Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's a Pants-Off Dance-Off!

The schoolkids near one of our build sites were involved in a traditional dance competition. Tracy H. and Lilly-Anne walked to the main road for a cigarette break, and overheard the kids rehearsing (who says there are no advantages to smoking?) The teacher invited us to the big show, which we eagerly attended, skipping lunch and arriving in our work clothes. Our big dusty gang of Makgoa (gringos) was a bit of a curiosity, but nothing compared to the spectacle on stage. The kids danced in traditional dress, and their enthusiasm was infectious. We were so moved. Check out the winning team...
video

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lesson of the Day


Stay upwind of the cement pile.

Digging, Hauling, Mixing....and waiting.



With 20 team members spread over 4 build sites, the logistics can get a little hairy. Our masons aren't used to delegating - houses are often built without the help of a visiting team of eager Americans - so some days we find ourselves being told "wait" for the bulk of the morning, only to be given an avalanche of backbreaking work after lunch. We're thinking, "wouldn't it have made more sense to spread these tasks over the course of an entire day?" A good question...that goes unasked. We're here as their guests. I uncharacteristically keep my opinions to myself. Buyt there's an upside to the downtime: it gives us a chance to meet the neighbors, and what neighbors we have! Schoolkids by the dozen come to meet the makgoa (literal translation: they who have been spit out by the sea. loose translation: gringos). Matt Amore is a fan-favorite with his camera and curls, and the kids go from shy-to-diva in the time it takes to click the shutter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


it's Tuesday night in Molepolole, and I've got three more minutes on dial-up to tell you all about this beautiful place and its amazing people. Can we start with the name Molepolole? It's pronounced MO-lay-poe-LO-lay, and I challenge you to say it without sounding like Speedy Gonzoles. I'm sitting in an unheated room with hair wet from a cold shower, after a day spent mixing concrete by hand in the African sunshine. It's winter here, so we're working in 70-degree weather and it couldn't be more perfect. But then the sun goes down and it's 40 and I'm the wuss wearing everything she packed. There's a kitten crying outside my door. I promise not to go investigate. Yet.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I love to travel. And I love to make stuff. Opportunities for both don't arise very often in downtown Jersey City. So, every couple of years, I go on a build with Habitat for Humanity. It's a perfect trade-off: I get to experience new, far-flung places from an unusual angle while using my hands for good; they get a house. So far, I've laid bricks in Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia, and I'm about to pour some concrete on the lovely South African country of Botswana. They've got temperate climes, friendly people, and spiders the size of my head. And they're only 20 short hours away. Dumella rah, everybody!