Monday, May 25, 2015

Bond beam getting poured

The boat came back from Atauro with a number of water filters and some grinders being sold.  Other products were left with key people in each village who may sell them over the next month.

This week on the training centre the team poured the “bond beam”.  This is a steel reinforced beam around the the bottom of all the walls.  The trick with this is to make sure any plumbing and electrical (and communications and sound) that are coming up from the floor are already set into the beam.  Anen has done a great job with trying to get all the wires and pipes in the right places (considering these people are more skilled at building grass huts than 2 storey buildings).

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Pouring the concrete to make the bond beam.  Note the electrical cabling is set in wherever they hope to put a power point.







The reo steel is made of 10mm steel rod and 6 or 8mm loops that curve around the outside.  As I am Australian and the builders are Timorese we constantly have disagreements about what is important for strength.  I try to stay patient and positive at this point.

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Reo is tied up with dedication – apparently the more loops the stronger it is!

“Boxes” of plywood are made up around the steel to pour the bond beam.  Note that they do not lay a slab at this point.  In fact, in this part of Asia they rarely lay a slab preferring instead to lay floor tiles later on a 50mm bed of mortar.  This is partly because their building process is quite messy with lots of concrete being splashed everywhere.

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Plywood “boxes” ready for concrete to go in.

Anen wants to fill up all the inside of the building with soil after this and lay down a thin layer of concrete to help with the rest of the building process.

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Its a steaming hot country but they choose to wear long sleeves, with Apoli on the right working in a thick hoodie.2015-05-23 12.01.27

Lucas’s recording studio with pipes in the ground to take sound cables from the desk to the sound room (behind) and from the desk to the front of the training room.


The costs are already exceeding my estimations but I hope I’ll make it up further down the line.

Budget for the building (US$):

Costs so far: $9500

Contributions: $7500

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Voyage of New Technology

Yesterday we were able to see our little ship off to embark on a circumnavigation of Atauro, the island north of Dili.  They are loaded up with a couple of drums for corn storage, the next generation of water filter sets, improved food grinders and a new product for Timor-Leste:  chicken wire!


Our beautiful boat after a recent makeover where Tobias (left) has given the roof a new paint job and more importantly plugged the hole underneath.  Note the pot plant heading to the island!

IMG_0278The white buckets are the new filter sets.  Its a food grade plastic specially imported for the job.  It sports a new dome ceramic filter with activated carbon inside and impregnated with silver, a dispenser tap and sticker to explain how to clean the filter and contact details for replacement.  With a total of 40L of water storage, I think some Timorese families value it as a convenient water storage device more than its ability to provide safe drinking water.  One system like this will set them back $25.  Tobias and Emmy sold five at the first village they stopped at.  They have 25 big sets and 24 medium sets to be delivered to at least 5 villages around the island.

Corn is the staple diet of Timorese.  It is a hard grain like “maize” rather than a sweet corn and it is often ground into a grit before eating.  The most common method of grinding corn is to pound it in a hollow log.  It looks very cool but its hard work for the women and not altogether hygienic as dogs and pigs like to clean out the log when they have finished.  I’ve also heard of risk of prolapse if this work is done with a weak uterus such as after giving birth.  Another grinding techniqueIMG_0245 is to place one or two grains on a rock and smash them with another rock – a bit tedious.  So I thought of introducing the hand grinder.  Its a simple design similar to a meat mincer and is extensively used in South America.  It bolts onto the table and grinds a bowl of corn in a few minutes.  I found a model to demonstrate this one.  The boat is carrying 36 of these at $20 each. 


The corn grit from the grinder, size is determined by distance of the grinding plates from each other.  Flour can be achieved with patience.

For those into the bits and pieces, here are some pictures showing detail:IMG_0251

The hopper from above.



The fixed grinding plate, a simple arrangement.


IMG_0254The moving plate with screw thread for feeding the grains toward the grinding plates, and shaft which connects to the crank.


The boat is also taking two rolls of chicken wire which will help to save chickens and vegetables.  Unfortunately, at $80 for 50m, it seems a bit expensive.  I might try to get them to cut it into 3rds to bring down the price and allow testing of the mesh.

