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Building as a team

We arrived to the rainforest with a dream to create a home amongst nature and to explore how this space can be shared with others. Our first construction project, 'the Butterfly Garden' was a big exploration into the local material of bamboo, which we carried out with twenty architecture students from the UK. Since then we have constructed part of one other building with a group of volunteers and the rest of our constructions have been undertaken with a team of local craftspeople.

One day quite soon after arriving here, we spoke with a neighbour about a project we were imagining. There were all sorts of suggestions and excitement about people who would like to be involved – parents, children, uncles, cousins, friends, friends of friends, … Following this we explored a two month process as a team of eight, with moments of children and wives joining in. It was in this way that we met Joaquin, a lean, incredibly strong and fiercely determined fellow with a cheeky laugh, who turns out to be almost 70 and has become our closest collaborator.

From this point onwards we have built as a team of between four and seven, with a flow of neighbours, relatives and friends being part of the crew. We have settled as a team of seven, and a range of ages – 27, 29, 32, 42, 54, 69, 70. Four of these local chaps join us for four days per week of bamboo construction: Joaquin walks an hour and a half each way each day; Dorance drives on his motorbike from town; and Freddy and Medardo ride on Freddy’s motorbike along a dirt road from their nearby home. Sandra who began building with us last year, now allows her green-fingers to reforest farmland and is living her dream of being a forest warden.

We love our days of collaboration, creating beautiful and sometimes quite unexpected realities. As Charles Eisenstein says, “Something you cannot imagine or predict emerges from the interaction of the parts.” We continuously experience a feeling of gratitude and awe towards the wisdom and skill that these people have – understanding properties of all sorts of medicinal plants, knowing when to harvest what in relation to the moon and climate, wielding a machete to open a fruit or chop down a bamboo pole, climbing along scaffolding beams far above the ground, carrying unbelievable loads of material, the list goes on. One thing is for sure, the government standard of forced retirement past 65 years of age is very misguided as the two older gentlemen are undoubtedly the strongest and wisest of all.

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