From the scene – week no. 14
What is happening on the construction site?
This weekly review starts unusually on Sunday evening - the time of the war meeting for the next 14 days. The grand finale of the building is approaching, and the steps need to be clear and well-planned. There is a sense of uncertainty, tension and determination in the air. Peter also suggests that if we don't make it according to the plan, he is willing to stay in Kashitu for 14 more days longer than he was supposed to and finish what needs to be done. However, we don't want to leave him here alone with the Zambians, so we agreed to do everything we can to ensure that he can leave with us. To give you an idea, we need to finish the walls, weld and install the windows, make and install practically the whole roof...
So on Monday morning, we were on-site at 7 a.m. sharp, and we worked as hard as we could. The masons from the construction company started to build the second gable wall, and the Czech and local volunteers are working hard on the first one. Originally a local hired mason was supposed to help us on our gable wall, but he never showed up to work, which is not surprising in Zambia. In the meantime, Petr, Honza and a few of the volunteers are gradually working on making trusses out of wood in another place, near the kindergarten building. A total of 9 of them will be needed for the whole roof. But to make today less than perfect, on one trip to get sand we managed to get a flat tire on one of the 4 tires on the cart. I don't think there's ever a day without any problem here!
On Tuesday we continued with the set pace, but we found that the split of the wall groups is not sustainable. The wall we are working on with the volunteers is not as straight as we would like (in other words, it is very crooked). Not only in the horizontal plane (we managed to make a "belly" on the wall), but we also found out that the left part of the wall is a lot higher than the right one. Each of us was working with a different amount of mortar and our work was not well coordinated. With regret, we had to knock down almost a quarter of the entire wall and realized that we needed to ask for some help. So, the masons from the construction company came to make up for our mistakes and we must humbly admit that their knowledge and experience fall far short.
However, even though we were much slower, at least we were doing it correctly this time and under the supervision of more experienced people. Meanwhile, the boys continued with the trusses, which was going well, but during the afternoon someone near the nursery set a fire. As you may have read in a previous article, fires are nothing unusual here, the dry season is coming to an end and fire is a way of preparing the ground for the next crop. So, it did not surprise us at first, after all, we are in Zambia! But when the fire was a few metres away from the fourth tie which was just completed that is when we started to get nervous. And not only us - suddenly a group of local people gathered with buckets and branches and tried to stop the fire. We didn't hesitate and started helping them. Good thing the well is so close! We pumped like hell and ran back and forth with buckets; high flames were in the background. We were trying to extinguish it with branches, and all the whole time we were ready to drag the trusses to safety just in case. Suddenly, several children ran into this inconvenient situation and said to us "Hello, how are you?". It is clear to us that they don't know any other English phrase, but the situation still makes us laugh... how could we possibly be at this moment? It doesn't get more Zambian than this. Fortunately, the fire is finally extinguished, the trusses were saved and thanks to Honza's presence we have some great photos from the whole event - well, judge for yourself.
But this is not the end of the day. To make it all worse, the clutch pedal on our beloved Hila broke down, and so we had no choice but to tow the unroadworthy car and its cart home from the construction site in the evening. As Peter says, almost nothing can surprise you here.
The next day we hoped together that we have all the problems put behind us, and everything would go smoothly from now on. We immediately started bricklaying the short and small window walls, which we worked on under supervision in groups of volunteers. These are the first walls of cementless bricks (which contain only clay and sand), and we are using clay mortar (again, only clay, sand and water) for the walls. These are short walls, so the work was way easier, and it helped us all to get in a better mood after the gable wall experience. Also, a mechanic from Kapiri came to look at our Hila – fortunately, it all went well, and she is back in service. We painted the trusses black, which is not a matter of fashion here, but because of termite protection. The site is growing in front of our eyes, so there is a good mood among us despite the time pressure.
On Thursday, we continued with the bricklaying of both the gable walls and the fillings under the windows. It's going well and we are very happy to be able to learn how to build on these small walls with the volunteers without making any big mistakes. Although Stepanka and Kate admit that this cooperation is sometimes a big test of patience. We also have a welder from Kapiri, Joseph, who fortunately started the work straight away and we are happy about that. True, his homemade welder is a bit peculiar (see photo), but it works.
In the morning Peter also joined the talk about the project which was happening in Prague via an online video call with Lukas and Bara. Miraculously, the internet connection was good the whole time, so we could share with the participants what was happening on the construction site. And the local workers were again enthusiastically sending greetings to the Czech Republic. Thank you for a great event! Immediately after the video call, Petr and Bornface head to Kapiri to buy trapezoidal sheet metal for the roofing. This trip took almost the whole day, and when we left the site for dinner, tired and eager to rest, they were not back yet. Suddenly, we saw a loaded truck approaching and heading straight towards us. We quickly realized that today's work wasn't over, and they were going to unload the sheets. It's a good thing the local volunteers didn't leave us to it and we were done pretty quickly.
On Friday morning we finished the first gable wall, and immediately moved to the second one. The clay walls under the windows must be finished today (Kate and Stepanka even swore that they wouldn't leave the building until they are finished), so we are working hard on them too. But of course, they won't get done by tonight, so we were building for the first time in the evening with the lights. The next day we only had one last bit to do before we headed home, tired.
On Saturday we were weighing reinforcement and pouring concrete. We were also finishing the adobe walls, so we started to prepare the concrete sills above them. But the biggest concern of the day for us is the second gable wall, which really needs to be done today. We're running behind schedule, but our determination is strong - even stronger than Zambian time. So, we work with torchlights and the lights from our car until about 2 hours after sunset. We are grateful that the local volunteers and construction company stayed with us and did not leave us to do it alone. Finally, yay, the last brick was in place, and we could go to sleep.
Although Sunday has always been a rest day. Today, we only took the morning off and headed back to the site right after lunch. We also need to finish the roof lintel on the other gable end and finish the parapets, which we managed to do with the help of the construction company. Well, here we go again tomorrow. At the same time, we were having our last team exchange on Sunday. Early in the morning, we said goodbye to Stepanka, and in the evening we welcomed Marta and Anezka, our last helpers. Marta is the head of our association and Anezka takes care of our finances. So welcome and enjoy your stay in Kashitu!
And a little bit of life in Kashitu…