So you see where we are, at least the last time we checked.
Here is how we got here...
Part II: Reality Sets In
But the Caribe gods are angry with us and our ugly gash in their beautiful hill on their beautiful island, and they send down the rain; lots and lots of rain. That which was built becomes covered in mud and rock; tons of it, sliding down the hillside, engulfing our newly created foundation. We are humbled. We turn on the money faucet, re-dig and re-pour.
At least we try to re-pour. The digging part is doable, but the concrete... Where is the concrete? There is none. Nope, no concrete. Nada, none, no way, no how, not anywhere, for any price. So we wait...and we wait...and we wait... We get promises that it will arrive next Monday, then next Friday, then next Monday again. Then we finally "get it". No, not the concrete, but the epiphany that concrete arrives when it gets here. No sooner, no later. We truly began to understand what "island time" is all about. We heard about a large construction company on St John erecting a huge development in Cruz Bay. They have concrete, lots of concrete. How did they get concrete? We found out how. They bought a concrete company and concrete trucks and shipped the loaded trucks over from the mainland. I guess that's what the big boys do when they are in a hurry. But itty bitty us, what do we do? Well, we stand in line with the rest of the concrete bereft and we wait our turn.
So then our builder starts having the concrete delivered in bags and mixed on site. Not fast, but better than everyone standing around with nothing to do. At least I think it's better. Actually we were not convinced a concrete truck could make it up to our site even if we had all the concrete in the world. You see our road is steep and not paved (no concrete doncha' know) and besides where would one of those monster trucks turn around once they got up here? Somehow, they eventually did get up here assisted by voodoo, black magic (I hear the Caribe gods like voodoo and black magic and our guys know their voodoo stuff), and just as important - a concrete pump truck. So finally - yes finally, we got concrete trucks delivering our precious concrete gold. Not a lot, not all at once, but a little here and a little there and it starts to add up. Boy does it add up. The price of concrete eventually triples to about $800.00 a yard installed!
As the projected cost of our little project rises like a helium balloon, we decide desperate measures are in order, and we offer ourselves up in sacrifice...
We are caught in a Catch 22. No concrete, no villa... Concrete, bleed money... But I digress... We get some of our precious white gold and things start to take shape. A cistern appears, and a POOL!!!!!! Yes, that's a pool! No really, that thing on the right is a pool, or perhaps a pool fetus. When it grows up, and is completed, watch out! Not exactly the pool we had planned, but not bad. We wanted a true, free form pool. This is a free form pool the island way, one somewhat curved edge and three straight edges! You can drive yourself crazy if you get too focused on everything you think you have to have and exactly the way you pictured it. It's the total look and functionality that is important, at least that is what I keep telling myself to keep myself sane!
The pad is poured, now the walls can go up. We can now stand on what will be our deck and see the view that we will see when the project is completed.
We are getting walls. "More concrete please." Of course this is always followed by, "more money please".
We thought the natural island stone look was going to cost us a fortune. Well now it appears to be in line with the cost of plain old concrete. Perhaps our cistern and pool should have been made of island stone! Our stone masons are true artists. They hand select, hand carry, and hand place each and every stone one at a time, based on its size, shape and color. These guys earn their money. Because of the hot sun, they show up before the sun is up and leave early in the afternoon. I have never actually seen them work. I am usually on site too late or on a day they don't choose to show up (that happens a lot here in the islands). Hey wait a minute, maybe this is all done by computerized machines and I am only being told it is back breaking, tedious work!
We have all sorts of things coming together now and Reef Madness is taking on its own personality. We can now see what a truly amazing place it is going to become. We need furniture, fixtures, appliances, beds and linen, all the stuff it takes to live the good life. Number one on the list, a good blender! We were told not to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment as the island has a way of stressing all things electronic and mechanical. We were also warned that tenants would not take care of things that weren't their own, but do we listen? No. I want nice things that work well and I want our guests to have nice things too and until we get burned too many times, that is the way it is going to be! We are buying most things in the States and having them shipped down. We have no idea how well this is going to work, but good or bad, that is what we have decided to do. Right now we have turned our garage into a staging area. We can buy things a little at a time and not go into sticker shock by purchasing everything all at one time. This also gives us time to think about what we will use and what we won't use in the islands. This part is fun, but we are still a long way off until we ship this stuff.
It appears that once again the Caribe gods are angry with us (even though we are no longer merely an ugly gash in a beautiful hillside). We have poured an amazing amount of concrete (and money) into columns that go down into the ground until it hits rock. This keeps us on the hill rather than sliding into Skinny Legs below. The columns work well unless the earth decides to move, and it is moving. It seems our new structure has altered the natural course of rainwater on the hill, and now it goes around the foundation and is eating its way through the hillside. There is one potentially unstable corner that needs to be corrected with a retaining wall. A great, big, humongous, there's that word again, CONCRETE, retaining wall. Lets turn on the money faucet again. And we thought we were done with concrete!!!
This is the beginning of our retaining wall. The footings for it are three feet wide. The wall will be about eighty feet long and will start out six feet high and then goes to eight feet and at the critical point it will soar to ten feet high. By the way, did I mention that this will all be made of @&%# concrete! ...And they wonder why I seem crazed!
So this will give you a perspective of why so much of our blown out of the water budget went to concrete! Everything below the stonework is foundation and cistern - no living quarters, no storage rooms, just a whole lot of concrete. By the way, did I mention there is a shortage of concrete? More delays.
We were first told we would be done by September (2006), then December, January, February, March... I think we are up to June now. The meaning of the expression "Soon Come" has never been more clear. But when all is said and done (and it will be done someday), it has a view to die for, and it will be something to be proud of, and maybe, if anyone wants to stay here, we might even be able to afford to keep it, So now when someone asks, "when will it be done" we say,"When pigs have wings"
Part III: What comes next?