So all up, this boat is carrying around $2000 worth of gear which is a serious haul for these guys.  Lets hope the sea is kind.  The 5 day journey will end at the main town on the island in time for the national day of independence.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Rock foundations nearly done

The building of the training centre is moving ahead.  The rock foundations are mostly done for all but the main training room.  We will focus on trying to get the sewing centre functional first and then see how time and funds permit for the rest. 

IMG_0237Anen (white shirt) and Amau (blue) inspect their work at the end of a hard week.

The building team consists of a head builder, Anen, who is about 32.  His job is to make sure people are working and not slacking.  He also holds the money I give him and keeps account of how its spent.  He writes down every little thing in an exercise book.  Anen spends a fair amount of time negotiating trucks of rock, sand and supplies like steel and cement.  He has 2 builders under him.  These three I can trust well.  Then there is a rotating force of about 5 -  8 young men mixing concrete, carrying rocks and digging trenches.

Together we’ve done 3 or 4 buildings already but this is certainly the biggest.  They are still not confident in setting out the building with right angles and they make mistakes with the tape measure.  I am really challenging them to lift their game this time with full size (400 x 200) besser blocks (US – cinder blocks?) using a core filled reo steel technique.  We’re all working hard to try to get the reo fixed into the rock in the right places so it lines up with holes in the blocks and on either side of window and door openings.  But we’re making a lot of mistakes.  I only get onsite an hour or so every few days to check it out.


Reo steel is set into the foundations to (hopefully) line up with holes in concrete blocks, then the blocks are filled with concrete.

In the end, so long as its strong and dry inside, that’s what buildings are about, ay?

The challenge for next week will be making sure any plumbing, electrical, communications and sound cabling is prepared before a concrete bond beam is poured.  Whatever we get right now will significantly reduce headaches later.


The section to the left is for the training room.  On the right is the big mixing pad – all concrete is mixed by hand.

If you’re interesting in the funding side of things for this project then read on, if not, then stop here. 


I’ll try to give an update on funds as we go.  This is not intended to induce pangs of “please donate” but just to keep folks informed who are interested in contributing.

Approximate funds are quoted in US dollars:

Projected total cost: $160,000

Income: $7500

Expenditure: $5000

Yeah, ok, call me crazy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A new roof

Took the plunge and removed the roof to our bedroom this week.  The thatch can be used to shade the chicken pen.  I splashed out and bought 4 sheets of quality zincalume roof sheeting. 

IMG_0059 (1700 x 1275)

Taking out the thatch roof.

We’ll also re-line the walls, changing the split bamboo for plaster board.  The bamboo was severely infested with grubs that leave behind a very fine dust.  It seems some of my efforts to be more natural have failed.  These natural building products tend to attract lots of critters and impact on Cynthia’s breathing. 

Emmy made the comment that the money we spent on this one room could build a whole (small) house for Timorese.  It wasn’t meant to be a nasty comment.  Its all part of that conundrum, it costs a lot for us to be here but if I didn’t do it then we simply couldn’t be here to do the other things we do.

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For three nights, I’ve enjoyed sleeping with the stars.

I’m also reading through the book of Joshua in the Bible which basically describes what we would call today “genocide” in the name of God.  I also wanted to understand more about the Armenian genocide in 1915 that is being talked about.  Interesting that the ANZACs attacked Turkey the day after the arrest of the Armenian intellectuals.  Makes me wonder had the allied forces been successful in capturing Turkey if they could have prevented the mass killings of innocent Armenians that followed this event during 1915.  Perhaps this genocide was the precursor that informed Hitler’s approach to the Jews.  Puts another spin on the justification of Australians and New Zealanders attacking Turkey.  There is so much about this world that is complicated.  I wish I was less judgemental.

Cynthia is feeling better.  We still go in and out of fevers which just seems part of being here in the wet.  Things like hand grinders, barbed wire and chicken wire are starting to be sold out into the districts through the small business, CPB.  And the training centre is getting a rock foundation.