Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 5/6, 3/15-16: [Lowering] the Roof

These last two days have been a return to the fundamental problem right now in Leogane: fallen houses. I forget which architect said "earthquakes don't kill people, architecture kills people," but one thing that comes out of deconstructing and removing whole houses is the realization that these houses are not lacking strength, thought, investment, or planning. Our project that started on Monday was removing Rousseau's leveled house from
its foundation. While the foundation was more or less unharmed, as was the roof, the walls were completely destroyed.

Not unlike a child opening the box of an X-Box on Christmas to find wool sweaters, the first few swings into Rousseau's perfectly-in-tact-but-resting-on-broken-walls-and-rubble revealed extensive re-bar reinforcement. Good for structures, absolutely debilitating for demolition. Thus these last two days have focused on sledge hammering through a very firm roof, needling out the rubble, untying the wires that connect the rebar, removing the rebar, then removing the rubble in wheelbarrows. Tough work! Yesterday shattered four sledge-hammers. Today only broke two ... (as we were busy with dismantling rebar to be reused on the next home).

Maintaing yourself in a marathon (not a sprint) can be quite difficult, but the saving grace of this site in no particular order has been: a huge tree that provides afternoon shade on the roof and mangoes, and, good people (Haitian and International Volunteers).

Tonight was especially packed at the base with members of Curitas (NPO), and a volunteer team of structural enginners (RFFP) that were temporarily staying at the base. My creole is getting quite a bit better as I have tried to take on tasks when other Haitian volunteers are assigned to them, (such as today's lunch dishes). I now know some kitchen words (courtesy of Venus and Behrleen), working/construction words (courtesy of Richardson, Eddie, Vince), and grammer, phrases, and all the rest through my conversations and twice weekly sessions with Gilbert (pron. Geel-bear). I initially did not think it would be worth it or possible to take on a new language in 3 weeks, but the immense amount of interaction on job sites makes it practical and rewarding.

Also, I have been going by 'Ross' since the first day, and after a week am hardly flinching when someone calls out for 'Andy' or 'Andrew.' I have never gone by my middle name, but having arrived at an organization where there were already three or four versions of Andy/Andrew, I decided to pave my own way. Perhaps I should have been more creative and drawn from the Old Testament. Micah! Ezekiah! Zebulun!

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