Building a House on the Beach in Zanzibar with Caroline: Jim Beckta

Cutting the clay found in outcrops
on the beaches of Zanzibar.
Finding pockets in the coral
where you will soften the clay with water from the sea.
Forming the soft clay into rough bricks by hand
and letting them dry.
Doesn’t matter if they are irregular.
You can use lots of mortar.

Put them in the sun to dry.
The roughest looking of bricks.
Will they dry hard,
or break up into bits.
Keep lining them up. You can build a wall with them.
Like building a wall with chunks of coral
from the sea floor in Zanzibar.

You can make mortar from the same stuff.
Like burning coral in a kiln in Zanzibar.

Collecting bits of driftwood that washes ashore in Zanzibar.
Piling up the bits of driftwood with the coral.
Piling it into a small mountain.
After the sun has baked it all dry.
Piling it tighter.
In the dry season, piling it into a mountain.
Coral and wood.
A dry mountain.
Mix of coral and wood.
A mountain,
and setting it all alight.
Watching it burn all night, and through the day.
Until it is reduced to a bed of white lime.

Meanwhile, the bricks, did they harden well?

Next, to build a wall,
mix the sea sand  with the newly kilned lime.
Pile the bricks one on top of each other.
Mixing sea water and the newly formed lime and sand.
Will it adhere to the bricks?

Give it a try.

The bricks, one on top of another,
with mortar in between.
The roughest of walls.
Let it harden.
Build it wide so it won’t fall.
Build it long with corners
Up from the rough but solid beach coral.
Building it up, way up.
With spaces for windows and a space for the door.
Long bits of driftwood for the lintels
One for a door and two for the windows facing east
To the rising sun.

Next a roof.
Weave a mat from driftwood and vines
Washed a shore
Pick the vines that will stay pliable when bent.
Weave a mat above your head.

Start in the corners
And weave it toward the center
Until it’s a solid mat above your head.
And cover it with dried palm fronds
That have washed ashore
Washed ashore from islands
Where palm trees live and drop their fronds
Into the Sea,
Then are washed ashore here.

The roughest of roofs
But woven together
By the vines
Until it is one thick mat.
Dried by the sun.
It will suffice until the rains come.
By then my brain
Will be baked into something new
That will build something to keep the rain out.

To repeat.
Building the roughest of walls,
From Sand and coral pieces, and sun dried clay bricks
With Sea water and newly burnt lime.
Roofing it with waste from the sea,
Washed up from other shores.

I will figure out how to do it better next year.
During the rains,|As the rains come in.
Figuring out how to keep the sand from the sea
pouring through my head.

On the third day of the third month during the rains,
Along the beach, up from the beach, came Caroline.
Still wet from the sea,
And blood colored fluid from her thighs.

“I will show you how to build a roof with a sloped pitch.
I saw them do it on another shore.
A sloped pitch so the rains run down
And off to the sides.
And your head will stay dry.”