The Farm: How I am Ill-prepared for manual labor

jeff-at-the-start-of-the-day

Jeff at the start of the day.

I am not a lazy person. I love work. I love being productive. I am energized by finishing a project. More than that, I seek out ways to improve companies I work for by taking on things outside of my job and in my spare time usually have at least one project on the go to keep me busy. It just so happens that those projects tend to be either events or based around the computer. So while I’m not lazy, I also tend to avoid doing actual hard work; shoveling the driveway, for example, is something I hate doing.

The first morning of our farming days was a classroom lesson on permaculture. The main principal of permaculture, as we were told to memorize, is “to create social and environmental designs that mimic Mother Nature.” Effectively, it’s doing things strategically so that the natural results of your plants together meet your long-term goals. This includes things like:

  • planting trees that act as a natural pesticide, cast shade, or replenish the soil with nutrients other plants are taking out
  • rather than planting one crop over and over and depleting the soil, varying your crop with annuals and perennials which has the added benefit that one bad drought or bug won’t kill everything
  • spacing your crops in rows and columns to take advantage of the natural flow of water

That’s definitely something I could get behind. Effectively, the idea is to work smart, creating systems that feed into each other, so you don’t have to do any extra in the long-run.

We were introduced to Edward, who manages the farm and is a favorite contact for our summer volunteers. He wore a ball cap, button-up long sleeve shirt, and jeans. He was soft spoken, but held up conversations on farming, Canada, winters, and crops.

bethany-hoeing

Bethany digging holes

The first thing he got us to do was water some pre-dug holes to moisten the earth for planting we would be doing later. This involved holding a hose over the holes until there seemed like there was a bit too much water (it was never too much as the soil sucked up every last drop) and then moving to another hole. If anything it was a bit dull and made me have to pee.

How I would later long for that dullness! We took a long lunch after we were finished watering and met with Edward by Bibi Mimi’s (the girl’s home) in the afternoon. There’s a garden by the fence surrounding the home with eight rows of plants. Kale and some trees grew between every other row leaving lots of room for new plants. He handed both of us a hoe and demonstrated what we would be doing.

He lifted the hoe above a prospective hole and let gravity drop it into the hard dirt. He did this a few times, fluffing the soil and then used the front and back of the blade to create a hole around 2/3 of a foot in diameter. It looked easy enough. Bethany and I then proceeded to do this around 60 times each with Edward following behind us with a hose to moisten the dirt like we had done in the late morning.

The dirt was a bit heavy and a bit sandy, and the hoe’s blade wasn’t attached in any particular direction so would spin as you tried to thrust it into the dirt. It was also mid-afternoon with the sweltering African sun pelting down on us. I felt nauseous from the heat, work, and large lunch I instantly regretted. I kept going though, making the conscious decision that I would rather work so hard I threw up than have to quit because I couldn’t take it.

bethanys-hands-after-the-first-day

Bethany’s hands

Once we were finished the holes and they were all watered, we had to go around a second time to turn this now moist soil and make the holes bigger. I was in pretty desperate need of a shower and Bethany’s hands were turning into one big blister.

Luckily we didn’t have to dig these holes a third time. Instead, we headed back to the farm. There was a small plot with sticks weaved into a make-shift roof a foot above small seedlings. We were told to grab the larger seedlings from as close to the roots as possible and pull up 120 to plant in our holes. Back at the garden, we would stick a finger up to the knuckle into the wet soil, slip the roots of a seedling into the hole and then push it closed. When complete, we’d planted 120 small pepper plants!

jeff-at-the-end-of-the-day

Jeff at the end of the day

We washed out hands and then went home to fall asleep on our front porch.

The next day was all on the farm, but much easier. First we harvested around 15 plots of beans as their season had ended and we needed to make room for new plants. This was actually fun to do, finding the plants, and pulling them up a bunch at a time!

