I remember back in 2011, when I took my first trip to Austria and to participate in my first SAT Transformational Retreat in Tradigist. During a break one day, I asked Christine about the house next door. She said, “Oh, that’s not a house, that’s our barn!” I was shocked. The thing was huge. Could have been two or three houses. I was also just impressed with the sheer size of the property. Anyhow, I was curious to look inside and so Christine took me over and I got my first glimpse inside the barn. I was utterly amazed at what I saw. Just piles of old dilapidated things and furniture, and farm equipment. It seemed stuffed with tons of junk. I thought to myself, “My God, I feel sorry for whoever is going to have to clean this place.”
Little did I know that 3 years later that would me (and Christine, Lauren, Warren and Sonja)
Before we left to start our Shangrila Project in 2014, Niloo told me that I would be in charge of the barn and getting it cleaned out and turned into a playhouse and possible future living spaces. This intimidated me. I remembered my glimpse inside the barn years ago. I actually thought it couldn’t be done. But Niloo believed it could be and didn’t listen to any other argument.
So when we arrived, the first day there, I did a walk through of the barn. I wanted to size up the enemy I was about to face. The task still seemed impossible, that it would take months to do. So the only thing to do was just to start. Christine ordered a big dumpster and we started throwing things away. We all worked together and worked extremely hard. But it was fun. We had fun throwing things off the second floor, and breaking the 70 some odd fake antique cabinets that lined the whole place.
I still remember emptying things in the rain one day. Warren had a wheelbarrow and we had to cart everything closer to a bin that had been put further away because it was too muddy for the truck to get back there and place the bin next to the barn. It felt like drudgery.
Another day we were getting rid of a full bin and getting a new empty one and the truck almost got stuck. We all had to help push it out of a rut one of the tires was digging in the mud. We eventually got him out.
I remember several of us standing on top of these bins overflowing with junk trying to smush them down so that the safety net could fit over the pile that was looming over the side.
We finished emptying that place in about 3-4 weeks, after dumping nearly 22 tons of junk out of there. I was amazed. To walk through it empty was a sight to behold. It really felt like an accomplishment. It was at this point I could see how positive this project was going to be, even with all the hard work and negativity we faced.
Then we began renovating one of the rooms in, the one that would become our playhouse. We did this with the assistance of a particularly awesome maintenance man named Macij. He was Polish, who spoke German, and didn’t understand too much English. He had a big heart and was great at his job. I learned so much from him. With his assistance we scraped walls, plastered them, cleaned floors, installed new windows, and then painted the whole room. A curtain and lights were hung, and chairs brought in. Camelot, as we called our playhouse became a reality.
The Barn was my friend, and no longer my enemy. Actually, I don’t think it was my enemy at all… It was just a teacher for me at that point in my life.
by Jason Whisman