The House Building Day

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Yesterday I spent most of the morning about 30 minutes outside of the city helping build a house for the orphanage’s doctor. The drive was beautiful, in part because I haven’t gotten out that much and because it crossed the river and into more farmland and more traditional style buildings. There are only two bridges in the city. The one we took was broad with excellent views in both directions. Cars drove on the road while the motorcycles and bicycles stayed on the walkways. It was a dense, hair-raising crossing. The main road out of town had some bizarre buildings that looked like weird asian-style Le Corbusier. Imagine a pagoda blended with the Brady Bunch house. The other structures that were built off the elevated main road were supported in the rear with tall stilts. Basically, the whole area was prepared for some flooding.

Dr. Bu’s house was being built two doors down from his old house off a quiet and beautiful dirt road that ran parallel to the river. The concrete foundation and wall beams for the first floor had already been poured, and a temporary framework was built with long boards on top of it. S. and I took part in a ceremony to lift the six wooden roof supports into position. This was accomplished by a team of 6 contractors, 20 friends and family, ropes, an alter, and an old man drumming and chanting. The second floor was about 20 feet off the ground and people were climbing around like monkeys to get boards into position. My fear of heights was given a workout as I navigated the network of boards to walk on. When the alignment of the beams was perfect, the whole framework would be dropped into place, shaking the entire structure. I stopped working once all of the supports went up.

Next, we played billiards in an open air lounge next door. The game involved cards too: the cards you were dealt were the balls you had to sink. S. rode home early, and I stayed for lunch. The whole meal was made outside in a wok over a ceramic jar full of glowing coals. The meal consisted of three dishes: cabbage and chicken organs and garlic; squid, onions and pineapple with some type of greens; and a fish soup with greens. To drink we had iced coffee, beer, and soda. R. and G. took me down to the river and showed me an island called silk island. The lighting was beautiful. Storm clouds were coming in and casting shadows on the water. The opposite shore was bathed in light. Near the bank, ramshackle boats were bobbing and scraping against their moorings. An overburden ferry was crossing the river with a sputtering snail’s pace.

Went back and fell asleep in a chair while people were sitting outside and watching some TV until the rain blew through.

When we got back to the road the orphanage was on, a large portion had been flooded from edge to edge. Everyone had to drive cautiously, as there was no way to see how deep the water was. Some crazy sitting positions were practiced by the passengers to keep from getting their clothes wet and muddy.

I’m sorry there are no cool photos for today, but here a couple from the past couple days:

Here is what an average lunch and dinner looks like. This one is mostly shrimp and onions.

Here is a portrait of my parents.

Here is a portrait of S.’s parents.

Here are some lizards eating bugs under the bedroom light.

Here is S. eating cereal on the unfinished second floor steps.

The sentiment of this message is set in stone.

More later.

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