Saturday, November 23, 2013

Want some rice?

We have some very creative children.  They have brought their creativity with them to Guinea Bissau and are now teaching the local children to use their creativity.  Our children absolutely loved to play house in America. When we first moved to Pennsylvania, five years ago, Jada was six years old, Lydia was five, Josiah was 3, Micah was almost 2 and little Zaney was just a newborn.  God blessed me with a mother's helper that came over once a week and played with the kids so I could do whatever I needed to without interruptions of the children.  This was a huge blessing to me at that stage of my life, and this amazing young lady taught my children to play house.  This was almost five years ago, and they still absolutely love to play house.  In fact, they love to play house so much, that they were frustrated that none of the kids here knew how to play house with them.  Well, after about 8 weeks of being here, our little missionaries got the children to play house with them.  The best way to explain this to you is through pictures.  

First, the kids went to the blanya (rice field) to cut the aros (rice). They were actually sitting in our path to our house.  The green things that they are pretending is rice are leaves from the tree that is giving them shade in the picture.  Jada and some of her friends climbed the tree and dropped the leaves down to the kids.  The kids then pulled the leaflets off and it became rice. That is what the girls in the blanya are doing.  

After the rice has been cut, they bring it home and start pounding it.  Pounding can be heard all throughout the village from morning till night these days. There are usually two or three women that pound rice in a rhythmic motion, sometimes there is even a fourth woman.  These girls had the rhythm and it sounded very real to the actual pounding sound.   

While they are pounding, they also pour it into a flat basket type bowl and shake it in a way to make all the shells come out so that only rice is left.  They then lay out the shells to dry. This is used as chicken food (I think).   This is Luciano (Josiah's closest friend here, he is also 8 years old), he has taken his shirt off so that the 'rice shells' could dry in the sun.  

Now they are pounding it more to break the remaining shells off the rice.  They often take breaks, so Lydia and Ramatoulli are now pounding so the other girls could rest.  Pounding is quite tiring and if your hands aren't calloused, you get blisters on your hands. It is really interesting to watch the women pound rice.  Sometimes (I believe to show off, or just have fun), when the stick is high in the air, they toss it up and clap and grab it again and pound down. 

Now the girls are starting their fire to start cooking their rice.  This is actually how the women here cook.  They have three large rocks that the pot will sit on, and they form the sticks in the middle of the rocks.  The sticks are their firewood and they push them in as the ends burn.  

Here is a better picture of the sticks.  This is actually what their moms do to start the fire.  

They are now cooking the rice (in the same pot they pounded in...that's not what the women do but the kids were being resourceful). 

Luciano is preparing the seasoning for the rice.  The women will pound garlic, onions, seasonings and many other things together for the seasoning they cook the rice in.  Micah was also adding 'salt' (sand) to the rice for seasoning.  

Isaiah is overseeing the cooking process, waiting anxiously to be a taste tester.  Micah's hand is seen here adding the 'salt' to the bianda (rice dish).  I got to 'taste' it and it was quite delicious.  

I was so blessed to see the kids playing this in our yard.  The kids were so happy throughout their playing.  Kids are not typically allowed to play like kids do.  They have learned and are continuing to learn that our compound is a safe place to play.  When I jumped in and was 'tasting' their food, they were so happy and it only encouraged them to play even more.  This was one of my favorite play activities to watch the kids do.  It blessed me just as much as it blessed our children.  

I would like to thank every person (kid, teenager, young adult and adult) that has come to our house and played house with our kids. You taught our kids to use their imaginations and today they are teaching other kids, that are constantly told to stop and be quiet, to use their imaginations.  Our children are able to be a blessing because of so many that have blessed us.  Thank you! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kids will be Kids

Kids are kids no matter where you live.  If one of our kids gets a cracker, the other four will come and ask for one.  If one kid gets a sucker, the other four want one, one gets to go somewhere, the other four will ask.  Today, we gave each of the Mane kids that were at our house a boneku (stuffed animal).  They all ran home filled with happiness to show off their bonekus.  Soon, a few returned with a child that didn’t get one.  They went home and then more returned with another child that didn’t get one.  They wanted to make sure that everyone got a boneku.  The same thing happens when they play at our house and one child asks for a drink.  The next thing we know, all of the children are at our door asking for a drink of water.  “N misti bibi yagu.” was one of the first phrases we learned here.  It means “I want a drink of water.”.  

As we have watched family life here, we have discovered that family life is similar no matter where you live.  There are differences such as money, things you own, where you live, and what your house looks like, but people are people no matter where you are.  Children in America want the latest and greatest toy, here, children want the latest and greatest piece of trash to play with.  The children look out for each other, they defend the small ones, the little girls want to be moms and boys want to be just like their fathers just as children do in America.  
So in the end we have learned kids are kids no matter where you live.

A Trip to the Well

Everyday in Catel brings something new.  Daily things are the same, such as drawing water, sweeping our yard (yes, I said sweeping our yard), cooking, sweeping the house, caring for our children as well as many of the village children, schooling our kids, and some of the village kids, our journey to the deep well for drinking water...I could go on, but lets talk more about the deep well.  Michael usually goes to the deep well on the bike with one child and a bucket strapped to the back of the seat.  Women usually go to the well to get their water and it is usually in the morning and in the evening. When Michael first started going, the women were upset that I (Karen) wasn’t going and Michael was.  They eventually accepted him getting the water, understanding that I was busy at home with the children. They now tell him he is a good man. The well is also usually quite busy in the morning and the evening and there is usually a long wait for your turn to pump water.  When Michael goes, he never knows what he will encounter.  On a recent trip, he came upon an argument. They were fighting who would go first to pump their water. The argument escalated into a fist fight which escalated into the women ripping each others clothes off and all out wrestling.   Michael tried to break up the fight along with all the other women at the well.  Their eyes were filled with rage, and no one was successful in breaking them up.  Michael decided to start pumping their water.  He figured this way, when they were done fighting, they would have water, which was what the fight was all about. He pumped six huge buckets of water before he filled his own and came home.  All the while, the fight carried on.   

One day, Michael was wearing his “I love my wife” shirt.  He went to the well to get our drinking water and there was a woman that could read english there.  She read his shirt, and asked Michael why he loved his wife.  He explained to her that he loves his wife because Christ first loved us. He continued the conversation by explaining that he truly loves and cares for me.  Here, there isn’t much love.  Wives are a necessity because they do all the work around the compound (house) and in the field, they produce children which equals money and status. Having a wife here is like owning property.  There is not a lot of love or trust, in fact, most men have multiple wives. The woman Michael was talking to could not believe that he actually loved me.  

On another trip, there was a dudu minjer (crazy lady) at the well.  Michael missed the most exciting time of her being there, but it was still exciting for him and Jada (who had joined Michael for the trip). The lady came up and was talking in all kinds of different languages, trying to take children, Jada included, and telling people they couldn’t get water.  Michael and Jada were already finished getting their water when she came, so they left.  Earlier though, this lady was guarding the well and not allowing anyone to get water.  One man came to get water (the women were all afraid of her, so they weren’t going to the well) and when he pumped his big bucket full, she told him he had to drink the entire thing right there. She also was naked until someone in the village gave her clothes to put on.  The story we were told later was that her and her husband made a deal with a demon to get rich, and they missed a payment, so she went crazy, or we believe is now demon possessed.  This is a common practice here, to make deals with demons.  They know this is a way to get rich, to curse people, have health, have a better life or to get anything they may want.