We were guests at Sly's mother's cousin's house... that sounds confusing but isn't. Alice (Sly's mother), and Jennifer (our host) are cousins. Jennifer's parents also live with them so we got to meet "Grandma" and "Grandpa" as well. My children once had a conversation via skype with those grandparents when Frank and Kennedy traveled to the village a few years ago. Technology is amazing. Jennifer works at the Mukinge Mission Hospital in Kasempa and was able to take us on a tour. She even took us to the local store and got us each a small scoop of icecream. This was the first sweet treat our kids had gotten since arriving in Zambia so they were super excited. It was vanilla icecream and it tasted just like vanilla cake frosting. Our kids loved playing with their new found cousins, especially little Sheganiah (which I'm sure I spelled wrong). They explored the property together, visited all of the baby chicks, climbed all about the maize that had been harvested and stored on the back porch, and picked and ate tons of oranges from the tree in the back.
It was a whirlwind event of being introduced to one person after another person. I tried to remember who was who and greeted each person. The village has no electricity in sight. Their houses are made of mud brick with thatched roofs. They all cook over one big fire together. The restroom is a very small grass hut with a hole dug deep into the ground. If you watch a movie about Africa, in general you will see something similar to what this village and the buildings looked like.
In the morning, and I use that word loosely as it was barely light, everyone was up and moving and getting things started for the day. The kids were all sitting around the fire waiting for the water to warm up for tea. The ladies were headed to go and gather the water. Sly and the kids and I decided to go with them. I threw Maddie up on my back in the carrier and off we went down this path. The footpath led us into this maze of tall grass that was way over our head. The girls walked fast with a purpose and we followed behind. We walked, and walked, and walked. Sometimes the grass was so thick that you couldn't really see where the path was heading. All of a sudden the path opens up into a small clearing and the girls get to work filling up the big plastic jugs that they had carried with them. They are filling the jugs from a small hole in the ground. They tell me that the water is pretty high so that they can reach it with out having to get down into the hole this time of the year. They are kneeling on the ground and reaching way down into the hole trying to hold the jug under the water so it will fill up. We have walked a long way for this water so they want to make sure it's as full as they can get it. The water looks like milk, it's not clear at all and you can't see through it. I am in awe of the work these young girls are doing and at the same time slightly panicking about the water that is being used to wash our hands, cook our food, and make our tea. I was told many many years ago on my first ever mission trip that if someone offers you something, you thank them, smile and take it. I gave my children the same lecture, you smile, and do your best even if it isn't your favorite. I had quite the internal conflict going on in my head but who am I to question if their water is safe, or clean, or fit to drink. Sly got down and tried to help the ladies collect the water. He said that it was a lot harder than it looked. I still had Madison on my back and I knew if I took her down that she would want to try to get water too so we decided just to watch. The water jugs were full so it was time to head back to the village. I watched as my niece Aliness lifted it with ease and balanced it on top of her head. Curious, I tried to lift one of the other jugs. I couldn't even lift it up much less carry it back on my head for miles. These ladies do this several times a day, often with babies on their backs. We walked back through the tall grass and back to the village.
That afternoon Sly went to his sister Betty's house to assist in settling some sort of dispute. Benson had gone off somewhere with his cousins. Frank decided it was time to take the kids and I on a tour of the property and show us where they farm. There are many bee hives where the collect honey. I generally hate honey, but this honey was amazing. There were big metal drums up in trees, as we walked along on our way to the farm, we found a man had climbed all the way up and was gathering the honey out. No protective gear, just calmly gathering honey. They grow maize and have these huge round storage areas made from logs where it it piled higher than the tops of the houses. Some of the maize is sold, and some hand pounded into cornmeal to be used for making porridge and nshima. They also grow peanuts which Brandon was super excited about. Once they are collected, they are stored up on top of a thatched roof to dry out in the sun. Brandon got to go up on top of the roof and gather some to bring back with us. We also got to go out in the fields and see how they harvested mebele (a type of millet). They gave me a knife and let me try to gather it off of the stalks that had already been cut down. This city girl wouldn't last a day out there. Before heading back to the village, they gathered two eggs and gave one to each of my children. They were going to eat them for lunch, but of course Madison crushed hers within minutes.
It was time to say goodbye and head back to the Boma. The kids had to chase down the chickens that I was given because they would be traveling back with us to the city. Sly's nephew had handcrafted two little cages for the chickens out of reeds so that they wouldn't be running all about the car. We hugged and said our goodbyes to the family and the headman of the village that had come to meet us. As the family was singing us a parting song, Brandon ran back towards the houses. He took his shoes off and handed them to his cousin Caleb, smiled, and jumped into the car. We had brought a bunch of clothes, gifts, and groceries with us to leave for the family. I love that Brandon has such a little heart for giving. He was so proud to be able to share with his cousins. Madison decided to do the same so we drove back to the boma with our barefoot kids, our chickens, our fresh honey, and our bunches of mini bananas. Maddie was acting like she was super sleepy and just didn't really look like she had much energy. I chalked it up to her not feeling great and probably being exhausted from playing with all of her cousins all day.
As we arrived back to the Family in the Boma, we decided to leave the kids with the family while we returned the vehicle we had borrowed, bought some snacks for the trip in the morning, and ran a few errands. We arrived back home to find Madison in new clothes and freshly bathed. Brandon met us at the door and exclaimed "Madison threw up on Auntie!." Poor maddie, poor Auntie! Maddie was acting sleepy so she had wrapped her up on her back... which is where she was when she got sick. I'm lucky the family loves us, and I'm lucky she works at the hospital and isn't phased by such things. After that Maddie was clearly feeling much better. Brandon however went to bed saying he still didn't feel so great. We had a long trip ahead of us in the morning so we thanked and hugged everyone and headed to bed. The next day would be another day full of travel, adventure, and meeting even more of Sly's family.
to be continued...