leila digging up a tree trunk

29.03.13 | day six building community iii

The sixth day of the Visiting School, described by Jostein – a graduate of NTNU (more photos of the pooja coming soon!)

After spending lots of time designing, discussing and absorbing the local atmosphere, this was the first day where things started to get physical. Finally we could start clearing the site and dig the foundations.

As a way to show respect to the community we decided to mark the beginning of the construction by arranging the traditional ceremony called pooja, which is a holy act performed by a priest. Some of us had already informed the villagers the previous day about this event, and we managed to gather quite many people this morning. We prepared a large jute at the site for sitting, while the priest and his assistants arranged the materials needed for the ceremony. Ivar was chosen to sit next to the priest and aid the various procedures as a representative for the building team. Pooja is basically a set of procedures performed with local crops, incense and leaves which are supposed to bless the building with prosperity and good luck. The whole ceremony went on for about 1 1/2 hour and ended with the priest and Ivar getting their feet painted red, and then the priest dug the first hole at the corner of the building.

After the ceremony we started to clear the site for bushes and trunks, greatly aided by some of the locals. Then we cleared some points and directions for the foundation and stared to dig the trenches. The first challenge was to get to know the tools, since very few of us had done digging on a regular basis before. You need to know how to swing the pickaxe properly for maximizing strength and minimizing effort. Secondly the soil was very hard to dig, and third the heat was becoming quite a big problem. A roof of some kind was needed to give some shade.

During the day we also had lunch with the teachers, parents and some of the kids. All sat on the big jute under a tree. The intention was to mix them with us and show that we share the same food and space as equals. I think this was an important step in terms of breaking down barriers, although it is hard to change a perception in one day.

In the evening we had a discussion about the upcoming workshop with the teachers and the parents. The topic was to figure out which questions should be posed for the bathroom design, how they should be posed and what kind of drawings we should present to them. Where should the entrances be? Can they face the courtyard? Should the teachers have an individual toilet? Then we went to bed, preparing for a hard day of digging, starting at 6.00 am.