Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our (Delayed) Christmas Morning

The Christmas presents were especially great this year, plus there was a lot of chocolate! I think everyone received gifts that they really, really wanted. Even me, but that's because I bought my own gifts! ;-D

The only crazy thing was that we had soooooo many people stop by during the time we were opening presents. We really didn't want to invite people in, while we had our 'rich gringo' booty all over the living room. We had a pastor come to buy a Bible, a lady we are helping with a medical need who needed more medicine, and a neighbor who likes to come by and say 'hi.' After the third guest, we stopped answering the door, but we had to be very quiet, otherwise people would know we were home but not answering. We were calling it our 'sneaky Christmas,' and whenever anyone got a bit too boisterous, someone would remind them not to "alert the enemy to our position." It was silly and fun. I'm sure it will be one of those memories the children will remember and tell their children, when they have some.

Some of the great gifts?

Rachel's loom, of course. We still haven't put it up, as things are so busy with the gift distribution for the pastors. But, we probably won't wait too much longer to start on it. She also got a lot of jewelry making supplies.

Kirstin received drawing and painting supplies, and she is enjoying those in her spare time.

It wouldn't be Christmas for Bethany without a Barbie, and she received several, including some 'boy Barbies' which she needed for her make believe. (You need to have Daddies, if you're going to play family.)

Christopher was surprised by his gift. He didn't know he was getting a boom box that plays cassette tapes. A lot of his audio books are on cassette, and all of our cassette players had died. He is enjoying listening to some of the tapes he hasn't heard in a while.

I received some supplies for making cheese. I've been making a few simple cheeses, and wanted to extend my repertoire. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes. I also got a grain mill and heavy duty mixer for making whole wheat bread.

David's joy was overwhelming, because he received a tie! He sure does love to dress up! He's headed out the door to church right now, so I'll try to get a picture of him when he gets back home, and post it then.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

22 Pastor Gift Boxes Completed . . . Around 200 (or so) More To Go

For the past two days, we've been putting together Christmas gift boxes to give to the pastors we work with and their families. In the Christmas shipment, we receive some boxes that are ready to distribute, but many of our donors will send us a box full of one item . . . blankets, or pencils, or baseball caps, etc. With all of these 'raw materials,' we then put together boxes which are specific to the recipient family. It's fun work, although after a few days/weeks it will be less fun . . . you know how that goes!

You'd think that after taking 22 boxes (packed full) out of the house, things would be looking better around here, but in reality I think it may be a bit worse. Now we have open boxes, and piles of sorted items all over the place. We are hopeful that we will be able to move the gift processing out onto the carport in a few days, and have the house back for living in!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Christmas gifts, lots of edible goodies, my daughter's loom, and so much more. It is all over my living room now, and I've got to get some semblence of organization before gift opening time in the morning.

I'll be back with all the details . . . eventually!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Perfect Pumpkin Bread - a new baking method

I have a yummy recipe for moist tasty pumpkin bread, but I have had some trouble with the loaves getting a bit too dark before the center of the loaves are quite cooked. This time, though, my pumpkin bread was fabulous, and so I thought I'd share the baking method. Here you go:

Preheat the oven to 350, then put the bread into the oven. After about 5 minutes, turn off the power to the oven (it is probably NOT necessary to turn off the power to the entire neighborhood, although that is how it was done in our test kitchen). Leave the loaves in the oven. In about 10 minutes, turn the power back on, and bring the oven temp back up to 350. About 5 minutes later, turn off the power again, for another 10 minutes, leaving the loaves in the oven.
Bring the oven temp back up to 350, and bake loaves until done.

I hope this information will be useful! ;-D

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, the Sounds of Christmas

Fireworks: for the entire month of December and part of January, at all hours of the day and night, fireworks of various kinds will be heard. We participate in the creation of this particular festive sound.

The squeals of pigs being led away from their pens: pork is a favorite for Christmas Dinner. We bought a frozen ham. We're such gringos!

Similar unhappy sounds from chickens:
we were given a rooster this week, obviously with the intention that he would make a holiday dinner for us. However, we found that he was useless in the kitchen, so we're making the dinner without his help. His name is Pincher.

