Old School Lumber

Slowly but surely, the Lord reminds us that we cannot operate based on assumptions in Paraguay. That's a lesson learned bit by bit, experience by experience, more often entertaining than not. Last week provided a great example.

Our new house echoes. Not in a "that's a unique feature" sort of way, but in a "I can't even have a conversation" kind of way. It's a function of high ceilings (to allow all of the heat to rise), bare plaster walls (standard issue in the city), and tile floor throughout (I cannot even imagine carpet here with the heat, humidity, and critters). As we've purchased, borrowed, and made furniture to fill it for this year of city living, we've been waiting for the echo to subside. No such luck. Thankfully, I'm married to a wonderful woman who likes to get her craft on. Queue the Pinterest searches! In no time at all Jodi had located a great idea for getting some sound absorption on the walls: build a frame and staple a tablecloth to it for a wall hanging. That seemed like a relatively easy task that fit all three requirements for me to accomplish it: cheap, effective, and within my limited range of craftsmanship skills. She snagged two tablecloths at a local store for a bargain and patiently waited for me to figure out the frame-building part of the project. Step one: diagram out the frame. No problem (well, as math was involved, it was a bit of a problem, but still within my limited range of ability - no long division and I didn't have to carry the one anywhere). Step two: head to the lumberyard and grab the wood.

As it turns out, step two took a bit longer than expected. In Paraguay, lumberyards don't exist. Neither do Home Depots, Lowes, or your friendly local spot. This is an old school country, and as near as I can observe, folks aren't big DIY/Pinterest project lovers when it comes to building things from wood. The Paraguayan approach is actually pretty straightforward. You address a need like this by heading over to your local neighborhood carpenter and asking him to build you whatever it is that you need. My problem (besides speaking neither Spanish nor Guarani yet, among others) was that the frames would be too big to transport back home on top of our 4x4 even if I could effectively communicate what it was that I needed. So, off to the local carpenter I went, dreading the dumpster-fire of a conversation I was about to kick off.

Streetside carpenteria in our neighborhood

I now know that we are blessed with a gem of a local carpenter. With my painfully bad drawing of the sticks of lumber I needed (with measurements in Metric units and all) I was able to convey what I needed: 8 sticks 2cm x 2cm x 172cm, and 4 sticks 2cm x 2cm x 176cm. In the process, I was blessed with a peek into his shop. He had stacks of rough cut lumber; basically trees crudely squared off. He owns what seems to me like a truly gigantic planer, which he uses to finish off the wood once he rips it roughly to size. After a bit of wheeling and dealing, he agreed to make the wood per my drawings, to be picked up "mañana de la mañana" (tomorrow morning). When we came back the next morning, the wood was tied up in a tidy stack, ready to roll, planed and cut to perfection and straight as, well, straight as a board. It worked perfectly, and reminded me that even when things go differently than I had expected, they work pretty well. In true Paraguayan fashion the end product did what I needed it to do, even though in a different manner than I had planned on, and in the mix I ended up spending time with somebody new and appreciating another unique facet of this new culture.

Indoor/outdoor workspace
Creative workspace!
Final product.

For those interested in how lumber and wood construction works on a bit larger scale and in the compaña (countryside), I've included a few pictures of a church that was built this month by a First Nations village and our dear friend Peter Ratcliffe and his son Daniel.

I've also included a photo taken last week by our teammate Kevin Howell of the delivery truck that brought his lumber for a project.

Talk about old school!!

Until next time . . .

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