Proyecto de Estufa (Stove Project) and Traveler’s Sickness First Victim…

First off, I know it’s been awhile since we last posted. Sorry.  Our brain has been working hard trying to learn Spanish. Which is VERY hard and exhausting…but I digress.

Back to the Stove Project!

Pop Wuj is committed to helping the community around Xela with a handful of different projects, one of which is the stove project. A couple of women who work for Pop Wuj travel to different communities outside of Xela and visit families to characterize the need for a new stove or not. Every Wednesday is the stove project day where students (and teachers if their class is in the morning) volunteer to go build one of three stages of the stove.

So far Dave and I have volunteered two days and have been able to build stage 2 and 3 on the same stove! Since the locations are outside of the city we get to take chicken buses too.

Sarah and her Teacher Patty on the Chicken Bus

Ryan (another Student), Freddy (Dave’s Teacher), and Sarah and Patty walking to the house

Stage One:

This stage includes building the base and foundation for the stove. It uses cement blocks, known as just blocks in Spanish, and cement to bond them  together. There are three layers of blocks. Sand is then filled in the center of the blocks to bring it up to the same level. You can see the first level in the pictures below. We did not build this it was there when we started the second phase.

Stage 1 completed the week before and ready for Stage 2

Stage Two:

I think stage two could be the most difficult stage and takes the longest time to build. Although this could be biased since I didn’t build stage one and there were only 5 of us working on stage two and about 7 or 8 working on stage three.

Stage two has three different materials. Baro, which consists of a clay, water, and a brown sugar liquid to make it sticky. Baro is the thermal insulation for the stove. It goes on the inner 2/3’s of the stove. Cement is the second material that goes on the outside 1/3 of the stove and is to hold the bricks together. The bricks are the third material used in this step.

The first thing you do is soak the bricks. Eighty bricks in total, it was good practice counting…I made it to 80, with only one wrong pronunciation.

80 bricks soaking in the water

Then you make the Baro. The Baro is very sticky and very dirty. All three of us, Ryan included in this, were mixing the Baro and there for no pictures. Sorry.

Sarah measuring out the clay for the Baro

A layer of Baro goes on top of the blocks on the inside 2/3’s and a  layer of cement on the outside 1/3. The first layer of bricks are placed on top of that about a finger width apart. Which turns out is very important for the next step. The bricks were also leveled before the next step took place. This involved putting more Baro or cement to even things out.

Dave and Sarah placing the bricks on the Baro and Cement layer.

The next step includes putting the Baro, which let me remind you is VERY sticky and doesn’t slide in very easily, between the bricks and then on top of the bricks. Again, Baro on the inside 2/3 and cement on the outside 1/3.

Ryan and Dave working on getting the Baro and cement in the back of the stove. Notice the small working space.

Repeat two more times until you have three layers total. Making sure to leave space for a door in front and a chimney or chiminea in Spanish in the back.

Ryan and Sarah on the second layer applying Baro and Cement

And tudah! (I googled this word and still not sure if this is how it’s spelled.) Phase 2 complete. Except for the clean up and ride home…

Looks beautiful!

Sarah cleaning her hands of Baro

Dave and Freddy cleaning the tools


Phase Three:

Phase three includes putting the floor down for the inside of the stove, the chimney, and the metal top. The first task for Dave was to carve a brick in a gradual arc shape for in front of the chimney while I mixed the dried Baro from last week to a better consistency.

Dave carving the brick with a Machete

They actually had him make two because he did such a good job on the first one. This is for the other stove near by.

Sarah mixing Baro

Then next process was lining up the chimney and cutting a hole through the roof. This process was mostly done by the teachers and Carmenlina, who is the stove master.

Carmenlina, Patty and Freddy figuring out where the chimney will go.

While the roof was being cut, Carmenlina was placing the gradient stove floor. She put the bricks down so it slowly increased in height towards the chimney. Then more Baro between the bricks.

Sarah, George (another student), and Carmenlina putting the Baro down.

Next was placing the chimney through the hole and connecting it to the stove. Dave caught an awesome picture of the women receiving the free stove watching the teachers do this step. She was very grateful for this stove.

Grateful eyes watching the stove making.

