Directing instructions to the driver of the tractor trailer pulling cement and bricks near the back entrance of the school, Dilip Sheth navigated through the rubble and demolition with an air of familiarity.
Sheth, whose job is to oversee the construction and assure FCPS that the process is going within the allotted time and budget, said that this familiarity was hard-earned.
According to Sheth, it came not only through his work in the construction business for over 20 years, but also through the perspective that he gained from his travels and observations of construction sites all around the world.
“I have lived and worked in North Dakota, Minnesota, New Mexico but also travelled to Saudi Arabia and Mali [and] West Africa for work,” Sheth said.
Travelling in itself can be demanding enough. Sheth makes it a point to observe the construction sites in the countries he visits and often compares it to the construction process here in the United States.
“I was once in China and saw a wall being built where the women carried the bricks up themselves to place them,” Sheth said, “while in America, we have technology to do that for us,” he added, pointing to a passing crane.
The resources themselves are no exceptions.
“Here if we need bricks or concrete blocks, we can order online or go to Home Depot and get it,” Sheth said, describing the brick-making process.
“In Mali we have to make a manual press, where we mix clay, thatch (dry grass), water and put the mix in a press. Once dried in the sun for few weeks, they use it as a brick to build their hut,” Sheth said.
According to Sheth, cultural diversity and the chance to experience something new tend to be the primary motivators for his travels.
“I like to meet new people, eat all types of ethnic food and visit historic places around the world,” Sheth said.
Traveling, though, comes with its own obstacles. Sheth describes one particularly unusual experience he faced as an example.
“Once when I was in Africa and while on the way to visit a construction site, I decided to take the train,” Sheth said.
Sheth added that he figured at most it would take him about an hour to reach the site. This logic elicited outright laughter from his fellow engineer, the cause of which eluded Sheth.
During the trip the train ran out of coal for the engine, which required many hours of waiting for replenishment.
Furthermore, the train had many stops before it arrived at Sheth’s destination. The one-hour ride had turned into a ten-hour long journey.
A lesson learned from his experiences was an appreciation of the things he already has. Sheth recommends all young people to venture out and explore, especially to third-world countries.
“We take many things for granted in America; however, once you have visited Mali, Africa you do not want to waste any water,” Sheth added.