A Day in the Life – village edition, May 31st

A friend suggested writing a blog post about a typical day in my life in the village, and in the city.  This has actually been on my “blog posting schedule” for a few months, but I kept replacing it with other posts, for three reasons:

  • I wanted to wait until someone has time to take pictures of some of my typical activities (washing dishes outdoors, studying with a language helper, etc.)
  • There are always so many other topics to write about.
  • Typical days don’t exist. Routines are flexible, schedules are made to be broken, changes of plans are countless, and often better than the original plan anyway, if there was a plan for that day.

However, I still wanted to write this type of post.  So here is the catch.  This is not a “typical” day from life in the village.  This is simply “a day”.   (All times are approximate).

5:45   alarm went off.  I was already awake, but feeling like if I got up then I would have a headache from not getting enough sleep.  Had awakened at 2:18, and dozed some since then, but not solid sleep.

6:21  Finally got up, got ready for the day, made and ate breakfast (scrambled eggs and multigrain crackers).  Read today’s My Utmost for His Highest.

7:30   Left the house, said good morning to my closest neighbors, saw that most of the village was gathered at one of the outdoor frequent hangout areas, with a few guests from another village.  Went to say good morning, be with everyone and observe what was happening.

One of the families is leaving today, to go to another village where there will be three days of thematic Bible teaching/celebration.  I meandered over to say good-bye, deciding to walk down to the river with them and the four girls who were going to see them off.

On our way down, the mom asked her teenage daughter if she had her hammock.  I didn’t understand why the response was no (perhaps it’s dirty…I can’t imagine that she doesn’t have a hammock, because they visit other villages and travel to the city frequently), but offered to lend her mine.  So we raced back to the village (exercise for the day!) to grab the hammock, then back down the path, where her family was starting to get into the canoe to cross the river.

The girls and I headed back to the village where I sat down with a few ladies who were still in the gathering area, to listen to conversations and find out what people’s plans were for the day.

When one of the women said she and her mom were going to the crop area to get manioc root and sweet potatoes, I asked to go along.  While she went to get her digging tool, I put on a long-sleeve shirt, and put my camera and tiny notebook in a small bag, instead of taking along the tote bag I always carry around in the village.

When we got back, we helped the woman’s grandma with a couple small tasks, then sat down and visited.

Another woman had gone into the jungle with her husband, on their motorcycle, to collect a couple necessary materials for a project.

When they returned, the fun of a new (to me) cultural event began.  The Neno people use gourds to make drinking vessels.  I had seen earlier steps in the process – cutting the gourds, hollowing them out, and leaving them in the sun to dry.  Now it was time to “paint” the inside of each gourd.  This process is as follows.

Materials needed:

  • Previously cut, cleaned, and dried gourds
  • Bark from a certain tree in the jungle
  • Wood from a certain tree in the jungle

It looks like the wood and bark come from two different trees, but I need to ask more questions about this part of the process since I wasn’t part of the bark-and-wood-gathering-expedition.  I don’t ask to go along on motorcycle trips.  Hopefully I will soon be able to sit down with one of the women and find out more details about the materials used.

Steps, as observed today:

  • Use spoon to scrape inside layer of bark off.
  • Swish these strips around in water, then squeeze liquid out. (bark juice)
  • Put wood on hot coals in your kitchen cookfire, until it blackens. (special charcoal)
  • Take a gourd. Moisten the inside well with bark juice.
  • Take special charcoal and crumble some inside the gourd.
  • Use fingers to spread ashes around and around, rubbing firmly.

When the entire inside of the gourd is blackened, and no more ashes easily “stick” to the surface, you have successfully “painted” the gourd.  Painted doesn’t seem like the correct word.  Any other suggestions?  We could just say, “talu pep ka” as the Neno do.