Raucous singing: we were serenaded at 4:30am, by a group of young men with much more enthusiasm than talent. This followed an especially nice display of fireworks. Did I mention it was 4:30am?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! We wish you all a joyous celebration of the birth of our Lord!

Christmas Decorating Details

See our snowflakes? We didn't make the angel, though.
Most of our decorating was done more than a month ago, but I wanted to show a few more of Rachel's creations.

Does the tree look like a bunch of kids decorated it? Well, that's because they did. And they sure had fun doing it!

This oil lamp always sits in the living room, so we are prepared for power outages. Rachel cut up a fleece blanket, and used pine cones from our property, to holiday-ize the lamp.

A few miscellaneous festive items in our living room.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Yes! The container has arrived, and was safely and successfully unloaded in our back yard, our carport, a loading dock, and the mayor's yard.

Here is a picture of the carport, which I offer as an explanation of why I haven't gotten back sooner to report on our success:
On Friday night, Russell had been told that we should expect the container to arrive sometime Saturday. In the past, the containers have departed from Puerto Cortes very early in the morning; sometimes they even drive part of the way the night before, and arrive at their destination at 7am. So, we knew to be prepared for a possible early morning arrival.

Our good friends, the Wards, planned to come and help with the unloading. Their home is just under an hour's drive from here, so they were standing by, to depart at a moment's notice.

At about 7am, we received word that the truck had been dispatched from Puerto Cortes, so we called the Wards and told them that we were anticipating the arrival of the shipment around noon or 1pm. Arrangements were made for them to arrive and have lunch with us around noon.

At 11:15, Russell checked in with the driver, and found that he had only gotten as far as San Pedro Sula. We consider the distance between Puerto Cortes and San Pedro Sula to be about an hour's drive, so this was quite a setback to our schedule.

We phoned the Wards, and they were already on their way to our house. The decision was made for them to come on anyway, even though now we didn't expect the arrival of the container until at least 3pm.

We had a nice lunch, and the kids played games while Brad Ward took a nap and his wife Trish and I chatted.

Around 3pm, we heard from the driver again. He had made it to the city of La Entrada, which we normally consider to be the halfway point between San Pedro Sula and Gracias. At the rate the driver was progressing, he would arrive at 6:30 or 7 pm!

At this point, we started to have discussions about whether or not we really wanted to unload the container in the dark. This particular container, in addition to all of the gift items, also contained a backhoe, and the extrication of the backhoe from the container was expected to be a difficult process, which we didn't want to complicate by trying to achieve it in the dark!

The truck finally rolled into Gracias around 6:00pm, and Russell went to the edge of town to meet the truck and discuss the situation with the truck driver. Officially, we have only two hours to unload the container, or we have to pay for the extra time. We already knew that we couldn't complete the unloading in the allotted time, and that we would have to make special arrangements with the driver, as we needed the truck to be moved three times during the unloading process.

We were hoping to wait until morning to unload. The driver, in spite of his remarkably slow progress in traveling to Gracias, was anxious to complete his work and begin his holiday festivities. So, Russell came to an agreement with the driver: we would unload the small items that evening, and the backhoe and spools of cable (for the construction of cable bridges) would be unloaded very early in the morning.

So we set to work, in the driving snowstorm, to unload the first item in the container, which was thousands of feet of PVC pipes. Okay, so there wasn't really any snow. But, look at this picture, taken during the unloading process . . . doesn't that look like a fun holiday scene?
The apparent snowflakes are not an indication of para-normal Honduran holiday weather.
Can you see the increasing pile of pipes, through the heavier "snowfall?"
Sydney Ward offers proof that these pipes (purchased from a salvage yard) were not the cleanest things we've ever handled.

Once the PVC pipes were out of the way, we could start to unload the boxes and bags of Christmas gifts for pastors and donated used clothing. The truck was moved (just a few feet) to be closer to the carport doors. The unloading process was considerably slowed by the fact that the small items were packed in around the backhoe. Russell had to sit up on the backhoe, reach over it, lift up the items, and pass them along to the other workers, who would carry them to the carport.