The dreaded hoes came out again, but this time the soil was much softer, the sun wasn’t yet at its brightest, and Edward helped dig. Before we knew it, we’d dug over 200 holes! We then had to water them, but someone else was using the holes, so we walked down to the lake with a bucket each, got water, and brought it up to the farm, pouring it over our holes. We did this over and over until each was wet.

It was certainly hard work, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it again soon. However, I’m also glad we got to do it. It gave us a new respect for all of the farm hands who – without even thinking much of it – go to work daily to grow most of the food we eat on campus.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

English is Certainly Harder: Tutoring Students at the Joseph & Mary’s Library

In addition to working in each department, we are also trying out the various roles that volunteers fill while they’re here.

jeff-and-johanaOne of the most important positions is assisting with the “Individual Education Plan” (IEP) program at the school. Joseph & Mary’s Schools are taught in English since that’s the language their National Exams are done in; strategically it’s best to teach in the language the students will be tested in so nothing is lost in translation.

However there are downsides to this and one of them is that some students transfer into the school with only a basic grasp of English. When this happens in pre-school or kindergarten, it doesn’t pose a huge obstacle. It happens often, as Bethany can attest; when she shadowed the teacher in the pre-school, the biggest challenge was that few of the 30+ children spoke English and some didn’t even know Swahili. They pick it up fast though at that age!

bethany-and-her-iep-partnerThe challenge is when the students transfer in higher grades and now are faced with the daunting task of learning their subjects, studying for the exam, AND picking up a second or even third language along the way.

That’s where IEP comes in. In this program, students replace their free periods with time in the library with a volunteer. The two can talk or read books to work on the basic building blocks of the language. The key is for the student to be spending time with a Native English speaker and practicing!

My students were both male: Johan and Sylvester. While the books are categorized by reading level and students can take out books from the level just above and just below their own, I think my boys were choosing books beyond their ability. Maybe it was their pride or maybe they liked a challenge… maybe it was my own pride that prevented me from encouraging them to pick an easier book. I was impressed that despite this, they were both more than willing to stop after every sentence to ask what certain words meant.

dsc_0003Techniques for explaining words ranged from funny “furious” faces, to “crawling” on the floor, to “scattering” books around the library.

There were words that I had trouble explaining though, despite knowing what they mean. “Certainly” and “hardly” were two that came up that I tried to explain, but struggled to avoid using bigger words that would only make the concepts more confusing. “Holy crap!” was another one. “It kind of means ‘Oh no!’ or ‘Wow!’” I explained, but knew it didn’t quite translate.

Then there were some words that I could easily explain. When Johan asked what “relief” meant, I paused before asking, “Do you know how you sometimes really have to go to the bathroom? Then when you finally get to pee you go ‘ahhhh.’ That ‘ahhhh…’ that’s relief.”

dsc_0004As they read, I started to recognize how complicated English is to learn. So many words mean similar, if not identical, things. How do you explain the difference between “hurried,” “fast,” and “quick”? Or reversely, there are so many words that are basically the same, that mean drastically different things. When one character described herself as “fired up” I had to explain that this didn’t mean they were on fire. I also had to explain that “to get fired” was also very different.

Then there are soft and hard consonants. In “bicycle” that first “c” sounds like an “s”, but the second sounds like a “k.” Why? Life’s kruel.

I met with the boys for an hour each day for the whole week to read in the library and on Friday they eagerly asked if we’d be reading again tomorrow. “Monday!” I told them.

While I’m certain I wasn’t able to convey the nuances of phrases like “Holy crap” I’m also certain they know a few more words than they did when we started and that’s certainly enough for now!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Swahili is Hard: From Vowels to Vocabulary

It’s funny the difference between philosophy and practice. I’m one, who has said in the past, that there’s no reason to learn other languages. An app that can translate as you speak will soon become the practical answer to this problem. But after only a couple days in Tanzania, I was pledging to learn as much Swahili as I could while I’m here.