The gourds then need another drying period.  The Neno are not very time-oriented, so it was hard to get information about how long the gourds will dry before using, but it seems like at least several days to a couple weeks.  Then the gourds will be used as drinking vessels (mostly for traditional beverage, ee), kitchen utensils, and various other purposes.

This cultural event was especially fun and meaningful, because not only could I watch, I could participate, and actually be helpful!  No allergies, physical limitations, or inability to learn how to “talu pep ka” interfered.  It was a simple project, that even one of the 8-year-old girls, and a gringa could help with.  Another fun aspect was that this was the first time I have observed the women engaged in an art activity together.  They often engage in crop-related, cooking, and jungle activities together, but the traditional art I have seen before today has been individual projects.  Today four of us worked faithfully together, plus occasional help or interference from the children, until the task was finished.  Pictures were in the June edition of Crossing Cultures.

12:30    I took a shower, using a sponge to get the ashes off of my hands and arms, which were almost as black as the gourds, made and ate lunch (scrambled eggs, plums, a carrot, and roasted potatoes with onions), put away yesterday’s dishes and gathered today’s dirty dishes for washing

2:30    Went to check in with Juliana, see how their day was going, and ask her about a couple things, including when we would have our team meeting, which we had planned for last night, until something else came up.  She said she would check with Wellington, but probably sometime this afternoon.

I changed into my dishwashing bug protection uniform.  It normally gets half-soaked because of the position of the outdoor faucet and my lack of coordination, so I use the same outfit each day instead of soaking every change of clothes.  Then I went to wash dishes.

3:30  I remembered something I had forgotten to ask Juliana about, so went to her house again.  Then came back, changed into dry clothes, and organized a few things for later activities of washing clothes and making cookies.  I made some notes about today’s events up until now, so as not to forget later.

4:00     Study time, typing vocabulary and language notes from my field notebook onto a Word document.

4:30 – 7   Team meeting.  This seems long, but we haven’t had one since January, and we wanted to talk about some things because one of the mission leaders is coming to visit, so we wanted to make sure we are on the same page and ready with the questions and subjects we should discuss with him.

7 – 9   There is a ride available, so Juliana and her family are going to the city tomorrow to take care of some things there.  Since she is busy getting ready, I invited Juliana’s girls to come over and play while I did a load of laundry, and then help me make a batch of cookies.  They entertained themselves with a board game (similar to Candy Land) for the most part, but we also chatted a lot, and of course they wanted to help make cookies and taste the dough.

I delivered four slices of cake to one of the Zoro families, who was in the city when I made cake on Monday.  I had shared it with the entire village (2 small cakes, actually, that fit in the oven at the same time), and reserved some for them, knowing they planned to come back soon.

I took the first cookies over to Juliana’s house, fresh from the oven.  The girls had already gone home.  She had been making homemade rolls, and gave me some, which was a great trade in my opinion, since I try not to eat sugar in the village, to boost immunity.

Back home to finish the laundry and bake the rest of the cookies, then take them all to Juliana’s house immediately, to get the tempting chocolate goodness out of my house.

She and another “city Brasilian/Portuguese speaking” lady were sitting at the table visiting, so I sat down and chatted for 10 or 15 minutes, then excused myself to come back and wash and dry the bathroom floor, which gets soaked when doing laundry.  (As a sidenote, their ride to the city fell through, because another family needed to go the city urgently).

9:15  Got ready for bed.  This is easier and quicker on nights like tonight, when there is diesel for the generator, so we have lights!

9:35  Time with Jesus, reading the Bible, praying, and working on a topical study from Revive our Hearts Ministries.

10:52  – Looked at clock, much later than I thought, quickly called it a night.  I normally am in bed by 10 on a night with electricity, if not sooner, but as stated at the beginning, this post is not meant to be a “typical day” just “a day.”

Please comment with your thoughts on this style of post.  If you enjoyed it, perhaps I will write “A Day in the Life” posts every couple months, so that you can get different glimpses of other non-typical days.

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