A sleepy but motivated aura filled the breakfast hall the morning of the bond beam pour. We knew the day would be long and tiring, but we all seemed anxious to jump the looming hurdle. The bus left for the site one hour earlier than usual, and the morning glow made the ride especially beautiful with long cast shadows and pink light flooding the Indus Valley.
Alan and I worked on rebar cages from the first bend and knew we had to finish the final two cages early in the afternoon in order to pour in one day and avoid a cold joint. Most students lent a hand to finish the cages while a smaller group of students and Ladakhi craftsmen finished the form work. A few of us began a proportional mix of the dry ingredients – four parts gravel, two parts sand, one part cement – to be ready to pour by the early afternoon.
To run the pour smoothly, we split into groups: ten people mixing the dry concrete with a steady flow of water, about fifteen people passing pans of the mix, and the remaining students on scaffolding dumping and leveling the pans of concrete into the formwork. I spent the first ninety minutes with a shovel combining the dry mix with water. When my back started to give out, I joined the dish passing line and eventually ended up on the scaffolding, pouring the dishes of wet concrete, while others made sure it was level with the line snapped inside the form work.
Five in the afternoon – our usual time to end the work day – came and went. The group picked up the pace in an effort to finish the pour by the seven o’clock sunset. Our spirits lifted as Sergio called out the half-way point. By this time most of us had worked at each job position. The team began to work more smoothly, and the two groups pouring atop the scaffolding closed in on each other. I called out to those mixing that we were nearing the end. Of course, the concrete mixing crew nearly killed us when we told them only twenty more pans…maybe three times. Finally, though, we poured the last dish of concrete shortly after seven o’clock, just as the sun set behind the mountains. We all celebrated briefly before hastily cleaning up.
An air of achievement and contentment surrounded us on the bus trip home, as did backaches, sunburns, and blisters. The ride was again made more beautiful by the late hour and vivid colors of the sky. We all scrambled to shower and find a comfortable restaurant to sit and enjoy a late dinner, and for the first time this whole month, everyone in the group headed straight for bed.
– Brian Ritzinger