Thursday, September 3, 2009

OSHA Palapa Approval?

Yes, this is Tom, you can stop reading for proper grammar, I just write it like I talk.

Well, we got the 8 posts in place today. First, we completely finished the stripping all of the logs we have. I found out today that if a piece of wood is not stripped of the bark within a couple of days, it gets harder and harder to do; I think if we needed more material we would have been stripping what we had before we went out today anyway.

The really nice thing about today was we didn’t bust our butts hauling these logs out of the thick jungle, through vines, over rocks, trying to weave them through a maze of trees to get to a path that we could walk straight up on. Also, I got out the MP3 player, hooked up to the little generator (we needed electric for the drill anyway) and we all enjoyed a mix of some Spanish and some Gringo music.

One comment I have to make, which some of you readers are probably aware of, it is quite interesting working with a group of guys that speak another language. Two in our crew speak only Spanish, the other 2 speak primarily in Spanish but will speak English to Chuck and I (and they speak pretty well). I am understanding more and more, and talking more as well, but I still can’t keep up completely. Chuck is starting to learn. That said, we had no accidents, or even close calls with anything today (like usual, knock on wood) and communication is done verbally, and with head, hand, and body motions; it works quite well.

First step was cutting the posts flat at the bottom. Now, that sounds pretty easy until you have to figure out that the entire post has to look straight, and natural unmilled trees are not really straight. So, a lot of this is done by eye. Balta, our chainsaw artist, did a fabulous job figuring out what was straight and where to cut.

Second step was getting the posts attached to the metal brackets we set in concrete the other day. Again, this is easy with milled lumber when the post is straight, just line the posts up, drill the hole, and bolt it on. Here, we had to line the post up, figure out the flatest side, then make that side flat for the bracket, line the post back up, drill the holes (and, yes, this wood is called ironwood in the US for a reason), then use screw rod to make “bolts” since regular long bolts are very expensive here (again, thank goodness for DeWalt 18volt tools).

Now, is it straight? We sure hope so, we really don’t want to have to go out and get another one of these beasts!

The third thing today for working the posts was a perfectly timed serving of banana nut bread. Marge is known for her cooking expertise and after lunch she whipped up a loaf for a mid afternoon break. Again, we had a cultural moment when Julio cut the bread in slices for everyone to eat. In the US the loaf would have been cut in probably 20-30 thin slices since it is more of a heavy bread. Here, Julio counted how many of us there were (6 all together) and decided that 8 pieces would work well – one for everyone now, and 2 extras to split up when we were done for the day. I have to compliment Julio, this is what I would have done if I hadn’t been served scrumptious bread like this by my Mother and wife for my entire life but the loaf had to make it around a Thanksgiving dinner table with the hopes of having some leftovers!

And finally we got to start fitting one of the two main 30’ beams that go over the posts. This is where I started wondering about OSHA. I don’t think that working on ladders in the back of a pickup and overloading the weight capacities of our ladders would be the way contractors in the US would stay in business long. Also hauling a log over 30 feet long that the six of us could barely lift and carry in the jungle, over our heads with while standing on these ladders, and using rope looped up over the top of the posts was quite a trick. After we got it up to the top, we measured off where we had to cut flat spots for the post tops, lowered it down, flipped it over, used the chainsaw, hammers and chisels to make the flat spots drilled a hole in center of each flat spot and we are ready to put the main beams up tomorrow.

We will keep you “posted” on how the progress goes as soon as we can. Off to bed now to rest my weary bones. But, as I have said in the past, I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing right now. Life in the jungle is always a learning experience.


richies said...

Several years ago i helped build a church in San Pedro. I can only imagine OSHA at the worksite. :)

An Arkies Musings

JR said...

Wow, looking good Tom! Can't wait until you try to weave the fronds onto the roof. I watched some guys doing that in Corozal and it was amazing how fast they can go.

Glad things are moving along so well. And you talk ok... I promise not to complain.