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“Except for church on Christmas Eve, we do not have large gatherings. For three days we visit our closest neighbors and have a good time drinking and telling stories. On Christmas day, we prepare our favorite meal of goat, chicken or beef, with rice pilau, and enjoy a long feast.”
“There are more cars at Christmas,” he continued. “Some villagers who have left for good paying jobs in the city return to be with families, but most return by buses that are overcrowded and slow during this time.”
I mentioned that it was pretty much the same routine in Canada.
“What about gifts? Back home on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning in Canada, families open presents given to each other. It is a special time, especially for children, who become very excited.”
“We mostly do not have that,” Mathew replied. “We buy cards for our friends and neighbors to show our appreciation for helping us when we have problems.”
The weather was holding out; it hadn’t rained since the last visit, so progress at the site was good. A half-mile from the site, I was excited to see the school’s walls extending above the horizon: “Mathew, this is great; the school is taking shape and will be able to be seen from many miles away,” I said. “Classrooms rising from the clay.”
The walls were completed to the lintel level, and the workers were working on the formwork and concrete work for the last few posts and were about to start the formwork for the lintel beams. I got there just in time to explain to Fabian that the rebar spacing in the 12-inch deep centre beam in each classroom had to be a minimum 9 inches instead of the 4 inches he was planning.
I would need Mathew’s help translating this to Fabian, but I could see him off in the distance, pacing, with his cell phone glued to his ear. I wondered how Rose was doing. He would end up phoning her every hour or so for the rest of the day.
Fabian’s aggressive scheduling of just over four weeks to build the school meant that the major construction of the septic pit would not be finished until a month or so after the school building was completed if rain was light. But if the heavy rains came, it would have to wait until the dry season next April-May. When he explained the fifty foot deep hole that was to be dug, I questioned, “You mean 15 feet deep.”
“No, fifty feet . We don’t want to pump it out for fifty years.” The ten-foot diameter hole was to be 49 feet deep. It sounded a little dangerous to build.

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