Thursday, June 30, 2005

¡Y escuche! Mis brazos están cansados.

As mentioned earlier, I'd already decided to hire one or more laborers to help with clearing the site and digging for the foundation. In Oakland and Berkeley, there are various locations where you can hire day laborers. For example, near Truitt and White in Berkeley, there are dozens of men waiting every morning, hoping for work. I figured I'd try hiring one, and when I found someone I worked well with, keep hiring them as long as I needed them. Good for them to have steady work, hecka easier for me.

But several weeks ago when I was volunteering at Habitat, one of the future homeowners was working there putting in some of her 'sweat equity' hours. She'd brought 3 friends with her. Unfortunately, while she speaks English quite well, none of her friends spoke any English at all. Which relegated them to menial tasks, because no one wanted to try to explain more complicated tasks to someone who was likely to be there only once, and in another language to boot. But we eventually got them helping us hanging drywall, and in the course of things, my limited Spanish led me to believe one or more of them was in search of work -- they'd done the 'wait to be hired' thing many times, with not much success.

I confirmed this with Angelica, the future homeowner, and told her I was waiting for permits from the city ("permiso de la ciudad"), and would hopefully need at least one worker in a couple of weeks. We exchanged phone numbers, and I figured it was as good a place to start as any.

Fast forward to this week, and I called Angelica and set up things to hire one of them. I wasn't sure which of the three, nor where exactly they lived (near Fruitvale and Foothill), but I had phone numbers, so Wednesday morning, off I went. I ended up with Edis, a young man originally from Honduras. He's been in the U.S. for about a year, 8 months or so in Houston, and the last 4 months in Oakland. He lives with his mother and his uncle (another of the 3 I'd met) in the Fruitvale district of Oakland.

It's no exaggeration to say Edis works like a man half my age. In no small part because he is half my age. But it's more than that...he's an incredibly hard worker that would work a lot of people into the ground. I know I didn't work that hard when I was 19. He's a nice kid, intelligent, patient with my limited Spanish, and great to work with so far.

Yesterday we dug, pulled up ivy, chopped roots, and Edis did most of the work of digging up a huge stump. And I cut off the corner of the deck where the addition will be. Today I rented an electric jackhammer, and we went back at it. Edis dug for the foundation footing, and I began breaking out a small brick wall and the front walk which is paved with flagstones. Unlike much of the house (minimum perimeter foundation, stick-built framing for everything including the roof, such that the two halves of the house don't line up), the front walk was incredibly over-engineered. Instead of 3 inches of gravel, 3 inches of mortar, 2 inches of pavers, it's more like 5 inches of concrete, 3 inches of mortar, 2 inches of pavers. And not surprisingly, a bear to get through, even with a jackhammer. And boy, are my arms tired.

My Spanish has been rapidly improving, too. The most recent lesson was pulgada: inch. Which makes a lot of sense when you think that pulga is something small, namely a flea (yes, Alameda de las Pulgas on the Pennisula is "way/walk of the fleas"). The joys of language. It's a lot more sensible than English with all its homonyms and words that are spelled one way and pronounced another.

The Mexico mission trips have been good practice for this. There's always stuff to talk to the family about, like where they want their new house, where the door and windows should go, etc. I've gotten enough time to talk with Edis that we've gotten beyond the "hello, how are you" stuff. Yesterday covered some politics ("el presidente es el diablo" got a laugh out of him), and today we talked about biking. Turns out he loves to bike...he has two bikes, a racing bike (bicicleta carrera) and a 'normal' bike (fat tires). I told him about moutain biking in Redwood Regional Park, and he told me about cycling fast in Honduras.

Oh, and we made good progress on the worksite, too :-) Still more of the walkway and brick wall to break out, and more footings to dig for, but we got a lot done.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

hey, i'm looking for a good helper in berkeley. is ibis looking for work? i can be reached at