Saturday was a really long day. I arrived at Calvary around 8:30 and met with the local chairman and the fire victims to begin stripping the eucalyptus poles.
Having never stripped bark from a tree before, I watched the process for a while and decided it looked easy and fun.
They used machetes to separate the bark at the base and then peeled it away from the tree with their fingernails. Once they had a couple of inches to grab, they pulled the bark in long strips revealing the gorgeous white wood underneath. All in all it looked like they were peeling massive bananas. They chatted in Luganda as they worked. Beyond fun, it looked somehow therapeutic. I decided to jump right in.
The first thing I realized was that it was getting very hot in the sun. I also realize that the trees were extremely heavy. I already knew this from pulling the poles off the truck on Friday, but that was easier.. we only had to drag them off the truck bed. This was tougher because the trees had to be rolled around to get access to all the bark and the poles weren’t straight. My first tree smashed several toes and nailed me in the shins just to let me know who was in charge. That first tree took me an hour as I peeled tiny spindly pieces of bark one layer at a time. The chairman, working beside me, finished five in the first hour. By the time I got to the second tree I had figured out one of the secrets was to get every layer of bark in one shot. I dug deep for my first piece an before I knew it, I had completely stripped a third of the tree in one long strip. It took time because I had to stop every now and then to work around a branch or a knot, but the result was worth it. Eventually I completely stripped that tree in three long strips. (check out the picture of the tree and the three strips).
After two hours I had stripped four trees and I was soaked with sweat. No one else had even broken a sweat. These guys are tough. I’ve got chunks of bark jammed into my nail beds and I was told the will have to “grow out”. By eleven I was already pretty exhausted but it was time to meet with Nile Ply to see about their wood donation. Jessie and I headed over there.
As it turns out they are donating almost all the wood we will need except for about 50 sheets which thanks to your donations we can afford to buy if we need to. The wood will be available on Tuesday.
My best pole: three strips, about 45 minutes of work: