Trowls and Tribulations

We’ve finally finished our final full build day before our ‘dedication’ day tomorrow afternoon.  The house is almost complete, and Sharmila has been grinning ear to ear since the moment we arrived this morning.

We’ve wrapped up seven full days of work over the course of our time here, and it’s been infinitely joyful all throughout.  Just walking down to the village on this final work day, trudging down with the huge heavy box of water bottles on my shoulder as the waterfall fell in the distance, gave me that familiar feeling of instant nostalgia.  The Nepalis walking up the steps as we came down were frozen in time, a time and place that we Western wimps will never truly know.



The closest I’ll get any time soon to understanding what it is to be Nepali is the techniques we’ve used to build this house.  I became a small-time master of a few of these techniques, and felt great about feeling bad about being proud of being so good at ’em. 

Soon after figuring out the method, I became the go-to guy for



splicing bamboo into extremely thin pieces for weaving the slats into the frame.  “This is a Brooks piece” I would hear, while my co-Habitants set them aside for the crucial, difficult final insertion.  

This was precision work, and one wrong slam of the blunt bamboo hammer would shave a little too tightly, and peel off just a little too little, and require another setup and thwack.  The knots in the bamboo we’re often extremely hard and tough to slice into, and would require a special “Weapon”, as Anil Sky called it.  We’re freakin’ Guhrkas.

After, finally, the bamboo slats were all in place, it was time to mix mortar and start filling in the walls.  The mortar was a mixture of cement and sand, sifted through chicken wire and what seemed like screen doors.  The Nepali are ingenious at these sort of things.

I, again, became really good at the technique of slathering the cement mixture up on the walls.  It required a large spade dunked into the slightly moist cement, and an even pressure from the opposite hand


upon the back of the trowel as you slide it upwards against the wall.  My technique didn’t lend itself to dainty precision, and but it got the walls covered quickly, and knowing that the ‘technicians’ would be detailing and fine-tuning our work anyway, it didn’t really matter.  Though our leader wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to put up walls, when time started becoming an issue, people called me over to get the gunk up.

Since the beginning of the week, we’ve been joined by another Habitat group that is building nearby.  A group of American high school kids from Shanghai International school in China are working on a house not far from our site, and every afternoon around lunch time, their bus comes over, honking loudly when they arrive.  Each come from a family that has expatriated over to China because of their parents businesses or military or something like that, and honestly, I feel a bit of jealously at the cultural education these kids are getting.  Imagine


graduating high school fluent in English and Chinese, with the perspective of living in both America and China, the two biggest economic powerhouses of our era.  What an advantage–at the very least, every one of these kids could work as a translator, let alone a business liaison, diplomat, or the genius that finally merges General Tso chicken with KFC.

At the end of the day, the house looking nearly finished (just a few more cement walls need to be finished, but nothing visible from the front–life is all about deception, you see), we wrapped things up, and after a few photos with Sharmila, headed back to town.  Tomorrow is the big dedication, and away we go!



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