Finally, around 8:30pm or so, only the backhoe and the spools of cable remained in the truck. Then, the menfolk went to work on the backhoe, making sure that it would start up and be ready for unloading in the morning. Meanwhile the women and kidfolk were all thinking about the fact that we'd had no dinner (perhaps the menfolk were thinking about this, as well). So, falling back on tradition, we ordered pizzas.

Some of the kids ran to the nearby pizza restaurant to order the food. The restaurant was very busy, hosting a private party, but they were open for carryout. When the kids returned 25 minutes later for the pizzas, they were told to wait another 5 minutes or so. Apparently, in their busyness, the cooks had forgotten to make our pizzas, as the additional 5 minutes turned out to be more like an additional half an hour.

The Wards finally started their hour-long drive back home quite late. On Sunday, we all slept in a bit, then the Wards headed back to help us start the sorting. Trish Ward is a born organizer, and she really got us started off on the right foot. We are so grateful for all of their help!

Thanks so very much for your prayers in regard to this shipment. The only glitch we experienced was the incredibly slow driving of the truck driver (we never did find out the reason he took so long). This ended up working in our favor, as the driver wasn't in a position to give us trouble about the complicated and lengthy unloading process.

Later, I'll give the details of the unloading of the backhoe and cables, which took place on Sunday morning.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Quick Christmas Shipment Update

The container from Maryland has been released for delivery! We expect the truck carrying the container to arrive at our house sometime tomorrow.

Prayer requests:

- That Russell will have a safe trip home this evening.

- That there will be no difficulties with the delivery.

- That we will have no problems unloading the backhoe from the container (the unloading process is dangerous to the driver and to anyone nearby).

- That there will not have been any damage to the items in the container.


- The fees for the container were exactly what we had anticipated and prepared to pay.

- Our new gringo friends, Trish and Brad Ward and family, are coming to help with the unloading.


News on our Christmas Shipment

Today we have good news and bad news.

Russell called me from the agency in Puerto Cortes this morning. The news he had received was unexpected. They are saying that we will likely receive the release on the huge container from MD later today, but we will likely not receive the release on the shipment of boxes from Florida until after Christmas. (I thought it would likely go the other way, with the Florida stuff coming first.)

This is good news, because we are paying a $50/day storage fee on the container which might be released today. The sooner we stop paying those fees, the better.

It is also bad news, because the Christmas gifts are not in the container, they are in the boxes. Also, the arrival of the container means a HUGE amount of work for us, which we were sort of hoping wouldn't have to be done during the last few days before Christmas.

The entire container has to be unloaded within two hours of arrival in Gracias (which would be no sooner than tomorrow . . . more likely Christmas eve). The container includes some heavy spools of cable for the bridge construction project, and a huge backhoe, which Russell will have to unload. Driving the backhoe in and out of the container is dangerous and difficult, but it will have to be done by Russell, or supervised by Russell, in a rush, once the container arrives.

The rest of the contents of the container will be unloaded onto our carport, without the use of any equipment. We just walk back and forth from the truck to the carport, carrying one box at a time. It is tedious.

We have also been warned that the backhoe may have leaked hydraulic fluid into the bottom of the container, which would mean that we would have a bunch of messy boxes and bags to deal with upon arrival.

Oh, there's actually some additional good news. Because Russell will be driving home without a load of boxes in his vehicle, we believe he will be able to stop off in San Pedro Sula and get us a HAM for Christmas. This makes me drool just thinking about it!

Also, we are getting a bit short on cash, and he was likely going to have to return to the city sometime next week, to deliver a check to our check cashing company. Now, he can drop that off when he goes back north to pick up the FL shipment, instead of making a special trip just for that.

We are still waiting to hear how much will be assessed in duties. We expect this to be a large amount, because of the backhoe, but we are hoping that it will not be more than normally exorbitant!

Prayers, as always, would be appreciated!

. . . so we had this little houseplant . . .

I would like to start off with a disclaimer: I am not a gardener. It is actually cruel for me to own plants. They begin to die as soon as I lay eyes on them.

However, here in the tropics, it seems that even I can own living plants. Put them outside, not in the direct sun, and the plants mostly just grow. I think Rachel might be watering them occasionally, too, but I'm not sure.

