•April 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

One of the ways in which I tried to economize on the build was by buying many of the materials directly from China. I was able to cut out the middleman and greatly reduce costs since most of the stuff is made there anyway. I worked for several years beforehand and saved all of my pay.

 Actually my first big buying trip was back home in the US. I ordered some things ahead of time on Ebay and asked the sellers to hold the items for a certain pick-up date. Other things were purchased on a mass shopping spree to stores such as Home Depot, TJ Maxx, Target and Walmart. Cheikh and I left the kids with my parents, then flew down to NYC/NJ where we rented a large moving van. Over the course of 72 hours we drove from Long Island to South Jersey coordinating with our Ebay sellers and  filled the truck with doors, household items, appliances and some home furnishings, and put them on a 20ft container to be sent to Senegal. This was in June, 2008.

Ok, back to China. In September 2009 I travelled to Guangzhou where I had sourced my windows, kitchen cabinetry, tiles and other materials using and . I contracted with the window manufacturer to coordinate all of my shipping and use one of their girls to accompany me every day as a translator. I was lucky enough to meet a woman from Ghana on the plane who gave me the number of a driver to hire. With an independent translator and a driver who knew where everything was located I was able to also cut out the use of a “transitor” who normally takes kick-backs from all of your purchases. With “Danny the driver” I only had to show him a picture of what I was looking for and he would take me to the town or market area that sold those Items. I ended up spending 30 days there and sending one 40ft and one 20ft container to Senegal.

Jamie, Jessery (translators) and Snow (manager) Guangzhou Pizza Hut

Jamie, myself, Jessery (translators) and Snow (window manager) lunch at a Guangzhou Pizza Hut

The use of transitors will cause your costs to be higher as they will only take you to places where they have a contract with the seller and there is an automatic kick-back built into the sellers quoted price. They also inflate the shipping costs. Shopping in China can be completely overwhelming for the inexperienced, so I would advise you to do as much research and sourcing in advance of your trip as possible. There is nothing more incapacitating than having a whole town full of toilets chose from. If you buy a significant amount of stuff from one seller, they will often coordinate the container and shipping themselves even if you want to throw another seller’s items on the container. Container costs vary by times of the years and expositions such as the Canton Fair. You will also need to set up a local bank account to transfer your money to. For the most part, all transactions are cash only so be prepared.

My favorite purchase in Foshan

My favorite purchase in Foshan

The Roof

•March 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The latest pictures show progress on the roof tiles. I am still not quite sure how they get the wood strips to adhere securely to the concrete roof. I will have to pose this question to the mason as I want to be sure that we won’t have any flying tiles whenever the wind picks up.



 Pictures are always a good way to identify concerns that need attention or fixing. Even when I am on site I often times don’t notice things until I look at the pictures that evening. I usually take about 300 or so photos during the couple of days that I am there. Nowadays, it costs next to nothing to take digital photos. So I would strongly recommend anyone in a similar situation to snap away, you can always delete later. Photos are also a good way to communicate when there are language barriers. With the current mason I have had almost no issues, unlike the first whose work was always the center of a revisions document in the form of a photo exposé no less than 20 pages.

"Please close possible holes to drop ceiling cavity"

“Please close possible entry to drop ceiling cavity”

2nd floor rear veranda

2nd floor rear veranda

Rear veranda

Rear verandas and plaster work

I know this looks like a whole lot of concrete…Because it is. But I promise this house will more than make up for its carbon footprint by:

  • Outlasting several future generations
  • Using photovoltaic (solar) panels for electricity and hot water
  • Pumping local well water
  • The planting of lush gardens where there is currently just some overgrown brush and a whole lot of  sand.


•March 17, 2013 • 2 Comments

So, as there are no recent updates to report from the work site, I figure that this would be a good time to bring you up to speed with another item. Below are pics taken Nov.,  2012 at the blacksmith’s of the exterior balcony railing and the interior staircase rail.  My intention is to have wood on the hand rest of the interior rails. Not shown, is the spiral rail that will be attached to the exterior staircase at the  rear of the house. In addition to black paint there will be some type of  finish applied to protect them from the sea air.

Exterior balcony railing

Exterior balcony railing

Interior Staircase

Interior Staircase

Interior 2nd floor balcony rail

Interior 2nd floor balcony rail


•March 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

After spending most of my day trying to figure out how to add Flickr to this site, it is finally done. I have just posted some pictures of the early days, when our site was still in its infancy and the house was just a “gleam in our eyes”. I will gradually be adding photos taken over the years so that you are able to follow the various prep and construction stages to date. So, stay tuned for more pics over the coming days on Flickr. You can find a quick link on the sidebar of any of my pages.

Working on the floorplan

Working on the floorplan back in the day!

We’re on the Map!

•March 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

After years of checking Google Maps and not seeing our house, the satellite has finally gotten around to our part of the globe again. So we can now be seen at the following location:,-16.932142&spn=0.000821,0.001658&t=h&z=19&q=mboro+senegal&utm_source=mapseditbutton_normal&gw=30&lyt=large_map

Hot off the press!

•March 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

We received these photos last night which show advances in the exterior rendering, roofing and more interior ceiling work. It’s starting to shape up and look more like a house now. I can even see the lips around the skylights emerging.

Plasterwork in the Foyer and entry

Plasterwork in the Entryway and Foyer

South Facing Facade

South-facing Facade

East Facing (Garage Side)

East-facing (Garage Side)

North-facing rear

North-facing rear

Northwest corner

Northwest corner


•March 4, 2013 • 1 Comment

Yeah!!! Big-ups to the plumber. I thought this day would never come. My children thought I had completely lost it when I saw the pictures of water coming out of the tap for the first time. I let out an operatic note and fell back on the sofa.  So, let’s see… structure “check”, water “check”, crown moulding “check” just 999 more “checks” and we will have ourselves a home.

"Let there be water"

“Let there be water”

Hip Hip...

Hip Hip…

Sun room crown moulding

Sun room crown moulding


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