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The plywood and planks that were used to frame up the bridge were removed once the concrete was dry.  Now, workmen are clearing out mud and debris from under the bridge, after which they’ll start building retaining walls along the sides of the creek, directing the flow of water under the bridge.

Here are photos from June 23rd when we were up at our clinic:

Cleaning out mud from under the finished bridge

Looking from the side of the finished bridge

Top of bridge

The heavy rains have stopped for now and the weather has been good, so we’re hoping for rapid progress on the retaining walls and road leading up to the bridge.  The bridge cement needs to “cure” for a month or so before heavy trucks can go over it and we can begin working on the other side of the creek.

We’ll keep you informed as things progress

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A major event in construction jobs here in Haiti is the “cement pour”, and whether it’s a floor or a roof or a bridge, it’s a big deal and a big day.  The construction workers up at our clinic site in Gatineau have been preparing for the past few weeks to pour the top of the bridge.  The preparation has involved putting up plywood framing, on top of which iron bars are placed and wired together.  The iron is what gives the bridge the strength to be able to handle the load of heavy dump trucks crossing it multiple times a day.  The ironworkers labored for days cutting and placing the iron bars and wiring them together.  Here they were at work on Tuesday, June 7th, before rain interrupted their progress:

Bridge Ironwork

Closeup of iron work

Finishing the ironwork on the bridge

Yesterday, June 14th, was a festive day, as the workers gathered to carry out the cement pour.  Sand, gravel and water were present in sufficient quantity to be mixed with bags of cement in the portable cement mixer the engineer brought to the site.

Pouring the cement top of the bridge, 6/14/11

The mixed concoction was then poured on the ground and scooped into buckets that were handed in a “bucket brigade” onto the bridge.  The cement mixture was then poured between the iron bars, filling in all the empty spaces.  The process required a lot of workers, giving a day of employment to many of our local neighbors.

Bucket brigade of cement

A day of employment for lots of people

The cement was smoothed out, taking care to get it level.  At the end of the day, this is what it looked like:

Poured bridge

 

Poured bridge at the end of the day, 6/14/11

Rainy season has started and it has been raining almost every day for the past two weeks.  All the benches outside our clinic were full of patients when we arrived on Tuesday morning, the 24th.  It began raining in the morning and continued all day, finally stopping as we saw the last of our nearly 50 patients around 6pm.  The road was extremely muddy and we slipped our way slowly down the mountain, grateful for knobby tires and a 4-wheel drive vehicle!  It rained again on Thursday morning, and we had another slippery drive, this time up the mountain, to hold our clinic.  In spite of the rain, the construction workers were there, removing the framing on the newly-poured concrete walls of the bridge.  Here are some photos of their progress:

Poured concrete walls of the bridge

Walls of the bridge

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that our road trips back and forth to Port-au-Prince are often the fodder for interesting stories, not to mention sometimes-dangerous experiences.  We had thought that, now that the road from Jérémie to Aux Cayes is under construction and less treacherous, the road stories would become few and far between.  How naïve we were to think such a thing!  This is Haiti, after all.

We had a group of 5 visitors from Elmbrook Church in Waukesha, WI with us for a few days and decided to drive them back to Port-au-Prince so we could show them around the capital and visit some places of interest to them.  So, this past Friday morning, we packed the luggage on the top of the jeep and set out on our road trip.  About an hour outside Jérémie, we came to a roadblock – the construction crew was bulldozing along the road and we had to wait an hour and a half for them to clear the rocks and debris before we could pass through.  Later, we thought what a difference that hour and a half made!

We otherwise had an uneventful trip to Aux Cayes and then on to Port-au-Prince.  As we approached the city, we saw very ominous dark clouds in the sky ahead of us.  So, we weren’t surprised to encounter heavy rain as we came to the outskirts of town.  What did surprise us, however, was that, before we knew it, we found ourselves in the middle of a raging flood.  Water was pouring down from the hills above onto the main road, totally obscuring the roadway.  It was about three feet deep and vehicles were stuck on both sides of the road, people were struggling to stay upright as they tried to walk through the raging water and we were driving upstream as old tires, baskets, clothing and garbage flew by both sides and under our vehicle.  All we could think was, “Thank God for our new sturdy jeep!”  Our visitors were huddled in back, holding their hands in prayer as Cherlie and I struggled to avoid having the jeep fall into a deep pothole or drift off the road and into a ditch.  It was also getting dark by then, making visibility even worse in the pounding rain.  At one point, the vehicles in front of us came to a complete stop and we didn’t think we could go around them without falling off the roadway.  As we sat there pondering our next move, a small car started to drift backward towards the left side of our vehicle, being pushed by the flood, the driver seemingly unable to control it.  It seemed that everything was in slow motion as I backed up our jeep, turned our wheels to the side and lunged forward, narrowly avoiding a collision.  It seemed that we were in the middle of a raging river, not on a main street in the capital city of Haiti!  I thought to myself as I drove, “I’ve had a lot of exciting experiences in Haiti, but this is definitely one of the most harrowing!”

Finally, after about 45 minutes of submerged driving, we reached higher ground with better drainage and the garbage-strewn river subsided.  We breathed a collective sigh of relief and marveled at what we had just experienced.  How grateful we were to reach Cherlie’s home a short time later, where we enjoyed showers and comfortable beds to sleep in.  Needless to say, there were many prayers of thanks offered to the Lord in heaven that night!

Elmbrook Church Visitors

Luggage packed on the roof of the jeep

Bulldozer blocking the road

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