On a hot tin roof

Today, some of the guys spent time in the shop welding trusses, bending j-bolts and other manly stuff. The ladies were cleaning a home to prepare for the return of a missionary family. And a few of us spent time on top of the roof of the warehouse...that's right on top of the roof. What does this mean? It means that the first sheets of metal got put on top of the roof. This is good progress. Have you ever worked with corrugated metal roofing? Me neither! Here's a mini-tour.

Metal roofs are an economically efficient way to top off good buildings in Mali. They are chosen not only for their financial value, but also because they repel the heat of the Malian sun. If you are under the roof that makes things nice and cool. But if you are on top of the roof...YOWZA! Hot! We did not realize that a 'sweatin with the missionaries' course came along with this project. David Holt lost 23 pounds on the top of the shed...just this morning. (WARNING: Pastoral exaggeration... :)

There was a sense of satisfaction in this minor victory, but what was most noteworthy was the view from the top of the roof. From there, you can see the spires of the local mosque, the cell tower, the local TV station, farmland and acres-n-acres of iron-rich red dirt. About a dozen women dotted the landscape in beautiful boldly-colored Malian ware.

Each one of the women was putting a load of that red dirt into a large (18 in. diameter?) bowl. She would lift the bowl above her head, slowly dropping the dirt to the ground. A huge puff of dust would fly through the air and the stuf would hit the ground. She would then take the same pile of dirt that just hit the ground, raise it above her head and allow it to fall to the ground - a puff of dust flying through the air. She would do this over and over again. Eventually, she picked up the pile, put the bowl on her head walk over to a pile of gravel, adding the contents of the bowl to the gravel.

That's it! That's what she is doing...eliminating the dirt (dust) from the gravel. She is getting gravel from the fields. Some of the locals told us that she would probably sell the gravel to make concrete (or maybe use it in her own home to make brick.) The little money that she would get from this bag of gravel might pay for food for a day. She worked all day long knocking dust off of gravel. And before she could sell it, she would need to load it into a bag, put it on a donkey-cart and drive it into town. What a life!

The simple pursuit of food and water consumes so much of the day for many Malians living on less than a dollar a day. Pretty sobering, eh?