By the last day or two of a build, our ability to sustain the level of physical activity we undertake each day begins to wane. Muscles we didn’t even know we had ache. None of us dig ditches or mix cement by hand in the heat for a living. We are architects, salespeople, nurses, engineers, doctors, writers, graphic designers, parents, retired grandparents and a great-grandparent. Although our bodies tire, our minds are alert and active absorbing all that is new and unique about where we are right now, knowing that soon we will be back in our own little corner of the world resuming our “normal”. We don’t want to miss anything.
More than building houses, we are building bridges – bridges that span language, religion, culture and miles. Bridges that unite hearts. As a result of our effort, 16 families have been able to significantly advance the progress in building their houses. Every day these partner families are serving us tea, building with us side by side, teaching us the secrets of their language, which sounds like music to us. We gratefully and humbly accept their hospitality. Much given out of little.
The last two weeks we have mixed cement, moved earth, sifted piles of sand, passed countless bricks and handed them to our masons, mortared joints, dug holes, excavated rocks, plastered walls, stained doors, placed windows, demolished old walls and a roof and poured footers, floors and countertops.
We ate dahl, rice and coconut and drank tea every day, learned to cook Sri Lankan curries, toured temples, climbed mountains, navigated dirt porthole riddled roads, and memorized Sinhalese words and learned the names of our new friends – Jatilika, Rangt, Vijayrathna, Ucuama, Chamundi, Susil, Harshi, Chadma, Susandi, Kirbanda, Vitram, Nandina, Wjethunga…Believe me, for native English speakers, these names are not easy to remember! Yet, by the end of our time they roll off our tongue every morning as we greet one another.
House building is the activity but shared laughter and tears and new friendships are the result. Our networks have expanded. The world is smaller. Life is richer.