Thursday, April 30, 2009

you wanted contrast, john. Kapow! Zam! Crash! how's that for contrast.

( It was so hot today, I think I got burned. a bit. on my toes. because i was wearing sandals. it was that hot. enjoy calgary spring weather.)

Good news is that since I last wrote, our followers have exponentially increased. I'm not a math wizard but that's what I call it when it goes from 1 to 3 to 6 in a matter of 2 days! By this rate, the whole church should be following the blog right in time for us to give the final overall conclusion of the trip on tuesday, and send us wishes for the 10 hr layover we have in the Netherlands! now, don't let me down! Finally, on to the blog....

I have a secret to tell.
Not only do I have hidden talents, such as, oh i don't know, .... masonry!
I am also a dancing machine.
In fact,
We, we are dancing machines.
This is my conclusion after being called up to the ring of dancing, an african baptism of fire if you will, this morning on our way to Mbutu village. (I was able to glean some possible reasons why the names of villages are so hard to get a hold of, as well as areas. It seems, according to the church clerk/elder/deacon guy that villages are named after mfumus, or chiefs. When a new chief comes along, so does a new name. Maps must be difficult to make; that, or the chiefs are in collusion with Rand McNally, getting a cut from all the new editions.
The entrance to the village was unique. It was a footpath that temporarily become a road. We slalomed our way through the village to the shade tree, passing houses, tobacco drying huts, small children. At the village we were able to check out some toilets. (I hope Warren takes the time to think of our African loos each time his beloved fans cheer for Luongo tonight. Looo. Looo. Canucks fans must be die hard sustainable development-ists. )

I never knew that latrines could be so interesting and sustainable. well, i hope no one is overly sensitive because here's what we learned today. The EcoSans as they call these environmentally friendly loos have been around for about 3 years. What the villagers do is dig a pit, 230 cms x 120 cm x 1 metre deep. Then they lay out the brickword, making the "deposit" hole (think of it as your local sustainable bank) 60 cms in diameter, mixing some dirt and water they, or I should say we served up some mortar, trowelling it between the bricks. We did a couple of rows complete with the mortar and the back filling. I was quite proud, actually. Well, until I turned around and saw that the woman doing her side of the toilets was done before us. But, in hindsight, i did scrape some dirt in the corner for her---so it's our victory either way. So after building up the two holes, some of the villagers pulled out a thin metal strip, tied it together with string and filled it almost all the way with sand, creating a dome like shape. Then with the measurements of 7 shovels of sand/dirt, 8 shovels of rocks, and 2 shovels of cement they began to mix up the concrete by adding water. After a few minutes they had placed it in the mould and started the trowelling and floating. As a former concrete worker I played the loyal municipal worker and oversaw the concrete creationg; i approved of the work they did. They placed a subtle piece of wood at the top (think of it as the deposit door at the ATM/ABMs). Once they dome with the drophole was complete they made just a little bit more concrete and placed a wood form over top with two feet markers and once the footpads were in place, they removed the subtle wooden piece and they sprinkled some sand on top of the dome...for decoration, i'd like to think.
Now, comes the interesting part. After each use, one drops a cup full of ash and sand. 1) it helps to start the compost process and 2) it cuts down the smell quite substantially. Then, "depending on how many visitors you have and how big your family is" it could take three weeks to fill, or it could take a couple of months. The real secret is that once filled, they put the ashen mix on top, pick up the dome shaped concrete cover with the subtle hole, roll it over to the other side, throw down plaster over the old hole and wait....for four to six months. When the waiting time is up, they bag the compost and use it on their fields. One ATM makes 3 bags of compost, which in turn can fertilise 1 acre of land. Not only does the village not have to dig holes all the time to go to the bathroom, but they save a lot of money not having to buy fertilizer from stores, which in turn damages the soil by over use.

On the way back we were shown some goats which were purchased by the loan program in the village. They were about a metre off the ground. I naturally thought it was strange that they were living not on the ground. So I asked. and the response I got wasn't anything close to what I was expecting. They eat too much? Zap! no. They make less noise in the air?? Kaboom! nope. (I'm running out of batman noises...) It's so the hyenas don't eat them. . . . gulp.
Apparently, hyenas are about a metre high. Oh, and the frequent the village enough so that the villagers are forced to build pens above ground. The idea of sleeping in the village no longer appeals to me.

As we were leaving yesterday, driving through some village on the red dirt road, I noticed a group of small children, three of the four mouthing uzungu, the fourth no older than 3 years old, in what I can only take as a sign of welcome, got up, picked up a rock and tried to hit the van with it. He was also yelling something. I bet it was nice.

We did get back early today, and Jeff and I were able to take a walk around for a bit. We walked to the two mosques in the city, over the river, by the stores in rushhour. I was relieved when no one yelled uzungu at us; I wasn't however overly joyed by the 'hey.....hey friend.....hey.....hey friend.... (at this point I honestly thought he was trying to sell us hashish) hey....hey....look at me (that one threw me for a loop) mumble inaudible.... " out of the corner of my eye i saw him trying to sell us a pair of sunglasses. It would seem that once you stop becoming a novelty people easily get tired of you, if they know nothing is going to come of it or if you're not in it for the long haul, something I'm sure the people in the city see all the time, and something the little boy picked up along with knowing how to throw rocks. This could be what this trip is, to these villagers, to the Nkhoma Relief and Development, to us; an opportunity for relationship, for it to mean something lasting.

Tomorrow we are off to see a more developed family house, I'm not sure what that all entails. Also, in the afternoon it's off to see some HIV/AIDS patients. I suspect that this will be the most difficult day of the trip.


  1. ok bj...2 sounds like malawi fits you well! and truly...ditch the call centre, you should be writing!
    burnt toes and all...i'm still a little envious.
    i will be thinking of / praying for you all as you visit patients tomorrow, you'll no doubt feel useless...but your beautiful white faces / hands /hearts will speak volumes into each brother or sister you meet. c.

  2. It's game time! Looooo(u)!! Vancouver fans are indeed sustainable development-ists; witness the phenomenon that is

    Mar's nephews started this as a way to raise funds for goats through CRWRC and are up to 335 on the goat-o-meter. There are many ways to get involved.

    Best wishes tomorrow--it will be an experience to remember, my thoughts will be with each of you,

    Go Canucks!

  3. BJ, how could you burn your toes when I sent a whole bottle of SPF 70 sunscreen for you? I wish we had enough sun out right now to warrant some of the stuff here too. The pictures are great. You guys are definitely getting to see and experience a lot in a short amount of time. I know tomorrow won't be easy but there is so much to be learned (and taught to us) from your experience. I'll be thinking of you guys!