kitset shantytown

May 15th, 2007

Just across the road from our gate was a row of brick shacks. In the middle of the shacks was a shed my school used for storage- mostly unneeded desks and chairs, but also the occasional spare air conditioner or fridge, bits of old computer, and the school Santana were stored there. About a month, maybe six weeks ago, our friendly neighbourhood shantytown and the school’s little storage shed were knocked down, then workers came and started digging trenches and a truck with a big tank and a sucking machine came and worked it’s magic on the sewer pipes. I assumed they were fixing the sewers, a task I believe was last done around about the time the Ming Dynasty fell, judging by the state of our road. I was wrong. Just before the May Day holiday the workers started laying foundations.

The workers seemed to have taken the seven days of May Day off, but since then things have been happening. A bunch of building materials were delivered- white-painted steel (I assume) beams and big, ummmmm….. pieces of wall? as well as, of course, the usual cement and sand and other bits and pieces. The pieces of wall are a bit odd looking- kind of sandwiches of polystyrene between two steel sheets. I assume they’re pieces of wall, because it looks like they’re meant to insulate what will be the inside from what will still be the outside.

So since then the workers have been bolting the steel beams into a framework. Yes, bolting. Then once they’re done bolting, they go and weld the beams together, which makes me feel a little better about this odd new structure appearing over the road. But what strikes me as a little odd- and bear in mind that the only thing I know about construction is that it happens to buildings before people move in, because if nobody takes that important little “construction step”, there won’t be a building to move in to- is that they don’t bother to remove the paint from the beams before they weld them together. So the welded beams now have big black patches of scorched paint around the welds.

So far they’ve only been putting up the framework and these pieces of wall are still sitting around piled up waiting to be walls. But first the workers put up the framework for what looked like a one-storey row of shacks. Then yesterday they started laying plates of some kind of floor on top and bolting and then welding the framework for a second storey on top. They’re still working on that second storey today.

The other odd thing is that they’ve layed new, and kinda nice looking paving around our new kitset shantytown. Considering our road was paved (and lit, but that’s a different story) only a couple of years ago and it’s already showing serious signs of having the roadbed eroded out from under the paving stones (which is why I first thought they were fixing the sewers), I wish the best of luck to the newly paved area.

And on the other side of the kitset shantytown they’re building is a big old, ’50s-era apartment block in a fairly poor state of repair. I think most of the building is used as a guesthouse/hostel/dosshouse for the various people passing through on whatever kind of oil-related business, study or professional development they do around here, but some of the building seems to be more permanently inhabited. Other parts of it seem to have been abandoned a long time ago. The workers on our kitset shantytown construction site knocked a hole in the wall of that building and seem to have requisitioned an apartment. I hope it was an abandoned or otherwise empty apartment they took. It’s kinda funny to walk past this construction site and see, in the wall of the apartment block behind the site, a roughly door-shaped hole and workers flopped on the floor relaxing.

It’ll be interesting to see what our kitset shantytown will turn into. Whatever it’s supposed to be, it certainly is not what I expected to see when they started tearing down the old shacks.

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