Spent the afternoon digging in the scorching sun. Sat for fifteen minutes in the dirt with a small boy who spent all morning crying, dried tears streaking his dust-covered cheeks. Why, I don’t know. My Spanish is good but he was young and the only word he knew was “perro”. Dog. Yes. So many dogs. And pigs. And oxen. And chickens, everywhere.
The people we are shuffling dirt and rock with for hours on end live in small shacks made up by tin and sticks and large sheets of plastic. They smile, all the time. We arrive and they come pouring out of their homes, grabbing picks and shovels, hacking away at the rock, carefully laying down the precious pipes that they thought would never arrive. Pipes that have been promised to them again and again but that somehow never made it. Until now.
They’re here and they’re pipes that will connect to the new water tower we’re building, attached to the pump that will be put 50 meters underground. Pipes that will ensure that every house, every home, has a tap. A tap with actual, clean, freshwater flowing out of it on a moments notice, ready to drink. No more lugging gallons of water from dried-up wells kilometers away. No more using brackish water to shower. No more rationing buckets of water for the entire family. A tap! On its way.
We dig and we dig and we dig. Somewhere in the middle of it all we find a litter of puppies. They’re ten days old and it’s urgent but I know there are bigger things at stake. Children. Families. People. We feed discarded pieces of watermelon to pigs that roam the area. Bring in juice and soda for all the kids – I have a sip of Coke and it’s the most delicious thing I’ve tasted in a long time. Above all, we dig. It’s so intense and it’s hard and we’re sweating and we’re covered in dirt from head to toe but something… something keeps us going.
When the sun starts to set we head back to our hotel. It’s only ten minutes away but it’s a different world entirely. I grab a beer from the fridge and jump in the pool and watch the sky turn pink in the distance. My muscles are aching from using my body to do good things for people that may never know what it feels like to cool off in a pool at the end of a hot day. I stay like that for a long time, floating. Breathing. Feeling.
And then I look up. Two monkeys are in the tree right above me. They’ve been there all along, jumping from branch to branch, watching me silently. My mind quiets completely. I snap this photo and wonder…
How is any of this even real?