Missions Trips Chapter 18: Tile, Chinese, and a New Friend

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Thursday, Day 6

“Ask and ye shall receive.” Last night I told Pat how much I miss my evening cup of herbal tea. Normally I carry several tea bags with me, but this time I forgot them at home. So this morning, while I was in the room enjoying coffee with my Lord, I heard Pat ask Kawal if he knew where we could get some camomile or mint tea. He said no, but he produced three green tea bags that someone had given him. I was grateful, and I’m drinking some green tea even now as I write this.

Today was another work day. Every muscle in my body felt stiff when I awoke, but some simple stretches took care of that. Today we worked some more on the first bathroom area, plus we made good progress on the second one.

In the first area, we laid the tiles in the hall, but one of them refused to lie down level with the others. As long as I stood on it, the tile laid where it should. But after some 15 minutes or so, the tile still wobbled and popped right back up when I stepped off of it. So we picked it up and scraped up much of the thin-set, leaving behind just enough to smooth out the surface underneath.

Meanwhile, in the back of the kitchen was a large storeroom that Kawal wants to convert into another full bathroom. Pat and I worked together to empty the room. I didn’t get a “before” picture because Pat started without me. But once we had relocated all the tools, hardware, and bed frames, I swept the room and then took my “before tile” photos.

The next task was to clean the walls and smooth out the floor. The walls looked pretty good, but the floor needed a lot of attention. I learned my lesson from the first section—the floor has to be level. I broke up uneven places, then swept, then broke some more. Over and over I repeated the cycle until at last I was satisfied. Then I got out the shop vac to get up the dust and any particles I had missed with the broom. This step revealed a few areas that needed more attention, and then I truly was satisfied that the floor was sufficiently level. Meanwhile, Pat was working on raising the shower floor so he could grade it toward the back for good drainage. He got that task half finished, but he’ll have to wait until tomorrow to finish because the thin-set needs to dry.

He also worked on grouting the tiles we laid on Tuesday, then tried to reset the troublesome tile. Unfortunately, it still wobbled, and when he stood on it, the tile cracked along the diagonal. Up it came again, and this time I convinced him to scrape up all the thin-set and try to find the troublesome spot and knock it out. He determined where the problem area was, and I cleared it using a hammer and chisel. Pat measured and cut a new piece, then set it in place. This time it went down beautifully. I must confess we both were tested by that tile, but when it was done, and done right, our satisfaction was sweet.

In the other room, I drew a diagram of a potential layout for the tiles, then we laid down actual tiles to see if the plan would work. It did, but we rearranged the whole tiles a bit to get a better arrangement, then I drew a new diagram and took careful measurements. I made all the cuts that I could on the tile cutter, then marked the remaining tiles for Pat to cut with the grinder. He was tired, and it was coming up on 5:00 p.m., so we swept all the floors, then called it a night.

After our refreshing showers, Kawal took us out for Chinese. Boy, was it good—and filling! I’ve never before seen so many vegetables in a bowl on wonton soup. And there was something black and rubbery in it too. Seaweed? I didn’t ask, I just ate it. Pat and Kawal both had the sweet and sour pork, and neither one came away hungry.

When we returned home, Alison, the neighbor with the convenience store, was sitting out front enjoying the breeze. [My photo of her shop came out marred by raindrops, so I deleted it. Unfortunately, I never got another photo of the place.] I went over to talk with her, and she brought out a chair for me. I conversed as much as I could, but mostly I just listened as she spoke to others who were out there with us. She speaks English, but her Creole accent is quite thick, so much so that if I didn’t pay close attention to every word, I would have assumed she was speaking another language altogether. After a while we said good night—again—and I went inside. I say again because here in Trinidad, “Good night” is a greeting more so than a farewell. I recall years ago, when I lived with the Rampersads in my own home, they received a long-distance call on the home phone. I answered the phone, and immediately the voice on the other end said, “Good night.” I replied with “Good night,” then hung up the phone. It seemed strange to me that the conversation would be over before it had started. Fortunately, the caller called again, and this time I got Kawal on the line. Afterward we had a good laugh over the incident.

In my Bible reading this morning, I came across Matthew 5:19, and was struck by this: a lawbreaker is least in the kingdom of heaven, but he is still in. Praise God, for we are all lawbreakers, yet according to His mercy He saves us!

I read on and found in verses 46-47 that it is not good enough to greet only friends, or to love only those who love you back. May it be said of me, “She never met a stranger,” for I never know who is most in need of a friend. Such an opportunity arose tonight, as I gave an ear to Alison.

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