Tul planting, a Wastewater Treatment plant, and rock skipping: Day 16 Thursday, July 7, 2016

Yesterday, we started the day early once again.  We all went out to the Quiscab and pulled a few small baby Tul to replant in the San Juan area.  We met Lujain and two stray dogs (who followed us the entire time we were in San Juan) at the dock and she took us along the shore to a spot where she organized a gathering of the local fisherman to dig a plot of land for the tul.  When we got there, Eliska and the head fisherman had a conversation about the lake in front of the whole group.  It felt like two tribes came to meet and discuss war tactics or something; it was pretty cool.  After they were done talking all of the students jumped into their plot and started to plant the tul as they dug the holes.  The teamwork between all of us was really awesome to witness and I felt that there still is hope for the lake.  The fisherman all had some understanding of what was happening to the lake and the importance of the macrophytes of the lake.  They also thought the two dogs were ours because of how friendly they were being to us.  I’m really impressed with what Lujain has accomplished with her time here and what she is doing with the local communities.

After we were done planting tul and talking with the fisherman, we went back into the town of San Juan. We walked into an art gallery and the lady there let us use her bathroom to wash our hands, which was in the back so we got to see her studio and art in progress.  It was so beautiful! I would have bought some paintings from her had I not already bought some in Santiago. We also went into a coffee shop, where they were selling chocolates.  Now this chocolate wasn’t any old fancy chocolate you get at Whole Foods, this chocolate was handmade and wrapped not even a couple miles away. I bought six bars (each maybe 5 inches long and an inch wide) of different flavors including: orange, mint, chili, macadamia, cardamom, and basil.  So far I have only had half of the basil one, because I want to savor them.  It’s really rich and tastes amazing with the basil.  After spending some time in San Juan we went back to the dock and said goodbye to the dogs and went to Pana. 

In Pana we had a pickup truck take us to Solola, where the most advanced waste water treatment plant of the watershed resides.  Jean came and so did Estuardo, who is a local trained to run various tests to the lake and wastewater and is hoping to start a masters at Davis or UNR soon.  Stewart, a very impressive and educated man who gave a talk at the conference, was there to also look at the plant and talk to us.  The plant was really cool because it filters out organic materials and lipids, but also collects methane from the bacteria and organisms that produce it through the process.  The methane is then piped to something like 200 families who use if for things such as gas stoves.  Unfortunately, like all of the wastewater plants in the watershed, the plant doesn’t do a very good job removing bacteria and pathogens from the water. The water is used for irrigation for many farms surrounding it and gets into the food they grow.  It really sucks to see that the only water people have access to for piping is completely contaminated.  We stood around the plant for a while and it kind of smelled a lot because of the anoxigenic environment inside of it for the redox reaction creating methane.  After the treatment plant, we went back to Pana and hung out there for a while.  Most of us bought different things and I got some really cool shoes and a few other smaller things. After that, we went back to the house.

Today, we stayed in Santa Catarina the whole time for the first time in a while. We counted and plated coliforms, and we also started an experiment testing nitrogen fixation of hydrilla. We also had a lecture combining calculating population growth and decay and the types of populations in Guatemala.  In the afternoon we had a little free time to work on assignments and relax.  Robert, Sarah, and I wanted to get outside so we went to the lake to skip rocks and enjoy the view.  Some of the local children who were helping their moms wash clothes – IN THE LAKE – came up to us and started skipping rocks with us.  They kept getting larger and larger rocks saying “Yo puedo con esto!” or “I can with this!” meaning that they could skip the large rocks.  It was really fun to play around with them for a while until they were called back to help wash clothes again.  Eliska and Jenise went to Pana while we had free time to pick up white board markers (the ones that we had at the house all got used up) and a cheesecake from Crossroads Café to celebrate everyone’s birthday since no one has one during the trip.  It had a hint of key lime and had strawberry sauce to pour over each piece. Wonderful. 

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