Friday, February 8, 2013


I was driving home from my first full week of managing the building of Mapusha’s new studio with the list of supplies needed for next week by my side. The trenches were complete and on Monday the crew would ‘throw the footing.”  Feeling pretty smug about how well week #1 had gone, I started going over the list in my head. "Bags of cement, got that. Truckload of sand, makes sense to me," but,  the next item on the list threw me into instant brain freeze. 

Concrete, how can I order concrete? What is concrete? Isn’t that what we are making?  If that is what we are making, what am I ordering? I tried to call up an image of concrete that wasn’t a finished product; a bench, a set of steps, a swimming pool. Nothing else floated into my blank mind.  I pulled to the side of the road and texted my visiting American builder friend, “What is concrete?” I learned that when they say concrete here, they are actually referring to what I would tend to call gravel. 

Back on the road as I passed through the high grasses of the summer bush, I found myself remembering other times when, being beyond the edge of my own known boundaries, I hit the same kind of skid-to-a-stop moment. There have been lots of these in my take a leap life but I had never before understood it so clearly. Brain freeze is truly a necessary condition when you are in new world.  The new vocabulary necessitates tilt moments, you simply don’t have a reference from the past for what is in front of you. 
Most of us know the feeling of being in a foreign country not knowing what the signs or the people are saying but this is slightly different, a bit more subtle and confusing. My first vivid memory of it was long ago on a yoga mat at a weekend intensive as a raw neophyte  student. It took all my courage to sign up for this intensive with an internationally known teacher and on the first day I sat on my mat scared, awkward, ready to do my best.  The beautiful, ethereally, leggy teacher drifted to the front of the room and began the class but to my horror she used sanskrit names for the yoga asanas. I didn’t know these words, she might as well have been speaking greek. I remember my frozen self sitting there with wide eyes, a pounding heart and an empty mind. 
Week #3 on the building site was about brick building and again, I hit a  conundrum moment. If they “threw the footing” last week what does one call this brick building phase of the base? Once again a builder type friend explained that the concrete “laid” last week and the brick walls of this week together create the footing. I now accept the fact that it will take me at least through the roofing to learn the vocabulary, but by then it won’t be a new world anymore.

Next the slab is laid. The thought of this, with all that I know it involves and all that I don't know, brings a heightened sense of tension to my bones!

This week's first picture is my wonderful foreman, Demond. He is now officially Anna Mduli’s ‘son’ as she cooks pap and moroho for him daily. Probably everybody else in the world knows that the next two pictures are of the ‘footing.” And the final picture is of Elena with her father, Philip, our top bricklayer. I have known Elena since she was 3 weeks old (the women at the coop call her “my baby”) but In her seven years I had never met her father until this project began.  It was a treat for me to walk over with her on Thursday and see how she adores him and how sweet he is with her.

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