Today I get to build at the school site. I am so excited to think that I can add my vast knowledge and experience to helping move this project along. Do you hear the snarky sarcasm in that sentence? Austin Drill, the general contractor, has set up six stations for us to move through in order to give us a sense of what it takes to put a building together. Confident in my ability to learn new things, I dive right into the library where we are filling gaps in the bamboo with wood filler, sanding, and adding varnish.
Perfect for me – gooey, messy, dirty, detail-oriented, and fun! The kicker to this project is that the construction workers don’t speak English, and well, we’ve already established that “Hablo a muy poco español.” Needless to say, there is much gesturing, pointing, awkward silences, and laughter.
The wood filler is a simple combination of sawdust from the bamboo and Elmer’s glue. This way it matches in color, is easy to make, and dries quickly.
Once dry, it is sanded and then sealed with at least two coats of varnish. I could have stayed with this station all day – but it was time to move on to fine plaster. Bring it on!
Overconfidence can be a real bitch. We can skip over the fine plastering lessons and just say I have a heavy hand not suitable to the subtle finishing touches needed to make a smooth wall.
(Here is where I learned that being tolerated is a kindness in any country.) On to rough plaster…
Okay, not much better here. Apparently, there is a real finesse to throwing mud at the wall. Who knew? Eventually, I went back to the library where I knew I could actually help and not hinder.
A couple days later, when I went back to see the finished product, my rough plaster teacher had such a look of dismay on his face thinking that I was back for more, that I took pity on the man and quickly ran away.
It was great to be able to help a little on the actual building, and it is nice that they are willing to let us try our hand, but like I said in an earlier post – it isn’t about the difference we can make with the physical structure – it’s about the money we can raise to pay for wages, materials, and supplies. Our being here increases our understanding – oh, and gives the guys a great laugh. (I do know when I’m being laughed at even if I can’t understand the words. It’s okay, I’m used to it. They were still kind.)
I also think it helps the construction crew, school kids, and adults, and everyone else who benefit from the money raised, to understand that this isn’t a pity charity. It is a passion shared by both Nicaraguans and Americans. Raising funds is really the only contribution we can make to the project from so very far away. It is personal and close to the hearts of everyone on this trip. We may not be attending the school, or relying on the money to pay for our needs, but we are as invested as those who do.
The building should be finished around November of this year, about 12 months from the start of the project. Classes end around that time and when they resume in February, the upper two grades plus the technical classes will be held in the new building, and the administration will finally have a place to call home. I can’t wait to see the finished product!
Follow the link below to see the daily video diary by the Random Acts team.