Thursday, March 4, 2010

Project Trip all the way to Bethlehem... Costa Rica

I apologize for being a little late on updating you on my project trip!  It's been about 2 weeks now since we got back from our trip.  As some of you may know, EMI does a "project trip" for almost all projects we do, in which we stay on or near the project site with the missionaries in order to get a clearer idea of exactly what is desired and expected for the project.  This was my second trip with EMI, and our project is a local one in Belén, Costa Rica, which is translated to Bethlehem for those of you out there who habla inglés.

The project had an interesting start.  The project we had planned was in Pavas, Costa Rica where a local pastor wanted to build a church.  Dan, the project leader, put the team together based on those needs, which was mainly architectural and structural.  However, about a week before, the project fell through, but at that exact time a missionary living in Belén, Matt, wanted us to come and do a project there for his school.  We already had a team coming to Costa Rica from the States, so by pure chance it worked out to do this one instead.  The fact that he requested help and was ready for us within the week was pretty amazing.  The only issue was that we had architects and structural engineers to do a project that now was almost purely civil related.  We felt like because of the circumstances and way it all worked out, that the Lord wanted us there for some reason.  So we went!

Matt and his wife, Lisa, are missionaries from the states who started and run a bilingual Christian school in Belén that Matt's father had a vision for before he died.  The school is called La Palabra de Vida (the Word of life).  Now, they have enough buildings and staff that they can run a pre-school through high school program, with about 350 students in all.  The students take all the classes offered in the public school, plus extra classes in English, and plus classes on religion.  Thus, the students have a full workload, but the program offers them terrific building blocks for the future.

The main reason Matt wanted us to come there was to design a new roadway for the school because at the moment they have significant traffic problems.  He also has a desire for a new multi-purpose building in the location of an existing building that was built with pretty shady construction.  Although the multi-purpose building is a few years down the road, the school needs a building that can hold all students at one time, which is projected to be at about 500 students.  The new building will be used for chapel, graduations, and other large events.  Steve and I, the two structural engineers, worked on the roadway design, while Fred and Alexa, the two architects, worked on the new multipurpose building design.  Dan, the project leader, coordinated our efforts and helped out where needed.  For a team of only 5 people, it was amazing how much work we accomplished in one week!

Now that we're back in the office, I have been working on finishing up the drawings and some design.  Our goal is to complete everything and get it all to Matt and Lisa by March 12, which is soon but a very reasonable time frame.  After that, I will surely be busy helping with the other projects this term, which are a 6 story church building to be in downtown Lima, Peru, and another school to be in Guatemala.

Here's a few pictures from our trip.  I noticed that since I was still in Costa Rica for the project, I didn't take many pictures as it didn't seem much different from my home in Atenas.  Here's a few that I do have...

Some sketchy construction.  If you look closely, you might notice the "S" shape piece holding up the roof over the porch!  This building will be demolished and replaced with the building below...

A sketch of the new multi-purpose building by Fred, the architect

Our team and Matt and Lisa eating lunch in the school cafeteria

Steve and I presenting the new plan for the entry road to the school board and construction guys

Some of our group with Omar and Julio who are the construction gurus of the school.  Left to right: Dan, Matt, me, Omar and Julio, and Steve.

Our team eating lunch on Sunday at our friends Yeremy and Eveth's house.

This is the current Chapel room filled with students.  Not everyone is able to fit and the current room isn't ideal for large gatherings.

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