Monday, September 20, 2010

A prayer for the mill

In the past few months, we've been working on getting a grinding mill building built and a grinding mill installed for this community. A college group had donated some money for the Ik and the community requested it be used for one of two things: either a grinding mill or a maternity ward. We chose the first. The man in the picture below is named Isa and came all the way from Kampala to build for us. He stayed with us for two weeks and worked on several projects. He did a splendid job on the building and we were able to install the mill a couple of weeks later.

The way a grinding mill works is this: they put dried corn into an open end (where the two men are standing), it goes through a grinder, and it comes out as flour from the green funnel-looking thing. I'm a bit simple-minded when it comes to these type of machines, but that's the way I understand the process.

This is actually a tractor engine that is used in grinding machines. It's hooked up to the grinder via belts.

We actually had to bolt the machine to the cement floor because the machine shakes so badly when it's running.

The flour comes out this end into a waiting bag. Everyone near-by gets dusted.

This is how the corn looks before grinding. The people pick it fresh during the harvest and hang it up in their houses to dry before grinding it.

The grinding mill officially opened it's doors last week. People couldn't wait to try it out. We put the operation of the mill in the hands of the community. They established a committee who chose a manager to take care of the money and employees and they also chose two men to do the grinding. These men feed the corn into the open end and the recipient of the flour waits on the other end with a bag.

Now for the sad news...after only one day, the mill stopped working. We could easily call someone to come up and help us fix the problem but we would really like the community to take ownership of the mill and get it fixed themselves. Please pray with us that they are motivated to do so and will have the machine running again in no time. Having a mill in our area will free up the women from having to grind corn by hand. The flour produced is a staple of their diet; they make it into a porridge and a dish like cornmeal mush.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

'Nyakwach-for-work' program

In Karamoja, the NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations) sometimes administrate programs called 'Cash for Work or Food for Work'. It works just the way it sounds. They hire locals to build a road or a dam...and then they pay them with either money or food. The programs are always short-term but a way for people to earn a little something.

Now to my story. Terrill & I went to visit the garden of our friend, Bilah Charles. The old man wanted to show us around and proudly point out his produce. During the course of the tour, he lamented that he no longer has children to pick his beans when they're ready for harvest. The beans are called K-20 and they look like kidney beans. Many plants were ready for harvest and some beans were even rotting, from pestilence or mold. I felt sorry for the man and offered to help him pick beans the following day. He was happy with that and said he'd come pick me up in the morning. He never showed up, so I asked a young girl (12 years old) to take me to Charles's garden. Alice led the way and I trailed her. As is common to my days, five children trailed behind me. We found the garden and walked in among the corn stalks. Charles had planted quite sporadically and beans were everywhere...under pumpkin leaves or beside tomato plants. We started picking beans and within minutes I realized that my plastic bag wasn't going to be big enough. I took off my jacket and we made it into a storage container for the bean pods. The children worked beside me for an hour before getting restless. Our bag was full anyway so we decided to head home. At our compound, the children showed me how to separate the bean from the pods and get the chaff out of the bean mixture. At the end of our 'harvesting session' I asked the children what they wanted for payment. The answer was unanimous. They wanted something called nyakwach....otherwise known as safety pins. Who knew I could get such an ample return on my safety pins? I have dubbed the event my 'nyakwach for work program'.

On the way back from harvesting beans that afternoon, I was handed this child by her sister, Siti. Kunume is 1.5 years old but is small for her age. Everyone thought it was quite funny that Kunume fit in my purse. Now that's what I call a multi-purpose bag.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slow, fat, white & hairy

