Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Building, Brazilian Style

I found myself this evening with a power tool in one hand and a hose in the other. I thought to myself that something was very wrong with this picture and I checked to make sure the extension cord wasn't immersed in a puddle...

But when the objective is to keep a cancerous dust suspended in water and out of the air it doesn't seem so outrageous to do something like that. It seems downright sensible. And then the question becomes: why am I working with cancerous materials?

There's an easy answer to that: because they are cheap. The products in question are telhas of Eternit, or roofing tiles of some 'eternal' cancer causing substance... it is stamped right on them that inhaling the dust produced by cutting them is extremely prejudicial to your health. And I don't know where the 'eternal' comes from- bump the damn things on the ground and a corner busts off.

But at last the things are prepared and ready to nail into place. I painted them white- on the top, so they would reflect heat back at the sky, and on the bottom so they would reflect light back toward the ground and keep everything from getting... dark.

What am I doing? I'm doing two things- I'm making the area where we dry our clothes into a little workshop room so I can screenprint shirts there, and also have a space for my carpentry projects and such. I'm making a shop- a teeny tiny one, and one without a drill press or table saw, but all my brothers already have one so I think I deserve one too. I'm also covering up a bit more of the precious sky over our patio so that we have a new place to dry clothes and also so my plants won't be blasted by sun in the summer and drenched to a moldy miserableness in the winter. It's going to have the added benefit that our neighbors will no longer be able to peer into our house, and I think it will also make the patio area more usable, at least when it's not full of drying clothes.

Why am I doing it? For two reasons- partly because I like building things, and partly because my shiftless, no-good brother-in-law who started the work decided not to show up on Monday to finish the job. He didn't show up today either, so I did a bunch of work myself, and if he doesn't show up tomorrow, I'll finish the job and tell him not to bother.

The problem is that of all my brothers-in-law, this one is the best of the bunch. He's the only one I can have an interesting conversation with. He's the only one who enjoys knowledge for knowledge's sake. And even though all Bahian men are pedreiros (builders), kind of like all New England men are carpenters (as well as most of the women), he's also the best of the group in that regard. Too bad he's not reliable. This is not the first time he's done this to us- more like the third or fourth. I only bring him back because I have developed a fierce aversion to hiring other pedreiros for fear they will rip me off- I know this brother-in-law won't do that. Whether he'll finish the job, that's a different story. At least I'm practical enough to do it myself, too bad I've got other things I really should be doing.

There is another fringe benefit, for someone who spends way too many hours in front of the computer, and doesn't get any decent exercise, and suffers from insomnia... it's that feeling of tired soreness in my body, that feeling that is so good because it comes from having done something real, something you can look at and be proud of. I'll sleep well tonight, no fear.

You should have seen us on Saturday, trying to seat three hundred-pound beams into the walls at a height of about twelve feet up. That was hairy. But that wood, let me tell you- the termites won't touch it. Which is really important when you're building in the tropics, and why most everything is made of cement. Or Eternit.

9 comments:

Stephanie said...

I think i know the roof things you are talking about...i hate those things!! and it's too bad we don't live closer!! Sidnei opened his own business and has done great! He has gotten so much work by word of mouth because he does things in a pretty timely manner and apparently even Brazilians who don't keep time(or pay on time) love for others to be on time! Not to mention his work is top rate!

Anywho, good luck with everything! They sound like good plans! And I feel you on the good for (almost) nothing BIL's...I have two. Good times :) Oh yeah, and the termites??? Damn those things are annoying. Along with the ants. And the mosquitos. And the flys. they are NEVER ending. Brazil abounds in bugs. Okay, now I'm done ;)

markuza said...

Ha ha- it is a shame you aren't closer. I really need a decent, honest pedreiro from time to time. And about those bugs- you forgot the BARRATAS!!! ha ha ha ha haaa!

Fabio Bossard said...

Yeah, Pedreiros are a headache even for Brazilians, but your brother-in-law sounds like my neighbor who does some work at our house every once in a while. We've known him for almost 30 years and sometimes he says he will come, but doesnt show up, even being paid. But we still call him to do some work in the house or yard, because he's not a stranger and works well.


Like yourself, I also like to build things and work with hands. I'm proud of the bookshelf I made for my bedroom.

markuza said...

Let me guess- he never calls to tell you he's not coming, does he? He didn't come back again today, and we heard he told another brother-in-law that he's not planning on coming back. I hope I can find someone more reliable.

Fabio Bossard said...

No, he doesnt call to say he's not coming. We dont hire him for free, but since we've known him for so many years, he's like a family member and doenst feel bad for not calling.

markuza said...

Of all the people we've hired over the years to help with various things, only one has ever bothered to call to let us know she wasn't coming.

Pedra said...

If you want to be a real Bahian pedreiro, you need to make sure that you are wearing flip flops while doing the work, and also try to use a steak knife at some point for some part of the project. Just a couple of tips I thought I'd throw your way ;)

-Cheryl

markuza said...

Oh yeah, I've been rockin' the flip-flops, and even working barefoot! I haven't pulled out the steak knife, but I have found use for used rusty nails, does that count? My guess is that the respirator I'm using is not standard pedreiro gear.

Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

the comments about the pedreiros wearing the flipflops are spot on.. i laugh every time i see it and think about OSHA back in the states..