Sunday, June 28, 2009

6 weeks down

Sorry for the lack of updates, bridge construction has gone into high gear. We have spent the last two weeks busily pourig foundations to the best of our ability. We have managed to pour the footers and first lifts for both the piers, as well as the footer on one of the far sides. We have been getting around 5 volunteers per day from the village. The Bolivians are a great help and have made some great suggestions about form design and stability. We probably mixed over 700 cubic feet of concrete this past week- our mixer only makes 6 cubic feet per batch. It´s no surprise then that most of us check out at 9 pm every night. 

Many thanks to Dwayne Lee for his contributions to the project. After he left last Monday we brought a professional engineer from Engineers in Action, Milton, to work with us. He has definetly been a great help and we look forward to having him back. 

Last Tuesday was the festival of San Juan. All the families in the town sit around bonfires infront of their houses. It was very fun, but also scary because all the little kids were playing with fireworks!!!

We have alot on our plate this coming week, but Dr. Schaad will be arriving in Bolivia on Monday. He will definetly be a great help as we prepare this project for our departure from Obrajes next week. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Midway update

After weeks of being in Bolivia, we finally began construction little more than a week ago. The communities around Obrajes told us they desired a pier supported bridge at a new sight we previously hadn´t considered. Since this bridge belongs to the community, and since they will be doing the bulk of the construction after we leave, we decided to revise our design to suit their needs.  Dwayne Lee, a retired Engineer from the army, joined us two weeks ago and has been an amazing help in all of the project. 

The last week sure has been an experience. We have all been waking up early and getting to the site as soon as possible. We´ve all learned how to build rehbar cages, construct forms, and, most importantly, dig big holes. When we put the form in our meter deep hole earlier this week, most of us were up to our chests in cold water. 

On Thursday, the feast of Corpus Christi, the community members threw us a ¨Challa¨, or a religious festival where they blessed the ground the bridge is on. We had dinner with the mayor and had a huge soccer game with the kids. It was tons of fun. 

After today our numbers will drop to 6 students, Dwayne, and Dr. Beaule. We are expecting work to be much harder, but we also are anticipating more community involvment. Yesterday the communities had a huge (300 person) meeting where they put together a schedule for labor. They also want to dig the foundation deeper, 2 meters, to avoid soil erosion of the footers. We don´t know how to do this, but they insist it is possible. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Obrajes update

We arrived in Obrajes 5 days ago, and it has been a great experience so far. Our four room house is quite a contrast from the city, but we have all settled in just fine. We all take turns doing dishes, cooking, and cleaning, and it´s been great fun. In our free time we´ve been playing sports with the children, taking long walks in the valley, and enjoying the local hot springs.

We have spent much of the week surveying various river crossings and talking to the local government about bridge design. After discussions with the local authorities, it has become clear that a hardened roadway supported by culverts, rather than a full bridge, is much more constructable given our funds and time on the ground. In addition, the prefecture and the municipal governments both liked the idea. We will present final designs to them next week after Dwayne Lee, a professional engineer from the States, arrives in Bolivia this weekend. The local goverment has also indicated that they would help us out with labor and machinary.

Members of the group have also been invited to speak to students at a local engineering college. This is an excellent oppurtunity for this project´s sustainability. We are hoping local students will perhaps want to continue our work in the Iruma river valley to make new crossings for locals.

I will definetly keep everybody updated regarding the state of our project. Stay Tuned!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Arrival in Oruro

A photo from the hill that overlooks Oruro.

A monument to the miners of Oruro.

After a three hour trip, we made it to the mining city of Oruro. Our engineering site is only a half hour away. We are spending a few nights in this old mining city as we prepare for our move to Obrajes.

Today we met with the prefecture´s engineering department, and they seemed to like our design very much. We will have further meetings with them to negotiate the potential use of heavy machinary. We are also going to work with the local community in Obrajes so that they will assume ownership of the bridge after we depart.

The rest of the day was spent walking around Oruro and getting a feel for the city. We went to the local market to see what furniture and foods would be available for our house. The variety was just amazing. There were loads of different vendors selling tons of different local foods. Needless to say, we definetly won´t starve. We also spent some time at the mining museum, which exhibits the mining traditions of the past.

We will be moving into Obrajes next week. We are all very excited to finally break ground for this bridge.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We all arrived in La Paz yesterday. Most of the group (with the exception of Ben and I) arrived early in the morning from Miami. Ben and I arrived in the afternoon. After some long naps and acclimating to the altitude, we all went for a nice walk around the city.

Today we met with representatives from Engineers in Action (EIA). They are helping us purchase engineering materials for our project. They have also been a great source for engineering related feedback.

We will be taking the three hour trip to Oruro Thursday morning. In the mean time, we will spend our stay in La Paz becoming acclimated to the new enviroment and working on our designs. We will be sure to keep you updated when with all the new events in our project.

Russell G.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just created a blog

Hey guys!

I am so excited to leave for Bolivia in one week. I know our team is going to do a great job. We will keep everyone updated every step of the way, so
keep an eye on this blog.

Here is a picture of the people travelling this year:
(2nd row: Devin, Nick, Ben, Me, Phil, Maria, Andrew 1st row: Magdelena, Laila, Trish, and Patrick)

Wish us luck!