Worst Case Scenario


To start, we’re going to have to flashback two days when Megan and Jacob first arrived on site. Jacob’s first task on site immediately started on the wrong foot when he stepped through one of our concrete boards while moving equipment. In a movie, this minor hiccup would be known as a Chekov’s Gun, meaning the easily cracked board would be sure to be important later in the story. At the time, we thought nothing of it of course, but unfortunately for us; we are apparently living in some sort of mediocre Seth Rogan film. 

Coconuts we enjoyed this morning, the calm before the storm

Coconuts we enjoyed this morning, the calm before the storm

Our day started off pretty great actually; we got to eat and relax in the house for an extra hour because our concrete wasn’t going to arrive until 10 o’clock. Eva got to sleep in and for the sake of everyone, Jacob showered. So, we headed off to our site with heads held high and a nervous excitement because today was the big day after all, we finally get to pour our sinks. 

We landed on our site, walked over to the sinks, and started getting our tools ready for Wilasa’s arrival. A quick background, Wilasa has been our guardian angel this entire project and has helped us through some extremely strenuous times. She has her PhD in Material sciences, and after working as a college professor in the states, she moved to Thailand and works for a local construction engineering company. Her most important accomplishments in relation to this story were that she donated concrete and a concrete truck to use in our project and simplified our formwork. 

Now, Wilasa arrived at around 9:30 and we quickly said hello and showed her around the site. Immediately, she noticed that something was awry. The school wanted a ramp to the sinks, so we told them we could use the excess concrete and pave a path wherever they wanted. The contractors began digging out the trench for the formwork, but you know how I said Wilasa noticed something was off, well it turns out the contractors dug an entire trench around the back of the sinks. We scrambled for a measuring tape to plan out a path that would lead around the side of the sinks that could contain our extra 2 m3 of concrete; did I mention that we only had thirty minutes to redo this? Michael and Jacob quickly started digging the perimeter and everyone else asked the school for extra hoes and shovels. Before we knew it, almost everyone was helping dig and scrape away dirt, including Wilasa. Meanwhile, Taylor and Irina were measuring and cutting mesh to place inside the concrete for the sinks.

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When our arms were shaking, our legs were quaking, and our bodies just couldn’t take anymore, the contractors informed us that the concrete would be arriving at 10:30 because they asked for more time to finish their formworks. So, everyone slowed down, rehydrated, and took a much needed siesta in the AC, but it was over way too quickly if you ask me. The concrete was there less than 5 minutes after we finished our side path, so we all had to get in our positions for the big moment. As a side note, the truck almost knocked out the electrical lines and took a bit of the tree with it, so the contractor climbed in the back to provide some much needed support.

Our sad, broken formwork :(

Our sad, broken formwork :(

After what felt like a millennia and a little bit of concrete water, large pieces of aggregate and concrete slush started gushing out of the truck. Remember that gun I was talking about, well less than 15 seconds later, disaster struck and our concrete boards collapsed. Women (Megan) were shrieking, children weren’t crying, but I bet they would have if they weren’t in class, and the rest of the team was too shocked to really feel anything. Wilasa and Cam snapped us back into reality and told us that we were finishing it TODAY. Jacob, Irina, and Eva figured out the measurements, Cynthia went to the store with the contractors to pick out a much thicker cement board, and Taylor and Michael figured out a plan of action. The contractors went ahead and poured the rest of the concrete into the blue tank foundation, pump foundation, and side path. Elsewhere, disaster almost struck twice when the blue tank formwork bowed out, but the contractors were quick enough to hammer a secondary support to prevent the collapse.

Cleaning up our mess :’(

Cleaning up our mess :’(

Cynthia arrived and we quickly lifted the boards out of the truck and measured the cuts for the contractor. The boards were ¾” thick, which is quite a bit larger than 4 mm, and were heavy enough to be used as floor boards in practical uses, so if this didn’t work, nothing would. Tensions were rising as we lifted the cut boards onto the sink and began placing the sinks. While the first formwork was perfectly measured, delicately placed, and straight as anything can be; we didn’t have time for that so close enough was all we could handle. As if nothing else could go wrong, we ran out of glue and couldn’t find the caulk. A few minutes of panic later, we found our last bit of caulk and glued down the rest of the sinks. All remaining holes were filled and we were finally ready for the second moment of truth.

The truck drove over to our spot and started pouring, again. This time, life was much smoother but those aggregates were huuuuuuuuge. The mesh caused some problems, specifically having to dig out those aggregates from underneath the mesh and place them on top, but nothing was nearly as bad as…well, you know. As we were smoothing out the concrete, we were told that somehow there was another 5 m3 of leftover concrete, which had to be poured somewhere or else it would stick inside the truck. We were able to actually use the previously dug area on the backside of the sinks, so as you can tell we obviously planned everything that happened today. 

Those concrete paths were causing a lot more problems than they should have, specifically for Taylor, Jacob, the contractors, and a lone soccer ball, but they’re going to look great thanks to our wonderful contractors. Unfortunately, our clothes aren’t, but that was a small sacrifice compared to the greater cause that we were serving, getting Jacob in shape. 

But in all seriousness, while this was a strenuous ordeal, these sinks will hopefully last for decades to come thanks to these concrete boards. Also, we couldn’t have done without the guidance of Wilasa and the help of our NGO and contractors. I’m just glad that there was so much of a time crunch that no one ended up buried in the brand new concrete paths. 

After we all nearly collapsed, we got a nice lunch and did some shopping at the Bridge on the River Kwai. I would write more about this part, but I’m too tired and my forearms are still burning. So to end this short novella, I would just like to say that we redid our entire formwork in 45 minutes, which I will officially claim as a new PUC record that we will hopefully keep forever.

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Megan Yen