I came to Tanzania literally knowing no Swahili, except the little I gleamed from Disney: “Asantai Sana” (“Thank you very much”) and “Simba” (“Lion”) were a phrase and a word that came easily since they were familiar. But I didn’t even know how to say “Yes,” “No,” or “Hello” so unless I just wanted to thank the lions, I had work to do. It continues to be a work in progress, but a vital part of living in a country if for no other reason than to show people that you’re trying as they go above and beyond every day to treat you with the utmost respect.

We learned “Hello” quickly, though were curious to find some people saying, “Jumbo,” and others saying, “Mumbo.” We began to use them interchangeably, until I read in my basic Swahili phrasebook that, while “Mumbo” just means “News?” (as in “what’s the news” or “hey”), “Jumbo” is a tourist phrase that conveys, “Hey! I’m not a local and do not speak Swahili.” When learning a language, trial and error only gets you so far!

Vowels were easy enough to remember: A is ah, E is eh, I is ee, O is oh, and U is oo. From there reading words becomes a lot easier with most consonants being pronounced the same in English. Despite this, plenty (and I mean more often than not) of words are mispronounced. I try reassuring myself that my interpretation is close enough to get my message across, until I remember that “moan” and “moon” is a subtle difference in pronunciation, while meaning significantly different things!

It’s been fun to slowly piece together phrases. One song that the girls regularly sing at prayer goes “Mumbo Sawa Sawa.” Mumbo, as we knew, means “News”, while “Sawa” is slang for “sure” or figuratively “in the positive.” Thus Mumbo Sawa, very roughly translated, we deduced means “Good news.”

In addition to our phrasebook and flash cards, we’ve been generously offered Swahili lessons by one of the staff here. We’ve been taking advantage of it every chance we get!

If only more Disney movies had taught us Swahili!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dining Hall: The Fall from Expert to Amateur

long-line-ups

A huge line-up of students waiting for their lunch.

One of the things JBFC does early in new staff training is have each person work a few days in each department (farm, dining hall, school, etc.) My first assignment was the Dining Hall. I was sat on a bench sitting across from Paulo – who would guide me through the first opportunity I had to prove myself a productive member of the staff.

Two large barrels of rinsed kale were sat by us and he demonstrated the proper technique for slicing it. Four to five at a time you would slice off the stems and then finely shave it with the knife into thin long strips. He did it with finesse and on my turn I hacked it into strips. “Thinner” he encouraged, though after a few tries he shrugged and accepted it was close enough.

As I sat there, slicing a mountain of kale, I reflected back on the closest job experience I had to this current task. In high school, like many of my classmates, I had my first job cutting roe out of fish. It was a tedious job and included hours of picking up a fish, slicing down its stomach from its gills to its tail, scooping out the contents which went in a box and then throwing the rest of the fish down a trough. No one wore gloves, since they only slowed you down, but everyone had to wear hairnets. I was clean shaven for one of the last times in my life since I refused to wear a beard net. You left the plant stinking of seafood, seeing fish when you closed your eyes, and a little richer.

Specifically I was thinking of a time when I managed to cut the very tip of my thumb off with the knife. I went to the manager’s office to be bandaged up with clear intentions to quit. However when he held up his hand with three fingers, I decided to push through.

This was – ironically – what I was thinking about when I let the knife get too close to my hand for the second time in my life. It cut flesh and nail on the tip of my thumb and immediately started bleeding. Paulo looked at me a bit surprised (perhaps having given me too much credit) and I shrugged and went off to find a band aid as not to get any blood in children’s food.

I had to go to my supervisor, who had met me not three days before, and sheepishly tell him that I’d cut myself. After cutting more kale, I had to go back for a second Band-Aid since the first lost its stick and got unstuck.