We had this little plant, about six inches tall, that sat in a pot atop our VCR for a year. It stayed green, and didn't droop, but that was all it did. It was a semi-ugly plant; one central stalk with long leaves coming directly out from the stalk. My kids call it the "corn plant," as it reminded them of a small stalk of corn.

When we moved from our first rental house in Gracias to our current house, and had more room for plants outdoors, we moved the little plant out onto a porch. At some point, someone (NOT ME - probably Rachel again) repotted it into a larger pot, as it was finally showing some signs of growth.

After just over a year of living outdoors, the plant is now a monstrosity . . . taller than Rachel, although still consisting of one stalk with leaves. Like corn.

And now, it is flowering! Here it is, in all it's glory:

(I still think it's kind of semi-ugly, though.) ;-D

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Gift for the Children of Gracias Lempira

My children were excited to see that a new playground is being installed at the park nearest our house. We were told that this equipment has been donated by (or possibly through) the First Lady's office, and also that it will be available for play tomorrow.

This same park contains this beautiful colonial church. I don't know the age of this building, but it has been undergoing a huge restoration project. When we moved here two years ago, it wasn't much more than a ruin. This is one of my favorites of the old catholic churches in our area . . . I'm fond of simple buildings.

This park also has a fabulous, gigantic old tree. Rachel stood far away from it, to try to get the entire tree into the picture.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An Update on the Arrival of our Christmas Presents

Well, here it is, less than a week from Christmas, and we are still wondering . . . will there be presents at our house on the 25th? It is a very good thing that our family knows that presents are not the reason for celebrating Christmas. It also helps, that the kids are quite used to waiting for things, and they are content to receive their gifts a bit late, if necessary!

Here is the most recent info on the status of our Christmas shipment:

In the past, the agency which handles the paperwork for us has been willing to accept copies of our documents by email, and start processing everything. Then they would call Allen, and say, "Come on Thursday with the original documents, and we will be ready to release the shipment." However, the man we have worked with in the past has been promoted, and so we are working with someone new. Although we believed that our paperwork was being processed using the emailed documents, in fact, when Russell arrived on Tuesday and gave the agent the original documents, he said, "Okay, come back on Thursday or Friday, and we will have the shipment ready for release." Unfortunately, though, Russell had just driven 5 hours to get there, and he didn't really relish the thought of turning around and driving 5 hours home again. Diesel is really expensive right now, too.

We consulted with Allen, and the decision was made for Russell to stay in Puerto Cortes for the few (hopefully few) days until the paperwork will be completed. So, Russell is currently ensconced in an inexpensive hotel, watching ESPN and taking it easy. I don't think he minds this too much. ;-D Seriously, though, he is doing a great job; he even had to go to the bank and open a savings account for himself, so that he wouldn't be holding the cash (to pay for the customs) all week.

Each day, Russell is checking in with the agency, reminding them that he is there waiting, in case they might just have an opportunity to process our paperwork faster. So far, they haven't seemed inclined to hurry.

We are awaiting two shipments. One is a huge container from Maryland, and the other is a collection of cardboard boxes, from Florida. When the container is released, we have to wait for the trucking company to schedule a delivery to Gracias. I think it is unlikely that this will now occur before Christmas. However, once the boxes from Florida are released, Russell will be loading them into our vehicle and driving them back home. Our family Christmas gifts are in those boxes, so there is still a good chance that they will arrive before the end of the week.

Prayers appreciated!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Is Coming . . . and so are the gifts, we hope!

The BIG gift this year is for Rachel. She is getting a weaving loom. It is her gift for this Christmas, her birthday, next Christmas, her birthday in 2008, etc.

Rachel asked about getting a loom months ago. I did some research online, and discovered that it is difficult and expensive to ship looms across the US. Most people will only sell their looms to buyers who can come and pick them up. So, I kept watching the sale ads, for a loom in one of our 'local' areas. Since we receive shipments from Maryland and the Gulf coast of Florida, a loom purchased in one of these areas wouldn't require additional cross country shipping.

In September, I found an ad for a loom in Sarasota Florida. This loom met my location specification, and one other criterion. I wanted to purchase the loom from a knowledgeable weaver, so that the seller could assure me that the loom was in good working order. The loom we found was being sold through the Manasota Weaver's Guild, and these folks have been so nice to us, adding in a how-to book, shuttles, and even some of the materials needed for our first weaving project.

