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  • Writer's pictureLieke Hulshof

Traditional roof building

The activities of our project are more dynamic than ever before. Like a storm at the beach, new shapes are formed, to be shifted and broken off again. The roof of our bathroom house is being rebuilt in the traditional way: a wooden construction with stone slates on top. The slates are being glued to the roof with clay. All materials are local and is should be completely watertight for year, if it’s well constructed. I repeat: if it’s well constructed. The making of such roofs is a disappearing craft in the region, since many choose a steal of concrete roof instead nowadays.

Midst of the storm

The first carpenter heads off quickly with promising words and his son as assistant. He has been doing stonework before at our place, and we go well along with him. After the first part of roof completed, we saw that he had taken the freedom to shape the aesthetics of the building according to his own taste. Not like the traditional build. Here and there he put some metal plates as improvisation. Almost all the slates had finished already. There had to come new ones, and Karan found more slates in a nearby village. The first rains of the summer came and the new roof part started to leak. The newly laid floor also crumbled into pieces. The carpenter that claimed he could do is, could not, apparently. It was time to friendly wave him goodbye. A second carpenter came with convincing stories. First see then believe, we said to him. The next day he started, quite rushy and nervous. Hmm.. He also built a part of the roof, that clearly leaked with the evening rains. Passing neighbours told us to choose a steal roof, but we did not want to give up. Number three came, silent and without promises. He said: give me a chance and if it does not work, you don’t pay. That was that. Concentrated he worked together with his assistant. Everything that had to be broken down, was broken down and redone. This time it looked beautiful. We need to wait for the rains to see if it truly is watertight.. Then we have a party to celebrate and a rain dance to dance.

Learning as we go

While the bathroom is a mud pool, our first volunteer arrives. She’s from South Africa and knows all about permaculture. On her first day she enthusiastically prunes nettles to start the compost. Karan and I both find ourselves running around like a chicken without head with all that’s happening. It is a good learning to not carry more than you can. And examine in small steps if someone can do what he claims. Making agreements for when things go different. Yes, we are learning a lot, in the midst of the storm. With falling and rising, as it goes.

With love,



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