Getting There

Trying to sum up the significance of our first week at Community Rebuilds is something like trying to catch a hundred fireflies in under a minute. As I look back and reflect on the past few days, I see too many highlights, too many illuminating thoughts, concepts, and moments to focus on just one.

Day one was many things. A few of us were sleep deprived, exhausted from the road, over caffeinated, or a little nervous to meet up with 13 of our newest roommates simultaneously. It felt exciting, yet bizarre. There was eagerness in the air. Once at the campus, we were welcomed by the CR staff—Emily, Serah, Gabe, Eric, Doug, and Chris. We toured the campus, took a group picture, and then sat around in a circle taking turns introducing ourselves. There were 14 of us, so it took a little while. We learned that we are the largest group of interns CR has had since its beginning, and that we would be using our numbers to build two homes in 4 and ½ months, which is also a first for the organization. We traveled from all over—Austin, TX, Baltimore, MD, California, Montana, Minnesota, Portland, New Orleans, Oklahoma, Colorado, etc. Later that evening, we prepared and ate a meal of stone soup with rice, bread, and salad. A waxing crescent moon illuminated the drive way while many of us moved our things into our new campus. A few of us began the task of arranging our new rooms, while others opted for going to bed. The next day began early with a hike up Negro Bill Canyon. Along the way we chatted, spotted several patches of poison ivy, compared tattoos, startled lazy lizards, and threw juniper berries at each other. It was hot. After the hike we ate healthy food and stared at red rocks along the Colorado River.

 

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Trailer Demolished with help of Bike and Builders– 8/5/14 (Photo by Mia Krakowski)

 

During the rest of the week we learned a little about what it means to be a natural builder. We discussed factors like “passive solar,” “shear,” “tension,” and “compression”—applying these concepts to tangible objects as we began demolishing a trailer that occupied our new work site. The rain fell hard and rhythmically. Many of us stood under the skeleton of what remained of the trailer, while the more ambitious ones carried the refuse to the dumpster. We did manage to salvage a lot of the structure, though—rolling up insulation, stacking boards, and saving cabinets to be used later on future projects. We were fortunate enough to have the help of 32 Bike and Build volunteers who are biking all the way from Providence, RI to Half Moon Bay, CA. Over the span of 3 months they are assisting 14 nonprofit building projects throughout the country. Within 4 hours our crew had the trailer completely stripped and ready to be collapsed.

 

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Gabe celebrates the fruits of our labor. (Photo by Mia Krakowski)

 

The next few days were full of more information. We learned about ‘R’ and ‘U’ factors, thermal mass, thermal bridges, and the benefits of South facing windows. We discussed the advantages of adobe floors, plaster, and basic home maintenance. We talked, at length, about the design of the homes we’re building, as well as the ecological benefits of using straw bales over conventional construction materials. We toured the homes of previous Community Rebuilds’ projects and felt a connection to the character and artistry preserved within their walls, floors, counter tops, and Tadelakt bathrooms. It was a compelling sight to observe the finished product of what we are just beginning to undertake as a group. There is a lineage, or legacy, that previous CR builders have established here, which I feel challenged to uphold. Their pride is evident in their work.

 

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Our first structure. (Photo by Mia Krakowski)

 

As week one folds to a close, our flow should turn toward something more routine. Now that we’re all settled, and able to take the first steps toward building these homes, I’m feelin’ stoked about the weeks ahead. (Written by Jake Egelhoff)

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