As we finally have all of the paperwork together, Russell is leaving tomorrow to work on getting the shipments through customs, including our personal Christmas presents (Rachel's loom is a part of this) and the gifts for the pastors. With only a week left until Christmas, we are cutting this mighty close! Please remember Russell in your prayers these next few days. Getting the shipments through customs is a big task for anyone, let alone an 18 year old young man.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Last night, our neighbors had a party. We were out of town for most of the evening, but when we got home at 10 or so, the party was going strong, with live music and dancing. The music was quite good, with marimba, bass, and drums.

A few hours later, after our family had all been tucked into our beds, the fireworks show began. Fireworks are set off pretty much continually during the month of December, but this particular display was something special. It consisted of the better fireworks, the ones that fly up into the sky and make a pretty cascade. Not like the little noisemakers the children enjoy.

What was truly special to me, was that the location from which they fired off the rockets was about 12 feet from the head of my bed. The wall above my bed has a window, which of course is open, and between my window and the street there is a 10' high security wall. But, directly on the other side of the wall, they were shooting off the fireworks. Lying on my back, looking up out my window, I could watch the rockets fly upward just over the top of the wall.

This was at midnight. Our dogs were so terrified, they kept trying to get into bed with me. None of this was conducive to sleeping!

Surprisingly, I didn't feel any annoyance about this disruption of my sleep. I think I've overcome the feelings I had when we were newcomers in Honduras, when it just felt like so many things were orchestrated specifically to annoy me. Last night, I felt like I was in the wrong, because I didn't get up and enjoy the display with the neighbors.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Real Beauty of Lempira

You'll never guess where I went today . . .the bank, again!

Yes, I had another banking adventure today. I still needed to get cash out, and I also needed to pay the phone bill. Russell was able to pay the electric bill the other day, but the system for paying the phone bill (not the entire bank computer system, but just the system that maintains the info for phone payments) was out the day he went.

Today, woo hoo, I was finally able to withdraw some cash. However, I still wasn't able to pay the phone bill. That system is still down. I asked the teller, "Should I come back tomorrow?" and he replied, "Posiblemente." I'm guessing you can figure out what that means.

When your phone bill is overdue by a certain amount, the phone company halfway disconnects your phone, so that you can receive calls, but you can't make outgoing calls. Our phone has now been changed in this manner, as a helpful reminder to us to get in there and pay our bill. Which I would very much like to do, and have been trying to do for a while now! Oh well, tomorrow - posiblemente!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Scenic Beauty of Lempira

Aren't we blessed to get to live here?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Still Awaiting the Arrival of the Shipments of Christmas Gifts

Sometimes things just don't go the way you hope they will. We planned ahead, and generous people in the US put together Christmas gift boxes - months ago - for the pastors and their families. The arrangments for shipping came together fairly smoothly. All of the gifts are here in Honduras, at Puerto Cortes. Now we just need to get the shipments through the paperwork of customs. Sadly, this part of the process has been riddled with difficulties. With only thirteen days left until Christmas, we will certainly not complete the distribution of the gifts before the holidays. But I am starting to wonder when we will be able to start!

Dr Julio in Tegucigalpa, and our co-workers in La Ceiba are trying to pull together the paperwork which is being requested for this shipment. I spend my days pulling papers out of files, scanning them, and emailing the information north and south. Today I felt like I worked all day and accomplished nothing. In the final hours of the afternoon, I received word of another document needed, and it was just barely too late to catch the lawyer in his office. So, another day passes without much improvement in the situation.

On top of everything else, we will be charged a storage fee of $50 per day, starting tomorrow, until the paperwork is completed. Could you pray with us that the rest of the process will fall together quickly and smoothly? Thanks so much!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Have I mentioned standing in line at the bank, recently?

Oh joy - I went to the bank today! I needed to pay the electric and phone bills, and pull out some cash. Of course, I didn't accomplish either of those. If I had, it wouldn't have made a very interesting blog post, right?

