I don’t know what I’m going to get, but it’ll be fine

I just had the most profound sense of peace wash over me… not of the spiritual variety, but of the logistical. I was out checking up on the carpenters to make sure they understood my instructions right and were building the right stuff today. I held the plank for the guy as he was sawing out the handle for the drawer he is making. I puzzled for a while about the two pieces he was making, trying to figure out how he’d make a handle out of them. Then it dawned on me, “I don’t know what he’s going to make, but I’m sure it will be fine.”

This realization is the key to working here and not losing your mind. You have to accept that things might not happen the way you expect. It’s OK to maintain your standards, and explain what the minimum standards are, but after that it’s better to just embrace the zen of developing world construction and be pleasantly surprised with what you get. Of course, it helps immensely to have a long relationship with the workers and know from experience that you can trust them. It is a lot harder to achieve the zen state of acceptance when a bunch of people you have never worked with before start mixing concrete according to their own recipe, or ask for salt and laundry blue for the whitewash (both things that have happened to me).

The other nice thing with shutting up and just watching to see what they make is that sometimes you discover really nice details that people here know how to make. It is hard to describe any of these offhand, but there are benefits to approaching a construction project with a bunch of smart people and hand tools. They can adjust for problems in the material that a standardized approach, with power tools might not make allowances for. Everything here is a handcrafted work of art, to varying degrees of quality, depending on the needs.

Ok, it is off to lunch to enjoy a handcrafted meal of varying quality. We’ll see if it is red on white today, or maybe another exotic color on top of rice. My bet is on red though.

PS: Happy Halloween, to those out there who know what it is. And to Scooby Doo, here’s hoping you find a pig’s ear in your trick or treat bag.


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