From dirt to boating 12 March 2006

Yesterday, Saturday, was our 6th workday, and I **really** worked (not that I hadn’t been already!) – I got to work on the new site for the first time.

In case I had not mentioned it earlier, our team is actually working on two new houses under construction. The one most of us are working on is the traditional Habitat house here in Auckland, made out of a heavy, thick “tri-board” (wood chips and glue – very strong) with aluminum siding and roof…very nice looking. The other house has just been started, and is using an experimental design by a local university student architect, who is also supervising the build. That one is using a type of concrete block (I’ll have to find out more later), and we are preparing the foundations for the garage and the house.

I probably also forgot to mention that all these houses get a garage! Anyway, I worked all day yesterday with ‘little’ Mike (the 3rd Mike) and Bart on preparing the garage for a foundation. Most of the trench had been dug, and the corners marked out, and the back wall was up down into the trench and one side had a level line placed – so the basic measurements had been done and marked out. So the three of us spent the rest of the day building the other three walls down into the ground and leveling them, avoiding the drain pipes underneath. I wish I could load photos, but have no way to do that yet – probably not until this weekend now. So we got very sweaty and dirty, and I got to use a “pulaski” – something my dad used to talk about that forest fire (all firefighters probably) use that is a long pick axe on one side and a flat axe on the other. That was cool!

Toward the end of the day I also got to cut the steel mesh that is used along walls and in floors where concrete is poured to add strength using a big wire cutter :). One funny thing happened when I started cutting… the site supervisor’s son, a very quiet, very tall strapping young man of about 20 came over and offered to do it for me. I said thanks, that I was doing okay, and I looked up and saw his dad really give him a dirty look and signal him to leave me to do it just fine thank you! I have sensed in other more subtle ways that the folks in this country seem very much less paternalistic than I experience in the US. At any rate, I **thoroughly** enjoyed the hard physical labor, and was actually less tired than usual at the end of the day, though I may have many more sore muscles!

Then last night the president of Habitat Manukau hosted a BBQ and told us that in spite of our small team size, we are actually ahead of schedule, working on TWO houses, and we were each called up and given some very nice polo shirts. Our host families also attended – last night, tonight, and tomorrow night (Sat-Mon) we are staying 2×2 with local Kiwi families to see what life is like. Meg and I are with Colin and Gaynor Kennard, a lovely retired couple who, like so many Kiwis, have a camper van they use every weekend. The accomodations are plush and we are really enjoying them.

Today another local Kiwi Habitat friend took us all out on his 38-foot launch into Hauraki Gulf east of Auckland for the day – it was very cold and wet starting out. We headed for a small Recreation Reserve island called Motuihe about 30 minutes off shore, (actually near the island of Waiheke where we went on Wednesday), and went ashore to hike around for an hour. We then dingy’d back to the boat and went swimming and the sun came out and we had lunch, then headed back – it was a lovely day! Our host/captain used to be Director or Minister of Recreation Reserves or something like that, and had many funny stories to tell. He also had been to Everest Base Camp – Sir Edmund Hillary’s niece is a friend of his, and she had organized a 6-week trek!

Here are a few more Kiwi-isms:

* to “barack” means to root or cheer for a team (Jim had told me that one 🙂
* a “mainlander” is a NZ South Islander
* a “chilly bin” is… can you guess? Hint: a ubiquitous summer item
* “picklets” are pancakes – a little bigger than silver-dollar sized, eaten with butter and jam