Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hunger Week: Day 2

It's great to hear from those of you who have joined us for Hunger Week! Thank you for standing with us as we stand with the Ik in a time of hunger.

Good news: a truckload of food has arrived for the school children! So now they will have a simple lunch for most of the current school term (if the food doesn't get stolen).

More potentially good news: the LC5 of Kaabong District, the highest elected district official, visited Timu this afternoon. He came after hearing numerous reports about the state of hunger. Maybe after seeing things first-hand, he will be compelled to do something about it.

On this, our second day of Hunger Week, I awoke feeling more empty than hungry. But my body was definitely weaker. We went about our normal work routine until lunch when we had maize-meal and beans again. Late morning I felt nauseated for a couple of hours. After eating two large servings of maize-meal and beans, I got all dizzy and had to lie down for a while. It wasn't until late afternoon that I started to feel like I had profited nutritionally from lunch. In the evening I spent over an hour pruning one of our acacia trees with my hatchet. At first I noticed how weak my arms felt, but the more I worked, the more energy I seemed to have. Perhaps I was tapping into reserves. That must be what the Ik do all the time when they work hard in the gardens without eating much.

Coming up from the office, we ran into a middle-aged man named Anton. I asked him what he was up to, and he replied Ipasoi, meaning literally 'I'm useless'. He said he hadn't even gone to the garden today because his arms had no strength. Tawana ɲeƙa ncik, he said. "Hunger is afflicting me" (That's one way they say 'I'm hungry'.) This evening, swinging that hatchet nearly in vain because I had little strength, I could really sympathize with Anton. 

Today, eating a large meal initially made me feel much worse than not eating anything. Perhaps that's why so many Ik prefer drinking mes (beer made from maize or sorghum) over eating solid foods. When you're not eating solid foods regularly, the body seems to accept liquids much better. By now, even the thought of solid food isn't all that appealing.

On Amber's evening village visit, someone gave her a handful of roasted watermelon seeds. When she got home, she gave me a few. They tasted so savory and delicious. Once my almost mindless habit of snacking on this and that has been broken, it's amazing how delightful a simple snack like those roasted seeds can be. Snacking when you actually need nutrition versus snacking for other reasons (boredom, indecision, habit, cravings, peer pressure, instant gratification, etc.) is a blessed aspect of our human existence, of our original need to eat in order to survive. 

A final thought for today: even when you're hungry, life goes on. Relationships go on. Work goes on. The world around you goes on. Food is needed for physical survival, yes. Cooking and enjoying food as a social event is a marvelous blessing, yes. But life does not consist in food alone. Man cannot live by bread alone.


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