A good week
There is an expression in Haiti, “Mountain after mountain”. I think of it often when driving around the countryside. I have come to understand that it refers to all things Haiti; there are many things beyond what you see. When I think about it, it is the same with humankind everywhere.
A project we have been planning is to build a roof structure to replace the tarps we have used for the past several years on the roof of the school where Denise does laundry and cooks. This is also where Emanuel, Bermane and their friends sit in the evening to listen to soccer games on the radio. The tarps usually only last a little over a month before the winds rip them to shreads.
When we first arrived here early September, we asked Fr. Gracia to recommend a “boss” man to build the simple structure for us. He told us he would send Julien, a man that works for him, the next Monday.
That Monday Julien arrived with two more men. They looked over the project and gave us a price of 15,000 gds or a little under $300 US for labor. We asked him how much they charged per day and he replied that they each charged 1000 gds a day. He was estimating the job to take five days. As a non-Haitian, I expect to pay a premium, however this was completely unrealistic. I countered with 500 gds for him as the “boss” man and 250 gds to the helpers. Julien said they could not work for that much, so I told them that was OK, and they left.
The next weekend we went to Kalabat. When we talked with Fr. Gracia about the wages the carpenters, he shook his head indicating that he thought that it was unacceptable. He then told us that Julien and his helpers wanted to meet with him and us. At the meeting, I offered Julien 500gds for the boss and 300 for the helpers, but at a daily rate, not for five days. Julien stood firm at 1000gds each. We thanked them but said “no thanks”.
Then just before we left on Sunday, Fr.Gracia told us that they had changed their mind, if we would feed them. We agreed.
That brings us up to last Monday when Bermane and I went to town to buy the materials on the list Julien had given me. The store where we went to buy the material is located on a busy market street. On Fridays, which is the main market day, the street is impassable. As it was I could pull up front, but the crowd pressed so close I was astonished that a large truck was able to maneuver around me.
The list consisted of three bags of cement, 22 pieces of tin roofing, five 16 foot 2x4s and three 16 foot 1x12s, plus nails. The boards are rough-cut and full dimensioned. After paying for the materials, they brought the tin out and loaded into the bed of the truck. I was then told to back up to another location a block away where the cement and boards are stored. With the crowd pressing around the truck, this was not simple.
It was quite a feat to load 16-foot boards in a truck with a five-foot bed. I folded down the rear seat and loaded the cement in the back. It was a good thing. As soon as we headed home, the heavens opened up with a torrential downpour. We literally crawled; I was driving so slow, the speedometer did not register.
Wednesday, the men showed up and began working. The first thing they told me was that there was a mistake and we were short three boards. Then they wanted to know where the lumber for the concrete forms were. (The roof is supported with three concrete columns.) We had boards left over from the foundation work we did at the center, but that is where the boards were located. So Denise and I headed over to the center.
The boards are all rough-cut boards that were cut by two men and a pit saw from trees that we were cleared from the property.
I now know why they estimated it would take so long to do the project. All of the boards had to be trimmed on both sides to give straight edges and the carpenters had brought a handsaw. Instead of using their handsaw, when I saw their intentions, pun intended, I told them we could use my table saw. I have to use the generator to run my power tools, so I was glad that school was out by the time we started. The generator is very loud and I did not to interfere with classes.
It took about a half hour. It was rough on my blade as the boards had cement on them. I have no idea how long it would have taken if they had done it by hand. They used the lumber to form up the three columns.
They then proceeded to mix the cement on the ground, shovel into five-gallon buckets and then carry it up to the roof. They had completed the process before they knocked off for the day. I am impressed with how hard they worked.
Thursday morning early Johnny and I went to town to buy three more 2×4’s. When we got back, the workers had already taken off the forms and were starting to frame up the roof structure. By lunchtime, they had all of the rafters in place. After lunch, we got the table-saw and generator out and ripped the 1×12 into narrow boards. The carpenters then nailed these boards at right angles to the rafters to support the tin roofing.
After I finished helping the workers, I cleaned up, then Denise, Johnny and I went to town. We cannot access the internet with our laptops from our apartment, so we went to Sr. Pat’s house to use their Wi-Fi.
By the time we returned to our apartment, Julien and his helpers had finished for the day, having completed the framing and half of the tin roof installed. The men completed their work in a few hours Friday morning.
Johnny and I cleaned up the area. The new space is larger than the tarp covered, so we also brought up a new foot table and folding chairs we sent on the shipping container.
We christened the new space by serving lunch, (my famous pizza), followed by a meeting with Sr. Pat, Matt, a new volunteer working with the Sisters, Johnny, Delise, Denise and myself. The purpose to the meeting was to discuss an agenda and dates for our fall agricultural workshop.
The tentative dates are October 12,13 and 14. The first day will be only workshop leaders. That day the leaders will discuss the material to be presented and decide how best to share it. The next two days will be the same actual workshop presented to two different groups. We will hold one workshop at The Fr. Jim Agriculture Center, and one at Grèpan, the agricultural center where we held the workshop last fall. Having the workshop in two locations will make it more accessible to more people.
This week I was also able construct a a storage shelf for supplies we need to keep close at hand and a desk for our bedroom, and a storage shelf unit for the workshop from the shipping crates we built and sent supplies in last spring.
Thank you all for your prayers and support, Bob