Jungle Jungle.

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As 20 Australian architecture students, along with architecture students from the local University, we headed off to Labu Tale; a coastal village that was relocating an hour’s hike into the foot hills due to rising sea levels and concerns over tsunami.

After our armed escort from the airport we stayed at Unitech, the University of Lae, for a few days to acclimatize and organise supplies for our 8 week stay in the jungle. When we left the city in a banana boat convoy, we arrived to a huge Labu Tale welcome. After a lovely few days sleeping on the beach we moved up river to our new digs – a couple of long houses and a cook house.

After a weeks consultation with the villagers we came up with a design and then went about building a beautiful medical centre with a separate maternity wing. All of this while living survivor style without running water or electricity (though we did have a generator to run power tools for construction), and hiking all our supplies and building materials in from the coast. It was a massive undertaking but somehow it all turned out.

The locals gave a lot of help with men carrying bags of cement strapped to bamboo poles like prized boars, and women hefted rolls of sheet metal in on their heads. The women also helped us mine and cart our own sand and aggregate from the river to make cement, which was then mixed by hand in homemade cement mixers, a couple of 44 gallon drums cut in half.

Through it all we got very tanned and the boys got very beardy. We also learned to cook for thirty people on an open fire, and share our showering space with the wildlife.

All in all, a beautiful result for a beautiful village.

Margret Hurrelbrink. 


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