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62 Aggregate January–February 2012 It’s 6:45 p.m., which in midwinter Haiti means it‘s black as midnight. I’m sitting at a picnic table under the lean-to roof at Mission of Hope. A bare light bulb illuminates the drawings in front of me. Beyond, the excavation for the new building is finished . Narrow trails wind up each side of the hole. The paths are little more than three feet wide; in some places the vertical drop is over ten feet. Storage buildings line the west path. These are the newest structures on campus and the only ones that survived the earthquake intact. Plywood sheds have been built on top of their roofs—temporary classrooms until our new building is complete. The east path leads to a string of outdoor toilets and shower stalls. Beyond these is the makeshift kitchen where short, stout women prepare three hundred plates of rice and beans every day for the students. During school hours children scamper along the treacherous routes and through the construction. Everywhere, I see boys in oxford shirts tucked into blue slacks cinched around their thin waists with homemade belts and girls in white blouses and pleated skirts whose lace anklets hover above the dust. They skip and jostle and chase each other along the precipices. If I worried about accidents the fear would paralyze me. At this hour the schoolchildren are gone, but I have other safety worries. The site is crawling with workers who maneuver across exposed steel reinforcing beneath a string of dangling lights that create more shadow than illumination. We’re pouring concrete in a section of the back retaining wall, which is three feet high by fifty-six feet long, including the seven pilasters that will hold 63 Aggregate the hill back when the rains come. We started at six this morning with a prayer circle. I spent most of my day working alongside two Haitians, cutting and bending several hundred pieces of rebar into different shapes. Agile climbers mounted the walls and installed the reinforcing, tying them with metal twists and extending them vertically to connect to future pours. Another crew removed the forms from the lower section of concrete then oiled, repaired, and reinstalled them at the higher level. Now we are pouring the concrete itself, dumping close to a thousand buckets from high ladders. The poured concrete is compacted with a vibrator , a hand-held machine with an oscillating hose that snakes between the formwork and the reinforcing to fill any voids and ensure a consistent mix. Finally, the top of the concrete is troweled to a smooth finish. There are at least fifty people in the construction area. Most of them are young Haitian men. John Amour is on top of the forms giving direction and emptying buckets at the same time. There are a few other blan, Mission of Hope volunteers with chequered construction experience. As darkness sweeps in, I pull rank and decide to sit out the remaining work; I’m not steady enough to dance over rebar in the dark. The concrete mixer churns, and the workers chant as they toss ingredients into the mix while in the shed beyond me the girls’ choir practices its hymns for next Sunday’s service. It’s an odd duet. The electricity goes out. The crew continues to dump concrete in complete darkness; we’re not going to stop. This is John Armour ’s last day at MoHI and his third concrete pour in two weeks. John is an engaging guy, a Nebraska farm boy with tremendous common sense, a terrific rapport with the Haitians, and a fundamental distrust of designer-types like me. He’s tossed all kinds of changes into the construction. So long as they do not compromise the structural integrity I don’t care; the project is big enough for everyone to have ownership. Power resumes, and a hoard of young boys buzz about me like bugs to an incandescent bulb. Actually, it’s my computer that draws them in. They hang on me as I type their names; they gape at the letters that appear on the screen. Three- and four-year-olds in the States know how to use keyboards, iPads, all manner of 64 Architecture by Moonlight technology, but here a laptop is exotic, and ten-year-olds have no idea how to use a mouse or click on a space bar. I guide them to type their own names, but...


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