5-25 Get Out of the Way and Let Them Build: Boat Race Part 2

The inside of a rain tank makes for a three-men-in-a-tub style boat.

Monday morning the boat race construction was supposed to start. I showed up at work and started bothering tutor after tutor about who was going to be on their boat, who was going to pick up the garbage, where they were going to build their boat. I was handing out transport money like a pusher peddling drugs.
Styrofoam mixed with gasoline makes glue.  Or Napalm.  You know, whatever.

Tuesday I went to the Peace Corps office and did my PCV Leader work.

Wednesday I showed up at 8:15. Three different people told me the tutors were looking for me. Each one I found asked for more transport money and told me the plans they had for their boat. The Youth Center agreed to fund the materials. GIZ, a German government organization with a name about a sentence long, agreed to fund the transport for the boats and the litter clean ups. By Friday, I had tutors and youth coming to me to ask for more tape, more rope or just to show me the boats.
The next week was all about boat building. A lot of the tutors canceled normal classes to build boats or stayed late and worked their days off to build their boats. It was incredible to watch the Youth Center work on the project as a group.
Lots of bottles make things float.

I challenged them to be creative. They met my challenge. The music group built a boat around an old refrigerator. The computer class built their’s using nothing but bottles, glued together with glue made from gasoline and styrofoam (also possibly the base to napalm) and packaging tape. The literacy class used the insulation from an ice chest for the floor of their boat and made a frame from leftovers from building the set in the theater. Hiphop and the Girl’s Group used bamboo they got from a torn down nakamal as the structure of their boats. The Fire Squad used shipping crates and stuffed their kerosene bottles in between for flotation. The Sport team wrapped bottles in old goal nets. Nutrition sewed a sail out of broken umbrellas.

Tearing apart an ice chest to use the styrofoam for a boat bottom.

By Thursday afternoon, I was mostly convinced we were going to have boats that could finish the race. I was also pretty convinced we were going to have boats that were not going to finish the race. In fact, I was not-so-secretly hoping we’d have 2 or 3 boats finish and 2 or 3 break apart spectacularly or capsize in the middle of the race. I’m all about the comedic effect.

Friday morning, I had to chase youth away from their boats to get them to attend the weekly youth meeting. I used the meeting to explain how the day was going to run and remind them that if their boat broke, they had to retrieve all of the pieces. We were supposed to be showing good environmental management, not polluting the ocean.

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