Admittedly I was feeling pretty terrible about the whole thing. First, I was embarrassed. I would have joked about cutting myself, but never would have thought I’d make such a rookie mistake. Second, I was feeling pretty helpless. I was going from a job where I knew how to do everything – or at least had the know how to figure it out – to cutting myself with a knife like a child. I eventually consoled myself by remembering that I am the volunteer coordinator and failure at first just gives me that much more ammunition when a volunteer has trouble with their assigned tasks.

Then again, the volunteers are in high school; they probably know how to use a knife!

cooking

The ladies cooking rice in large pots over wood fires.

The process of the dining room was impressive. It’s a huge building with the back sixth acting as the kitchen. There’s one gas burner, but most of the food is cooked outside on wood fires in big metal pots held up by rocks. The two ladies cooking made enough rice this way to feed over 350 people in record time. They accomplished what would have taken expensive industrial size appliances in Canada with some basic tools.

 

The food is scooped by staff onto metal

handing-food

Teachers handing out food.

plates and the teachers hand them out. Today’s menu was rice and cooked veggies including kale, tomatoes, and onions. I scooped rice. As I tried to make each scoop uniform, I was told “less” by staff and “more” by students. Despite my lack of consistency, everyone left with full stomachs.

Posted in Personal, Tanzania | Leave a comment

The Unending Tide of Lake Flies

I often find myself thinking: “Man, if you live here you have to get really comfortable with the bugs.”

When I was young I was afraid of a lot of things and bugs were definitely one of them. My family and I were once at a campground staying in a cabin and I found a live ant in my bed: ONE live ant. I refused to go to sleep. A girl at my school was known for chasing me around with worms. If young Jeff came here, he’d have a very hard time.

I’ve killed around ten toonie-sized hairy spiders in our home to date (often trying to do so without Bethany being aware they were there in the first place). They’re a funny sort of species. If you hit them with a book or shoe, they literally fall apart with legs and body parts flying everywhere. Yet they’re resilient. I have seen, on a number of occasions, spiders with only three legs left trying to crawl away as fast as their eight-legged counterparts.

mosquitos-on-the-ceiling

Lake flies cover the ceiling after I left the lights on in the spare room.

More than the spiders, it’s the lake flies that have been the real bother though. They are tiny little flying bugs that don’t bite, but do swarm to light in droves (even if the light is your flashlight as you walk up the hill to our home). If the lights are turned on in our living room, our ceiling will inevitably be covered with them within around 30 minutes. And “covered” doesn’t do it justice. The ceiling looks like the reverse of an African sky on the clearest night with black little stars dotting nearly every inch of our white ceiling.

mosquitos-on-the-window

Lake flies covering our window screens in the kitchen.

If you have a plate underneath a light, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a few dead critters in your food. Similarly, our bed is under our bedroom light and it became a nightly routine to sweep the deceased insects off our sheets before going to sleep. In the morning, the Mama’s sweep up the dead bugs, which only have a life span of a few hours and litter the floor with their corpses. It’s almost humorous the little drifts they form.

We’ve solved this issue for the most part. Every night, when the sun sets around 8:30, we pretend we’re having a power outage in Canada and light a couple of candles instead of turning on the overhead lights. While some bugs are drawn to them and end up dying in the flame, the light draws far less bugs and makes our home very comfortable. We never turn on our bedroom light anymore and instead use a tall candle sticking out of a small Whiskey bottle. Bethany’s essential oil diffuser also lights our room casting blue, red, and green light. This small change has made a world of difference.

Thus far the mosquitos haven’t been too bad, though Bethany would likely disagree. While I’ve had a few bites over the last few weeks, they typically go away by the next morning. On the other hand, she’s covered in red dots; each marking a place she’s been bitten dating back to the very first night we were here!

Perhaps the biggest adjustment living with the bugs in Tanzania has been sleeping under a mosquito net.

mosquito-net

Bethany under our mosquito net!

While the netting keeps out certain unwanted Malaria carriers, they also trap in the heat. The first night I tried to imagine this sleep situation was comforting, like returning to sleep in a mother’s womb. But after a few nights, I could only imagine sleeping under the net was more akin to sleeping in a sauna.

