Recife is the capital of the state of Pernambuco but, as the recent film Neighboring Sounds amply demonstrates, it’s not especially beautiful, despite some fine old architecture and lovely beaches. I was told that Olinda, the former capital and the first settlement by Portuguese explorers was much prettier and worth spending the day.
Archive for October, 2012
The official name of this build is Projeto Mulheres Recriando Vidas (Women Rebuilding Lives Project), with the goal of constructing 100 new homes to benefit workers at a flour mill in the small town of Feira Nova. We’re here to make house #64-65 (two adjoining houses). Each four-room (2-BR) house is 44 cubic meters. This seems tiny, right? But most of the people currently live in quarters half this size, a two-room house with a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing, for which they pay $50-80R a month. (Although that seems crude and primitive, I can remember as a child visiting my own relatives from large, poor farming families who lived in similar houses in Kansas and Missouri: two rooms, dirt floors, outhouse. The trailers we lived in seemed luxurious by comparison.) For the H4H project, families are expected to work 8 hours a week on the house.
Monday morning bright and early (7:45 am), we piled into the van for the 20-minute ride to the worksite. The foundation of the house has already been built by the professional masons for whom we would be serving as apprentices.
None of the professional masons on the job speak any English, so we were at the mercy of Helena, our local coordinator, or the rudimentary Portuguese that some of the team members have. Nothing was really explained about how we would work. We just pitched in willy-nilly, shoveling sand and gravel into wheelbarrows and dumping them into two designated dirt pits; helping open the bags of cement and spreading them around; adding water and mixing; then shoveling the mixture into wheelbarrows and pushing them up planks to dump it wherever the masons directed.
These are humble abodes, for sure. But as the Habitat for Humanity slogan has it, “Um mundo de esperança começa em casa (A world of hope begins with a home).”
The Politics issue of the New Yorker this week has some very strong good stuff: the long thoughtful endorsement of Obama for re-election; Jane Mayer’s fantastic story about Hans von Spakovsky, the reprehensible villain who is single-handedly responsible for the Republican push for voter-ID laws to disenfranchise populations who don’t favor Republican candidates; and the mesmerizing saga written by George Packer of Jeff Connaughton, someone who has toiled behind the scenes in politics as a speechwriter, lobbyist, and assistant for decades. But the single best story is Dexter Filkins’ “Atonement,” in which the New York Times reporter (pictured below) witnesses the highly emotional meeting in California between severely traumatized Iraq veteran Lu Lobello and the surviving family of three civilians Lobello killed on April 8, 2003, when U.S. forces moved into Baghdad. I wept nonstop reading the story.