Sharing information and promoting earthbag building
|Double Dome in Mongolia
Krpasundarananda is a Meditation teacher with Ananda Marga and has been a Monk since 1991. His first assignment was in Australia, then he was transferred to New Zealand where he worked for more than eight years teaching meditation at the universities, renovating a meditation center, organizing yoga weekends and setting up (and renovating) a retreat center. Then in 2000 he was transferred to Africa where he started to make newsletters like what is posted below. Though his main job is to teach meditation and help people to realize their spiritual goals, in many cases people don't have the minimum necessities of life, so social service has become important. As his background is engineering and he always had an interest in construction and alternative energy, he got involved with alternative building through an article someone forwarded him about Nader Kalili. In the last few years he has built many domes in different places around the world.
Just to get there was an adventure. All the ways I had planned to go didn't work out and finally I ended up directly flying to Beijing. There I had to get my Visa for Mongolia and the bag material to build the dome as we had not been able to find it in Mongolia. When we wanted to pick up the bag material we found it was all lose and not on a roll as promised... I had to take it on the train and bus and taxi and across the border etc... finally they found a way to pack it more tightly and again with a lot of help from co-travelers the 40Kg package reached safely.
The other big challenge was how get a ticket for the train... You'd think just go to the station and buy the ticket but even the sister who helped me (and spoke the language) had a hard time to find it out. Finally it became clear that the last train that week had already left in the morning and next would be in four days... My time for Mongolia was already tight so as I had heard that there were also busses I decided to try that. It sounded simple, catch a bus to the border (14 hours) then catch a train across the border and at the other side catch the train to Ulaanbaatar the Mongolian capital.
Mongolia has nine months of really cold winter and only a short, but beautiful, summer so after being inside the house for so many months people love to go to the country side and stay in the traditional tents called ghir. They are actually well insulated with layers of felt so even in winter when -50C outside it's comfortable inside. We had four ghirs and about 60 kids and four staff were staying there.
Didi has 120 children to look after, from few month old babies to the teenagers who would help to build the dome. Many have no parent, or parents unknown or not able to look after them. Babies get produced without much thought how to look after them... and many mothers are only in their teens and the grand mother takes care of the child if possible. No one worries too much about it... Sometimes Didi finds a baby on the doorstep, tucked in with a little paper telling their name.
Building the dome was fun and again I learned a lot. I thought I came to teach, but then found that I have hardly any experience how to work with a bunch of unruly teenage boys and girls, what to say...I didn't even speak the language! I think they did really well, beside lot's of mischief and ice-cream they did work very hard and learned quickly. We normally started work at 10.30 - 11 and then took a break around one till three. After we'd work an other three hours. It's light till about 10 so most people say up late and... wake up late.
The wall of the dome was a very popular recreation area... and the higher it got the more popular it became. The last week, every time at the start of the work all the kids wanted to be on top and somehow hoped that the mix to fill the bags would magically appear.. Once things actually started moving it was hard to stop... Though they watched the time carefully not to be late for the noon break. Sometimes grumbling if we wanted to work a bit longer to finish already mixed earth but the proof that they did enjoy was that even on days that there was no work (new sand was delivered late) they turned up anyway to see if they could help! One evening after peace returned, means the kids had gone back, Dada Ajay and myself got chance to dig a trench around the dome to put tarpaper for water proofing and fill the trench again. We finished at 10pm.
Did I tell that Mongolians love round houses? Well they do, and I have no trouble understanding why. The feeling inside a round space is so much nicer than in a square space. And I am sure they will like these Super Adobe domes. Traditionally they use the round tents called ghirs and they are beautifully decorated and furnished. Unlike the domes they can be packed up and moved to new place easily. But it seems now many Mongolians are settling down more permanently even fences (formerly completely unknown) are emerging everywhere.
The higher the dome became the more popular the top. It rather became so popular that it was hard to convince anyone that some kids were needed down on the ground to make the mix for filling the bag... I think they were convinced that it would somehow mix itself.
The dome was finally done and believe it or not we had two days to spare!
Some last dome pictures... I still would like to see how plaster will stick on the bag but everywhere the ones who do the plastering (I have never done it myself) prefer to take the bag off. The easiest was it with a little blowtorch. Burning it is fun, and it seems the Polypropylene burns quite clean as there is no bad smell.
Well that's Mongolia, and Dada Ajay who is working there fully mastered the system and is currently coordinating to finish it. I know the windows and door is already in and hopefully I'll see a photo with the finished one soon. The kids are very proud of their work and the dome will be used for teenage programs.
Postscript: Didi says that the houses were too cold for the winter months and the house that was built for Lotus was quickly discarded after one season.
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