Friday, July 13, 2007

Plans and other farces

If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans ...

After a great team building AVP, on Friday a week ago we had our first full work day. The foundation had been dug, but off square, so one order of business was to re-dig the bad portions, while the rest of the team moved either 800 or 1000 "bricks", more like blocks the size of four of our bricks, or of a loaf of bread -- we are guessing 7-8 lbs apiece. It took each person some time to determine how many they could carry for the long haul -- down a slope, across the road, up the slope, and several hundred feet down the lane. I started and settled on three, for both days, and was only a little sore on Saturday night. Ana, who is joining our project in the mornings from another NGO, started with five and eventually was down to two. It also took us a couple of hours to organize ourselves more efficiently -- at first every carry trip for every person was the whole length of the run, including those using wheelbarrows (and Robert, a local Kenyan, was using his bike to carry 9 or 10). Later, we walked the bricks down and up and left them there for the wheeled tools to carry them the rest of the level run. Late in the day we also organized our first bucket brigade, to dump pans each with a single shovelful of concrete into the foundation. Without a backhoe, ditch witch, or cement mixer, we only had the 20 pairs of hands and feet, yet I think the work went almost as quickly as it would with the machinery.

On Saturday we worked a half day and finished pouring most of the foundation, several inches of concrete over rough stone "ballast." It was by no means level. This would be taken care of later. Wilson, the local fundi (artisan or skilled mason), is an able site engineer. I can't wait to tell you the ingenious way he determines the level, for laying the brick rows.

On Saturday afternoon, I picked up the cough that had bothered Annie during AVP. On Sunday it worsened into a pretty painful chest cold. I will describe church service at Kakamega Friends Church later -- we went to a youth service. On Monday, we finished pouring foundation and also started filling mortar in between the bricks that the masons were laying. On Tuesday, the foundation rows were high enough to start shoveling dirt backfill against the walls. By then, my respiratory infection was so painful that I only worked in the morning.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had fever and chills. Wednesday at 3am I loaded myself up with every OTC medicine I had, and the respiratory infection finally backed off, leaving me only with a frequent and productive but not annoying cough -- but I was wiped out, and stayed home to rest. Getry had me haul myself into town at noon for a malaria test, which was positive. By then I was feeling so much better (except for the lethargy) that it didn't concern me -- there is treatment here, and the test and meds were under $20 all together. Check the CDC if you are worried -- I'll be fine. But the cough has persisted and I have been unable to work all week. Today (Friday the 13th) I came back in town to see if I might have pneumonia -- it was diagnosed as only bronchitis and I was given OTC-like syrup and a Cillin drug that may be an antibiotic (not really sure!).

This has been disappointing and frustrating, because I've only really given 3 days of the hard work, and I leave after one more workweek. While I've been laying around in bed, the rest of the team has moved another 800 or 1000 blocks in the above mentioned fashion, and another 1000 off a tractor trailer that delivered them to the site. Additionally, they have mortared several more rows of bricks, bringing the building to the ground level, and they have filled and leveled the "subfloor". Remarkably, they have also laid out several inches of rubble stone for the floor base. Concrete will be poured on top, though it is unclear whether that will be this month. But the movement of the rubble stone, many pieces of which are a couple of feet across, has been back-breaking for those who were able to participate. Today they finish laying that floor base, and perhaps will add another row or two of brick.

Having earned it, the team will take an excursion to Kakamega rain forest tomorrow, Saturday. I may participate even not having earned it, but it depends on whether I can get my air again.

At our host home on Wednesday, electricians were there all day with a generator, testing and running the lights in the house (which was wired some time ago, apparently). On Weds nite we had lights and charged the team cell phone! I meant to post the number here, but I don't have the slip with it written down and don't know how to retrieve it from the phone. Miranda and Annie have both received calls from the US, it seems to work fine. But I digress -- if my Dad is reading this, the electrical outlets are England standard with the three prongs, a vertical at the top and two sideways rectangles forming a triangle across the bottom. Given this, WHY is it okay to shove the point of a pair of scissors into the top one while plugging in the two-prong cell charger?? I couldn't bear to watch while this was being done by our house helper, Sammy, but he survived and the phone got charged.

Mysteriously, the lights weren't run the following night. Maybe we need petrol -- unfortunately Sammy speaks only mother-tongue and Swahili, so only Mark can make us understood and only for brief exchanges. Of interest is that they also got a generator running the lights at the Peace Center, at least for the main room.

So, as in many areas of my life, my lesson is humility and dependency, dashing the idea that I have any real power or control over the localized portion of the Plan. Things happen here in a very different way -- instead of making and keeping plans like we do at home, the possibilities all coalesce around us for a day or two until suddenly we are Doing Something, right now!

More when I can!....Dawn


Crismon4 said...

so fascinating to share in your experiences, even if from afar! Gordon says (and I quote) "(laughing) I have NO idea, but will have to read up on their standards"...:) we'll continue to keep you all in our thoughts and give hugs to all of you!

tom said...

you thought you had power or control over the Plan?

tom said...

Dear Dawn,

Malaria & persistent cough both sound quite serious from here- also, your e-mail sounded like you were a little depressed with being in bed & all. We're thinking of you & praying for you- you all have our thoughts. Love to Mark & the girls also.