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Where’s the bridge, Indy?

May 23, 2017

By Aleksandra Wilczyńska

Alexsandra Wilczynska

Alexsandra Wilczynska

As a young, ambitious civil engineer from Bydgoszcz, Poland, I’m always looking for new volunteer opportunities. I joined CH2M in January 2016, and I support global transportation infrastructure projects out of our Kraków office. And soon I’ll be leaving for Nicaragua on a much smaller transportation infrastructure project than my usual projects. I’m looking forward to working with other CH2M employees from around the world.

Three months ago I applied for the Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) project to build a footbridge in Nicaragua. I remember my huge surprise when I found out that I was chosen for this special team. At first, my family was afraid I would leave Europe for good and settle down there, until they learned more. Some of my friends even thought I was joking when I told them, and then they asked why I applied and what I hope to gain from the experience.

The answer is simple: it’s always been my big dream to be one of those brave and amazing volunteers who bring people hopes for a better life and improve their living conditions. Now, I have my own chance to help build a suspension bridge across the Tuma River and bring Quililon’s community closer to education, health care and trading markets. Some people might find it hard to understand why our team members want to spend two weeks of vacation to venture into the middle of a jungle in Central America to do hard physical work for people they do not even know. But for me it’s another thing on my bucket list. And since the project is related to my civil engineering background, I’m hoping I can grow my professional network, develop new engineering skills and put my education to use and allow me to challenge myself in an unusual environment.

When I applied I didn’t know how many things had to be done before our departure. The first email and the Skype meeting with the team opened my eyes. I’ve been busy obtaining visas and insurance, learning basic Spanish, booking flights, buying safety shoes, mosquito nets, etc., getting required vaccinations and getting familiar with construction drawings, methods, available materials and when to use which tools. To be prepared for the work onsite, we need to understand the construction process and review all important documents. The bridge will be constructed of steel ropes stretched between two steel towers and a wooden deck with a safety mesh on both sides, looking like bridges in Indiana Jones movies! At the construction site, we’ll divide our team into two groups and work simultaneously on both sides of the river to meet in the middle and nail down the last wooden board.

Waterfall near Matagalpa, Nicaragua (Wikimedia Commons)

Waterfall near Matagalpa, Nicaragua (Wikimedia Commons)

We will set up our tents by the river in the middle of the tropical forest in Matagalpa. And that means a 2-week-long electronics detox – no phone or internet connection – just a GPS phone in case of emergency. We’ll spend our time tasting local food, socializing with locals and walking in the jungle. We’ve already seen some photos of the area around the construction site and it looks lovely! I’ve heard rumors of nearby waterfalls and hot springs so I will definitely need to go and check those out.

I believe life is about taking unforgettable adventures, making new international friendships, experiencing different cultures and collecting great memories, so I know this trip will be a unique and valuable experience. And since I love to travel, it will be a great opportunity for me to extend my stay and discover all the beauties of Mother Nature hidden on the other side of the world in the land of volcanoes and coffee. Can’t wait to explore some of them when the mission is successfully completed and I start my long-awaited vacation! Maybe I will find Indiana Jones!

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May 2017

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