A Day at the (Concrete) Races

There are reality TV shows about Maine loggers and Bering Strait fisherman and wild men who sleep in camel carcasses.  Can a show about competitive construction be far behind?  Kim, the incredible volunteer from Ohio who is here for three months, staged the pilot at MoHI last week; a faceoff between the World Racers and the home team.

The World Race team is forty or so young men and women from all over the US who are on a yearlong journey around the world, doing service work for a month each in a dozen countries.  My son Andy and I built transitional houses with a team of seven World Racers back in 2010. This month an entire squad of 45 is staying at MoHI, dividing their time between hauling concrete at BLB and hauling concrete at MoHI and hauling backfill at MoHI and painting at the Mission House and repairing the chapel at Saint Etienne.  They sleep in tents scattered all over the compound, eat large vats of rice and are preternaturally cheerful.  This group came from the Dominican Republic and will move on to Romania, Moldavia, South Africa, Mozambique, India, Japan, the Phillipines and a few other places.  I think doing the World Race would be totally cool except for the, uh, Christian thing.  They quote line and verse with the same felicity I quote Simon and Garfunkel.

The Haitian team is twenty Haitian guys, age 20 to 50, masons and laborers, who have probably never been further than Port au Prince.  They show up every day before sunrise and if there is work, they put in a full day.  If not, they go home empty handed and fend as best they can.  They are incredibly strong, rarely drink water and often do not eat food until the day is done, at which time they too can eat large vats of rice.  They are also preternaturally cheerful, except for when they yell at each other, which they seem to relish because after each guy has berated all the others, they are even better friends than they were before. The Haitians are a smaller team, but they have the home field advantage.

Here are the rules.  There are two areas of concrete to pour; the foundation footings at the front of the building and the upper retaining wall at the back. The wall requires fifteen cubic yards of concrete; the footings are fourteen cubic yards.  The footings are 25 feet from the mixer; the retaining wall is 125 feet from the mixer, up a hill.  The retaining wall requires more careful placement in and around the reinforcing.  Oh, and the formwork on the retaining wall is not complete at the start of the race, so the footings crew gets a 45 minute head start.

The teams draw their lots, Haitians on the wall and World Racers on the footings.  Still, before the starting gun sounds, everyone agrees the balance is unfair, so the World Racers trade Kim to the Haitian team in exchange for two local masons.

If you guessed that the team with half as many people and more concrete to pour at a greater bucket distance trampled our earnest young missionaries, you would be right by a full cubic yard.  It is amazing to see these Haitians in action.  They are ready for prime time.  Look for them on a cable channel near you.


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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