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LIFE BY LOUIS: My construction site issues

Tuesday April 2 2019

Time has come for me to build a coop for my chicken. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

Time has come for me to build a coop for my chicken. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

LOUIS MUIRURI
By LOUIS MUIRURI
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I told you about my chicken rearing project last week. Time has come for me to build a coop for them.

On Saturday, I reported to the construction site earlier than the contractor. I wanted him and his team to understand from the beginning that I meant business.

I had even prepared some toolbox meeting talk points where I had intended to drill into the workers such principles as lean manufacturing and efficient water and energy usage.

Being the first weekend since we started the project, the casual labourers also known as the “guys of hands” were very excited.

Since most of them are expatriates from neighbouring counties, they have a boarding facility on site and they were all excited at the prospect of payday, and going home to meet their village first families.

USUAL GREETINGS

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I spent the day trying hard to buy their social acceptance as one of their own. Instead of the usual greetings, I awkwardly fist-bumped all of them.

One of them lamented, albeit too loudly, that the rich man was around and therefore it was going to be a hard day for him.

I immediately made a mental note of him as a lazy person; and I was going to have a discussion with his line manager after work. 

To further endear myself to the fundis, I spotted the smokers and promptly sent for a packet of respectable cigarettes for them.

They received them with appreciation, but they still viewed me with suspicion.

'GUYS OF HANDS'

Being at the formative stages of the building foundation, I joined the guys of hands in carrying the big foundation stones.

We call them stones of nine, meaning they are nine inches wide instead of the customary six and therefore quite heavy.  

My gym workout came in handy but not quite.

The big stones do not come with a nice and well-cushioned handle, and the pressure on my palms and shoulder hurt big time. 

I alternated between carrying stones and water from a nearby well using a bucket, but neither of the tasks was a walk in the park.

SWEAT DROPS

However, I could see the guys peering at me with respect as my muscles bulged with pressure and thick sweat drops ran down my brow.

Njeri brought tea and chapatis at 10am. I respect our county women, they can sniff out a construction site from a hundred miles.

Within a day of setting up, Njeri had already set up a fully-fledged restaurant just outside the site hoardings.

Most of the borders were clearly missing their wives, and Njeri drew a disproportionate level of attention from the guys.

She smiled sweetly as she poured out the thick tea and handed out a chapati rolled out and folded with a piece of paper from the flour pack.

She is a clever business woman. She allows mild flirting from the guys, but the more you flirt with her, the more chai and chapati she sells to you. I offered to pay for the entire breakfast, and the guys finally seemed to accept me as one of their own.

After she left, we resumed work. Her presence had brought the activities to a near standstill.

Now that I was free to interact with the guys, I got a lot of insights to the life of a fundi, especially their life work balance. Without diverging much details, their night life is the envy of any high flying socialite.

Njeri came again with lunch carried in many big plastic bowls. One peculiar thing about construction sites is that despite the food being as watery as our county food comes, it tastes fantastic.

We took an afternoon siesta break, and I was amazed at how quickly and peacefully you can doze off under a tree with no worries in the world.

The afternoon session was short because the fundis traveling far are allowed to leave early.

I called their team leader and handed him a bottle of an adult beverage with strict instructions to share with the rest.

Going by the way he quickly stuffed the bottle into his coverall clothing, I was doubtful that he was going to share the bottle of blessings with anyone else.   

I finally left the site after handing out the wages.

The boarders who were not travelling were already in the advanced stages of planning for a weekend escapade to a nearby town.

My next few weekends are now something that I shall be eagerly looking forward to.

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