Sunday, November 27, 2005

Goodbye, My Kingdom...

Frame up....( photo by Steve Morrison)

Today I will leave you. Today, I will give you back this place that I have thrown myself into, cast a long shadow on, and left a permanent change upon. For you have given me a gift. The chance to be a King. While my timber friends and I have been here, you have treated us like Kings…You feed us your best eats, offered the best place to sleep, done our wash and kept us happy. What more could we ask for? You have taken us swimming, to see the top of the jungle, shared your special places. Spoken to us like old friends. For this, we offer you our love and our skill and this carefully crafted timber structure. We are sorry, for it could be better—we are always looking to do better, for we are just students in the largest of games, but it is the best we can give at this time, and we are glad you are the ones to have it. Take good care of it and it will take good care of you. Put the finest roof on top, and the best final touches inside. Make this your special place. For it will always be one of ours.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sunrise from Voltzberg, atop the Jungle

All done!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Building a wall...over a steep hill. Thanks to Ann Phillips, Proj. Architect for the picture

So far so good! A view from the River. All the big lifts, complete. Now how do we get those heavy parts up to the roof? Hmmm...

Our house for a while...who needs walls, anyway.

Here he is--500 volts of fun.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A day off

“Tomorrow, all of you in this group will be OFF and the rest of you OFF the next day” spouted Gordon, at our evening meal, update chat. Yippee! So now what? What do you do on a day off here? Go to the Mall…. nope, go out to eat…nope, visit friends…they are all here, so that’s out. What you do is go exploring, of course. Our little camp here is the main anchor point for a few surrounding spots. There is a lodge across the river and up a bit for a more secluded tour group. There is the “monkey camp” where a team of research people stay to study….well, monkeys. Then there are some things to see and a few trails to hike. Hmm, what to see? How about ELECTRIC EELS? How about 5foot eels with 500-volt output? Yep, that sounds good.

The river here is the lifeblood of the community. Until air travel, it was the only way in. But it has its dangers. Electric eels being one. These viper like voltage producers live in the fast water during the rainy season, then get stuck in the shallows when the water level drops. They are not electric all the time, I believe only when threatened. So John Miller asks, “what do they eat”…. batteries, of course, I replied.

A hike seemed like a good idea. So Steve, Jim, Neville and I set off on a walk to a waterfall. The hike was about 2 hours, round trip with a nice chat and snack at our stop. The waterfall was pretty uneventful, but the jungle was very interesting. When you think of a walk in the woods, you have a certain mental image. Most likely, the one you grew up around. A familiar picture. A few steps into the jungle and you quickly realize this is a very foreign land. The shapes, colors, size and scale are all different…your mind is confused. You know you are on a walk in the woods, but it’s not what you know. Ah the sense of adventure. Everything here seems giant. The palms, trees leaves, whatever. It’s really interesting. The best thing to me is the light. It’s very filtered from the canopy overhead, only a few shafts peek through from the blazing Sun. And then the noise, you become very aware that this place is one large composition of plant and animal all staking out a small piece, making their own sound, staking their turf, but all and all, living together as one large place—
The Amazon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

By the light of the Moon

Each morning we all gather with a cup of coffee to prepare for the day ahead. We sit around, usually on a stack of timbers, considering the completed tasks from the day before, and what we will strive for as the new day fast approaches. Tasks are laid out and then teams assembled, people usually shifting from different roles in the frame raising process. Of course, the leadership team is doling out the work… but today a surprise. “Gang, tonight we are going to raise Bent 1 by firelight, under the full moon” said John Miller. We had all been watching the moon, as it seems to us that dawn and dusk here are short. Raise a bent in the moonlight…. why not?

The full Moon---Ready, set, raise!

The day progressed under the heat of the Sun as usual, sweating along at 100+. Remember now, this is still dangerous work so we made very sure that all was in place to essentially just lift the bent into place and stow it for the night. The lifting process is pretty simple really; we attach cables to the top of the frame, which is lying flat, then pull it up with some special winches that are tied back to the frame we raised previously. The hard part; pumping the winch. The cables come inch by inch with each pump…up and down, with the handle in hand. Kind of like deep knee bends with a heavy weight. So who were the lucky (or unlucky, if you will) to pump…. why Chuck of CI and the Architect, of course. Why not let them experience the hard work in the 100+ heat. Pull that cable, pump that winch, up, down….Yea, that’s how. The bent started to lift, creaking and groaning along the way. To help, the local men of Raleighvallen all gathered to bring rhythm to the job with drums of all shapes and sizes…. beating and pounding songs of similar nature as the bent headed skyward. Yet anther life experience to remember, all thanks to a love of carpentry and adventure. So what did you do today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thanks to Donna of Bear Dance Joinery for crafting such a great frame! Thanks to all the other helpers, known and unknown.

Thanks to Bob Smith of Bear Dance Joinery for joining a great frame!

Building Walls

I'm up in the frame, the crew below is building a wall on a stage I helped build---"Wallzilla" because the ground is very steep here.

The Project

So why come all this way just to build a timber frame building? Well, to me it’s not just to build a building (I do plenty of that at home) It’s more for the opportunity to learn new skills and work with other people. The Timber frame knowledge base mostly grows through sharing. This building is for the Raleigh Vallen Nature preserve here in Suriname. The preserve is about the size of NJ and the goal of the building is to provide a nice destination for eco-tourists. In a sense, “if you build it, they will come” This lodge will provide rooms, a good kitchen service, common area and a place for administrative offices. It’s kind of funny in a way; walls aren’t really required, as it never gets below 70.
The timber frame was crafted by Bear Dance Joinery (good friends of mine) and Adrienne Walker. The 3 of them spent several months in the Paramaribo, the capitol, cutting all the joints and preparing the timbers for transport. Remember the canoe ride?
All the timbers came the same way. 100 tons of wood. Plus all the stuff you need to get it up. Tools, scaffolds, ladders, generators and all our personal gear was sent via the canoe. There were many trips over several months. When we leave, much lighter, we will fly out via small plane. For more photos, check out the where there are daily reports. Thanks for checking in.

This is bent 5. Bents are "slices" of the structure. This is one of the biggest.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Here is the whole buiding as a drawing, And our progress as of Friday; Red is Up!

Our timber project. This is Bent 3 going up. The wood is very heavy and beautiful.

The locals....

Allways time for Monkey business. These are spider monkeys, getting a treat of Plantain.

Our lives here are busy with the assembly and erection of this timber building. And we have in some ways overwhelmed this little community with our tools, big timbers and sprawl of gear, that it will never be the same again. We’ve also fit right in. There are 3 cooks in the Kitchen who keep us well feed with some amazing chow, the locals come and help us during the day on the frame and the children that live here all find us friendly. We like them too. I had not seen the monkeys who hang around the village until lunch today (Sat) when the kitchen help offered me a plantain (like a banana) to feed them. As soon as they saw this, they tuned right in, coming down to see who could get the first treat. All I had to do was hold up the small piece and they would take it right from my fingers with a very gentle hand. Some even carefully guided it to their mouths while I held it up. Then of course, the fight broke out---someone got a piece and someone else decided to take it. It was like a siren went off…. screeching and chirping the whole bunch went into this crazy frenzy in the bushes. Everything settled we all moved on.

Welocme to our Job Site--or at least the view from our rooms.