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Day 4

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2006

We built a house?

6:40 am

Robert is the only one out and about at this point. Apparently, a full day of working on building a house tends to encourage deep sleep in normal folk.

This leaves the abnormal folk free to explain about the difference between US Coca-Cola® and Mexican Coca-Cola. There are two:

  1. Mexican Coca-Cola still comes in real glass bottles (it's cheaper, because they can keep reusing the same bottles).

  2. US Coca-Cola uses corn syrup to sweeten it, while Mexican Coca-Cola uses cane sugar (like what you have in a sugar bowl).

The switch from cane sugar in the US was made in the early 1990's, mostly because corn syrup is cheaper. There are many people who believe that cane sugar gives a superior taste to soft drinks.

We, of course, have to put this to the test. So, on the plane, Robert had a US Coke, so that he could savor its bouquet ("Blecch" was the opinion of his palette) and refresh his taste buds.

Last night, one of the kids scored us a Coke at the local store (hoo boy, does that ever sound bad...). The kids have been going over there a couple of times a day and hauling back bottles of soda (not your child, of course, but one of the other ones) and candy (but not Doug Eichner, he's only been bringing back fresh fruit and vegetables and sugar-free gum).

Anyway, we tasted the cane sugar version and here's our informed opinion:

Yum! Mexican Coca-Cola tastes way better than the sucky US version!

We now understand why there are black market smugglers who specialize in Mexican Coca-Cola (really!). We'll probably be looking to hook up with some, but don't tell anybody, okay?

7:00 am

We get an updated Elizabeth Report: her fever broke overnight and she's conscious and has been moved out of the ER into a room. The vomiting part is done with and she's full of water. Fr. Dan assures us that she'll be receiving the finest taco-flavored JELL-O® that Texas has to offer.

Michael appears to have rebounded with that irritating good health that the young possess. Someday, he, too, will hurt himself by sneezing. But for now, he's shooting hoops and eating toast and cereal.

8:20 am

Fr. Jim has been driving one of the vans to the job site each day. As a result, his van has a flat tire (not that it's his driving style, although he seems to get a steady stream of suggestions from the passengers in his van such as "Dang! Look out!" "Keep your eyes on the road!" "You stopped at the stop sign! Are you insane?").

Fr. Dan has a gadget (naturally) that plugs into the cigarette lighter and inflates the tire—or rather tries to inflate the tire. We watch the air pump struggle for 15 minutes, telling ourselves that we're staying fresh for the job site. Finally, Fr. Dan is forced to use another gadget-in-a-can called "Fix-A-Flat" that sprays white gunk all over you. Some of it apparently got in the tire, because it got inflated and we were ready for an adrenaline-spiking drive to the build site.

9:00 am

We're at the job site. There are three crews for today:


The Electrical Crew (from yesterday)
who have to figure out how to wire two-prong electricity with three-prong wires. (Fr. Dan tells us that in a past build, the electrical crew managed to electrify the chicken wire covering the entire house, so that the people putting on the stucco got shocked every time they touched it.)


The Stucco Crew
Stucco is a kind of runny cement that's made of cement, sand, water, and some white stuff that we think is probably quicklime. This stuff is smeared on the outside of the house where it promptly falls off. The smearers have to then pick it up and put it back on, where it once again falls off. As you can imagine, it takes a while to get through this whole process. Laura was on the stucco crew for a while, because she's a very patient person.

bullet The Dry Wall Crew
"Dry wall" turns out to be pretty much exactly the same thing as sheet rock, except that it goes on the walls instead of the ceiling.

10:30 am

The cement mixer we use to mix up the stucco, has broken down. Naturally, this requires every male person on the site over the age of 18 to come over and look at it, and offer an opinion about why it's not working. Finally Ed (Mr. Roast Guinea Pig) remembers that he had this exact same problem with his 1973 Plymouth Fury and adjusts the belts and pulleys and stucco production resumes.

11:55 am

Before we came down here, we had been warned that putting up dry wall was terrible, evil, awful, mind-bogglingly gruesome work that we should avoid even if we had to "accidentally" sever a few limbs to do so.

Robert's opinion of dry wall is: Hey, this is fun!

He and Doug (who only buys whole grain healthy snacks at the corner store) happily zap screws into dry wall all morning. Doug, being about 3 feet tall can easily get the screws on the bottom. Robert, being able to climb a ladder, can get the ones at the top. Fr. Dan deftly deploys his rotary cutter to make holes for the electrical outlets and windows.

Doug turns out to have an impeccable sense of where to be because he is in the way every single time that a sheet of dry wall has to be placed. This makes it much easier on the rest of us, as we know that if we're not near Doug, we're not in the way.

Wisconsin Wayne has been showing the clueless Northwesterners how stucco is done by folks who don't get paid by the hour. As a result, the stucco is pretty much finished by lunch time, and the dry wall has only a couple of walls to go.

12:15 pm

So we take a nice long lunch! Lunch is more burritos, but this time, there's an assortment of hot sauces available to put on the burritos to achieve various levels of mouth pain.

There's also more Mexican Sodas, including Sprite made with cane sugar (very nice) and even some old-fashioned "Fresca." (Remember when it was a grapefruit-flavored drink? It still is in Mexico).

We also find out that Elizabeth has been cleared for discharge by an infectious disease doctor (she won't get the rest of us sick) and an intestinal doctor (her insides are still on the inside). She has to be cleared by one more doctor (specialty unspecified), fill out a mere two hours of paperwork and she can rejoin us by bedtime.

2:20 pm

The electrical wiring is ready for testing, so some bare wires are stuck into a live socket to see what will happen. Fortunately, the electrical crew of Carl and Dave from Holy Cross are crackerjack enough that not only do they not electrify the entire house, but 75% of the lights/ceiling fans work the first time. (The non-working light had been the subject of some debate, but once the debate was re-opened, it was discovered that the opposing side had a working argument, so it was quickly fixed.)

2:35 pm

Two of the fans wobble around at high speed, and Carl and Dave insist that this must be fixed before they'll sign off on their work. Dave has the honor of doing the very last thing on the house as he adds ballast to balance the last fan.

We built a house. A whole house. In three days. And it's actually a pretty nice house.

We're sorta stunned.

3:30 pm

As we're driving home, we see the road is blocked by a bus that has done some sort of violence to itself and what looks like a small block of concrete. It's clearly not going anywhere, so everybody drives up on the median and around it.

4:30 pm

Nothing caps off a day of hard sweaty work better than cold showers! Yessir! If you picked the wrong place to shower, then you got a nice, cold shower. Laura picked the right place and got a good hot shower. Guess who picked wrong and is a pleasant shade of blue?

7:00 pm

In the debriefing we discover that we have shattered (SHATTERED) the Holy Cross house building record. We did it in three days (21 hours on the site). Woo! Fast and Good!

Fr. Jim wants to build two houses the next time out...

[P.S. We've been told that yesterday's trip log was blocked by some e-mail filters because it contained references to sexual discrimination. We're scratching our heads on that one (Laura is, anyway; Robert is sure it's those hell-spawn chicken wire nails). We certainly hope we didn't offend anybody sexually, but if we did we're sorry.

Robert & Laura
Mexico Housebuilding Trip

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