Construction Week 46
This week has been a whirlwind of activity at the house. I think I’ve switched from calling it “the new site” to “the house”. Because it’s taking on it’s personality and it isn’t this vague thing any more. Every time we walk into it there is more done and it’s starting to look like this amazing, beautiful place that we’re excited will be our home.
Chris was out there on Friday and sent me a text that just said, “The house is beautiful”. I may have been grinning from ear to ear. This whole process has been very different for each of us. He was the one that took care of all the land purchase stuff, and then we talked about where we wanted certain things to be on the property, and he did things like making a map to show where everything would be located. When it came to the house we talked about what we knew needed to be in it and the general size we were going to aim for, and then I took over and did up a floor plan. This was over two years ago. And he was in this place where he just didn’t have the ability to focus on it much because he was dealing with other stuff here. Eventually we started nailing things down, and he finally helped me make final decisions on things that we could pass off to the engineer.
The whole time though, while he was thinking square footage and footprint and orientation for solar panels, I was thinking about flow and how rooms would feel and what life they would take on. Where would our furniture go and how much space would there be? Would something feel cramped, would it give us the room we needed and will use? What annoys us now, and what will mean less maintenance and work over time? I translated all of that into floor plans. I spent hours, maybe days, pacing things out and measuring things in our current house. Most of the time Chris didn’t ever see this happening, but it was. I think I’m just a space conscious person. I think about this stuff naturally. My friends in college would get me to help pack their cars because they knew I could make it all fit. :)
As we’ve been building Chris was the one directing construction, along with our friend Chewie. The vision he had for the house was found in red and blue lines on the engineered drawings. He thought about structural stuff like where each rebar was to go and load weights and window openings and power system set up and all the things. And I was happy to let him do that and just chime in on things when I needed to, like where all the electrical sockets needed to go and light switch placement and making sure doorways were the right sizes. In all that though, Chris has never had a final vision of what the house will look like when all the tile and paint and cabinetry is in place. I have. It completely changes things for each of us.
For him, every time he goes out to the house he sees another layer of wrapping taken off the gift with more being revealed. It’s like a constant process of surprise now. And every time he comes home and talks about something that he likes, which makes me so happy. One time a week ago he came home and just kept talking about the amount of light in the house, something that is so important to him. We didn’t skimp on windows and the place is full of natural light in every direction, but not in a way that is glaring or uncomfortable. We were out there one evening a couple weeks ago, and as we walked upstairs and down the hall we saw this amazing evening glow thrown down the hall from the window I fought for at the end of the hall. Without realizing it we had lined the house up with sunrise and sunset, and we’ll get to enjoy that every evening.
For me, as the house comes along, I find myself getting giddy because this vision I’ve been carrying for over two years is becoming real. This feeling, this vibe, this THING is becoming an amazing space for our family and the mission. While Chris is opening the gift, I kind of feel like the gift giver that has wrapped it up and is enjoying watching his reaction as he peels away the layers. The delight and surprise as he puts the pieces together and sees it all taking shape makes my heart swell. And I can’t wait for the full picture to be done.
So, this week was crazy busy as we kept pushing towards move in day. I went to Port au Prince on Monday and did what I hope will be my last shopping trip. I need it to be because my days will be filled with actual hands on work. Richard and I spent the day getting all the last things. So many cans of paint and finishing items. If you were to go into the downstairs room in the round house, or the round house period, you would find little paths where you could walk in the midst of the lumber and paint and fixtures and tools. I’m pretty much the only one that knows where anything is! Lol!
On Tuesday I went out to the house and spent the day out there treating floors in a few spaces. I’ve mentioned our tiles are cement tiles. We didn’t seal them in our current place, which in most cases is okay because they develop a natural patina over time. But, in the office space we’ve gotten a lot of pitting because our chair wheels pick up dirt and roll over it. They’ll be getting a cleaning before we put them in the house, but we wanted to put something on the tiles to protect them a bit. I was able to find a cement sealant that hardens the cement and adds a water block to it too. So, we’re treating the floors. I thought doing the little bathroom and entry way would take a couple hours. I was wrong. I spent about 4 hours on my hands and knees scrubbing paint (water based, thankfully) and cement off the tiles. That all came up easily. The part that was a pain was the pencil marks from the tile boss when he was cutting and pairing up tiles. Pencil! Ugh. I did get the bathroom, entry and lower deck all done though, and it looks great. Tomorrow the tile will all finally be done on the first level, so I think Wednesday will be sealing day for everything. Then we can install stuff.
Which, brings me to the rest of my week!
I spent the latter part of the week working on building stuff. And I was in my happy place.
I honestly don’t remember what I did Wednesday. Thursday I had Chris help me rip down some plywood so I could start working on the entry cabinets, but only after spending an annoying morning working on door jambs. I was feeling stressed about getting the door jambs done so I was excited when I found door jamb kits in Port. I bought 10. Got them home and realized that they were set up for exterior doors, and they were all right handed opening. Sooo, the doors jambs that I thought would save us time, have created more work, but we’re working with them. I put that project aside and started working on building cabinet boxes. I got the entry cabinets put together, so on Friday I had Chris come and help me rip down all the wood for the office cabinets, and then I cut and drilled and prepped everything.
I was honestly thinking that each cabinet would take me hours to put together because I’m used to working piecemeal. I was starting to feel like I was way out of my league with taking this project on, and how on earth was I going to pull this off. And then, the magic happened. I started assembling the cabinets and in less than two hours I had all of our office boxes done. I still have to do the face frames and the drawers and fronts for them, but the boxes are together.
I realized that if I spent about a day prepping and cutting everything, I could have the kitchen cabinets assembled in a day. Knowing that, I can actually plan things out and set goals. My big goal is to have the office done, and the kitchen bases all in place and be pouring the kitchen counters by the middle of November. That will give us enough time to unmold them, polish and get the back splash up, then do all the touch ups. I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Today I want to sit down and do some calendar planning so I can have that in front of me and be as productive as possible.
I know I’ve mentioned our friend Chewie (his real name is Andy, but everyone calls him Chewie) has been helping us with the construction. His family was scheduled to come back a week and a half ago, but had to change their plans and aren’t sure when they’ll actually be able to be back. Nothing terrible, just some life stuff that they need to deal with right now. I had been basing all my plans on him being here, so in the past week I’ve had to recalibrate a lot change things up. The good thing for me is that it’s meant asking for help from friends and I’ve been very encouraged by their willingness to pitch in. Yesterday a group came over and helped me with a bunch of little things, like painting cabinets with primer, prepping doors to be hung, sanding and cleaning the round house so it didn’t look like a bomb went off.
We had a fun day and I made everyone pizza for supper as a thank you. Aside from the help I got from the work that was done, I was so encouraged and reminded about one of the main purposes for how we designed the house – to be in community with others. As ten of us enjoyed dinner and visiting last night it reminded of what a blessing the mission is to those we have around us. Many of our missionary friends see Clean Water for Haiti as a place of rest. They can come here and relax and enjoy our company, let me feed them good food that they typically aren’t able to get in their specific situations, and step away from the chaos that is life here. We’ve been here longer than any of our friends, so we know the challenges and can love people through their transitions, offer advice and encouragement when asked, and mostly just practice hospitality in a way that brings a sense of normalcy in a place that is anything but for most of us.
When we designed the house we thought about all these things. It’s not abnormal for us to have 10-12 people around our dinner table once a week. I’m keenly aware that the house is not our house, it’s the mission house. We just get the privilege of being the ones that get to make the decisions and live in it. My hope all along has been that after we move Clean Water for Haiti will continue to be a place where people can come and rest and feel safe and enjoy being in community. As we worked together yesterday it felt fitting that these same people would be able to put a bit of their stamp on the place. To know that they’d helped build this place that would welcome them. And I was reminded that there’s so much beauty in the body, when we let each other be the hands and feet and noses and elbows. When we move in I know I’ll look at different parts of the house and smile because I’ll know that Robert fought with my doors to make them hang properly, and Erica sanded every edge on the cabinets, even the ones that no one would see. Naomi meticulously went over the bases with primer, and Jonathan and Stephanie rocked the edge banding. I’ll remember my sweet girl and Sendy wearing dust masks as they tidied up the round house every time I walk in there for the next month and a half – the last month and a half that we’ll be living here – and know that they didn’t have to do that, but they did.
Community is beautiful, and as we get closer to moving I’m more and more excited to share this blessing with those around us. I see the love that people are pouring into this place, and know that they’re doing it because they love us and the mission. Just yesterday as we were working, some of the guys that had been out doing filter repairs came to see what we were doing, and they were excited to see the cabinets coming together. The guys love to watch what I’m working on and often comment on how amazing it is that I do it. I see them thinking and I often wonder how many of them watch and think that maybe they could do something they didn’t think they could because of it. Chris and I were talking about how the guys are working so hard on the house and they’re taking so much pride in what they’re doing. They’re doing it because they want to do a good job. And, they want the mission to have great facilities. But, I think it’s more than that.
I remember very clearly the day that we took everyone out to the site. It was the first day of work in 2013. We had signed all the papers just before Christmas break in 2012, and it was the first day back at work in the new year. We took them there and said, “This is it!” We all walked the perimeter, because at that point that was all we could do. It was so overgrown it was hard to see from one corner to the next. I remember how hesitant everyone was. They were all quiet. They were looking around and we could almost hear their thoughts. We had just come off a few really hard years and the trust between them and us was very fragile. Eventually we started working out there and they started to get to know the community. It wasn’t until last fall when the shop was built that we really started to see a shift in how they felt about the place. It was because they didn’t know what we knew – that there were so many things in our minds and hearts about how we wanted to develop things that would be so good for them. That we wanted to do just for them.
On the last day before we took our vacation this summer I was out there doing a walk around with Evens to make lists of things that needed to be done while we were away, and as we checked on the progress of the floor tile in the staff bathrooms he turned to me and said, “Thank you so much for giving us nice bathrooms.” I told him that we were SO happy to do it and that we wanted everyone to know how much we appreciate their hard work by building a site that will be so good for them. I was fighting tears. Our staff have only recently started being more vocal about how they feel about us and working here. It’s that trust thing. It doesn’t come easily in relationships here. But, we have been so blessed to see this thing unfolding, and that’s one of the big reasons that this whole building process has been so rewarding for us. It’s not just about buildings. Yesterday as I was working with our friends, I just kept thinking, “This is literally going to be the house that love built”. That might sound cheesy, but in so many ways it’s true. And I’m going to cherish it every day that I get to live there.
Okay, let’s bounce back up from that moment and look at some pictures!
This is about where we left off with the last full update. And looking at this, I’m shocked with how much has been done in the past month! This is where we’re at now…
This is every reason why I wanted to do these posts. So much has changed! The mortar work on the entire house is now done. The paint is on about 2/3 of it outside. The windows are in and most of the window openings are being done. The office door is in, as well as all the doors in the house. We’re officially in lock up stage! Yesterday, because we’re done with all the cement work outside, the guys started cleaning up around the house and digging away by the foundation so we could paint that and truck in some good dirt to plant things after we move. Yay!
The bosses were still working on the mortar on the posts, and they were just welding the frame for the solar panels in place. The rest of the south side of the house hadn’t been mortared yet and Abner had just finished doing the deck tile.
Posts are finished and solar panels are up and welded in place. The mortar is done and the windows are in. The tile has been cleaned and sealed. The little building on the roof has been painted and that black thing sitting next to it is our water tank. It’s 1600 gallons and this week will get put in place on top of the little building and get connected.
These are the other sides of the house earlier in the week. I don’t have pictures from a month ago of these particular angles.
The east side of the building. The door goes into the office. The space between the door and the deck is the office storage/power station. Upstairs is the master bedroom. The space between the window above the door and the deck is a small laundry room that opens onto the deck. After that is our closet, and then the entry way to the deck with a linen closet tucked in there. As we finish stuff up inside it’ll be easier to take pictures so you get a feel for the space.
The west side of the house. Mortar is done, kitchen door is in. The windows are in. The window to the left of the door is the kitchen. The upstairs bathroom is right above that. The window above the door is the one at the end of the hallway. The windows in the right corner are in the landing of the stairwell.
The glass blocks were being installed (now finished) in the upper stairwell. The picture doesn’t do this area justice. It’s really beautiful. I’ll take better pictures after all the paint is done.
A month ago Abner was just filling the joints in the office floor tile.
My phone seems to be distorting pictures and making things look off. This wall is 15′ long.
This was earlier in the week. Paint being touched up and electrical being finalized.
Daniel was still painting outside, thus the plastic on the windows. Normally this room is very bright.
Not the most exciting picture, but this area will look very different in the coming weeks :)
Looking from the office door into the rest of the house. Storage room door on the left of the picture. In the hall the entry is on the left, first floor storage room on the right. Further on kitchen is on the right and living room is on the left. The opening that you see just to the left of the kitchen door is for an under the stairs storage room, which will eventually be my pantry. Originally I was going to use it for tool storage, but last week Chris suggested that when we build the welding shop we just make it a general work shop and make space for my work benches and tools out there so I always have a place to work. We don’t weld all the time, and often more in concentrated bursts, so there are times where the welding area won’t be used at all. I’m excited about this!
Entry door went in upstairs. This meant putting in tile in that area so the door could be placed. Starting Tuesday Abner will continue working upstairs.
Looking down the hall from our bedroom. Abner will run the tile down the hall first, and into the bathroom so we can start installing fixtures in there. The other rooms don’t have much work that needs to be done, other than installing closet built ins.
Well, that’s a lot for one post. I’ll try to write more later this week if I get a chance. If you think of it, pray for Haiti today. It’s election day here and we’re not sure what to anticipate in the aftermath. Could be fine, could mean protests and craziness for a while.