Wednesday, 18 September 2013

"Which end do I measure from again?" Confessions of a tape measure phobe

Today was interesting, to say the least. If you’ve been following our blog this week, you’ll recall that us Folklore 6020 students are blessed to be joined by the very kind, very knowledgeable Ed Chappell of Colonial Williamsburg. You would have read Xuan, Kari, and Christine’s descriptions about how we’ve been learning about vernacular architecture and how yesterday, we helped draw a floor plan of Mallard Cottage. And you probably thought wow, what a great week these guys are having! Well, I can assure you that yes, we are very lucky, and yes, we are learning a lot. But I have to admit that today, for the first time since starting this field school, I felt completely out of my element.

That’s probably a good thing. I mean, the rest of these guys have moved to a new University/province/country. I’ve had it pretty good so far. So you’d think that today’s assignment- drawing a fairly detailed floor plan of a house- would have been a welcomed challenge for me. And let me clarify, I am glad to be forced outside my comfort level. I just didn’t think I’d feel as scared of a drawing board and a tape measure!

Let me digress for a minute. Remember how in Junior High math, everyone had a chapter they absolutely detested? For some, it was algebra. Other people despised fractions. For me, it was always the chapter with graph paper. In fact, it was always the assignment with graph paper. Because if you give me a ruler and a pencil, and you tell me to draw a neat 5cm line, I’ll probably give you a 4cm line that starts neatly at one end and skews down in a mess. It’s because 1) I’m sloppy and 2) I’m sloppy with details. Okay, digression over.

All of these things were in my head as Xuan and I left the comforts of Quidi Vidi Plantation with our measuring tapes, drawing board and shiny new pencils in tow. We started out at Mary and Claude Ring’s house around 10:30, under the watchful eyes of Ed and Jerry. Within five minutes, I was sat on the pavement with my eyebrows scrunched together, in near tears, desperately trying to figure out where to start. And amidst all that chaos, I briefly thought back to a point that’s been made a few times the past couple of days about the ability to draw these plans: “this may be the only time someone ever documents this building. So if you’re going to do it, you should do it right.”

Xuan and I work out a measurement

Xuan is concentrating hard here! We're trying to figure out how to draw in the stairs.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the miraculous turning point today. I'll be honest and say I still had to erase and re-draw my crooked lines. I still occasionally felt like crumbling our sketch up and firing it down in Quidi Vidi Gut. And I never did quite figure out how to properly plot ¾ of an inch using a ½ inch scale. But at the end of the day, I realized that it was knowing how important the work we were doing that really guided my learning in this process. Whereas back in Grade 8 math when I begrudged every trapezoid I had to rotate 180 degrees, today I felt proud that at the end of this field school, my classmates and I will have something valuable to give back to the people in Quidi Vidi who have been so kind and welcoming to us.

How’s that for a Wednesday?

Kayla Carroll

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