Actually, this trip to the bank is a bit of a success story for me. I did stand in line for about an hour, but most of that was outside of the bank, on the sidewalk. Almost as soon as I entered the bank, I began to overhear, in the conversations of other customers, the dreaded phrase, "No hay sistema" which, sadly, means that the bank's computers are down, and many bank transactions will not be possible. In the past, with my level of Spanish, I would have stood in line all the way to the front of the bank, and then I wouldn't have known why they weren't willing to help me, I would have just gone home, without the cash and with my bills unpaid.

I still went home without cash, and my bills are still unpaid, but hey . . . I found out before I got to the front of the line! ;-D

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm Baaaaaack - and boy am I busy!

Well, the team arrived safely back in Gracias on Friday after their trip to La Frontera, and now they have returned to their homes and families. This particular team had one team member who was the official videographer of the trip, and of course individuals on the team took many pictures on their own cameras. They will be compiled into one collection, and that will be sent to us. However, I don't have them yet! My own family brought me back only a few photos, as they were too busy working to take pictures - or so they tell me!

Here are a few shots, of this team in Candelaria.

Arriving at the center of town, and unloading the medicines.

Counting the meds, to set up the pharmacy. Many medicines have to be brought through customs in bulk, and then the teams must package them for distribution before they can start running clinics.

The light coming in the window ruined the quality of this picture, but I am using it anyway, so you can see how these teams work in limited space, just getting the job done in spite of the limited available resources! These ladies are laying out the medicines for the pharmacy, on a gurney and a crib.

Dr Julio, seeing patients

Sorry, by the way, that I've not posted this update sooner. As soon as the team departed, the kids and I started in on our next big project, the Christmas gift distribution. For various reasons we have not yet received the shipments of gifts from the states, but we expect them later this week. Both shipments have arrived in port, and we have to do the paperwork (and pay) to get them through customs and delivered to Gracias. Meanwhile, we have gift items left over from last year, and from other shipments earlier in the year, which we have been sorting and organizing.

Here is the current state of our living room, as we work on this:

This is my explanation and excuse, for not posting in a few days. I am literally up to my eyebrows in Christmas work here!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Team due back from La Frontera this afternoon

You may have noticed that there hasn't been a lot of interesting news going into the blog this week. That's because I'm having a vacation of sorts. Allen took our visiting team and five of the kids up to La Frontera for the week. Only Kirstin stayed home, and she's been concentrating on her college courses. The family took the camera with them, and I'm sure they will return with many wonderful photos and stories. So, hang on another day, and I should have some good, fresh blog-fodder!

Today will be spent doing a bit of cleaning and organizing, plus preparing a dinner and breakfast for the team. As they are leaving Gracias very early tomorrow for their trip back to the airport, Allen requested a breakfast for the road. I think that will be either muffins or sausage biscuits, depending on how motivated we feel this afternoon.

Just for fun, to tide you over until the new pictures and stories arrive, here are a couple of pictures of the BucketBoy. The first is a recent picture, to compare with the photo from several years ago.

October 2007

Undated - sometime in 2005

Thursday, December 6, 2007

To the Visitors from the Kids Against Hunger Newsletter: Welcome!

I see that many people are coming to the site, from a link in the recent Kids Against Hunger newsletter. Welcome to my blog! We're excited to have this ongoing partnership with Kids Against Hunger, to help with the huge malnutrition problem in our area.

The newsletter link is bringing you to a page of articles specifically on the topic of feeding projects. Our ministry also includes many other aspects, such as hosting teams, running a Bible training School, mercy ministries, church construction, and others. This blog also includes articles about what it's like to live and raise a family in rural Honduras, as well as lots of photos of everyday life in this area. If you are interested in seeing articles on additional topics, you can click on the Sowers4Pastors title at the top of the page. This will take you to the most recent posts, on a variety of topics. Feel free to wander around the site. For instance, you might not want to miss the article on Deflating the Chicken, or the photos of Cable Bridges we cross regularly, or the scenes from our city in the Walking Tour of Gracias Lempira. Have fun!

Whether you wander the site or not, I want to thank you for your support of the cause to help the poor throughout the world! May God bless you for your kindness!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Country Houses of Lempira

According to the Honduran government, the department of Lempira is the poorest department in all of Honduras. Here are some pictures of houses in this part of the country, where dirt bricks and clay roofing tiles are the main building materials.