On October 10, 2010 – 10.10.10 – people from all over the world hosted work parties, somehow doing work to fight climate change. At Daraja Academy, we hosted an Adobe Festival to make bricks out of clay, sand, and straw for a garden shed. The brick formers, adobe mixers, and morale boosters of the day included the 52 Daraja girls, some of the 15 Danish students, a handful of teachers, and the American volunteers.
When a couple of the girls who came down to the shomba (garden) before the others decided that the first task of the day should be streaking clay on their friends’ faces as war paint, I had no doubt that the girls would love the day. The girls and volunteers ran around slapping each other with clay, and even threw a few unlucky people into the ‘holding pit,’ a hole in the ground filled two feet deep with a slushy clay-sand mix.
So we played hard, but we worked hard too. At the beginning of the day, some people gathered wheelbarrows full of clay-rich soil from a place on campus, while the rest mixed the clay with locally purchased sand and water to create the base mix (aka the ammunition for the mud wars). We then poured the base mix into the holding pit, and as everyone watched the level of mix in the pit rise up the walls, the anticipation to jump in grew. After about an hour, six lucky people jumped in to mix by walking around. Others took wheelbarrows full of mix from the pit and added straw, and others packed this final adobe mix into brick forms and shimmied the forms off to leave beautiful, strong, and natural bricks lying in neat rows next to the shomba.
“I’m going to teach my brother and sister at home how to do this,” one girl said to me, proceeding to streak my face with a handful of clay. The excitement and clay fights of the morning decreased a bit in the equatorial sun, but just as energy levels dropped low enough for people to slow down their work, a teacher announced that we would all go swim in the river later to wash off. That provided the burst of energy necessary to finish the last of the mix in the holding pit and pack the final bricks. Girls, Danes, volunteers, and teachers proudly gathered behind the bricks for a group pictures. I watched the backs of happy girls – blue shirts covered in orange, muddy handprints – walk away from me towards lunch.
We made a total of 207 large (8″ x 10″ x 4″) adobe bricks, enough to make a substantial portion of the garden shed. And everyone involved learned a fun and hopefully useful skill. With help from the girls, I am designing the shed and greenhouse this week. One of them had the seemingly crazy idea to make it in the shape of a triangle, which we might actually do… so I will keep you posted on how designing and building keep developing.