Thursday, September 24, 2009

Habitat For Humanity: Day 1

In fourth grade I ran for Mount Pleasant Elementary School student council president. I gave a speech that started off something like, "As we all learned from Lethal Weapon 3, a building needs a strong foundation. Well, just like a building, the school needs a strong foundation." I think a building was blown up in that Lethal Weapon hence the reference. If this horrible speech wasn't bad enough, my competitor, Noah Lichtman, did a rap. Yup, he kicked my ass and I won the default prize of student council treasurer. If I learned one thing from myself that day it was that I should never reference Mel Gibson in a political speech. If I learned a second thing, it's that a building does indeed need a strong foundation.

On the first day of the build, my group laid the foundation for the house. This basically required a heck of a lot of cement making. To make the cement was a very scientific recipe: 5 buckets of dirt, 8 buckets of gravel, one bag of cement mix and then enough water to get a mud cake-ish consistency.

(PICTURE: Paul from Arizona and Amy from Bermuda even out the foundation.)

After about fifteen minutes of shoveling ____ (insert rocks, dirt, combination, etc.) one starts to realize that there are muscles in the back and arms that one hasn't used since, well, perhaps ever; one doubly realizes this the next morning when they wake up.

(PICTURE: Sherry from Washington and Katie from Colorado fill up the gravel bucket.)

In the morning when we arrived at the site, I noticed something right away -- our materials were quite far away from where we were actually building. The majority of our bricks and piles of dirt were at least 40 yards from where we needed them to be. I was surprised at this since in theory the truck could have dumped the supplies right at our build site. The explanation was that the alley was too narrow for a truck to go down, but having lived in Vietnam for a while now, I didn't buy it. I've practically seen a bus drive on the sidewalk in Vietnam so I think they just dropped our stuff far away so we would have to work harder and sweat more. Well, if that was really the intention it worked. We basically spent the afternoon lugging wheelbarrows of dirt to the site. In case you're curious, when using a wheelbarrow you also start to realize there are muscles in your triceps area you haven't used since, well, probably ever.

My favorite thing about the first day is that the soon-to-be homeowner was working right besides us. The man happened to be a construction worker which meant he was basically the point-man while building. We would hand the man our buckets of cement and he would pour them into the frames he had constructed. By the end of the day -- despite a good two hours of waiting out the rain -- we had finished pouring all the cement for the foundation.

(PICTURE: Our progress at the end of the first day. The man wearing green in the home owner.)

Some other highlights from the first day included:
- Sweating an obscene amount while handling concrete mix. I'm lucky I was able to take my shirt off at the end of the day.
- Visiting a chocolate "factory" while it rained. There was a farmer nearby who grew a fruit used for chocolate. He then made chocolate bars which he sells to supermarkets. He even showed us a chocolate magazine he was featured in.
- Managing to go a few hours before getting a blister on my thumb and a heat rash in my bicep/armpit area.