washing our clothes, trying to use a machete, drawing, trying to speak Spanish or to make their maize tortillas – we are a source of so much laughter. And that’s a good feeling.

We’ve been making ourselves laugh as well though – especially today when Jodie got a bit tongue-tied and uttered a perfect spoonerism. A snake had been found, and because I was far away she tried to shout, presumably “Jack, there’s a snake!” What she actually said was, “Jake, there’s a snack!” At least I believe it was an accident, although there is a chance that she thinks my name is Jake, and that, like Bear Grylls himself, I snack on serpents.