Home Improvement Is My New Meditation

So far, in my two months here, projects on my house are more successful than community projects. The latter requires cooperation and commitment out of people I don’t know and who don’t know me.

Home Improvement requires mind numbing monotony which is actually relaxing for me.

Laying bricks and cement. Easy.

Painting. Done.

Digging holes for poles and makeshift solar stands. Oh yeah, please…

Meghan’s the new Bob the Builder.

So far I have made six hand washing stations. I have a taller dish rack for my solars to hide away in.

I have built and dug my new solar shower. Hot showers are a hassle here but a bucket on tall pole with a pipe running into the shower and on and off tap is the solution. It is not done yet but it will be. Once every pipe is sealed tight. I pour water in the morning and the sun heats it up for me. I know it will already work because my hand washing container is filled with hot water at 10 in the morning until almost 6. The greatest thing is because the pipe has fast water pressure, if opened all the way, a full bucket of water like almost 15L, will last twenty minutes. But if opened halfway, which is a great pressure and streaming like from a pipe, a full bucket is a forty to even an hour shower.

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It’s perfect.

My host father is an old man of 68 and I’m telling you. It is as if I am staring at my own father. He is a hilarious man who always complains about backache but always doing house work. Fixing the house from sunrise to sundown. The man doesn’t quit. It makes me miss home when my dad would always be fixing.

However, here my bataata fixes anything I need in seconds. In the middle of the night, my door opened and my mom came to tell me to lock the door. I saw that the lock was broken but being tired, I told her I will tell bataata tomorrow. Next moment, he came in and while I slept, he worked until late fixing my lock while my mom helped him hold the door. They are such amazing parents.

When I come home, my dad is always looking for new things to fix or plant and my mom is chilling inside the Insaka or kitchen. She greets me home and being tired from being under the sun so much, I eat and immediately fall asleep. Because we sit on reed mats on the ground, I sleep on her lap while she combs and braids my hair. It’s like when I am at home and I rush to my mom and she smooths the hair from my face.

I feel so much love here. I am spoiled and called daughter. When I am teased by my host brother, I seriously tattle. And when I need anything, and I push hard enough, I can anyone to help me. And I love putting such attention to my home.

After my bataata cements the walls for me since there is no extra plonto or cement layering flat tool thing, I will paint the entire thing white. Then after I come back from Lusaka for training, I will get some nice color matching my nice blue citenge curtains and then it will painted again.

Or maybe I’ll keep it white.

My host dad asked if I am going to extend my house. He built his entire house ON HIS OWN. Almost NINE rooms, including a sitting room, kitchen, dining room, four bedrooms, storage, windowpanes, a cute skylight for illumination and a indoor shower with the water pouring out to his flowers outside. Granted this is not an American house but an indoor shower in Zambia?!

I am definitely extending my house into two more rooms. One room will be my kitchen/prep/ storage area while the other room will be separated by a wall to make two small rooms. One will be my indoor shower with my solar bucket outside so the water will be nice and hot inside. The other room will be a small hallway which I’m going to deck out with only shelves on two sides and on the shorter sides, one nail on each wall. Guessed it? Yup. A hallway library with two sides of books and a hammock in the center so all I have to do is lean or swing from one side to the other to get and return books.

That room will be officially done done next year I think. But the shower room will be done quick. Especially with my handyman dad. And I don’t like carrying my water to my outdoor shower. I’m not that strong. Even though the night sky is a great view during it, getting water ready. Carrying it, etc is a hassle and of my host family has a indoor shower, I should too.

I am also making a jungle gym for the kids but I need chains and something leather for a swing seat. Then I will test it out with my human adult body and then they will go on it. But I’m only testing it…
I don’t have a lifelong obsession and love for being a complete six year old and swings…….

This is just a fun project for my kids because they have been living here and probably will be for a long time with my parents and their grandparents. It’s a project with no purpose but out of love. I want to take my time with this one and forever Meghan will be in their hearts because they’ll forever be in mine.

Getting the wood for that will be easy. Stripping the bark will be annoying but I brought some hardware gloves for my lady fingers.

Then there are other wood projects. Like a solar food dryer. Which I will do during rainy season when mangoes are literally decaying on the road because fruits will be plenty. I also want it to dry papaya skins because they make amazing meat tenderizers so it will be great when steaks get cheap at the butchers during march. And also dried mango, papaya and all fruits imaginable? I say incredibly worth it.

All these projects are happening now and will be done in slowly but I plan to complete them to enhance my life here. Everything I make I am certain to make with only village materials so as to show that these projects are completely accessible. Monkey bars and swing sets. Solar showers are all plastic buckets and pipes anyone can buy in the cheap market stands. My dog house outside for Carlos is also warm on cold nights because of the padding I made. The beams I put into my Insaka at the top cross each other and locked together but now serve as my shelving for large pots and one of the beams will hold my future chalkboard to teach English to kids or HIV talks to shy children who come to my house.

I also weaved a loose rope to the top that I can lower or heighten by untying the rope from the pole and at the top the rope is attached to a clip that clips on to my light. So instead of the light illuminating one portion of the kitchen, it can hang from the center illuminating everything and when I go inside, I just untie the rope and it lowers to the ground and then boom – unclip. That was my idea. My kitchen has so many beams and areas to use and implement in some way.

I also found some metal pipes that were discolored and with some spray paint I will paint some ombré designs and buy some pretty attachments like small stained glass or bells for some wind chimes to hang from the beams overhead.

Everything I reuse. From bottles to broken pieces. I tell my host mom to never throw hardware or plastic without asking me first. I saw a broken end piece of a plant watering bucket and I fixed it to work as my shower piece so that instead of a stream I actually have a shower head. I might remove it soon for a better choice but the point is, everything is reuse able in some way. You can paint it different, add it someway differently. Just look at the possibilities. I saw a broken bucket and it became a plant holder. Two ripped rain boots now hold my growing tomato plants. A large broken plastic drum is now being dug into the ground with the lid to be my natural compost bin. Cecil and Carlos sleep on a plush bed with their names graffitied on the sides made with duct tape and cardboard, citenge fabric and makeshift cushion and finally painted and designed by yours truly.

Look at your garbage. How much of your stuff can be redesigned, DIYed, revamped, and creatively used in a different way. Reuse what you can find. Rethink garbage. We are living in a world overflowing with used materials and it will be in our children’s lives when these piles become noticeable. Teach your children to reuse and revamp instead of considering garbage as garbage.

Of course I don’t reuse everything but I found a purpose for those things not actually considered garbage yet. Show our children that things can be made a new and given new lives and new chances.

Especially with my projects that can enhance my life with materials found anywhere around my village and accessible materials in town. Especially me walking around my neighbors and teaching about reusing garbage. New chances to revamp life. Use this quote to inspire you about this one Earth we got after the Big Bang.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

 

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Home, Sweet Home

 

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