The fundis (a fundi is someone who can fix or make things. It is a great Kiswahili word to me…) were up on the steel roof replacing some panels with holes in them, and painting the roof with aluminum paint. They made this great ladder specifically for this job. They explained to me that they have two types of eucalyptus that they cut down to make this ladder. One is for the long pieces, and it does not split easily. The cross pieces are a different type that is more prone to splitting, so they like to wrap the nails around those when they are small enough.


They cut down the trees and trimmed off the branches, and then cut and shaped them to make the ladder with just a panga. This is a big knife, but I am not as skilled as these guys are in using it. It is truly impressive.

This ladder, made on site with materials close at hand and simple tools, is one of the things I love about Africa. People are so resourceful and inventive. So many times, if they do not have something, they either know they can live well without it, or they make it themselves. (This does not work with drugs, however. Uncle Sam, Unicef, WHO, etc., keep sending those drugs here!)


The gardener witnessed me wielding my panga,  and paid me a lovely complement. He said, “Good, Dr. Ball, now you can be a panga-boy!” For those of you who know my record with knives, you can stop cringing now. So far, in several days of chopping down invasive vines around the compound’s perimeter, I have only cut one fingernail. And not even all the way through!

My panga. I promise to clean and oil it tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Roof repair

  1. I had considered sending you a big Navy-marked Ka-Bar knife, because I’m sure it’s good to have tools for rough work out there, and because I wanted to remind you of me. But a heavy panga looks far more useful for shaping wood and dealing with vegetation. (Also I remembered what you said about the expense of overseas shipping.)


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