On top of the heat, the netting has to be tucked in between the mattress and bed frame and shouldn’t be touched (since the net keeps out mosquitos, but allows their noses through). The result added a coffin-effect to the oven we call our bed.

We were reassured that we’d get used to the situation, but still began to explore ways to improve it.

In one of our spare rooms, we found a hand fan and mister combo that looks like it was ordered off of a television infomercial. However, it was a serious life saver. As we watched movies, we would take turns spraying each other and fanning the fast drying mist like one of Cleopatra’s servants. It worked like very temporary AC!

We also started freezing bottles of water during the day and bringing one to bed when we first went to sleep and another when I would wake up at 2 a.m. (every night for no clear reason). I’d rub the sheets and pillow with the icey bottle and have relief just long enough to fall back asleep.

Now since this rough start, there have been a few considerable improvements.

First, we stopped bringing the laptop under the net with us to watch movies (no kidding, right!) Instead we set it on the coffee table beside our bed and watch it through the thin white mesh. It makes a big difference not having a heat-generator in our bed an hour before sleep-time (other than me that is!)

Second, when we first arrived all of the screens in the windows were broken, so we had to sleep with them closed. But in the last week, they’ve been repaired and the nightly breeze from them has made a huge difference!

Finally, I think we’re actually starting to acclimatize, both to the heat and to the netting. More and more the net feels like a comfort rather than a hindrance. Despite that, the best sleep we get is still in the cool mornings when we wake up after sunrise, take off the netting, and squeeze in an extra 30 minutes of uninhibited snoozing!

We plan to have our own mosquito net made, which will hang to the floor (no tucking), have a door (no tucking, untucking, and re-tucking at 2 a.m.), and will be longer than the bed (meaning our feet can hang off the edge!) This is a luxury that can’t come fast enough!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Mumbo Sawa Sawa”: Prayer Time is a Good Time

As an adult, I have found that many of the things I dread and have to force myself to do are often the very things that make me the happiest. It seems that while as a child I knew what would please me and did it, as an adult I’m in a constant battle with myself to experience joy!

Every night at 6 p.m., the girls at the home have prayer time and every day at 5:40 p.m. I have to make the decision of whether I should go and participate or take this night off. Every time that I choose to go, I end up leaving prayer time feeling happier and more connected than ever before.

dsc_0170

Jeff & Ester

That first prayer time, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. We’d certainly read about it being an amazing experience, but their blog posts – like mine, I’m sure – could not convey what we were in for. When we arrived at the gate, I was immediately met by one of the youngest girls there, who introduced herself as Wande (pronounced “Wan-day”). She is seven with hair so short she is nearly bald and a missing front tooth. Immediately she grabbed my hand and led me to a couch (hand-made of wood and large foam squares covered in fabric). Ester, a girl her same size with braids, sat beside us. I made faces at Wande and she would giggle and then poke Ester to show her the spectacle. She’d rub my beard and my arms and then poke Ester to do the same. And as the singing started, she stared at me open-mouthed until I tried to join in.

Each prayer time is a bit different, but there’s an overall routine to it. A few of the girls, who are in the girls’ “government” sit on a bench at the front and lead it. They choose someone to pray, someone to sing, and someone to give thanks and then repeat.

Regularly there is call and response:

Girl: Praise the Lord!
All: Amen!
Girl: Praise the Lord again!
All: (louder) Amen!

There is a time for announcements and a time for people to choose who to pray for, which often includes people traveling, their families, “dad” which is what they call the founder and “papa” which is what they call the current head-of-campus on-site. During each prayer time there is a moment where they all get quiet and together pray what sounds like the Swahili “Our Father,” though I think we have figured out that it’s not.

