Saturday, August 17, 2013

Today (8/16/2013)

Today I 'helped' Brian and Nate build a new pair of guesthouses for Rancho. When Joelle first told me that I would be doing a lot of construction work while I was here, she did it a way that made me believe there was a shortage of extra hands on campus and I would be filling a much needed role. However, just before she introduced me to the Washington State natives (Joelle calls them "the Seahawk Fans") she admitted that the conversation leading to my recruitment began thusly: 'Uh, hey guys my brother is going to be coming in for a month or so and I really don't want him to be bored so is it ok if he tags along with you?' Of course I had my suspicions when I got here and realized that orphanages/schools/churches (especially in Mexico) are places that are naturally overflowing with free unskilled labor and very cheap skilled labor.

The guys were actually quite nice for ex-military general contractors who had just given up a comfortable first world existence and moved their families into concrete huts in the northern Mexican desert in order to work for free and babysit Christian voluntourists looking for the selfless missionary experience.

My first job was to sand the drywall, just before it would be textured. Yes, that's right. We're talking some serious Mr. Miyagi shit.   Nate walked me into the "pre-sanded" bathroom of the first duplex and said, "this is a good example, just try and get it like this, except not so much, look here how the fiberglass is showing, that means you've gone too far." Brian interrupted me before I started with a new mask. "Its better than that one and it won't fog up your glasses"  I already knew which of the two was going to be my favorite.

I must have been really excited about my new job because they weren't ready for me to finish so quickly. "Yea, there's still a little more to do. Go ahead and try and really blend it like this" Nate gave me an example by working a grove into the drywall. Undeterred, I set about reducing the drywall just shy of exposed fiberglass all the way around. I was still faster than they wanted. "Yea that looks pretty good" Nate takes me back to the pre-sanded bathroom room he had just used as an example, "Go ahead and finish this room up too"

Something happened down at the main guest shower-room and there was a passive aggressive stand-off about what should be done about it.  I was able to glean that Nate is generally the bossy one, but Brain, though normally far more good-natured, carried most of the weight in the relationship and as soon as he put up some resistance Nate came into heal real quick.  Nate ended up going down to take care of the bathrooms while Brian stayed with me up in the duplex, which suited me just fine.

After sanding what felt like enough drywall to reduce the structural integrity of the building, I was promoted to mortaring the showers. Taking my cue from the sanding experience I applied the concrete sludge with painstaking precision, being very careful not to let any drop on the floor and making sure the resulting surface was nearly as smooth as the bathroom's freshly sanded drywall. Unfortunately the end of the day was approaching and the priorities of my guardians had shifted. I can't help but admire the tact Brian utilized in communicating that I needed to hurry my ass up. "Hey man, I just found this tool in truck, it should work a lot better" He then proceeded to show me the superiority of this slightly-different shaped cement scraper by by carelessly slopping the mixture on the wall, letting half of it fall to the floor, and crudely canvassing an entire corner of the shower with two long swift swipes; paying no heed whatever to evenness or consistency. "We can just scrape the extra off the floor later".

Thanks Brain.. That'd have been a great tool to have 1 and a half showers ago..