Building Brick Buildings

June 28, 2016

Today was our first day in the village. It was a good hour drive from our hotel by Lake Malawi to the village in the Salima District. Twenty minutes of the ride was spent along a very bumpy rutted dirt road. Our arrival at the village was a treat. We were greeted by women from the village singing in beautiful harmonies. The acapella music was rhythmic and uplifting. We were introduced to the village chief and local Habitat representatives.

Sousand, the site supervisor, recognized me from our previous trip to Malawi. It was good to be welcomed so warmly. After our building orientation, we split into two teams and began work on our respective homes. Initially, our bricklaying was slow and often didn't pass muster with the professional builders working with us. But after a slow start, we found our groove and really started making some progress.

As we worked, we practiced our Chichewa (the main local language), by learning pleasantries and the words for our building materials: Brick, mortar, water, plumb line. We were assisted by local villagers. The women brought water to the site and the teenage boys mixed the mortar (aka Matope) and helped stack bricks.

By lunchtime, the curiosity of the local children could hold no more. They started coming in small groups and kept growing in numbers. There were tentative hellos, handshaking and phototaking, and even a game of tic-tac-toe. As we worked in the afternoon, the kids would be nearby waiting for one of us to turn their way and pay some attention.

Emily and I got it in our minds that we wanted to learn to carry and balance buckets of water on our heads like the local women. These slight women would carry up to five gallons of water in a tub on their heads without using their hands to balance the load! Along with all the women on our team, we trekked to the village water pump, waited our turn, and finally got to use the handpump to fill our buckets. We then put our quarter-filled buckets on our head and attempted to balance the load. I never made it past three steps and eventually dropped the bucket and spilled the contents. Emily had a local woman loan her headdress to her and was able to take about 10 steps before having to reach out and grab her bucket. Needless to say, our antics provided entertainment for all the women and children nearby.

I used my phone to do a video timelapse of building our house. Today was a full day. We are all exhilarated and exhausted -- a great combination.

This is a guest blog post written by Michelle Pavliv, Habitat Wake Board Member. Follow Michelle's experience in Malawi by visiting her blog, Malawi We are Here!