Thursday, November 15, 2012

Construction Work Continues

Despite the time-bending nature of my blog posts, we have now been back at work after Dashain and trecking for about 3 weeks, and have not been idle in that time! Here is a selection of some of the work undertaken in and around Urbana school. But first, a profile of our skilled labourer:

This is Don Badur Lama (spelling a complete guess) who's been working 6 or 7 days each week at the school since getting back from the hospital - I think he has some sort of gut problem because he points at his belly and says "na ramro" (not good) and describes a spasming feeling. Despite this, and getting only 700Rp a day pay (£5.50), he is a very cheery chap and works hard regardless of whether his boss is watching or not. He has given us interesting tasks to do and lets us help with the 'glory' tasks like brick-laying. All this despite us knowing very little Nepali and him an equivalent amount of English! These are the phrases we use to communicate in order of frequency:

ramro chha - it's good (referring to workmanship, weather, brick quality, health, virtually anything!)
na ramro chha - it's bad / not good (used as above)
deary ramro / na ramro - very good / bad
ke chha - how are you?
cushi chha - being in a state of happiness
so.... (used at the beginning of almost any statement)
pani - water (there is no word for rain - only 'water from the sky'! Nepali is quite an immature language)
metal - could mean any tool. We taught him this word using tools as examples of metal, so now I reckon he thinks 'metal' is the generic word for tool!
meeto chha - it's tasty (our topic of conversation when not working normally revolves around comparing how tasty certain foods our. That's how limited our vocabulary is!)
buff momo - steamed dumplings with buffalo meat inside. His favourite food and we frequently get demands for buff momos!
rupees? - when pointing at our western luxuries - headphones, laptop, speaker, mp3 player, camera. It's mind-boggling to think that my laptop is worth 1000 days labour for him, and it's not even that expensive! But he does not seem a jealous man and I think he is mostly intrigued at how we live in the West.

So, after returning from Pokhara, Donbadur and I levelled the road some more, dug and built some foundations for a future wall on one side, and laid bricks and covered with concrete as a rudimentary pavement on the other side. A large speedbump in the middle is not to slow down vehicles but to divert rainwater - Kathmandu valley is incredibly wet during the monsoon and this prevents all the neighbourhood's water ending up in the school, which is one of the lowest points!

Meanwhile, Nicky's mural is coming together really nicely and Alfie is enjoying painting copious amounts of orange, green and red paint around parts of the school that need it.


A little mischief was had with the help of Donnie (one of the previous British volunteers) and a bucket of white paint. If you're reading this blog and you're called Dave, well, this one's for you and even now there is a small preschool in the Kathmandu valley with your name on one of the walls.

What used to be a vegetable patch has had the paths removed with the help of the adze, and a trench dug around 3 sides, to form the foundations of the new enclosed canteen that is to be installed here. This trench, dug mostly by Donbadur, a new volunteer from Sweden called Michael, and me is now about a spade deep and lined with bricks in the bottom, ready to accept concrete or more bricks or whatever is planned for the foundations. In the mean time, though, it is just collecting frogs!


We have also been moving copious amounts of building supplies from the gateway where they are delivered, to various base camps around the school. By likening this to a mountain expedition and renaming the various depots as 'Machhapuchhre Base Camp', 'Annapurna Base Camp', Camps 1-6 and Summit Base camp, it does make the work of shifting 2000 bricks or 1 tonne of gravel or 2 tonnes of sand quite a bit more amusing. At least we have the help of our slightly decrepit Yak (the wheelbarrow).

But by far the majority of our work has been mixing and transporting cement and concrete around the site, primarily to the wall behind our accommodation which has been taking shape in the last couple of weeks, replacing a corrugated steel temporary structure. It's not that easy squeezing down the gap between the building and the original wall - but it's really satisfying to see the wall take shape and we are all impressed by Donbadur's wall-building skill as he clearly takes pride in the work - even though it is mostly hidden from view!


Finally, yesterday, the 'summit' was reached and the wall was completed! This marks the end of a major phase of construction because all the school's essential walls are now complete and there is just a 5m section which needs topping with nails as an intruder prevention mechanism.

That's about it for now - next week I suspect we will start on the wall next to the drive or maybe the foundations for the canteen. The work is pretty tough physically, lots of lifting and sweating and mixing, but it's a great relaxer for the mind and I am enjoying it, even if I am ruining my clothes! Painting will come as a nice change after this week of bricklaying but I'm sure we'll do whatever we are asked to do! Alfie only has a couple of days left on the project - I have 2 weeks - and I will be the last construction volunteer at this school since (as you can probably tell) it's already very nearly finished and most of the work we're doing is cosmetic. This isn't a source of complaint because finishing a project properly is just as important as starting it! But from next year, IDF will be building an orphanage from scratch nearby and that's where future volunteers will be stationed.

Only one downside to the wall being complete, though, is that I can't go and visit the goats any more :-( It's a shame because they are so affectionate! I am sure that one day I'll keep some livestock of my own...

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1 comment:

  1. "Goat Crazy Man" .....and, no, you're not having a pet goat when you get back!!!

    Great update - its good to see your achievements Colin. I bet you're glad you had some "building site gloves" sent out before you got stuck in!