As we drove around Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa in the weeks after our Habitat stint, I checked out the architecture. The categories I used: 1) more complex than the house we built, and 2) less complex than the house we built. I tended to walk up to concrete block walls, check out the mortaring and flocking, and make the Africans wonder what the crazy Mulungu (white person) was doing. Here are the construction steps as we learned them:
First, move dozens of concrete blocks into convenient positions around the foundation:
As we used up the blocks already piled in the yard, the ladies took many trips to a nearby lot to carry more. On their heads, of course. Angelica carried a block or two on her head while her baby slept on her back. I decided to try it myself:
Even though the blocks were not that heavy (and in fact, were of such poor quality that some of them literally fell apart in your hands as you moved them) it was very difficult! I had to hold onto it, sometimes with both hands, or risk having it land (and self-destruct) on my foot. Notice how Angelica is barely touching hers. I was told later by a Zimbabwean woman, “You have the wrong head.”
Here’s a shot of the first couple of layers. The pros did the corners and strung up lines to keep the walls straight, and they trusted us to put the blocks along the less complicated parts.
As we used up mortar, more was continually being mixed. This involved digging up “dirt” (actually sand) from a hole that grew larger and larger as the week went on. Bill is 6’4″ so you can see its dimensions by Day Four; Elliot speculated that it could be the next latrine, though the one we used (visible on right in first photo) was very recently dug:
The dirt/sand was put into a pile and shoveled around with cement mix from a bag, then water was added in a wheelbarrow. Of course, no running water onsite. This was also brought on the heads of the women and girls, from a tap many meters distant. They used huge jerry cans, like this one that once held hydrochloric acid, carried by Misteria, Angelica’s teenaged daughter–again, barely touching the jug:
When the mortar reached the right consistency, it was carried in buckets to the workers. Again, the women did this step:
Here we are filling in the gaps between blocks:
By the end of the first day, a moveable scaffold had been erected:
And the spaces for the doors and windows blocked out. This was the final shot as we left at about 3:30:
Bill is “sanding” (or at least smoothing) the surface with a crumpled-up paper bag that had held cement mix. Lucas, the master builder (center) is finishing up the one interior wall.
It was very satisfying to see a house standing where none had been before. Days Two through Five will have to wait for future posts.