Friday, April 24, 2020

Bridging the Gap

Dear Readers, I am pleased to report my “little” building project is finally complete. About 4 weeks ago, I began construction on a new footbridge to replace the one that crosses the drainage ditch in front of our house. The original bridge was rotting and had sunk far enough into the ground that runoff from heavy rains would often submerge it (not the most enjoyable obstacle to cross on call nights).
As I had enjoyed many a small building project in the year we served here before, I again gained access to the Station Workshop with all its wonderful tools and leftover material. I had originally planned on a smaller footbridge design, maybe 4x6 feet, but the salvaged beams I found were long enough to envision more grandiose proportions.
A nurse anesthetist friend of mine here named Brian Bosip (AKA “Flex” - F3PNG) recently went home for Easter and posted some Facebook pictures showing the men of his village milling lumber. Seeing these fine PNG beams produced from massive jungle trunks, at great expense of manual labor, has heightened my appreciation all the more for the native hardwood used in this project.
When not on call, my typical day in clinic ends by about 3-4pm, which is conveniently during Penniella and Solomon’s afternoon nap time. So many afternoons and weekends I have slipped into work clothes, doused myself with mosquito repellent (they’re all convinced my blood is the best vintage around), and joyfully set my mind and hands to the task of measuring, cutting, sanding, painting, and nailing all the footbridge pieces together. It’s not rocket science, but I enjoy the labor and absolutely relish seeing the design of my mind’s eye take physical shape. My heartfelt thanks goes to Rachel for humoring this regular escape for sawdust therapy.
The original footbridge design was relatively simple, but with a larger footprint to work with, artistic inspiration suggested handrails would add both character and beauty. Rachel, being ever the practical thinker, cautioned that handrails would be an invitation to every kid on Station to make a jungle gym of it, and so risk unnecessary injury. But the creative seed once planted was watered sufficiently to produce the desired handrails - and it looks great!
Over the course of the last month I have asked many of our skilled construction missionaries their advice on best practices for building the footbridge, and in particular, how to create concrete footers to keep the footbridge off the (often wet) ground and securely in place for the long term. Concrete work is one area of construction I have never dabbled in, so their sage points were all greatly appreciated.
Once the concrete had set and cured for a few days, I recruited a few local guys from the maintenance crew to lend a hand moving the quarter ton behemoth to its final resting place.  In the end, my heart is full of joy to see this footbridge in place, adding value to the house and Station, and keeping future tenants’ feet out of the ditch water. Next up - landscaping flower beds around each end of the bridge!

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