After visiting the monastery at Amarbayasgalant on Saturday, we went north on Sunday to visit the Mother Tree, one of the holiest sites for the Mongolian people. Here, people and families visit from around the country to offer gifts and prayers. People often picnic in the shadow of the tree as many view this as an all-day event.
After the weekend was over, we headed back to the worksites to continue building the houses. Teams were split into different groups, with one group concentrating on filling any gaps in the walls with cement and others working to place the 2” x 6” lumber on top of the walls in order to place the ceiling support pieces. Here we encountered our only power tool of the build – a drill – which we used to drill holes in the wood positioned at the top of the wall to help anchor the roof to the walls.
Next, we placed the joists on the roof, spacing them to allow us to place the previous cut pieces of wood that would become the ceiling and also support the rafters of the roof itself.
We could tell the trust level between us and the building staff was increasing as there was less supervision over the various projects, allowing the local staff to concentrate on the next steps in the build process. A simple series of words in English and Mongolian were used to convey messages to help speed along the building process so as not to rely too much on the interpreter that was with us.
While teams were placing the rafters, another group was working from inside the house, cutting smaller blocks of gypsum to place in between the joists and cementing them in place. While this work was going on, cattle would wander in and out of the worksite, grazing for food and watching us work. After awhile, they would lazily leave and move on to their next grazing site.
Raising the rafters began to give the house its shape. Rafters were carefully placed and fitted to prepare for the placement of the metal roof. The frame for an external attic door was placed on one end. With no attic access from inside the house, a ladder was placed on the outside to allow the owner to access the attic area.
Towards the end of the day, a crew started to place the windows. The future owner of the house was seen standing inside staring out through the window with a huge smile. It was a fitting end to the day.
One of the ladies with the build group also works for an organization that provides eye glasses to women. She brought her glasses with her, and with the help of the interpreter, was able to meet with more than a dozen local women and provide them with reading glasses.
Over the next couple of days, we will finish the roof, insulation and frame the door. Though everyone in the group is tired by the end of the day, morale continues to stay high and everyone continues to look forward to continuing building the houses.