Thursday, July 28, 2011

Slow but fast

Hi All

This post is hurled at the www through some kind of connection that is working at 300km/h! it takes a while to load, but it loads! Let"s see what it does if I try to upload pictures!

The next recap: My project in Minden, Germany.

I was given two weeks to build a dual purpose shelter for the school yard of the Waldorf school in Minden. My friend Nicole's son just completed the third grade there, and the last three weeks of hte school year are dedicated to a building project of sorts.
This fit wonderfully well into my schedule. This way I wouldn't have to bum around Europe without purpose, but was supervised by a group of Mom's that didn't want their ten year olds to get hurt.

I'll take away the suspense and post one picture of the completed raising. Again if it will work.
It only took 5 minutes!

In writing then first and plenty of pictures later. We're pulling into Bruxelles by the way. Barely an hour after leaving Aachen.

Here is the classic story of a project in a foreign country. Even with much preparation on the part of the locals, namely Nicole, there were plenty of challenges, that in hindsight could have been foreseen.

The lumber was delivered and in fine shape. 5x5 pine with a few larger pieces. German timber framing is not terribly complicated.

The work site was a different story. When I did a half day timber framing introduction with the same kids in February we were in the shop room. With plenty of benches and out of the weather. Arriving on Monday ( a day off for the kids) we were told that the shop room was going to be occupied a lot and not available.... Hmmm. No sawhorses and a weather forecast that is less than friendly. So we go to improvise work stations and a tarp for a roof. Both are not satisfactory, but we will have to work with them for a few days. The rain is always just on the cusp, so we can stay outside, but are ready to move into the hall at any time.
Amidst all the chaotic setup we have to keep either 12 or 14 kids busy. They can saw and they can chip at the waste wood to make tenons. The chisels from the school are sized to the kids- not necessarily to the task. But I find out rather quickly that that does not matter. Most of the kids are quite happy to chip away at big tasks with small tools.
There are 26 kids in the class which are split up into two groups. While one is working with me, the other is in the class room building little huts out of clay and twigs with the teacher. I have the help of usually 3 Moms and one Grandfather. They need to have the process explained as well, but then they help supervise the kids. My role is then to go around and make adjustments and give hints as to what to pay attention to.
After three days our activities have been noticed by most of the students and all of the teachers and we are attracting fans, like the french teacher and (very important) the head of school finances. But also the shop teacher has allowed me to do work in the shop room in the afternoon, where I finish the days work and prepare the next day.

After three days I feel like there is a rhythm that allows for good progress but most of all for busy kids. The tasks are repetitive, but they enjoy doing something that has already been explained.
On Saturday there is a Summer Fest for the students and parents of grades one through four. Unexpectedly plenty of the third grade Dads show up and quickly complete all the work I had set out for the day. But I scramble and manage to keep them busy as well.
As we move on into the next week we set our raising day for Wednesday, since we'll need to roof on Thursday and Friday is the last day before vacations. We had just got started and it was crunchtime!

But. As the kids got more comfortable with the work, I got more comfortable giving them new tasks. Such as involving them in layup and layout. We did very simple scribes and also used the German layout technique where pieces are laid on the floor on top of a one to one scale drawing of the frame. It was very interesting to see how differently the kids picked up the process and were able to follow it or even reproduce it on their own.
By Tuesday all the pieces were cut and fit, so Wednesday could be the big raising day.
Pieces were assembled to walls, pegged and raised together or piece by piece. We even managed to get the kids up on scaffolding and drive in some big rafter spikes.
Nicole and I spent tuesday evening with rewriting a raising poem, so that it fit to the occasion and as the last rafter was fastened and the Raising Crown attached I gave the little speech to quite a little gathering. There was plenty of food and juice to celebrate and so we did.
On Thursday we roofed the little structure with donated tiles, which was not necessarily a class level activity since we could not allow the ids on the roof. But at least the parents and teachers got a chance.

Of course there are always little leftover tasks for the last day, but they were quickly taken care of and I was given a grand good bye by the class.

Pictures to follow soon!

Actually, one at a time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Internet trouble

Hi All!

