Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taking Shape

After four weeks of construction, the transformation of our property has been nothing less than amazing. We now have three foundations laid, and tubing for water and electricity has been put into place. We can walk through each building, room by room, and imagine what it will be like to actually live there. Little by little, this is all turning into reality.

Getting to this point in the process so quickly has not been easy. For one thing, our property is located in an area called Fila de Cal, or Line of Calcium, referring to our mountainside. In other words, we’re building on top of huge quantities of solid rock. Apparently, sledge hammers are in short supply (or cost to much to use), so our foundations were dug mostly with pick axes and muscle power. The work was so cumbersome, I could barely watch... Because the terrain posed such a challenge, Patrick suggested to our contractor that he hire more guys to get the job done. Pat rounded up an extra ten men in our small town, and set them all to work. Unemployment in our region is a problem, so for days after that, we received a steady stream of visitors who heard that we were hiring. We now have thirty guys on site, which makes the place hum with activity from every direction.

Although we’ve hired a General Contractor for the construction, Patrick goes to the site every day to answer questions and make sure the materials (which we are supplying) are on hand when they’re needed. I’m not convinced he needs to be there every day, but he can’t seem to tear himself away. He has caught some small mistakes, so it’s probably best that he’s there keeping a watchful eye.

Lucas is also thrilled to be part of the excitement. He loves being able to “help”, and thankfully, the guys are tolerant of his efforts. One thing about Costa Rica is that everyone has a big family with lots of kids, so people are very patient with youngsters. Sometimes, Lucas gets a little too excited ~ Last week, I turned around to find him rubbing cement mix all over his head and body!

So far, the weather has been cooperating, and we’ve only had one big rain shower. The ground is staying dry, which means it’s not as heavy, and the cement has been setting quickly. The sun is hot on the workers’ shoulders, but they seem more accustomed to it than we are. Pat knew what he was doing when he started construction in January.

We’re continuing to cross our fingers and knock on wood, but so far things have been coming off without a hitch. Stay tuned: Next week, walls!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Breaking Ground

After six months of prepping and planning, we finally broke ground this week on the three buildings that will make up our jungle mountain retreat. We’ve been dreaming about this for so many years now, that it’s hard to believe that it’s actually happening! Seeing the buildings take shape on the ground is both exciting and, to be honest, a little daunting. There’s no turning back now, and if all goes as planned, we’ll be in business by this time next year (Yikes!).

Getting everything ready for construction to start was a huge undertaking that almost put Patrick in the loony bin. Among his biggest tasks was finishing the entry road through our property leading to our restaurant and bungalow. This involved finding affordable gravel and having truckloads of it transported (by a rented Mack truck) and distributed (by a rented backhoe). An extended rainy season delayed the work since heavy machinery doesn’t operate well in mud! Thankfully, the road was finished just under the wire.

Once the road was complete, we were able to transport materials in to build temporary living quarters for our construction workers. Unlike in the United States where builders return home every night, here, they often spend the entire week sleeping on site. On our future parking lot, we now have a large shack~like structure, complete with bunk beds and a kitchen. We’re thrilled that the work crew includes women who prepare lunch and coffee breaks each day!

The drivable road also makes possible delivery of the wood we need for our walls and roof. Finding the 150 teak trees we need occupied the majority of Patrick’s time for more than a month. He visited dozens of plantations (by foot, car, and on horseback!) before he found the quality and quantity we require. Throughout the process, I was continuously amazed by Pat’s negotiating skills (in Spanish no less) that allowed us to avoid paying inflated “Gringo prices”.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Pat also secured all our building permits and had our water source approved by the health authorities. Finding and connecting water was another major undertaking since we don't have access to the public water supply. Luckily, a generous neighbor with underground springs has agreed to give us rights to his water. This, combined with collected rainwater, should fill our tanks and sustain us through the dry season.

So, in a country where people say everything takes longer than anticipated, Patrick has managed to keep things on schedule in order to adhere to our desired start date. Having done that, our roofs should be raised before the light rains begin in April, and the structures should be finished completely before the September/October deluges. It’s in our contractor’s hands now, and I just hope his are as capable as my husband’s have been :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009