What dominates the prayer time, however, is the singing. Girls are selected by the leaders to sing a song here and there. They start and then everyone joins in for the chorus. Everyone sings from age six to sixteen. We’ve seen Wande lead songs with her small, yet powerful, voice and we’ve seen groups of teenage girls stand at the front and sing so well they could challenge Beyoncé. The small dining hall with its cement walls, wire-mesh windows, and tin ceiling is filled with their songs and the girls drumming on tables or clapping to the rhythm.

IMG_6095.JPG

One of the simplest songs is one they sing on the regular and we were able to pick up some of the words pretty quick: “Mumbo sawa sawa.” Mumbo is slang for “News?” as in “What’s the news?” and “sawa” is a slang word that means “in the positive,” like “good” or “cool.” So “mumbo sawa sawa” basically means something to the effect of, “It is good news.”

It is leading up to these prayer times and after them when we’re able to get to know the girls. Emma was one girl who came to talk to us straight away and has helped be our guide through the world of Bibi Mimi’s (the official name of the girls’ home) over the last few weeks. We quickly learned the names of the younger girls first as they were quickest to come play with us. Maybe it was having so many nephews and nieces under 12, or maybe it was that the younger children were easier to tease and make laugh!

I’ve taught Wande how to stick out her tongue to make a funny face (bad influence?), though she doesn’t quite get it and looks like she’s licking air. Another girl I taught to fist bump and explode it. They’ve also taught me silly games like the one where you sing a little song while gesturing around a person’s face and then point out fake lumps on their head while crying “ee-goon-duh” (phonetic).

soccer

I know that’s a broom. I was adding a little hockey into our soccer!

I still tend to spend time with the younger ones like a sort of safety net as Bethany has made more outright effort to get to know the many teenage girls. She recently brought down our wedding pictures and was quickly surrounded by teenagers flocking around her crying out “ohhhhhs” and “ahhhhhs.” I stuck around for a short while before heading outside to play soccer with the younger girls, who seemed less interested in white dresses and pretty make-up.

Yesterday at prayer time, there was a particularly funny moment and a particularly endearing one with one of the girls: Salima. When I first arrived, she looked up at me and asked, “Why aren’t you clapping?” in her thick Tanzanian accent. I was confused, so asked her to repeat a few times. Finally, I realized she was asking, “Why aren’t you happy?” I was frowning and she was wondering why. Later, they did the bible reading, but decided to do it in English since there were a couple of American women visiting. She smacked my arm mid-reading and asked excitedly: “You understand?”

Around 7 p.m., dinner is served and we’ll sometimes stick around and eat with them. On good days, it’s rice, beans, and kale. On days we tend to avoid, it’s ugali (a bland, thick cornmeal porridge) and fish (with head, tail, and skin still attached). Some of the girls don’t love the fish, but most eat every bit of them! No one uses utensils (which is ideal for me, which you’d know if you’ve ever eaten a meal with me) and I put aside my spoon and dig in whenever I’ve remembered to wash my hands before dinner.

Each of the girls has their own personalities and we’ve been getting to know them more every time we attend prayer. And every time we leave I feel happier and more connected to why we’re here than before!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arriving at JBFC

Having no checked bags, we were able to walk right through the airport when we arrived in Mwanza. We were greeted by our new co-workers who would also be our friends and family in Tanzania. Seth, the campus director, was the first to step forward and introduced us to the two other international staff: Melinda and Paula. Since it was 8 p.m. and we had an hour drive to our final destination, we quickly boarded our truck with our Tanzanian driver Emma (pronounced E-ma).

In the city, there weren’t street lights, but there was a full moon that helped illuminate buildings and people. We drove through lantern lit markets, down dark packed streets, and eventually into the country. Had I not been to Central America, the whole experience would have felt alien to me, but it reminded me of our time there and so instead seemed all a bit familiar, despite having just arrived in the country. They drove on the left side of the road in Tanzania, though the width and quality of them were on par – if not better – than the roads we drove in Ireland while on our honeymoon.

