Preparing to lay blocks.

Volunteers set the first window.
Photos by Kim MacDonald

Diary of House 949: Day Two
By Leigh Powell

The crew of House 949 was unanimous: we went to bed early last night! But I have to say how proud I am of myself—I’m not even sore—and everyone was again in high spirits as we met at the house to begin the day’s building a little before 7:30 a.m. this morning. We began by scraping the excess mortar from the walls we completed late yesterday (they weren’t too bad, considering we finished in the dark!), and then split into different teams to start today’s work.

David, our house leader, led several of the guys in setting the trusses and getting the roof ready for tiling. Max and Birgit worked on getting the ceiling supports ready inside. The rest of us decided to tackle the house’s paint job.

We weren’t using just any old paint; we used “stipplecrete.” Stipplecrete is actually a concrete mixture that spreads on like paint—only much, much thicker—and dries with a look much like adobe. It has to be mixed from a powder, which comes packaged in 40-kilo bags. My American mind isn’t sure exactly how much 40 kilos is in pounds, but I know I shouldn’t try to lift a bag of stipplecrete by myself. If I had any doubts about that, Maviti cleared them up as he took the bag away from me (right before I dropped it) and said, “We did not want you to come to South Africa to kill yourself!”

After Maviti poured the bag into a wheelbarrow for me, I was able to measure out the water and mix the stipplecrete. And more stipplecrete. And still more stipplecrete. I think I made about 12 wheelbarrows full to complete the painting of the house, inside and out.

This went on throughout the morning and well into the afternoon. After the painting was done (and might I add that our crew was one of the very first to have their whole house painted?), we cleaned up the brushes and paint pails before they became stipplecreted, too. That’s when the hose decided to lose its nozzle, soaking me, Anna, Dudzilie Theresa, Maviti and Ashley in the process. Thank goodness winters (it is the beginning of winter here) in Durban are warm.

Meanwhile, the roofing had continued and was nearly ready for the tiles, so we formed a brigade to pass the tiles from their pile on the ground up to the scaffolding for easier access. As the sun went down, we were laying the first of our tiles. Sure, some of the other houses were a little ahead of us today, roofing-wise, but we’re not too far behind at all.

Besides, you should see how great our stipplecrete looks.

—Leigh Powell is an HFHI writer and editor on special assignment for the JCWP


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