Our first work assignment was to rebuild the top half of the walls of a kitchen that had originally been made of rough wood that the lady of the house found impossible to clean. We were told that the roof and the old wooden walls would be removed before we got there, so our team could begin right in with laying cement blocks to finish off the walls properly. When we arrived with tools in hand, however, the only thing that had been done in advance was the emptying of the kitchen. We had been warned by our missionary hosts to expect that nothing would go as planned. It's the way of the culture and we might as well accept that which cannot be changed. So flexibility was the key to maintaining good humor when encountering one undesirable surprise after another, and our team members were amazingly adaptable. For me personally, having the house still intact was preferable because it allowed me to get pictures of the before, during, and . . . well . . . more during. This was the duringest project I ever did see!
Back of house BEFORE
Yard behind house
King of the rock
While the old roof was peeled back and the sheets of rusty corrugated aluminum were lifted off by the various men in the family who were present to contribute their time and effort to this task, we did our best to stay out of the shower of debris raining down and sending even the chickens scattering for shelter. Once access had been gained (i.e., 2 or 3 sheets of aluminum roofing out of the way), some of our own men began tugging at the wooden supports to begin demolishing the walls themselves. A little yanking, a little whacking with a hammer, and a whole lot of jumping out of the way and it was down. Well, sort of. In actuality, the yanking and whacking and jumping out of the way were interrupted several times when men appeared on the roof with machetes and chainsaws in hand, tying up huge limbs of an overhanging mango tree and then buzzing through them while we watched the tree fall in large hunks onto the remaining roof.
By the time the tree felling was complete it was already hot enough to cook an egg on one of the huge rocks jutting up in the backyard where we were all crowded about trying not to trip over each other or the dogs or chickens or rocks or fallen tree limbs, or get strangled on one of the many clotheslines tied from the back of the house to an avocado tree or an animal pen.
But in spite of the crowding and chaos, significantly complicated by the Americans speaking English and the Dominicans speaking Spanish, neither of which could be understood by the others, we managed to get some work done. The old kitchen roof and wooden upper walls were torn down, the tree limbs and smaller branches were dragged off to a corner of the backyard, and all the old boards were relieved of their nails by the excellent teamwork of Debbie and myself. Carpentry has never been one of my learned skills, but I was up for pounding old nails backwards out of old boards, then using the claw end to pull them the rest of the way out. Debbie's role was to bring the boards to me, collect the liberated nails, and stack the finished boards neatly out of the work zone.
Lin demonstrating her nail removal skills
Debbie sorting through termite infested boards
Brad knocking down remaining wood walls
No more wood. No more roof.
Quality control just doing their job
This guy had to give his approval as well
And so went a morning of labor. By the time we walked back to the clinic for our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we were ready for the siesta that was being forced on us by custom whether we wanted it or not.