Sunday, July 15, 2012

Honduras Mission Trip: Part 1

Jason and I prayed for awhile and asked for God's wisdom regarding the opportunity to go on a Living Water International mission trip to Honduras with CEPC.

We selfishly weighed the amount of vacation we had and the fact that we wanted to do a graduation trip to Peru for Jason against the opportunity to give back and to do something that sounded amazing (drilling a water well - right up our alley!)

In the end we decided we were supposed to go on the mission trip and took a leap of faith and signed up. The Lord worked out perfectly the travel plans to combine our trip to Peru and the trip to Honduras. (We even saved financially doing this! Man, God is good!!)

There were no flight options to arrive Saturday with the rest of the group so instead we arrived Friday afternoon after spending two week in Peru. (You can read about those adventures here.)

As we headed to the hotel Jason noticed a lot of soccer jerseys being sold and worn on the streets. We asked the driver if there was a game that weekend. He excitedly told us there was a World Cup qualifying match that night against Panama and it was in San Pedro Sula! We asked him if there were still tickets available and he told us there would be plenty at the stadium, which was just a 20 min drive from the hotel.

We debated whether or not to spend Friday night relaxing after our long trek and travels, but in the end decided it was a once in a lifetime chance to attend and we wanted to take it! We talked to the hotel reception about getting over there, getting tickets, etc. They arranged for our taxi driver to take us and help us purchase tickets. We bought jerseys for a cheap $15 total from a guy outside our hotel and we were off to the game!

Our driver helped us get tickets and asked us if we wanted him to pick us up after the game. We agreed and set a meeting place and time for when it was over. We headed into the game and bought cheap beers ($1.25 each), amazing sandwiches ($2.00 each), and the best cotton candy I've ever had ($1.00). The stadium was absolutely full and it was a good thing we bought jerseys because everyone was wearing one!

The cheering and enthusiasm rivals anything I've witnessed in the US and we found ourselves booing at Panama and cheering for Honduras as though we were from there. Unfortunately though towards the end of the second half Panama scored a goal against us bringing the score to 0-1. We watched as people on the other side of the stadium from us began throwing things over the barbed wire fence that separated us from the field. We noticed the police in full riot gear begin to move to mediate the situation...

Then Panama scored again and by this time Honduras had no opportunity to come back. Everyone started throwing things over the fence, the riot came on, and the machine guns came out. This is the point at which the gringos exited the stadium! We headed outside to meet our taxi driver, but had at least 15 min before our set time. We waited, and waited, scrutinizing every taxi that came by us since we had memorized the number. This was probably the only slightly intimidating part - two white people in shorts standing outside the stadium after having just lost!

Fortunately our taxi driver appeared about 45 min later and we felt significantly better about our adventure. We headed back to the hotel and the next morning had breakfast with Mike, one of our fellow CEPC members who'd arrived late the previous night. We walked around San Pedro Sula for a little bit before heading to the airport to meet the Living Waters staff and the other five team members.

At the airport we easily recognized Emilio and Nugget (Living Water employees) wearing our matching Living Water shirts. We waited in the airport for the rest of our group to arrive. Our CEPC team members were Jason and I, Richard (our Family Life minister and Associate Pastor of CEPC), Kevin, and Mike. We had only briefly met Kevin and Mike before and enjoyed getting to know them better throughout the trip. We also had three additional team members - Shallan (a Living Water Staff member in Houston), her mom Lynette, and Erin. Eight total and while slightly on the smaller side for the trip, we thought it was a comfortable amount.

We got our luggage loaded in the van and began our six hour drive to where we would stay that night. We stopped at Burger King for lunch. Yes, you read that right. They made us go to Burger King. Emilio swore it was better than any Burger King in the US and while he was probably correct, it was still Burger King...I was not impressed.

We saw a beautiful double rainbow on the drive and pulled over to take pictures -

We arrived at our hotel in La Ceiba early that evening.We still had another two hour drive the following day, but they want to be conscious of your long day of traveling and invite you to attend church Sunday in a close by village.
We checked in to our very nice nice it had us pondering the extravagant accommodations (beach-front, all-inclusive, two swimming pools, etc...) Shallan told us that they had just started using this hotel for their trips because the last one had some incidents at it and this was the only safe one in the area. And we were not allowed to go out at night alone and definitely not to the beach after dark. Comforting.

