An interesting aspect of travelling overseas is that you get to see various renovation techniques utilised by different cultures and their ancestors.
BY ANA STANKOVIC
I recently returned from five weeks away on my honeymoon in the United States of America, Mexico and Cuba. To say that it was the most amazing holiday would be an understatement.
But as well as enjoying our travels and our new beginning as husband and wife we took note of the various construction methods and renovation techniques utilised in those countries and by their ancestors.
It’s funny to think how some things widely available in nature can also be used to assist mankind.
A perfect example comes from Cuba. I didn’t really understand what people meant about falling in love with a place until I visited Cuba.
It has so much natural beauty and most especially, amazing human spirit.
For a country where people don’t earn a great amount of money or have many things and have restrictions such as the US embargo to live with, they have the most positive attitude towards life, embrace music and dancing as second nature and really enjoy every second they have.
Travelling through a country like Cuba, you notice that people – especially farmers – have to get creative in the techniques they adapt for their properties to find the most cost effective solutions.
One that really stood out was to do with fencing. In a place where they don’t have much money, farmers still need to protect their crops with fences from other animals trampling and eating their produce.
So they found a new use for cactus. These are readily available and easy for them to multiply, so farmers have planted cactus plants along the borders of their properties as type of fencing to protect their produce. How clever is that!
And there are all those innovations that the Mayan and Aztec civilizations utilised in Mexico, some of which are still in use today.
We visited a number of temples in Mexico and it was interesting to learn from a local guide at one of these sacred sites that they used to use honey instead of concrete (which didn’t exist in those times) in construction between those big stones. How amazing. I never knew that honey could be used for something like that. I mean, it makes sense. It’s sticky and for anyone who has had honey drip on a surface and left it there for a bit, it dries as a very solid, concrete-like material.
Nature is truly amazing. Sometimes we forget that there are so many different uses for various plants and other natural elements and it’s lovely to get reminded of those.
Another fascinating thing we discovered in Mexico is a plant extract used for waterproofing.
It’s amazingly resilient – and of course natural – and it is used in many parts of Mexico for waterproofing pools and also with some bathroom renovations.
I guess we can easily forget sometimes to look to natural things that might assist us with construction and instead we turn to the easily accessible man-made materials that also quite frequently contain chemicals. But we don’t need to.
My grandma still cleans using vinegar and bi-carb soda and swears that they clean better than any spray available in the shops.
Maybe we need to look back to materials and techniques that were used by our ancestors and learn a bit more from them and about being more sustainable in our renovations. Their construction has a remarkable record of lasting for hundreds of years and maybe ours could too.