Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fire

It seems like every year we've lived in Timu (since fall of 2009), I've written about the fires. I hate to sound like a broken record, but fire has become such a huge part of life here. I mean, they start burning the grass during dry season and this burning can continue for weeks. Even as I type, a fire is blazing just 30 feet outside our fence. The Ik burn for many reasons, like to clean up their gardens or to trap wild animals, but the most important is to save their villages from out-of-control fires. If they can make a firebreak between their homes and any other fires that might start blowing their way, they will save their homes.

What is it like to live with fires all around us and people burning the land every day? The air is thick with the acrid smell of smoke. Plumes of white go up from the land in all directions, sometimes turning the sky a hazy yellow color. Pieces of ash float upon the breeze, settling all over our things. It's in my hair, on my clothes and being blown out of my sinuses on a regular basis. The crackling sound of the fire gets louder and softer with the strength of the wind blowing the fire in different directions. The cries of the Ik also get louder and softer as they fight the fires and try to maintain control over them. So far, they've done well and have proved to be excellent firefighters. There are times when a fire will get out of control and kill a person. When that happens, the guilty party will pay some sort of fine according to the will of the community.
And when the fires have died down, we walk our normal paths, and our feet get covered with blackness. To illustrate, here's a picture of Terrill's feet covered in soot after walking through the 'bush' with some friends while hunting.
When it's all said and done, the land is burnt and blackened. Although it seems like a morbid process, we know this is necessary for the new life that will surely emerge. It's the cycle of life, after all. Harsh at times, but beautiful.

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