Monday, November 11, 2013

Building headaches

It's true, we're in our new house and are enjoying it immensely! It only took three months to build, which people say is really fast. Maybe, but it seemed like a year to me.

Janet and Lemu were playing with LEGOs yesterday, the same LEGOs I played with when I was a boy. I told Amber when I was a kid, I played with LEGOs. Now, I build houses (well, technically we pay others to do most of the building). There are some similarities between building LEGO houses and real houses.

One difference though, is that when you build with LEGOs, you more or less have control over the outcome. Not so building in Africa, in my experience anyway. Somehow, miraculously perhaps, the house we imagined took shape and became reality. But, in the midst of it all were untold frustrations: frustrations with suppliers, transporters, workers, and the quality (or lack thereof) of building materials.

In my daily journal, I kept a list of some of the frustrations:

-When the weather was good for transporting materials, no trucks would be available.
-The transporters I worked with would say they were coming 'tomorrow' but wouldn't come or even call.
-Building materials ran out (i.e. original estimates were off).
-The crew digging the foundation argued with me about who could and could not be on the crew (clan rivalries).
-The iron roofing sheets we ordered came in the wrong color from the wrong company (though we paid for something else).
-Of the five interior doors we ordered, four came hinged on the wrong side.
-None of the five interior doors fit the frames.
-Many of the shutters on the windows came not closing properly.
-The screen door came hinged on the wrong side.
-The gate we ordered came without spikes and is only lockable from the inside.
-For the fence, we ran out of barbed wire one course short of the top.
-The fence corner-post got broken on its way here.
-Because of the slope, the front side of our house is a good four feet off the ground (a mirror image of our old house which was four feet below ground).
-The toilets we received were not the toilets we paid for (in a town 9 hours' drive south).
-The tile we got for our bathrooms was not what we thought we were getting (much harder to install).
-The 'gray' grout I bought for the tile was actually white.
-I didn't get nearly enough tile mortar or tile grout to finish the job.
-The paint sprayer we got (from the US) wouldn't spray Ugandan paint. When I called the company's customer service people in Kampala, they said to me, "Why don't you use a brush or roller?"
-Amber's brothers came all the way here to help but couldn't do what they hoped because the other crews were 2-plus weeks behind schedule.
-Two members of the Ik unskilled crew were disgruntled with their pay (even though we agreed to it at the beginning), tried to pick a fight with the foreman, and caused some chaos.
-The masonry crew openly disregarded what I asked them to do and often did the opposite (because I wasn't paying them directly).
-The masonry slowed way down to stretch their days out because they were getting paid per day.
-Building materials ran out.
-The guy I ordered doors, windows, and lumber from lied to me and delayed shipping for weeks on end. Finally, he stopped answering my phone calls.
-The day we told the community to bring their hand-made gravel for concrete, we got absolutely mobbed. I put up rope barriers and told people not to bring more gravel to the site, but they just went under or around the ropes and dumped their piles all over the place.
-The septic tanks we had built are way too big for our needs. Apparently the builder wanted extra work.
-The customized paint we got to match the roof that was the wrong color, was the wrong color.
-Since the paint sprayer we got didn't work, we paid people to paint the whole house. Some of the walls were too wet, so the paint ran.
-The paint ran out, so I ordered more by phone. It got sent to the wrong town.
-The sand used for all the concrete and mortar had quite a lot of dirt in it, meaning the mixtures were weak. Under the paint in the walls, in some places you can just scrape the sand out with your hands.
-We offered the community a generous amount for carrying water, since the well is a long way from our house. So then they found a natural, though dirty water source much closer and got water from there.
-Did I mention that building materials ran out?
-The $1400 water-tank we got to hold rainwater now leaks at the outlet (thanks to me who made the hole too big with a hot pipe and burnt my hand in the process).
-Oh, and then we need yet MORE sand and MORE rocks and MORE cement than what was originally estimated.
-The vent system on our septic tank isn't working right, so now our bedroom smells like decaying cabbage.
-The wall over our garage door was made too short for our truck to fit in with the spare tire on top. The builders built the wall without consulting me. The solution was going to be to slope the garage floor so the truck could enter gradually. When we went to Kampala, I told them explicitly not to do the floor until we got back. They did it anyway. So now the truck will only fit in the garage if I back in with the spare tire near the front of the roof-rack.
-And the list goes on...

Well, that gives you a sample. Let's just say I chewed a lot of antacid tablets over the last three months. We had nearly daily---and sometimes all day---opportunities to relinquish our need for control and give the reigns over to God. I wish I could say I learned that lesson completely...but I can't. I do hope that we grew in our ability to go with the flow. If you don't, Africa can eat you up with stress and frustration. By God's grace we got through the building project and are now enjoying the (nearly) finished product. Our prayer is that this home and property will be a blessing to our family, to future occupants, and to the Ik community. Then all the headaches we experienced will be worth it.

1 comment:

The Reeds said...

I have no words.... My in-laws and I were talking last night about how so many people stress about their jobs and doing them right whether they are teachers or county clerks. They lay awake at night thinking, "Did I do ____ or ___ correctly?" I guess the people working for you just rest easy. :)