Building in Trinidad: Day 7
Today started like any other, with hard work! Now that the rebar had been laid in the trenches, it was time to lay cement blocks and pour concrete. Human chains have been our go-to strategy for saving energy, and today this tactic helped us surround the foundation with hundreds of cement blocks ready to be mortared and stacked. Once the supplies were all lined up, several lucky members of the team got a lesson in how to “butter the bricks” to build the base of the home’s walls. The rest of us went to work carrying buckets of dirt from a pile by the road to… a pile by the house. I can assure you this task was crucial.
Over lunch we experienced the sense of generosity and community that lives in Trinidadian neighborhoods: One neighbor delivered us bags of hot home-made pholourie, a soft vegetable dough ball that tastes just like a hushpuppy, and another neighbor allowed us to pick fresh starfruit from their tree for a crisp, sour-sweet snack. We also discovered that the construction supervisor Christian, who we thought was “Trini to the bone,” doesn’t like most Trinidadian food, when he turned both of these down!
Another, sweeter surprise over lunch was our future homeowner Marie showing up to the build site with her grandson Liam. What a little sweetheart! He toddled around the break tent, taking turns getting doted on by everyone present and generally lifting spirits. This was especially helpful once, when we had all but forgotten about the giant pile of dirt we still had to move from the road, a truck pulled up and… dumped more dirt on the pile! Back to work.
The second half of the workday went quickly, because we knew we had a great evening in store. First: The Avenue. The Avenue is a stretch of road in Port of Spain that’s completely loaded with restaurants of every type and style. Just walking three blocks we saw Trinidadian food, Jamaican food, Chinese food, Indian food, burgers, wings, calamari, and several places selling gyros. We all made our little teams and took to what suited our tastes. Once we finished our meals it was back on the bus for another great excursion: Seeing the Nazarene Worship Centre Steel Orchestra.
As we walked into the church, they were already all in place, doing drills on a tricky riff. As the group of ten filled the hall with the melodic clanging of steel, I was able to pick out the tune: “Africa,” by Toto. These folks know how to rock. After hearing them play everything from hymns to “Carol of the Bells” and of course the full rendition of “Africa,” they sat down and taught us how steel pan are made and shared parts of the history of the steel pan as Trinidad’s national instrument. Then, it was time for us to learn to play. We each picked a drum, from the high, melodious tenor to the resonant, harmonious “guitar” down to the giant, booming bass set, made of six 55-gallon oil drums. The student musicians joined us to coach our notes and timing as we essentially coordinated for one big game of Simon. We certainly came away from that experience with a much deeper understanding of how complex both the history and the playing of these instruments can be!
When we returned to the hotel, it was a pretty easy decision for everyone to head straight to bed. Tomorrow is the final build day, and we want to be able to give it our all!