The builders have been working on the retreat centre for 5 weeks now and the speed with which the building is changing is astounding. Vijayasri and I have moved on from our reaction on viewing our future retreat centre of “oh no what have we done!”. If anything the building site effect is more pronounced with piles of rubble forming dusty mountains on the terraces below the house, stacks of old tiles waiting to be re-used on the roof andThe builders have been working on the retreat centre for 5 weeks now and the speed with masses of old wooden beams and planks, door and window frames and old cupboards lying around. And the building from above as you approach is still a cavernous hole looking into the sky blue walls of the barn and dining room.
Our response at the moment is more one of excitement. Pallets covered with bags of cement, new roof tiles and red bricks are stored alongside the track opposite the house. A lorry load of new wooden beams lies covered with tarpaulin waiting for work to start on putting the new roof on. As well as the destruction what is now clearly evident is the new building beginning to emerge. Old walls of mud and stone are still being pulled down but now new walls of brick faced with stone are forming new rooms.
I’m finding that as the building changes from the old collection of small, low roofed rooms, as the walls grow higher and dividing walls are knocked out, the plans make more sense to me. I’m full of admiration for what Luis, our architect, has envisioned. It’s really lovely to walk into a roofless barn with holes for windows and be able to imagine it as a spacious library cum sitting room.
Yesterday Vijayasri and I had our weekly meeting at the retreat centre with Luis, Jose (one of our builders) and Jesus, the local town surveyer. Yesterday we were also joined by the foreman on site. We walk around the building at a leisurely pace. The mood is relaxed and friendly as Luis inspects the work and invites us to express our concerns or questions. With requests for repetition and clarification we manage to keep up with the conversation which of course is all happening in Spanish. Cigarettes are smoked and there is time for exchanges of local news. At the weekend there was a village day walk from Penarroya to the ridge standing at 1200 metres, 250 metres above the retreat centre. A different walk is chosen every year and a substantial part of the village population of 650 participate.
In one room a small dividing wall has fallen over. It was a feature Vijayasri and I had wanted left out anyway so Jose teases us by asking if we pushed it over ourselves. No, no, we protest laughing, it was the recent storm!
I find the new section of building particularly exciting. On the ground floor it houses a 3 person bedroom and the ‘installations’ room for the boiler and solar panel batteries. Above is a spacious kitchen and store room with fantastic views through the open holes of the windows. The stone walls are being built up over the kitchen door as we watch. The local stone is incredibly expensive to buy but really beautiful, and definitely preferred as a visible building material by the local authorities. I really like that all our new build can be constructed from our existing stone which is first cleaned off and chipped into the right shape. The result is a little more uniform than the old parts of the building but looks great.
The work is progressing satisfactorily. Luis and Jesus are both impressed with the Brazilian team of workers and the speed and standard of their work. We are gradually getting to know their names though they are still quite shy with us.
After looking over the building we go down to the spring to talk about different options for a water deposit. We check out a site above the house where the water could be pumped up to and then gravity fed down to the retreat centre. This would cut out the need for a second power hungry pump on our lean solar budget. The site is next to a pool of muddy water visited regularly by wild goats and wild boar. Their footprints are sunk into the mud. My dictionary comes in handy when Jose shows us a mud stained pine tree with the bark rubbed off by the boar having a good scratch. Is it fleas? No. Ticks? We have some experience of finding these in our clothing! No. Finally we establish the wild boar are covered in lice!
Finally we all stand a little way above the retreat centre watching and admiring. The work is progressing very well. I comment with a word I’ve learnt while watching football on television with Vajrananda during our days living in the flat in Penarroya. ‘Son un bueno equipo’. ‘They are a good team’. The others agree. Then we say our goodbyes and agree to meet same time, same place, next week.