I've had a few days at home with my parents and managed at least one good blog post. The others will have to wait for better opportunities because the home internet collapsed after an upgrade attempt. And the mac spoiled kid that should be able to fix it like nothing is no good for PC's. So it's off to the good old internet cafe. But sorry. No pictures!

I did manage to buy a new digi cam since the faithful old 2 mega pixel dinosaur got a sliver it its foot and died of a puny little infection. It got replaced in the same store though with it's eightth (or however one writes that word) generation cousin.

I picked up an ancient skillsaw to make up forall this modernity though. I hope it will be the work horse we need it to be in France!

So packing tonight and off tomorrow! Less than 3 hours on the train- they must have completed the high speed rail since I last took it. It used to be four hours flat.

All the best!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little recap

A week in Munich!

And what would Bavaria be without beer?

This was a variety from Franconia, the northern part of Bavaria around N├╝rnberg, where my brother in law is from.

Just as Bavarian is the salty Pretzel. Just the right stuff for the evening Brotzeit.

My sister and her husband have just bought a house, and were handed the keys on the first day I visited. But they had already had access and had ordered materials for me to work with:

They gave me the choice between installing insulation and hardwood floor. I immediately said hardwood floor and repeated that several times, but:


So. After working on 90 degree days in an attic that is as ventilated as attics get I needed rewards: a beer garden with a big screen tv showing the womens soccer world cup for example.

Or a jump into the Starnberger See, which must be just a stones throw south of Plymouth Bay- judging by the water temperature...

There were three Thunderstorms later that night!

Sandy Ralf and Pia helped as much as their busy schedule allowed.

And all went to the Tollwood Festival in the olympic park on my last day



Word of advice:

If you have the choice of doing insulation or a wood floor, lobby hard for the wood floor.

But I love my family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Five countries 2days

A week late, I admit. But not ommited:

Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany!
Thats Zloty,Euro, Forint, Euro and Euro again.

Not the easiest thing to navigate when the police in Slovaki
Hungary has such a toll and so does Austria. Around 8 Euro for 4 days to a week, just in case anyone is looking to travel anytime soon.a takes away most of the Euro currency due to a minor infraction... Apparently one has to buy a vignette for the use of
Slovakian Highways.... Tough luck on about 20 Kilometers of such roads travelled.

My friend Nicole did me the great favor
of coming to pick me up in Poland and drive me to Munich. With all the luggage and tools I had up in the little room in the datcha, any bus or plane ride would have been an ordeal.
This way we got treated to an ever changing landscape, a series of small towns and big cities, rain and sunshine. Endless fields of sunflowers and surprisingly, olive plantations!

Thankfully none of the border crossings were as intense as the one to Ukraine. Although we would have had a bit of time to find out about traffic regulations...

A quite exciting round trip. Even without acquaintances with local police. Relying on a navigation device, we headed south west, not quite realizing which way we'd end up going. a friendly Slovakian who helped us secure the proper sticker for the windshield was ahead of the game and wondered whether we'd be traveling through Hungary. It turned out that we were. At the border we stopped and payed toll- slig
htly disappointed that it's just a receipt, and not a sticker- exchanged Zloty for Forint, felt rich for a few hours, until we had to pay for a hotel room.
Still inexpensive for the location. I can see why Hungary is a popular destination for Germans.

We stayed in the town of Miskolc, had some great Gyros with spicy ketchup, that I remembered they are famous for, braved the constant rain and enjoyed the local beer somewhat more than the local Rock and Roll band.
The next day we got up early to continue on to Budapest, which we now knew was along the way. And what a treat that turned out to be: Beautiful weather and a stunning display of palaces and cathedrals along the danube. I'd love to spend a week there sometime in the future and wander and explore the streets and stores that rival any great city on this continent!

We gave ourselves an hour and a half, before speeding along the highway past Vienna and Salzburg, skirting the North edge of the Alps on to Munich. We
arrived just in time for Brotzeit ('breadtime'), the bread and cold cuts evening meal, much to the delight of my niece Pia! Not Bavarian beer to greet us , but the northern Becks, but we weren't picky after a day in the car.

I went through my tools and sent most of them up to Bueckeburg with Nicole, who continued on home on Sunday. I will follow her by train tomorrow, to start project three!