Working on bunk beds

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Africa » Mozambique » Central » Beira
July 31st 2008
Published: August 17th 2008
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A couple days ago, Ryan received a text message saying that Care for Life had won 85,000 metacais (about $3,500) and a motorcycle from the phone company. We figured it was probably not legitimate, but it didn’t have any of the normal earmarks of a scam. It wasn’t asking for money, and it told us to go to the phone company rather than some other address. So we thought it was worth checking out. That’s what we did this morning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t legit.
While we were out we visited several places looking for a Mozambique t-shirt. We saw a couple, but they were all too small. I bought one anyway. I suppose it’ll fit Ben. Or if I get really buff at some point I can squeeze into it and strut my stuff.
Today I spent most of the day at the wood shop where the bunk beds are supposed to have been finished by now. They weren’t even close. So I spent the better part of the day assembling beds and sanding them. Several of the pieces had been cut wrong and needed to be redone. In the afternoon, Tucker helped me. He wasn’t enthusiastic about it beforehand, but warmed up to it and worked pretty well. Since the planer in the place was screeching the whole time, he could sing as loud as he wanted, and I’m sure that helped. We got all the beds finished by the end of the day. They’re not completely assembled yet. We need to take them out to the orphanage tomorrow and finish putting them together. The quality of the workmanship was really terrible. The tools were ancient and kind of scary—the worst was a table saw with a blade that wobbled ominously. The Portuguese manager of the place, who said that he arrived a couple weeks ago, apologized several times and complained about the quality of the help. It’s true that their skills were very limited and their motivation likewise. For example, when the lunch bell rang, everyone skedaddled like Fred Flintstone when the work whistle went off. There was just one guy who was good, and he did a nice job helping us with what needed to be done. I asked him to do something as everyone was leaving for lunch, and he did. I repeatedly told the manager that he was their only good worker. He agreed. The workers seemed impressed with our screw-and-glue technique—like maybe they’d never seen it before, though that doesn’t seem possible. In the afternoon, the good worker out there gave us clamps to use as we were screwing and gluing the pieces together, and that was nice.
The wood we used was extremely heavy and fibrous. I think it was the same or a similar species to the one we used for our wood floor. It was absolutely impossible to sand well. There were tons of fibers in it that don’t sand out. And it’s honestly so hard that you can hardly work with it at all. Plus it was extremely rough-cut—looked like those 4x8 exposed timbers in a ski lodge or cabin. I was using 40 grit sandpaper to sand corners, for pete’s sake, and I had to press hard just to do that. (Of course, there’s no such thing as a power sander in Mozambique, or at least not in this part of Mozambique.) But our hurdle was fairly low. Our goal was just to make sure the orphans don’t get splinters from climbing into bed—not to make sure that the beds are beautiful.


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