Thursday, June 19, 2008

Slashers and Stoney


Slasher: a machete-like tool used to cut down grass and clear land.

Stoney: a Coca-Cola product that I’ve only found in Africa (one of the best parts about traveling is discovering new kinds of soda!). It’s a super-strong ginger ale that’s so gingery, it’s spicy. Quite a kick.

We spent our first real day in the North clearing land for Child Voice. It is extremely difficult to obtain land (it’s usually passed down from father to son), and almost unheard of for outsiders (called “Muzungu”) to acquire land, but over the last few years, Child Voice has miraculously had acres & acres of land given to them to develop. One interesting loophole with the whole land procurement issue is that if you are not using the land, someone else can come develop it, and it becomes there’s.

So, it was our job yesterday (and today) to clear the new land they have obtained, so that they can prove they are using it, and raise cattle on it. Now, if you had a weed wacker, or if this was un-used land in California, it would be a different story—but this is The Bush, and it is thicker and tougher than you would imagine.

“Grass” grows about 6feet tall, and resembles reeds more than anything else (it’s the same material used to make the thick grass-thatched roofs on mud huts & the straw mats you bring to the beach), and is intermingled with bushes, anthills and small trees. It’s intensely hot out, and there are bugs galore.

Armed with our slashers (how hard core does that sound?!), work gloves, and a lot of drinking water, we spent the day beating back the bush. I say “beating” because I definitely did a lot more beating than slashing. People who actually know what they are doing slash the grass, collect it, and sell it to make said roofs and mats. We beat the grass into submission, stepped on it to pack it down, took a step forward, and started with the next layer of grass.

However, despite our lack of skill, we did a pretty darn good job. It was amazing, at the end of the day, to look back over the land that had just that morning been impenetrable bush, and see how much progress we made. It’s not that often that you can have such a tangible sense of accomplishment in your work =)

After our grueling day of work (I’m mostly joking—although we were pretty sweaty, dirty, sore & blistered!), we went out to a restaurant full of Muzungu (foreigners). Because there are so many NGO’s (non-profits) in Gulu, there are a lot more white people wandering around than you would imagine. A soccer game was on TV, and one short, hairy man was running around the restaurant screaming in Italian & shaking his fists every time something exciting happened. It was a strange little piece of Africa.

We were all excited to have something American(ish) to eat (the food here is pretty bland, and all tastes the same), so a bunch of us ordered pizza. Bad Idea.

I had been sick to my stomach that morning, but was well enough to join the group by noon-ish and “slash” until five. But as soon as that pizza went down the hatch, I knew that I wasn’t fully recovered. I woke up early this morning wishing I was dead, trying to feel my way to the bathroom (there’s no light in the bathroom), and spent the rest of the morning alternating between lying on the bed, moaning in the fetal position and running to the bathroom. Whenever I had the mental capacity, I thanked God that it was Saturday instead of Sunday, because Sunday, we move up to our mud huts and pit latrines (“squatty potties”). At least here, there are semi-flushing toilets in the same room, and a bed to lie on.

When the rest of the group woke up, we discovered that everyone who ate pizza (about 1/3 of the group) was also sick—although I definitely won the Most Pathetic prize. Everyone else decided they were feeling well enough to go “slash” when the time came (fools), leaving me locked in my room with a banana, a huge bottle of water, and a Stoney to soothe my stomach. The great news is that there is an electric fan in my room, and a big bed; the bad news is that they turn off the water from late morning until late afternoon—meaning I can’t flush the toilet or wash my hands. I’m not complaining, though—it’s better than pit latrines & a hammock. Plus, since we have electricity, I can blog, and allow you to feel sorry for me (although I won’t be able to actually post this until later!).

I am definitely on the mend, though, thanks to Pepto and some Stoney =)

Please keep praying for our health—especially for those who were feeling sick, and went out to the bush anyways (Yes, Mom & Dad, Jeff was one of them, but he said he was doing much better).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found this peanut butter cookie recipe:
1 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
Bake 350. I hope that works! It's really frustrating not getting through but at least I heard you a little. I will try calling tomorrow a little earlier.