Imagine trying to build a large concrete structure without the use of modern equipment and skilled labor. This is exactly the situation that confronts contractors in the West Indies every day, says the author, who describes his experiences overseeing the construction of a large reinforced-concrete house on the tiny island of Mustique, situated within the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies. Since both hurricanes and termites affect the island, concrete construction is most often the building material of choice.

The law in St. Vincent requires that only Vincentian workers be used on projects within the country. But since most Vincentians complete only the most basic of schooling or trade education, it's not easy to find what can be described as “skilled tradesmen.”

Even though the workers use the most rudimentary of equipment and apply only the knowledge passed on to them by their elders, they sometimes accomplish fairly amazing feats and produce surprisingly good results. However, the possibility for problems in the work is high, particularly since the engineering of structural elements often is substandard.