The paved road turned to dirt as we turned off the main stretch and headed toward Kitongo. I remembered sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck as a child as we drove the 45 minutes down dirt roads to the lake that our camp was built on. I’d fantasize on those drives of being in Africa. This drive reminded me of that: driving in to the camp, surrounded by trees and the occasional home.

They drove us right to the bottom of the hill; our new home was at the top. I’d read blogs about the experience of arriving at JBFC and wasn’t disappointed. As the car parked, dozens of the girls living at JBFC surrounded the jeep, giving us hugs and handshakes. I didn’t know if the handshakes were for my benefit or theirs, but I took them all happily.

When we got to the house – which we’d be sharing with Seth – we were pleasantly surprised and in a future post, I’ll give you a tour. Right off the entrance is the kitchen with a fridge, freezer, and gas stove. To the left, the kitchen opens up into a massive open room with a huge dining table that would fit 12+ people, a variety of JBFC made couches, and a huge book shelf with pictures and African trinkets. Towards the back was our bedroom with a tv stand/book shelf, a queen-sized bed, and our very first mosquito net (more on that also in a future blog post). We loved how big and open it was and could definitely see getting comfortable here.

16387960_606569863619_4299454294721913920_nThe best part was yet to come. In the morning, we found out that the door and windows all open on the far side of the house and overlook Lake Victoria. The view is amazing. One of my favorite places in Tanzania is sitting just outside that door in the late afternoon when the house creates shade on that side. We have a cold drink, wave to people as they walk by, enjoy the view and the breeze off the water, and do our best impression of our friends Aaron and Steph who notoriously enjoy being at home and watching the world go by through their bay windows.

Seth took us on the tour of JBFC early that day and we got our first taste of the campus. We were surprised with how close everything was to our front door. From Papa’s Restaurant at one end to the Administrative offices at the other, it is less than a 10 minute walk and includes our home, the girls’ home, the primary and secondary school, a chicken coop, pig pens, herds of cow, and acres of gardens growing things like tomatoes, kale, and broccoli. The extent that JBFC has gone to in creating all of these moving parts that work so seamlessly together is a testament to the work they do. The farm helps supplement costs for food at the school and girls home, while providing fresh produce to Papa’s and creating a training ground for locals to learn about permaculture. Papa’s acts as a draw for tourists (and their money), a place for staff to enjoy a meal, and a training ground for future students of their vocational college. The girls live in their dorms with four bunk beds, a bathroom, a living room, and a mama’s room and have a shared dining hall. They all go to the school with around 300 other students from surrounding communities.

Wherever you walk, small lizards lead the way, scurrying out from under foot just in time to avoid you. The females are a dull gray or green, but the males have a bright red top half and a bright blue bottom (hence their nickname “the spiderman lizard”). They’re quite a sight to see. Small geckos are also everywhere and as we’ve unpacked and started to organize our new home, we’ve been regularly startled by tiny geckos darting out of our way. We always jump, but are also immediately relieved… at least it’s not one of the toonie-sized hairy spiders that occasionally make an appearance!

16298932_606569843659_1012586618117603195_nThere are three dogs that also live on campus. There’s Kony, a large mastiff, who knows how to sit, likes to be close, and regularly tries to hold your hand. Heineken is a Jack Russell Terrier, who regularly chases lizards and is often seen following around Mamas and napping in the kitchen. Spotty is a black Pitbull mix that’s sweet deep down… really deep down. Heneikin and Kony tend to treat our house as home base and so when they’re not out having “Homeward Bound”-style adventures or visiting with the girls, they’re napping in our living room in the open door frame or pressed up against a cool wall.

We took their lead on that first day at JBFC and also had a nap in the afternoon, trying to sleep off our jet lag. Around 6, we walked down to the girl’s home for prayer time. I was a little nervous, not sure what to expect when faced with nearly 50 new faces…

(Read more about prayer time in my next post!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment