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A novel job...

Wednesday, August 10

I’ve always thought that whitewashing would be a novel job. After all, all the children in “Tom Sawyer” paid money to try their hand at whitewashing a fence. I found there is a great deal of skill involved.

Slap, swish, flick, slop. The noise continues as I slather on the watery mixture onto the smoothly stuccoed walls. Up and down I move my brush, turning the wall from a steely gray to a creamy white.

I hear a sound behind me. “No, no,” he murmurs. I stop and turn. The painter shakes his head at me and smiles. He holds out his hand to ask for the paintbrush. I relinquish it along with the metal bucket full of the chalky mixture. He looks at me to make sure I am paying attention and then dunks the brush into the bucket. He quickly flicks the brush and then in three seconds’ time has perfectly applied the whitewash to the wall. He looks at me and nods his head. He then repeats the action for another minute and then hands me back the tools. He gestures me forward and motions for me to start. Carefully, I dunk the wide brush into the whitewash and flick it just as he had. I manage to splatter whitewash on myself. I look up and see my teacher patiently gesture to the wall. Clumsily, I attempt to mimic his movements—swipe up, swipe down, smooth. I try it again, this time with more success. I look behind me and ask, “OK?” He points to a small patch where I missed the wall. I try a third time and am relieved to see his face in a smile: “OK, OK.” He gestures at the rest of the wall, and with a swirl of whitewash, I continue. I definitely know that whitewashing is not my calling in life, but I did derive a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the house rapidly change in appearance.

Carolyn Beal, CCYP volunteer in Kanyakumari, India