Nov 7, 2012

New school: Under construction and open for business

Don’t step in the fresh concrete

One day, the library
A future library, we think.
Working on the stadiumStill workingWorking on the stadium

By September, that big pile of dirt and scaffolding we had seen last year was really coming along. It was not, however, finished. But school was starting, so we and the kids moved in anyway.

It was surreal to be negotiating bulldozers and other construction machines on our way from our new apartment to the new classrooms. Linda told us that some of the parents were upset to see the state of the campus when they dropped their kids off, but the students were led around campus in groups, with a teacher to keep them safe. The adults were trusted not to monkey around with anything too dangerous. Peter and I wore our heaviest boots, and forgave the pain of our pre-departure tetanus shots.

From our apartment balcony, which faces out over the western border of the school, we could watch bricks, concrete and more dirt come into the construction site. For a couple of days, a team of mules did the hauling, but once the volume decreased, humans took over, carrying the heavy loads in baskets hung on sticks slung over their shoulders.

Construction continued at a frenzied pace throughout September. October 1 was the school’s 100th anniversary, and there was a huge celebration planned — one we’d been hearing about for our entire tenure here. Important officials from Beijing and Chengdu (Sichuan’s capital) were expected, as well as a centenary worth of alumni. The work HAD TO be done by then.

Needless to say it was loud, even during the afternoon nap-time that is held so inviolable here. The work was constant, though not necessarily organized. We saw workers move bricks from here to there and then back over here, rip up recently laid tile to sink even newer cabling and tubing, and punch holes in brand new walls for doorways that apparently weren’t in the original plans. It was quite chaotic, and more than once we said to each other, “You’d never see this in America. Why would they do it this way?!”

But that’s part of life in China. Things happen that seem nonsensical, and you just live with it.

We lived with the power and water disruptions, and the no internet access. We lived with the ground-shaking explosions from the blasting being done to level out the surrounding hillside. (Fun fact: Many of my students already know the English word “earthquake.”) We lived with the ear-shattering drilling poking crumbly holes in our walls for surprise electrical wiring.

But the real lesson here: Construction always takes longer than you think it will.

Trucks in our backyard