Following the stove is the placement of the metal top and more cement to top it all off. Notice the perfect cement job done by Carmenlina on the chimney block. Once this done, they let the stove sit for 7 weeks to dry out. Once dry, they return to put a door on and then the stove can be used for a long time.

Carmenlina works fast but is very good at what she does.

Students watching how to make cement.

Reaching the long spots for Carmenlina.

Dave trying to master the trowel. He either wasn’t going fast enough or not doing a good enough job, Carmenlina eventually took the trowel from him.

our teacher’s told us “good work” or “bueno trabajo”

There was enough people this time that another stove was worked on as well. Check out the other group…

Other group of students cleaning their tools.

The two ladies who live there and were receiving the stoves were very grateful and made everyone (there was 14 of us total) some hot beverage that consisted of chocolate and rice. Everyone had to take some, they were not taking no for an answer. There was a lot of concerned students…they didn’t want any bacteria friends from this drink. Dave and I both tried it. Not my favorite. The texture was similar to rice pudding, not a fan.

Some pictures of us leaving that day…

Carmenlina leaving the house between the rows of corn.

Walking towards the street to catch the bus.

A hill of corn, onions, broccoli, etc. behind the house.

And finally Dave and I treated ourselves to the chocolate covered frozen bananas we’ve been seeing on our walk home every day.

They were yummy…

Lastly, I’ve either made the post so long that you’ve been waiting in anticipation for the first victim of traveler’s sickness or you completely forgot. I’ll go with the first…

It was ME…I’ve had stomach problems since Friday and then Tuesday after lunch I had a fever of 99.3 for well over 9 hours. I don’t know the exact time, about 5 hours into the fever (a fever that ibuprofen nor aleve helped, I know tylenol would be best…but we didn’t have that) I broke down and took a dose of my antibiotics. The fever broke sometime in the night and I felt good enough to go to the stove project the following day. I’m still not feeling 100 percent…time will tell if I need something else.

As a side note, Dave has had some minor stomach issues, we’re afraid he wasn’t far behind my problems, but no fever yet. Good job Dave.

Thanks for sticking in there for this long post!

Cheers, Sarah

Categories: Central America, Volunteering | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Proyecto de Estufa (Stove Project) and Traveler’s Sickness First Victim…

  1. Kristina

    Sarah: Glad to here things are good and u are feeling better…we miss u both in the states! I emailed u the otha day!
    Dave: great job on the brick scraping with a machetie! Impressive!
    Both: sooo glad to get a glimpse into ur daily living on ur amazing adventure, wish I could be there with or visit. Love you both. Safe travels


  2. Matt

    Dave has always had minor stomach issues!

    Good work, both of you!


  3. Perfect, because that’s where we’re headed next. Thanks for the heads up. We’ll look into it.

  4. Pingback: Stove Project (Proyecto Estufa) Update « Peach and Bones

  5. Steve

    hey i am here in Xela for 3 months and in my 4th day was living in the bathroom. I took 10 pastillas over 5 days with the final one this morning. i took Trimetoprim. And i am not living in the bathroom anymore, but still have the ‘symptoms’. no vomiting ever btw. So i am taking a trip to the lab tmrw for a culture and some other antibiotics to target this problem bateria in me. So question: am i gonna get this like, every darn week!? i only eat steaming hot foods and boiled water in my host fam’s home. no other food or water ihahve drank. Btw, i am a student over at Casa Xelaju. P.S. i love the stove projects that we have here in Guatemala.

    • Hi Steve. Sorry for the delayed response. We’ve been without internet access for two weeks. I’m no expert on traveler’s sickness but my guess is that your body will adapt to the new food and bacteria relatively soon. That said, it pays to still be careful with what you eat. It sounds like you have a sound approach with sticking to hot foods and boiled water. From our experience it’s very difficult to avoid getting sick from time to time. We’ve both been sick now at least once and foresee more travel related sickness in our futures. Also from our experience, the strength of the sickness diminishes with each occurrence, though, that may not hold true if we go to a totally new place with new bugs our bodies have never encountered. Time will tell. Good luck! By the way, I hope you’re enjoying all of the delicious baked goods in Xela. We recommend The Bake Shop run by Mennonites and of course the chain bake shop Xelapan. The Bake Shop is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays I think. Ask around if you don’t know where it is.

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