My friend Dan is building a 5000 sq. ft. house near Ann Arbor. Dan is quite amazing - he is a Civil Engineer; he has many different skills - and experience - with wood, concrete, and other building materials. He's doing everything related to building the house - getting land, acquiring government permissions, passing the exam to be qualified to design a house, and of course, doing all the hard work building the house. Besides, as I found out, he's a willing teacher, and very patient with unskilled laborers such as I.
It was thus that I spent a few hours a couple weeks ago helping Dan waterproof the walls. It mainly involved slapping mixed cement onto the walls using a flat, duster-shaped tool. Slapping cement on walls without dropping much on the ground, and getting it to be even surface is tricky! I have never really participated in activities that demand physical work and repetition of the same task a thousand times. This was good exercise - picking up the cement, bending the tool at a slight angle, lightly pressing it against the wall, and then moving it up with a slight wavy motion to get the finish just right. All this while standing on a delicately balanced styrofoam surface. Fun!
It was a surprise how much I actually liked doing this (ignoring a slightly sore back!). As it stands, I've never really worked much with my hands. I always had great appreciation for people skilled in handling tools, fixing things, or making objects, being unable myself to handle the simplest of tools. I admit that all through workshop practice in my engineering classes, I wasn't really sure why I was "being made" to do it - I much preferred electronics and computers then.
This was different though. After spending a day in front of the computer at office, I was surprised at how nice it felt to be outside and working. The warm weather, the smell of cement, the rock music on the radio, and the site of walls that were slowly getting waterproofed thanks to our efforts - it all had an effect. I'm definitely going again.
Kevin, Dan and I spent the better part of the evening doing this work. Later, we took a dip in Mirage Lake, adjoining Dan's property. That was awesome!