Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trying To Fit A Square Peg Into A Round Hole

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, I'm sure it has become apparent that we are forever trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It all started with the purchase of the house, I mean who in their right mind would purchase a house on their very first visit to a foreign country, much less a house that needed a total redo? Oh well this is now all water under the bridge and we have come too far to turn back now.

It's hard to believe that this project has now been thirteen months in the making and our best guess is that it will at least be three more months to completion. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it took even longer. There is so much finish work to be done besides everything else that needs to be completed. The workers still have to finish Putting up the masonry and then the tedious job of chipping out all of the mortar between the bricks Yikes! The rentals need to be designed and finished as well.

Rod has decided to build the Mother of all Stove hoods with a huge beam placed on the bottom front. I sure hope these guys know what they are doing. This stove hood could definitely kill someone if it were to fall on them.

The Carpenters still have many pieces to complete such as cabinets, bookshelves, closets, shelves and so on and so forth. Since everything is handmade it takes a lot longer to construct than the machined pieces we have in the U.S. For instance the bookshelves that I am having made for my computer room...the sides are two pieces of board glued together and then planed and sanded. The shelves themselves slide into two center boards that are notched out by hand, rather than the way that we are familiar with of two support pieces on either side that the shelf than sits on.

It is really funny that no matter what power tools we provide to the workers, they still prefer to use hand tools. The carpenters do use some power tools, but for the most part everyone would rather work with old fashioned handsaws, sand paper, hammers and lots of elbow grease.

We got into a discussion over dinner last night about how important it is for the Ecuadorian culture to spend time with their families and take time off to enjoy the many holidays and celebrations that Ecuador has to offer. This can be frustrating to us Gringos at times when we have a task at hand that seems to be critical and our crew shuts down the project for Siesta or Holidays, but I was quick to get on my soapbox about how so much of the American workforce culture compares. The Ecuadorian people work very hard while on the job and our workers in particular perform a lot of hard manual labor, so it only makes sense that at the days end or a Holiday they are ready to be with family and friends and leave the job behind. Something we Americans can't seem to grasp. On the other hand I wanted to point out that in the States so many workers seem to waste half of their work day emailing, texting, talking on the phone and socializing with their co-workers, while the average Ecuadorian is hard at work with task at hand from early in the morning to early evening.

The last couple of days have been particularly interesting as the Architect has been trying to figure out how to make the floor pattern work that Mom and I chose for the common areas. In our great wisdom, we of course chose an elaborate brick and wood pattern that we thought would be beautiful, never giving a thought that the pattern was comprised of many squares and our house is anything but. The workers would carefully lay out the pattern around the courtyard only to get to an edge and realize that the pattern had become crooked because not only are the walls crooked, but the opening to the courtyard is crooked as well. There we go again trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

We have come to realize that we need to embrace all of the quirky nuances of our house instead of fighting them and work with them the best that we can. Area rugs will do wonders and the Carpenters and Masonry workers know many tricks to fool the eye. We may look at something head on and swear it is crooked, but when a level is placed on it we are made a liar of or when viewed at a different angle it looks perfectly straight. Our workers have many talents and we have learned to use them wisely. Happily there seems to be a work around for most any obstacle that presents itself.

We have noticed that many of the hotels around town have architectural renderings and photographs of the renovation process of their buildings hanging on their walls. Some of the renderings resemble the fun house at the carnival, complete with crooked walls, sloping floors and rickety roof lines. In keeping with tradition we will do the same and be proud of all the flaws that give our house character.

Mom and I discovered a wonderful little bakery just around the corner from us. Would you look at those prices. This may become a really bad habit for us having fresh baked goods so close to home.

The trucks are still picking up construction debris from the house. I think this is nĂºmero 60 + and no end in sight.

It's hard to believe that we have less than four days before we must leave our project behind and once again return to the States. Mom and Bob were supposed to return in two weeks to start the process of obtaining their Cedula, but now the plan has changed and Bob has offered to carry the torch and return by himself to oversee the project for two or three weeks. This then allows Mom to stay home and work on preparations for the move. Once January rolls around, the time on her passport will renew again and she will be able to obtain her Cedula without any problem.

Mom, Rod and I are already planning what we can send in Bob's suitcases ...river rock for the shower floor, faucets or how about some stove exhaust fans for the stove vents? Just kidding Bob. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole again.

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  1. I hope you don't think you get a clean slate on your passports just because January rolls around, it does not work that way.

  2. Really fascinating post. I certainly appreciate the challenge all of you took on with all the major renovations. Once all the construction is done, and you guys get to move in; I don't think you'll want to move anywhere else for a long, long time. Aren't the Ecuadorian people just fabulous? They really know how to appreciate what's important in life. Good luck with the remaining construction. Jim Mola (Cuenca)