The next morning we attended church and spent some time relaxing at the hotel before heading out the remainder of our drive with Nugget and two other Living Water International staff members - Abraham and Deborah.

We stayed in Saba, a town close to the northern coast of Honduras. Abraham, the drilling lead for our trip, prepared us for what to expect the following day: what we would be doing, how to interact with the villagers, etc. After having two easy days of travel and lounging our entire group was anxious and ready to get working!

The village where we drilled our well was called Palos de Agua Abajo (ironically Water Stick Down) and just a 15 min drive from Saba. When we arrived on Monday the rig was already on location and the mud pits already dug for us and the villagers ready to greet us (along with a parrot!).

We got started unloading equipment, getting river water to fill the mud pits with our drilling mud, gassing up the motors, etc. It wasn't until close to 11:00 am that we started actually drilling and I was fortunate enough to be the first driller!!

All eight of us wanted to drill that day so we left poor Deborah to teach hygiene to the women and children by herself... there are typically two groups on the trip - drillers and the hygiene team. When Richard first approached us about possibly attending I adamantly refused to go unless I could drill. (Historically all of the women from our church join the hygiene team and that's just not my thing!) I was still able to visit with the girls in the village throughout the week. Here I am talking attempting to talk to one in Spanish before we started drilling.

Throughout the week we sieved sand twice to get the right size gravel for our well's gravel pack.

We separated into two teams of four and rotated through the following assignments: driller, assistant driller, sample collector, and mud pit cleaner. Everyone rotated through and got to do everything at least twice. By the end of the day, we drilled a 4" hole to a depth of 90' collecting samples every 5'. We drilled through a clay formation and down into gravel before reaching our TD (total depth).

Here's some pictures and a video of our drilling operations - after every 5' stand of pipe we drilled we had to add another stand of pipe, and keep going.

 We collected samples every stand of pipe to know what type of formation we were drilling through -

It was an amazing first day!

The next day we needed to re-drill our hole with a 7" bit to make it larger in order for the casing. Here's the hole ready to be re-drilled with the larger bit and us changing out our drill pipe for the 7" bit.

Kevin decided to drop his glasses in the mud pits before we started drilling... fortunately he found them!

We drilled to a depth of about 80' before losing circulation. This means that the mud we were running through the drill bit to help remove cuttings and keep the bit cool was not flowing back out as it's supposed to do. We had to pull the entire 80' of pipe as quickly as possible, remove the thick clay that had caked onto the drill bit and caused the plugging, and then ream back in the hole and continue drilling down to 90'. While this sounds like a significant hiccup, it's actually pretty common and was easy to mitigate and get back on track. We were able to get the hole re-drilled with the 7" bit down to the 90' TD.

Here's Kevin and Mike breaking down pipe when we got stuck.

Jason and Richard helped run the pipe back in the hole after we got the clay off the bit.

Abraham reamed through the collapsed formation and portion where we got stuck before I took over drilling again.

 Video of Abraham reaming -

 My turn to drill again!

And while I worked, Jason decided to flirt with some of the village girls... :-)

We had to continue getting water throughout the week to make mud and help us drill. Erin and I went with the guys and watched them catch a shrimp! Nugget is pretending to eat it.

After getting the hole drilled, the next part needed to be done efficiently and quickly - no picture taking or breaks. Everyone had a specific job and needed to be focused. We had to POOH (pull out of hole) and breakdown the pipe as quickly as possible, run the casing (PVC pipe with slots) downhole, and glue each strand of the PVC together as we ran it downhole. This needs to be done quickly so that the hole doesn't completely collapse.

Jason's job was to help get the next piece of PVC ready and I had the job of gluing the PVC pieces together and timing them to dry before running them downhole. We were able to do this quickly without incident and had only 5' of our hole collapse giving us a new TD of 85'.

Abraham adding the gravel pack we had made the last couple of days.

Next we ran the hydraulic baler up and down in the casing for 10 min/5' section to help clean out any sand particles that might have fallen in the casing of the well to finish our operations for Day 2.

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