Friday, January 13, 2012
After a hard day of moving posts yesterday, our plan was to spend all day today painting the school near our camp. We even let ourselves sleep in for as long as we could (which only turned out to be about 8:00 a.m. at the latest) so that we could get a more leisurely start to our day. Because we were supposed to be waiting until Saturday for any more posts to arrive, this plan seemed ideal. As we were having breakfast, though, Simon called to tell us that more posts were arriving in just a couple of hours so we had to shift our plan quickly to make some progress on the school AND get to the fence site to sink more poles.
We spent the morning at the school all together, finding our way through painting the place when we didn’t have quite enough brushes and rollers for everyone in our group. We chose bright yellow for the walls with a green “skirt” along the bottom and a lovely sky blue for the front face of the building, on which we had to repair (and cover) some big cracks. We have some other colors to use on the letters and numbers that will be along the top of the wall but we didn’t get those colors out today at all.
Even though the schoolhouse has wide open windows all along the walls (when the shutters are open – there is no glass), that much paint being spread in one room makes for some serious fumes. We had to take regular breaks to get out onto the lawn and just take in some fresh air. Doing so meant that we got to have a lot of fun watching the whole feel of the space change while applying fresh paint and then we also got to stand around together outside and just talk casually as we removed ourselves regularly from the task at hand. A lot of our conversations are pretty task-oriented during the day, so it is nice to have times when we are being productive but exploring other topics as well.
We broke for an early lunch and left a small crew at the school to keep painting with our local consultant Daniel. The rest of us hurried back to camp, ate, packed a lunch for the school workers and then secured a ride in a truck from one of the camp workers to get ourselves to the fence site faster than we would be able to walk there. Four people took the lunch to the school and then watched for the truck to come by to drive them down to the site. The rest piled into the truck bed and started to drive.
Surprisingly, the truck did NOT drive toward the work site. All of us in the back had no idea where we were going and even Jesse (in the cab) was a bit confused about why we were heading in the opposite direction of the camp. We drove on some roads that we haven’t seen in the daylight and eventually found ourselves at the hardware store at the “junction,” which counts as the center of town. It turned out that the driver knew that we needed more cement at the site so he just had us all ride along to get it.
The ride was really fun, even if unexpected, but it took about 40 minutes to go to the junction and back, which definitely undermined our plan to get to the worksite quickly by going in a truck. The four who had walked ahead were totally confused, as the truck just never came by to get them. They went on to the worksite and got thrown into the task at hand with the locals while everyone waited for the bulk of the group to arrive.
When the truck finally came, things were in full swing at the site and the goal was to sink as many as possible of the 53 new poles that had arrived. The biggest obstacle to this goal was that the holes for these new poles were all in the deepest part of the forest and therefore the farthest from the road where the sand, gravel and cement were delivered. So our first collective job was to establish a concrete-mixing station out in a small clearing to get the mix closer to the places where it would be used. Doing so meant carrying these heavy materials through the brush, which we did by setting up a long bucket brigade where we dumped buckets of materials into empty concrete bags and passed them down the line.
Moving literally tons of materials can be quite cumbersome and exhausting, but something about our bucket lines (even when they are bag lines) makes the work kind of lovely. Everyone is involved almost equally (though certain ones of us have “bad” spots that involve shoveling the materials into the bucket, lifting the bags from the ground in the first place, operating under intense direct sun exposure or maybe needing a short uphill climb to connect the load to the next person). Still, we are all in it together and therefore no one complains; we just plug away until the job is done. We also laugh together and sympathize with each other about the task at hand, which makes the whole potentially awful experience a rather nice one instead.
There was another Rotary Club meeting tonight so a few of us had to leave early with Simon to go do a progress report there. The rest stayed to finish all but about seven of the poles, which we will finish Saturday morning, working until the last shipment of posts arrives. We can see how our jobs are going to unfold over the next few days and we need a clear idea of the trajectory because we leave this area next Saturday to begin our exciting safari. If we can stay on track, we should easily complete all three jobs in a way that doesn’t leave too much (if anything) for the locals to finish.
Saturday is Trevor’s birthday so we will work as hard as we can in the daytime but then go into town for a celebration in the evening. We’ll keep you posted . . .
Amelia painting one of the two doors
Everyone working together outside
Josh painting the outside of the school
Kilimanjaro peeking out of the clouds
The first coat for the outside completed
On the way to the surprise visit to the junction
One of the kids relaxing in a wheelbarrow
Part of the long road back from the junction
Scott getting comfortable in the Helix
Wilson taking a much-deserved break