Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2012 Photo Report #2: Ceilings

     It was early in August and this was my third week in Buchanan.  The New Jersey team had just returned to the States, and I was now staying at Gabriel's house.  Every day the skies were dark and overcast, and often it was raining just enough to discourage me from going out.  But on this morning the showers had let up a bit, so I decided to venture out along the road and look for a few birds as I walked up to the PROJECT BUCHANAN property.
     Eugene (who is a nephew to Gabriel and lives with the family) wanted to go with me, so I gave him my extra pair of binoculars to put around his neck and I showed him how to focus them.  He had never looked through binoculars before, and so when his eyes suddenly adjusted to the big, close view he was getting through those crystal-clear lenses, I could tell that the moment was almost magical for him.  Eugene had just discovered a totally new world, and I had been there to see it happen!
     As we started walking down that muddy road with all its African sights and sounds and smells, in some strange way I too felt like a boy again.  On this visit to Buchanan I was back in the country where I had been born and raised so many years ago, back where everything was still so much the same.  Yet in another way Liberia also seemed far away, waiting to be rediscovered.  I knew that back in my drought-stricken home state of Colorado this summer, the winds were hot and dry and the plains were parched and brown.  Now, as I stopped for a moment on this muddy road in Liberia--just five degrees above the equator--, the amazing thing for me was the saturation of the greens in this rain-drenched valley, and the absolute stillness of the humid tropical air.

I set up my telescope and in just a few minutes Eugene and I were able to find a good number of common marsh-loving birds, including this Little Bee-Eater (a juvenile).

But now, let's go back a couple of weeks...  Each morning at the work site, it was quite a chore for the team to get out the ladders and all the other equipment that had been locked up for the night in a storage container up the road...

...and to bring down from the attic all the timber that had been stashed up there, for relative safe-keeping, the night before.
After the jalousie windows had been installed (see my last post), the next big job for the team was putting up ceilings.  Here Jason Young is surveying the situation.

The ceiling battens were cut from 2X2s.  Note: Since Jim Purcaro is using a hand saw, we know that this picture must have been taken back when that whole "broken generator" thing was going on (also in my last post)!

The battens were then positioned about 2 feet apart.

Gordon Tiner had to keep one step ahead of the rest of the crew.  Here he is, up under the rafters, checking on the evenness of the trusses and ceiling joists, to which the battens were going to be nailed at right angles.

Thankfully the generator had been successfully repaired, so now Jason was in business with the power saw, cutting each batten to the required length.  Gabriel was there to help.

While Gabriel helped, Jason trimmed off one batten after another, making enough for every ceiling in the house.

Gordon (right) and Jason took many measurements in order to get the ceiling support structure centered correctly.

A full sheet of hardboard measures 8 ft by 4 ft.  But quite often Jason had to measure a sheet carefully and then cut it just right, in order to make it fit.

Looks like the gasoline generator is working just fine!  And don't worry... it's not running indoors or in an enclosed space!  This is the garage-like storage area at the west end of the house, and this photo was taken through the open "doorway" which measures 13 ft wide by 8 feet high.

Joists and battens have been nailed in place, and now Jason and Gordon are putting up the hardboard ceiling.

Here Gordon and Jason are getting some help from Jimmy, the hired truck driver and an all-round handyman.

More help from Jimmy...

...and help from those down below, who are using pieces of lumber to hold the hardboard in position until it has been nailed in place.

It's called team work--and team work works!

Finally, the finishing touches... here Gabriel is helping to hold the final piece of wood stripping in position while Gordon nails it in place.

The stripping covers the joints between the pieces of hardboard and helps to hold the ceiling up, so that it looks nice and level.  The unpainted African wood is also very beautiful.

Here's what part of the finished ceiling in one of the bedrooms looks like.  (Sorry, my camera isn't very wide-angle!)  The walls in this room have been plastered, in order to hide the rough concrete block and give the room a nearly finished appearance.

This is the future dining room area, where the walls and floor have obviously not been finished...
... and this is the future dining room area.  You may have been wondering why there are so many piles of 'dirt blocks' sitting around. These blocks are part of an ongoing "experiment" to see whether local materials, such as topsoil or the mud-like material in termite hills, can be used to make blocks for some of the construction work in PROJECT BUCHANAN.  A special manually-operated press was purchased for this endeavor, but so far the process has not been perfected.  The limited number of dirt blocks that were made have been stored temporarily in these rooms; and for building construction on the project, we are back to using concrete blocks.  Hopefully in the future, some enterprising young man (or men) will want to continue the experimentation, find a way to make the dirt blocks more efficiently, and then perhaps build a profitable small business... or maybe there will be some other ending to this story!

     Back to Eugene for a moment... He is 11 years old and, until recently, was more or less fending for himself on the streets of Monrovia.  Not long ago, circumstances within his family compelled a relative to drop him off at Gabriel's house and they took him in.  If he were in school, he would only be in grade one.  Perhaps when I return to Liberia, I can pick up where I left off... which was there on that muddy road with a simple lesson about binoculars and birding.
     When you start out to make a difference, you just never know how much difference you are going to make, or how much more you may be required to make... especially in a country where civil war has had an impact on the children and on their futures.
     And may I add a somewhat humorous postscript?...  For me there was such a contrast between this lush wet habitat in Liberia and the dry treeless plains of eastern Colorado where I have been living for the last 14 years.  But did you notice the other Colorado connection in this photo?
     Many of us are aware that a lot of second-hand clothing, mostly from the United States, is sold in Africa.  But what a coincidence--especially on this day--that Eugene's shirt should be advertising the ski patrol and rescue dogs at the Snowmass ski area in Aspen!  Talk about a contrast in temperatures!


  1. Eugene must have felt so special to be out with you! My favorite line is: "When you start out to make a difference, you just never know how much difference you are going to make, or how much more you may be required to make... especially in a country where civil war has had an impact on the children and on their futures." Great reminder, dad!

    1. Thanks, Andrea! It wasn't until after I got back to the States and started putting that day into perspective, that I began to realize how much is really at stake for Eugene and for so many other kids in Liberia.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this tonight!

    1. Thanks, Jeanette! And thanks for your huge, huge interest in PROJECT BUCHANAN!

  3. It's late here but I couldn't wait till tomorrow when I realized there was another post to read! Great endeavour, Gord! I'm going to try to hook my slate to Mom's TV on Friday to see if we can get a good viewing of this for her.

    1. Very good! I was hoping you might be able to do something like that, but I wasn't sure whether you would have access to the internet in the building where she is now. Let me know if it works out!