Friday, January 2, 2009

Bolivia. A Place to Stay


The front of my home


Fearless guard dogs

Courtyard space

Front Entry

Second floor which will eventually become a restaurant
I rented a room from a wonderful woman named Benigna. While the public space outside it is pretty dead and very little public/private interaction, it is much more complex and interesting once you get past the exterior walls. As Benigna was showing me around and introducing me to the neighbors (in her own plot), it was clear there was like a mini community there. Beniqna stays next to me with her daughter. Below her stays Casta. And on the bottom floor of the new building is Remejio with well, he couldn’t really tell me. Benigua said 10, as I looked through the crack and saw at least 4 kids peaking through, getting a peak at the gringo. Remejio said they had a squadron, and he never quite knew how many.
Building at the back of the lot where my room was
My building was on the back of a lot. This is where Beniqna stays next to me with her daughter. Below us stays Casta. There was a small courtyard inside where many activities took place, from washing to cooking to cleaning, etc. On the front of the lot, Benigna had built a new building, typical of the area. Only the bottom floor was really finished. While she had built commercial space to help support and make money for finishing out the building, she was actually renting out the store space to a family. There stays Remejio with well, he couldn’t really tell me. Benigua said 10, as I looked through the crack and saw at least 4 kids peaking through, getting a peak at the gringo. Remejio said they had a squadron, and he never quite knew how many. After staying there for three weeks, I never could figure out how many were staying in that store space. One thing I was sure of was that the kids helped with every task: cooking, cleaning, and helping their father, the albanil, do work for Benigna. Additionally, the space they were living in did not have a single window, aside from two high openings with glass blocks. But, it was the cheapest space available for them. Even though they were living in the new building, they still cooked out back in a separate adobe kitchen, and used the bathroom outside as well, which was an open air toilet stuff under the stairs.
Remejio, the albanil, and 4 of his children
The other really interesting part is how much the sun affected the comfort of my room. Since my building was built out of ceramic, hollow brick, there was basically no thermal mass capacity, unlike adobe. And since it gets pretty cold up there and there are no heating systems, thermal mass is critical. My room got the afternoon sun, and if there were no clouds, the room would be nice and toasty throughout the evening. However, if it was cloudy or rainy, the room would probably be 15 degrees F cooler. While most people understand the value of adobe in terms of heating and cooling, they still generally prefer to use brick, because of its modern connotations, it is thinner (allowing more floor space), less maintenance, and in great abundance (Benigna ran out of dirt for adobe after her first floor on the original building).
The new ubiquitious building material
Benigna's changes in her home

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