We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Clay Moulded and How NOT to Wear a Head Scarf

Stove Project Kimande has officially begun! It's been an utterly exhausting few weeks but the group is off to a good start. We arrived on Friday two weeks ago to find the pits had been dug, but not filled with clay, so that was our first priority... and finally in the dark at 8pm that first night, the pits were full and it was time for tea.

Off to get the clay!

Pits are ready!
Loading the clay into the pits

The next day our priority was finding water. There had been no water all day on Friday and there was still none on Saturday, so Tim went with Ezekiel and Mendriad in the car with buckets to get some. It is an ongoing difficulty and a constant eye is on the bucket levels!

At the end of the second day, I crawled under my dusty mosquito net with blisters on my hand from working in the garden, a burnt thumb from the fire, a splinter in my hand from splitting the firewood, nicks in my fingers from slicing tomatoes and onions sitting on my little stool and a hole in my pink flip-flops from stepping on a piece of charcoal from the jiko which sizzled through the bottom of it. Tired.

On the third day (with no water again and Tim off again with the buckets) we still hadn't even started the training week and I was wondering how we were going to carry on. With temperatures up at 36 degrees C in the shade, the heat was hard to work in. (Although having said that, it cooled down the second week; one day it got as low as 29 and people in the village were wrapping up in thick coats and blankets hoping for their winter to end!) We found two scorpions in Louisa's bed and one in our net and a snake had shed its skin in the main room. Food is hard to come by and cooking for all of us was proving tough work. I prayed for help. Particularly with providing food. The answer was not quite what I had in mind... I was given a chicken! Alive and clucking. Where to put him?

On the fourth day we officially began the Kimande-Itunundu Stoves Project. We had no idea who or how many would turn up and for a long time after our arrival at the church at 7:45am, nobody did! But people trickled in and we got up to 14 people that first day. Tim did a great job giving an overview of the project and starting our week-long journey through the story of the Bible.

Tim teaching on Day One

We then moved outside to the clay pits and Ezekiel and Mendriad taught the first stage of the stove-making process. Meanwhile I prepared for a cooking demonstration which I did at the end of the morning, teaching about efficient cooking on the stove. Hot and exhausted we headed back to the house at 1pm. I looked at all the dishes from the night before, our breakfast and the cooking demo. They had to be done before starting to cook the same food (rice and tomatoes) all over again. And we had a crowd of five guys sitting outside our house, so I figured I had better make lots. By the time I had prepared lunch and cleared up, it was 4:30 and time to start thinking about the next meal. The chicken. I was a physical and emotional wreck by this point, and the thought of dealing with this chicken was enough to finish me off. Yes, I escaped for some tears in the bedroom! And this was the point at which my prayer was fully answered. Ezekiel offered to slaughter the chicken. And then he came to me with the headless bird and said he would gut and cook it for me! Thank you, God!

Ezekiel with our chicken

And so we did make it through that first week of training! The days began when I got up at 6:45am to get the fire going to make that very important cup of tea. We had bread and butter for breakfast. I prepared the bread dough in the afternoons and then cooked it after the evening meal ready for the following morning. The group started at 8am. We started in the church building, working our way through the story of the Bible and focusing each day on a topic related to the project like teamwork, or business. At the end of the week, the group elected their own chairman, secretary and treasurer and they became their own group, taking responsibility and ownership of the stoves work. We have an Anglican chairman, Muslim secretary and Roman Catholic treasurer! And we closed the group off at the end of the week with 25 people which is great.

Reading the story of the Bible in pictures

Making clay stoves

Baby sleeps while Mama works
After our meetings in the church building, the group all went out to the stove house/clay pits to do the practical training. Ezekiel and Mendriad have been a fantastic help here and the group is learning quickly how to make good stoves! We already have 27 stoves made and drying. The group finished each day around 1pm and it was time for me to prepare lunch. Usually this was rice or ugali with tomatoes or mchicha (like spinach). By the time all the dishes, sweeping, bread-making, clothes-washing and food sourcing was done it was often time to prepare the evening meal. Again ... usually rice with more tomatoes or spinach. Or beans which were a treat! The beans I would soak in the morning and then boil up in some water at lunchtime and put in the haybasket for the afternoon. I could then cook them with some tomatoes and onions in the evening. This is great way of saving firewood. Women here do not like to cook beans simply because they take so long to cook, using too much wood. The firewood situation is worse here than in Magozi. Women or girls must walk for 6 hours, carrying back enough wood on their head to last 4-5 days. We get ours in the Landcruiser.

Evenings start early as it gets dark at 7pm. I became proficient at cooking with a torch (flashlight) in my mouth (yes, I need to find my head-torch!) as I usually finished cooking the meal in the dark outside. Then we would find the girls (much harder to do in this big village!) and get them washed - the amount of dirt is really unbelievable (not just on the girls)! We eat together by candlelight and our solar light, which may sound romantic but isn't! You just can't see what you are eating, but maybe that is a good thing! The evenings are then spent playing cards with lots of laughs and a time of Bible study and prayer together. This has been such a rich and special time with Ezekiel and Mendriad and they really are family now.

Our "family" got bigger on Sunday. Jesca, a Tanzanian who has recently completed studies on community development and is now working with us, arrived to take on the task of learning the ropes in order to train for the position of stoves project manger. She fit in really well and with seven of us together, we were a full house! And seven (or more!) mouths to feed three times a day. I always worried that we would not have enough and was always relieved when there was. Yes, I know... I shouldn't have worried.

There is so much more to say, but I think I will add more over the next few days while we are back in town. Tim is much more even-keeled me than me and would say overall it's been a really good few weeks. And it has; I just feel more like there have been great highs and seriously hard lows! But however you look at it, God is good and faithful. He takes us as lumps of clay and forms something good. It has been a real time of realizing God uses us in weakness. Of realizing that serving requires an effort that doesn't necessarily come naturally and also a grace that only comes from God! Knowing we are not able, but God always is.

And just in case you ever need to know... don't wear a head scarf like this...

You may be taken for a witch doctor! So I was told anyway when someone in the village was brave enough to tell me!

Instead, you should wear it like this...

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