Monday, October 19, 2015

Building builders who build.

Over the next two days we directed the movement of several massive rock piles located on the footprint for Mingma’s house. A Lama arrived to bless the home that would be, creating a work stoppage as he occupied one lot line, so we shifted to one end of the property establishing a station for weaving wire gabions. Then a rebar cutting station was constructed in the adjacent property owned by Mingma’s brother. Things started cooking. We still had only six hired hands, but everyone was working hard. 

As soon as the Lama finished his chants we pulled everyone into the center, digging the foundation trenches with spades and shovels. Dirt was flying in every direction until three massive boulders were unearthed. The crew chief tried to make the case nothing could be done about them, but we were unwilling to compromise the even strength of the home’s foundation. So heavy chisels and sledge hammers were brought out and the boulders were pounded until they yielded into smaller and smaller stones. 

From time to time we pulled a new power tool out of the duffels shipped from Kathmandu and Jess held a clinic on it’s use and the safety practices. No one had seen a sawsall before, and at first the workers installed the blade backwards. But the tool immediately replaced the time-consuming use of hand saws. Likewise, the builders were not familiar with the jigsaw we brought. Once again it’s usefulness was immediately recognized. A few of the tools we brought ended up being useless as they consumed far more watts than the local 1,000 watt micro-hydro plant produced. I gave Mingma permission to resell these items back in Kathmandu for building funds. 

Any discussion of the work in progress had to occur with tea service and polite conversation, which was consistent with local norms, and we truly wanted to respect these, but after three days our sense of urgency was exceeded only by our inability to consume more tea. Then, without our saying anything, our morning tea service was replaced with cans of San Miguel beer arranged on a serving platter and paraded before the trenches by Mingma’s sister. 

Greg Morgan arrived in Phortse on the fourth day, joining our happy band of trolls in the ridge top encampment. It was good to see Greg and especially helpful since an awful cold was moving through our ranks, taking people out of action on a rotating basis. He immediately jumped into the trenches with Claus and Jess while Karina cut rebar with an electric grinder and Annette crushed rocks with the other women to generate the gravel needed. Mingma and his wife both dug and moved stones. His elderly mother stood by chanting as she worried her sacred beads. 

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