I was told yesterday that I'm a slow, fat, hairy, white & 100% woman (whatever that means). If anyone on the other side of the Atlantic had said these things, I probably wouldn't have been flattered but the context is everything. My friend, Esther, told me I'm slow because I'm not picking up the language as quickly as Terrill is. Okay...he's a linguist, I'll let that comment slide. Her daughter, Siti, told me I'm fat (which means healthy in their minds). I was supposed to be flattered. They were comparing our ankles and mine were definitely twice the size of theirs. Sit's cousin, Lucy, told me I'm hairy. She was examining my arm hair closely. This was all new to them because they have very little hair on their entire bodies. They love touching the hair on my head and brushing it out of my face. People with bangs, beware. Then last night, we were sitting beside the fire and my legs were glowing in the darkness of night. Someone shouted out, you're too white. Hey...can't do much about that unless I want to put myself at risk for skin cancer. At the end of the night, our friend Lojore walked us back to our compound. We were discussing the possibility of walking to Kaabong one day. It would be an 8-hour walk through the bush for us. Lojore said that he didn't think Terrill would have any problem but that he wondered if I'd make it. I asked why I couldn't do it...always up for a challenge. He said that I'm all woman and they have more trouble then men when walking long distances. I wonder what it means to be 1/2 woman....

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I thought it was about time to give you a glimpse of our Timu home. I got the idea from our friends, Travis & Andrea Williamson, who are currently living with the Gumuz people in Ethiopia. I appreciated knowing where they spend their time and I thought our friends & family might appreciate the same. We started building this house in May of last year and started living in it by October. Now we're spending a majority of our time in Timu and have appreciated the security and perks of our little compound. I feel like I'm 'nesting' a bit among the Ik. We'll blog another day about the guest house/office and other structures on the compound. Today, I'll cover inside our house. Our house is about four and a half feet under ground level. We duck to go inside and then go down these steps. This was for added security and privacy. My kitchen is to the left of the steps and our living room is to the right. We have solar panels that give us light and charge our computer and cell phones. That's about all we use it for. We have a water tank outside from which we collect rain water. When the rains stop, we hire girls to carry water on their heads to our tank. Recently, we've also been carrying water from the well in our vehicle (in jerry cans) because it's faster and the kids love to ride in the vehicle. I sympathize with the girls who have to carry water. I've tried it on several occasions now and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do physically. The well is in the valley and we have to walk uphill (about a half mile) with 20 liters of water on our heads. Not my idea of fun.

This is my kitchen. Although there is a blue pipe running into the house from the outside, I don't have water yet. We're working on it....I fill jerry cans of water and use basins to do washing. The plastic white container sitting on our cupboard is a water filter. The water we get from the well is yellow when it comes to us.

This is our living room. We do most of our work from these chairs. We wanted to make it simple enough so the Ik would feel comfortable when coming in to visit us. As it is, our place is pretty ritzy for them. The bottom of the window frame is at ground level.

When we walk to the right of the couch, we go through this little curtain to get to our bedroom & bathroom. I had to include the bamboo curtain in this blog because it was a Goodwill find and Terrill just couldn't live without it. ;) The white canvas hanging beside the curtain is a shoe holder but we use it for a lot else.

This is the foot end of our bedroom where our solar system is stored and where we charge all the cell phones from this area. There's not much room for anything else in the bedroom but a bed.

This is the head. Terrill's been great with helping me to get shelves up on the wall for storage space. When you live in a small space, you have to utilize the walls more.

From our bedroom, we go up three steps to ground level again where our bathroom is located. I've already shown you my shower in a previous blog but wanted to include a picture of the toilet. It's a 15-ft. long-drop latrine. We figure with only two people using it, it will take awhile to fill up.

So that's it. Welcome to my home.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Something useful

I just have to take a moment to rave about my new drying rack. It's supposed to be for plastic bags and such but I've found it useful for a lot more. This was an early Christmas present from my grandma and it's now one of my most indispensable possessions. There's this great store out of Kidron, Ohio called Lehman's. They produce & sell a lot of goods to the Amish. Things like this rack make life easier. I know it seems like a small thing but let me explain. When we decided to move to Africa, I had to sell/give away most of my 'stuff'. I couldn't bring much with me and had to stick to essentials in the kitchen. And living among the Ik, it would be imprudent of us to have a lot of 'things' that are just dust collectors. We invite them into our house from time to time and they want to look at and touch everything. Because of this, I've brought only those things that are functional to our village home. The Ik are going to ask questions and will want to know why we might have something that we can't use. Now I can proudly point to my bag dryer and tell them of all it's uses.