arrived the following week. To be honest, it didn't really look
like much sitting in the corner of the Pro Shop. But Alex,
the City electrical engineer,
and I had a good rapport from the beginning, and I trusted that he knew
what was needed. The rebar anchors shown here are upside down
and the light poles will be bolted securely into these bases. The
black cross bars that you see on the left will be on top of the
light poles with two lights placed on either side.
lighting project is a serious one, and 270
meters of subterranean conduit will be used to protect the 220
the light poles. The steel poles are 11 meters tall (about 35
feet) and took four men to unload each of them from the truck. As you
can see, they came with a coat of red primer and needed to be painted
green to match the theme of the courts.
Now it was
time to get to work.
Publicos, or what we would call The Public Works Department,
supplied the workers to dig the holes for the anchors and wiring
trenches. It was amazing to watch these skilled laborers working
with only basic tools: hammer, chisel, pick and shovel. Here
this man is
using a metal bar with a pointed end to loosen the dirt below him.
The Boss goes
into the hole to check for measurements and lets it be known
must be deeper. You can see that the tennis players on the courts are
unaffected by the work surrounding them. The games go on!
making progress using a #10 can to scrape and scoop out
the loosened dirt. These holes were about as perfectly square as
you could get them and five feet deep! In
the States we would have used a
jack hammer to break the concrete then a post hole digger to
make this deep hole. Here in Chapala, Mexico,
they are masters of using simple tools effectively.
The holes and
trenches are dug so it's now time to put the conduit into place on
this side of the courts.
needed to be supported and reinforced with a rebar cage. It is
important that these cages are both centered and level. You can notice the threads
at the top of the anchor where the poles will be bolted.
full of cement is dumped first before setting the anchor into
place. The workers are discussing the electrical connection with
one of the City electricians before dumping more cement.
is poured - which, by the way, is all hand mixed. No machines here!
Notice the "registro" or connection box with the
square red top in the center of the photo. Each
pole has one of these plus there are more registros anywhere there is a right angle throughout
the underground wiring system.
are placing the conduit connecting the registro and pole base.
The wiring will be pulled through the conduit once these workers
are finished with their part of the construction.
pretty much the final product minus some cosmetic finish work.
The cement in the bases needed to cure for a number of days due
to the amount of weight that will be placed upon them.
The holes are
dug and the anchors are in place. Now it's time to run the
conduit out to the power pole.
is an access road into the park between this registro and the
power pole at the top of the photo with the transformer on it, we needed to have the City's
backhoe to dig out the trench.
The conduit needed to
be 3 feet deep under the road so that the heavy trucks which use
the road would not
disturb the 220 Volt wiring. The recent rains made for a muddy
day at the office. The gate where the road passes through the
park is visible at the upper left of the photo.
their toys. Here I am doing my part working the backhoe showing
these guys how we do things up North.
conduit is being laid in place out to the main power source.
job is complete and it's time for the electricians.
order of business is to raise the poles. In the States we would
be using a crane or some other mechanical device to facilitate
this process. Here they rely solely on manpower. Tennis players
are not concerned with the goings-on at this point.
strength and leverage, these workers carefully raise this pole.
And the tennis players have scattered!
amazing to witness and I made sure I was clear of any falling
poles! Notice how they have tied ropes to the top of the
The ropes had
to be untied and their ladder is only so tall. Without
hesitation this man went to the top, 35 feet above the concrete,
no safety harness and did his job.
poles in place and tightened down, these workers pulled the
wiring through the conduit and made the necessary connections.
and ballasts were assembled below including the 1000 Watt light
Each of these
weigh over 20 Kilos, or about 45 pounds and there are two on
ladder wasn't tall enough to reach the top of the poles so they
lashed it to the pole to extend the length. I doubt this is
normal operating procedure in the US. To these guys it was just
another day on the job.
This time I
was happy and relieved to see the man was wearing a safety belt.
Still, this is dangerous business as these lights are very heavy and
awkward to work with at that height.
light fixture in place the electrician completes the wiring.
This time-consuming process of lashing the ladder to each pole and placing
the lights upon their stands was repeated until finished. All
checking all the electrical connections we tested the lights and they fired up
properly. However we had to repeat the ladder process again at night
so that the lights could be aimed for ultimate placement.
Here in the
Land of Mananas things donít always go as planned. Throughout
the month it took to complete this project there were many last
minute decisions that I needed to make to keep it on track. I never saw
any architectural plans for this work, yet I supervised
the advancement of this project, making sure it moved forward.
Just as in supervising the
building of courts 5 and 6, I had
little construction experience but lots of
common sense and have
confidence in and take responsibility for my decisions. Plus
this is the same lighting configuration that we use on our home
the States and I was familiar with that, so I was the "expert".
As with any
project where one is the leader, there are many critics who -
for reasons unfathomable to me - are hoping that you will fail or
who love to tell you the way it should be done after the
fact. I'd love for these people to jump in and help, committing
their time and energy instead of armchair directing! But it's
part of the role of a leader to plow through that negativity and
continue on with a beneficial task regardless. Whenever I have been in
this type of role - from my working days to volunteering now in my
retirement - it has always been my goal to complete large
undertakings regardless of the drag of this type of disagreeable
scepticism on me or the people I direct. This endeavor was yet another example.
four week timeframe I was able to guide the crews through the
many bumps we encountered. For instance, the lighting assembly
instructions were in English, not Spanish, which was no help to
this crew. I was needed to translate and offer advice. Or when
they wanted to chisel through and break up the courts' walkways
in order to connect the wiring to the Pro Shop. I suggested an
alternative route which saved them many hours of labor and kept
our walkways intact. Both of these crews were professional and
open to my suggestions, and for that I was thankful.
finished, it's time to play tennis.
here in Mexico it is customary to have an inauguration ceremony. El Presidente Gerardo of Chapala,
who is the Mayor of the area, presides over the opening of the project. We
hosted a potluck with many tennis players, volleyball players and their
spouses attending. El Presidente Gerardo (the man with the
microphone) gave thanks to those of us
who put this project together. It is with the cooperation of the
Gringo community along with the support of the Mexicans that we
can accomplish many things for the betterment of all.
Presidente watching we held an exhibition tennis match with Chapala's
And a good
time was had by all.
information about Chapala, take a look at our pictorial
Chapala Today (have your sound
turned on) as well as our
Chapala Travel Information