Day 1

Thursday we signed papers, gave money and took responsibility for 94,000sqm of land we can now refer to as ours. Today we headed out there for the first time in this context. We planned to stay over one night and come back tomorrow … but, as is apparent from these words, that didn’t quite work out. We will be going back out there tomorrow morning for another day of work.

We were given one key which opens up one of the existing structures where the other keys can be found. There are many locks to the different structures on the grounds but there seemed to be way more keys. So we began fishing around trying to find a key to open the house. About half way into the pile of keys we found one that worked.

We went inside walked around a bit and looked at each other wondering where to begin. We couldn’t find an answer so we went for a walk outside to have a look around. We then came back in and found two ideas to get us started: (1) clear the space as much as possible and (2) begin rough cleaning from the top down. Andreea went on to fill trash bags with trash and I began cleaning the walls and windows … oh and I brutally disassembled an old bed so I could carry it out.

The house is built of mud and cob and it has an earthen floor covered by plastic-like sheets. On one of the walls we encountered a large slab that had come loose from the wall (I’ll try to get an image of it tomorrow … I didn’t feel like taking pictures today) – which we will fix using locally and naturally available clay behind the house.

We managed to get through one of the rooms. I was the first to lose confidence about staying the night. It was an overwhelming first experience for me (for Andreea too, but I think less then me). My breathing was getting rough from all the dust and I felt emotionally drained. The house has been dormant and going into it feels like a huge resuscitation – we are bringing life back into it. It goes way beyond cleaning and fixing … we are slowly generating energy inside it … an energy that now requires careful maintenance but eventually will grow to support us.

Andreea wanted to light a fire to warm and dry the place from the moisture we brought in. As I started to get the fire going smoke began to pour into the room, apparently our chimney is blocked … here we go … so now we have a dusty, cool (we opened all the windows to let air flow through the house) and now smokey house.

Andreea finally called it and decided to head back to the city and come back again tomorrow morning.

It was a difficult day for me. I am intimidated by the thought of living in this house for a year (as it is still unclear if we will be able to build this year).

We sat down on the stairs to the house to eat before leaving and as we did this I watched our neighbor sowing seeds. She was bent over manually sowing one seed at a time of one plant (I think it was some kind of bean) and in straight rows. I was watching her and thinking of a video of Sepp Holzer tossing a seed-mix onto his terraces … and re-realizing what a long journey it is we have set out on.

On the way back, though tired, I realized the amazing abundance in which we live. Even though we have only basic possessions with us, there will not be space for all of our things in the existing house. Yet in this house lived 5 people (a couple with two kids and a grandmother) with all of their possessions.

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    1. Our plans are to use as little concrete as possible without compromising the foundations. Our architect and engineer offered a creative solution based mostly on rocks (large ones at the bottom then gravel on top and then sand and a thin slab of concrete. It is an unconventional approach – but is tried and true and I have been told it's been done in the UK as well!

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