Two days of traveling and three days of working, and that means real work. Of our jobs, one is to contribute to the building of a Trades facility – teaching those in Tangalle to learn carpentry, plumbing, and other professional skills that simply do not exist in abundance within hours of the village.
For starters, this means laying a foundation in 80 degree (and 80 %) meant that within 10 minutes my shirt was drenches and sweat fell down my face. To begin a foundation, one must first dig holes. In the back corner hole we found the hardest dirt on the island - – a sort of a mixture of dry clay and hard rock that simply doesn’t respond to a shovel and comes out one handful at a time. So, we dug the 4 x 4 x 4 hole with a long iron rod and emptied the dirt by hand. Who knew it was possible to dig with a rod? After half a day of work between three people, we were ½ done with that one hole… one more day later and finally the concrete (another extraordinary task when multiple batches are mixed by hand – 40 shovels of sand, 2 wheel barrows of gravel, one bag of cement and plenty of water began to enter the hole.
Simply said, without machines it just takes a tremendous amount of manpower to accomplish anything, and machines cost money. How does a community make the jump? At 700 Rupees per day (about $7) for each worker, and all the time in the world, buildings will continue to be built slowly and at tremendous effort.
Yet with this sort of work and wage, all we find are smiles and pride. This is just my own small example of the magnitude of the effort – and my effort was small relative to those who build day in and out while working twice as fast with half the breaks. They are slender, friendly, with big smiles, knowledge of English, and they don’t seem to ever stop working or welcoming.
Has anyone spoken yet of the tea? 10am is tea time. It is required we sit and rest – and we are served by those we work alongside. It is a new and awkward experience, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. A few minutes later we bring a football or a frisbee and lighten the mood – it’s appreciated all the way around.
I don’t know the purpose of the above story aside from showing my admiration of those who are born and build their lives with humble expectations on this beautiful island.
Sri Lanka 2010