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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From Oaxaca at noon on October 19th

The Rotary Club meeting was changed from 8 PM, Monday (October 17), to 9:30 PM and the day with Mara on Tuesday was cancelled because there was not enough room in the vehicle for all of us and the equipment.  Instead, we met with Juan Jose when they are off collecting water samples.

We arrived at the restaurant for the Antequera Rotary Club meeting at 9:15 PM, thinking that we were fifteen minutes early.  The meeting was already in session, however, so we tried to quietly join and wait for Nelly’s arrival.  The club though was ready to give us the floor immediately and we asked if they preferred us to speak in English or Spanish.  Since they decided on Spanish, we asked if we could wait for Nelly.  Nelly arrived before our 9:30 planned time and then we began.

Antequera Rotary Club with Nelly, Rick and Stan
We thanked them for their support and told them how that support had a positive impact on us obtaining the grant for the School Water Filter Project from the Bremerton Rotary Club.  We then gave them a status update about the project.  The water filter is for the Valentin Gomez Farias Elementary School in Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla.  The update included information about the school itself, the water testing process, the filter selection & purchase process, filter installation & testing and operations & maintenance.  Initial water tests have already been done.  Additional testing will be done by the university (UABJO) and, possibly, a commercial laboratory, if UABJO cannot run all the tests we need.  We are working with Industrial Mass in Mexico City and our Board Member, Dr. James Fox in Seattle, to make the filter selection.  It will be purchased from Industrial Mass.  Local community members will be trained so they can do the testing, operations and maintenance.  Club members asked a number of questions about this project and other things that we are doing in Oaxaca.  This gave us an opportunity to explain Secretary Cajiga’s initiative and our involvement with it.  They thanked us for our work in Oaxaca and told us that we could depend on them for any help that was needed.  They even said that we could bring receipts for this particular project to them and they would reimburse us.  That is good to know, in case our actual expenses run over our $500 grant.  They were very excited about our work in general.  Rick and Stan are scheduled to visit the school on Thursday.

Tuesday we met with Juan Jose at 11 to discuss how to proceed with Mr. Cajiga.  Nelly is in daily contact with Ileana Sotomayor, his assistant, to get us on his schedule.  So far, no firm date/time has been set.  INSO’s  year long initiative, A Common Plan for the Common Good, consists of a very general agreement with specifics added via addenda.  In our case, however, we all think that it should be a specific contract.  We will get some guidance from the secretary’s office.

Rick suffered through the morning with nausea and an upset stomach.  He could not eat anything and took the rest of the day off to recuperate.  Stan and Nelly went to the Tuesday evening appointment with the head of the Villa de Etla.

L-R: Rumeriz, Stan, SDBBE representative
We arrived by our 6 PM appointment time, were warmly greeted at 6:10 and ushered onto a meeting room with Daniel Rumeriz Rumeriz, the head of Villa de Etla.  Shortly afterwards someone from Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla joined us.  He was Maria’s (the former administration head) environmental representative and the head of the committee that protected the dump from additional illegal dumping.  We had a very frank discussion about the possibility of selecting Villa de Etla as the pilot site for a constructed wetland in the Central Valley.  We explained about Water for Humans involvement with Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla since 2009 and Dr. Jhabvala’s involvement since 2010.  We then explained how the extent of the project has changed from a specific single constructed wetland for Villa de Etla to a pilot for the Central Valley and for the state.  We then explained that the selection process for the pilot site would be based on ideal conditions for the technology, the environmental impact and the social collaboration & impact.  We told him that socially and politically they had a long way to go before we would select them as the pilot site and that the selection would not be made for a number of months yet.  We also told him that the dump was a separate project and that because of it, more land may be needed for the project.

Mr Rumeriz said that they were very interested in being the pilot site and that he was calling for a meeting of the Elders in the Villa de Etla next Tuesday to discuss the matter.  We explained that we are looking at other locations but would monitor the social and political situation there from both Villa de Etla’s perspective and SDBBE’s perspective.  The SDBBE representative was cautiously happy about Villa de Etla’s ‘changed attitude’ and said that they would have to see if actions follow.

All in all, the meeting turned out well.  Villa de Etla seems to be genuinely interested in being considered as the pilot site and they know the important factors that will influence our selection process.

We returned to Oaxaca and Nelly showed Stan her favorite tamale place, a street vendor, close to the zocalo.  Stan bought two tamales for less than the price of one at our favorite tamale restaurant, ate them at home and gave them two thumbs up (at a great price).

Rick was doing much better and had zeroed in on the cause of the nausea:  lemonade. It turns out he is allergic to citrus, and this was compounded by consuming a lot of lemon-lime juice (at most meals).  After some strong antihistamine he is back “with the living.”

Later today we will meet with Jess Perry who is interested in doing a film project about water and sanitation in the face of climate change.  She  contacted us well over a year ago and we look forward to meeting her and learning more about her project. She is very interested to learn about INSO’s work, our collaboration with them and how our joint work could become part of a film. Following this, we will go to the HUB to meet with Megan, one of the founders, and Bravo Ahuja to see the ongoing work on their rain catchment systems.

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