Mar 16, 2010

Building a library.

There is a Mayan village, Chompon, down here, that has been adopted by people in Paamul. It is about an hour down the highway, and a couple of kilometers inland in to the jungle. About 600 people live there, and it has a public school with six classrooms.
For several years, some people have been donating supplies to the school and this year, with funds raised here in Paamul, we are building a library.
It took a while to go through some official hoops, but led by Cindy, and our hardworking neighbour, Dale, plans were drawn up, a location was chosen and work has begun.
So far Dale and his volunteers have made about five trips to the village with work crews of us old gringos. First we cleared the area, then marked out the foundation, built some forms, then mixed and poured a foundation. Then the uneven terrain was filled with rocks and calica (relleno or fill) and tamped down.
Then we built more forms around the perimeter, and yesterday, we poured a concrete floor slab over the whole thing.
It sounds simple when I write it out, but here are  some of the complications we ran into.
First of all, the building supplies: cement blocks, loads of gravel, sand and calica were delivered to the east side of the school where the library was first intended to go, and had to all be carted by wheelbarrows to other west side. Good thing we had lots of men, as this is heavy work for old guy’s back and muscles.
The terrain, like all  of the Yucatan, is uneven stretches of limestone with a few inches of dirt here and there. To mark out the site, we were drilling holes and driving in pieces of re-bar. Then trying to set the forms along these lines, was a jigsaw of boards and cement blocks and rocks to precariously hold them in place long enough for the base concrete to set.
To fill the site, we carried loads of rocks, and then countless wheelbarrows of calica, which was tamped down with the motorized tamper. The Mayan way, which was used building our palapa, it to use lots of water and a manual tamper. In the interest of time, Dale rented a motorized tamper which turned out to have the personality of a bucking horse. I ran it for a while, and found it really needed a firm grip to control it. Another of our guys, Bill, was at the reins for a while when he got too near the edge and it bucked on him jumping onto his foot, then tossing him over on to the rocks. Battered and bruised, he took off his shoe where he found his big toe mashed. He was taken off to the local clinic, where they gave him some pain killers, and removed the hanging toe nail, and bandaged him up real nice. Nothing broken but big ouch!
For the big pour of the slab yesterday, Dale rented a motorized mixer, and this time we had four hired local guys to help us out. Even though the motor died half  way through, and took almost an hour to get going again, we managed to finish the pour before 4 pm, and tired and dirty but satisfied, we headed home.
Today the forms were removed and we will now hire some local tradesmen to put up the cement block walls. I understand the finishing will happen in the fall, when we all get back. One of our guys, Bill, who got his toe mashed, already had a big donation from the Ontario teachers Assn., for a god supply of library books. It will be nice to get them on to the shelves.

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