Ah, summer seems to be arriving! The weather has been warm and sunny almost all of the past week, which means that we can continue work at the building site for my brother's house. I told some people before I left a bit about what I would be doing, but now that I am here I can explain it better.
My brother Jonathan runs a non-profit organization called Edurelief (said E-D-U Relief) here in Mongolia that's primary purpose is educational development. Edurelief has funded thousands of kids to go to elementary school who otherwise would never have been able to afford the textbooks to do so. More recently it has set up school libraries which can reach more students easier and faster, and also the community at large.
With my brother and his wife living here on a permanent basis, they thought it would be good to build their own house, rather than to continue renting with rising costs. As foreigners they aren't allowed to own land, but the government does have a program which gives people large pieces of countryside to people to steward and protect.
Because of the economy and lifestyle here many people will go to the forested regions and (illegally) cut down trees for firewood. That in itself isn't such a bad thing, the use for the wood is a great necessity; however, without proper care and replanting, the forests are rapidly depleting. I've heard that just 15 years ago the forest up the hillsides on the outside of town used to stretch back down into the valley a mile or two more from where they are now.
So in light of this my brother and his wife were contracted a piece of land on the condition that they would protect and nurture it. The land is a few miles outside of the city. It's a beautiful piece of mostly forested countryside. Unfortunately, it is also far from running water and electricity, as well as being cut off from any other homesteads by a couple of ridges. In order to reduce the cost of bringing in electricity lines and water, and to not be so isolated, the house is being built on their neighbor's land. Within his land he has a nice fenced area of, I'd estimate, seven acres where his house sits. This is also where we are building my brother's house. With water, electricity, and a neighbor all right there.
Now that you understand the larger picture everything else should make a little more sense when I talk about building things and where I am.
Currently, the foundation has been dug out and we are preparing materials for pouring the cement. This will be done by hand, wheelbarrow full by wheelbarrow full! Friday, my dad, brother, and I spent the afternoon building forms to pour the cement into and staking out the area in the site where they will go. Now on Monday we are waiting to have the final parts of dug so we can put the gravel and cement in. This process will probably take the rest of the week at least I would think.
It is often a waiting game, so we need to have a lot of patience. It isn't something that will be completed quickly, but there are other people coming to help once my parents and I leave. Being able to be here and help kick off the actual building process is pretty cool. I've never done any construction work on this scale!