daniel and i caught a ride to chapagaon this morning with my friend samten, a real cool french/american young buddhist guy that has been living in kdu for some time with his parents. there is mad construction work going on at the monastery, today was an important day as the slab for the first floor (second floor in american english) was laid for the new public health clinic that adjoins the monastery.
building technique is quite different in south asia than in the west; here everything is done with a combination of iron rebar, concrete and local brick, which comes in an amazing array of quality and durability. first a rebar grid is laid on the flattened area where the building shall be raised, and old battered boards are used to build little walls creating channels surrounding the rebar; concrete is poured to create a solid network of uniform rows and columns of cement. the pillars will be built on top of these, using rebar and concrete as well, poured into boxes built around vertical fagots of rebar. bricks are set between these concrete pillars for the non-loadbearing walls. the floor is filled with concrete. once the pillars are up and some walls built, wooden planks are laid horizontally where the ceiling of the first level will be, covered with sheets of plastic. concrete is literally poured right on top of this to create the slab for the next level, carried up from the mixer on the ground by an assembly line of workers, who pass dishes of concrete between them. they are actually a specialized crew, who does this for a living, passing dishes of concrete all day long. the only power tools in use today, possibly the only ones on the whole site, were the cement mixer and a cement agitator, which is a gas powered machine with a tube that functions to shake the cement in place, sending the airbubbles to the surface. the rest is done by hand.
i also had my first motorcycle lesson the other day, and will have more this week. i like the feeling of riding the bike, a royal enfield 500cc. i'm going to likely buy my friend ram's 350cc royal enfield, which will be great not only for getting out to chapagaon and back to kathmandu, but is also suitable to make road trips outside the valley, even through india. hehehehehehheh!
daniel leaves tomorrow morning for china, he's got a year long gig with the bridge fund to teach english in the old border town between kham (tibet) and sichuan, china. now it is a part of sichuan, called kangding in chinese and dartsedo in tibetan. he'll be getting paid, but not a whole lot i expect because it is a nonprofit NGO. it is a good deal in many ways though, and he'll actually be working with tibetan (khampa and amdopa) kids who had to test into the program. godspeed, goodluck to him!