|Working hard on the foundation|
For a start, the initial quote for the materials that the builder gave us was wildly off. 12,000 bricks? More like 5,000 bricks. $35 for sand? Try $400 for sand. 20 cents per foot of timber? 40 cents is much closer to the mark.
There was no malice on the part of our builder. He doesn’t make any profit from the materials. It just makes controlling the budget nigh on impossible.
There also seems to be the unwritten rule in Uganda building contract law: “Builders” do all the technical work, while “porters” do all the heavy lifting, mixing of concrete, moving rocks and so on.
This annoyed me no end to start with. I kept on thinking: We’re paying you good money. Why can’t you just move that god damned bag of cement!
And then people would move rocks for us early in the morning without seeking prior approval from us and then expect to get paid. I was so irate. I was venting to people around me. “They can’t do random work for us and then expect us to pay them. That’s like blackmail. And I’m sure as hell not gonna be paying them 4,000 shillings for a day’s work. They can take 1,000 now for the rocks, or 3,000 later for a day’s work. Either way, I don’t give a shit!”
Once I had calmed down a bit and talked to some people wiser than me – both African and fellow volunteer – I let it go. It just wasn’t worth the mental toll it was taking on me. The builder vs. contractor thing is just the way things are done here. We are not being taken for a ride.
It reminds me a little of concept of time both here and in the Philippines. When I first arrived in the Philippines, it drove me nuts. “Let’s meet at midday” somehow meant that turning up at two in the afternoon was perfectly okay. As soon as I realized that it was the way things were done, I let it go and life got better.
Despite all the stress, the first stage of the school is almost done. The roof is set to go up on Monday.