In just a week we'll hit month four in the visit to Ranquitte; that means that we'll soon be rounding second base, and heading for home. All is well (a few colds aside), and we're enjoying our trip around the bases.
Today we took a little tour around town, to a section we hadn't seen before. Our friend Belaine thought that we needed to get out and see a little more of the area, so she invited us to visit her dad's farm. On the way (and in fact the whole time) she and Anna talked plants. The first one we talked about is a fragrant plant that Anna said is used to make a bitter sauce for first-time mothers who've just given birth (I thought to myself "that'll teach her!" But, as many women say, it's a good thing they forgot how painful it was....). Belaine hadn't heard of that, but she pointed out, right next to that one, a plant that is used to make an oil that is used to bathe women right after childbirth. Different customs, different traditions. They pointed out plants that are used to make rope by both cultures, plants that are used to make medicines in both cultures; then each would point out uses of plants that the other didn't know. Teas, and sauces, and medicines.... Of course at the end of our visit her father had some avocados to give us, as well as some eggs and some sour oranges (which are used to make juice). It was a great trek, made the more so by the exercise and the pleasant company.
We hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. We'd hoped to find a turkey to share it with, but one was not forthcoming. We might try a little harder to invite one for the 25th. Since this is a 7th Adventist family, we're going to have to skip the ham! I told someone in an email that this is going to be the first non-commercial Christmas for Thad, for which I'm thankful. I've had four others (all spent in West Africa), and believe that it's good to have a few that focus on little more than Luke.... Adventists don't typically celebrate Christmas (and certainly not as Christ's "birthday", if they do celebrate), so we'll probably just have a nice little feast and maybe teach them some carols.
The thing that I'll miss most this Christmas is the Long family's trip around BG caroling to friends, right after the Christmas Eve services; in close second is a couple of leisurely days post-Christmas at Maumee Bay with the family.
Project-wise, things are rolling along for me. I promised a little more about my newest (and last, I hope!) project: solar pasteurization. The idea came about because we need a way to treat water in homes: it will be a long time before Ranquitte has its water treatment plant. Currently there are public wells, but the first (and only) one I tested off campus was contaminated. I think that Steve and I will want to make a thorough test of the area's water supply as one of his projects (only a month or so away!): we're looking forward to a visit from Uncle Steve and Grandma.
CFI is going to put a chlorination system in at the school, and Mom and Steve's team will be part of that. We're pleased that our pastor, Terry Webster, is another member of the team. Terry and members of our family have done a lot of SWAP mission trips together -- this will just be a thousand miles more distant than usual. The chlorination will help keep the water clean, but isn't a solution for families in the area: hence, the need for family-sized water purification.
I've been boiling water in a solar oven ever since we got here, so solar pasteurization is obviously possible: however the oven costs about 200 bucks, so it's not a reasonable option for folks here. The solar oven is not really made for heating water (which is amongst the hardest substances to heat, for those of you who remember your specific heats), but that's the way I've been using it. How many of you would heat your water in the oven? You would use a more targeted method of heating, such as a burner: and so a parabolic mirror would be a better solution for boiling water (more details available, for the curious).
Preliminary experiments with my apparatus got the water up to a nice showering temperature (having heated the water, I had to use it, after all), but not to the pasteurization temperature. That wasn't too surprising, however, since the pasteurizer wasn't healthy (the trough wasn't parabolic, because the fiber board we'd used for a backing split). We're now moving on to the next phase: replacing the aluminum foil on fiber board with tin roofing material. It would be nice to have a thin, reflective, cheap, and flexible material to use instead: if you know of such a material, please let me know (someone mentioned newspaper printing transfer aluminum -- anyone know anything about that?).
In the meantime, I have to acknowledge that the best method of water treatment for Ranquitte may be something as simple as clear plastic bottles on blackened roof tops: I hate to go low tech, when something so exquisitely interesting as a parabola is available, but sometimes you've got to do the right thing.
Nationwide local elections were the big local news: they were held last Sunday, and, while we await the official results, it appears almost certain that CFI leader George Derval was elected "Magistrate" of Ranquitte (sort of the city manager). His "Coconut" party was way ahead in the polls, although there were some shenanigans in one polling place, so the results are likely to be disputed there. Fortunately, however, his lead appears to be so large in all the other polling places that one polling place can't change the outcome.
What will this mean for CFI? Hard to say: George, who is a major player in the CFI organization, will be much busier now with business other than CFI affairs; on the other hand, he's in a position to allow CFI's influence to penetrate the town more easily: CFI's affairs may become Ranquitte's affairs. We hope that, in the end, everyone agrees that his victory at the polls, and his direction for the next four years, will be positive for CFI and all of Ranquitte.
Anna's a little busier now: she's helping pick up the slack while the director of the clinic is gone to the US for a few weeks. Anna enjoys working with her friend Remide, who's the other nurse in the clinic, so she's happy to help. Anna's garden continues to suffer the bitter fate of so many gardens, devoured by happy and healthy insects while the diligent gardener wrings hands and bemoans her fate. We harvested a few tasty cucumbers, and there's hope for the tomatoes; the dill looks great; and besides, my moringas are doing fine. So there are moments of happiness in the garden.
Speaking of corners turned, Thad has also turned a corner: it's certain that he's speaking Creole at least 50% of the time. I often laugh to hear him, and (for the moment) we're able to understand most of what he says. It's sure that his vocabulary will soon outstrip our own, however. Anna is the best at understanding adult speech, I can construct the most ornate sentences (but have a harder time understanding), but Thad is the most fluent. He's got great teachers (all his little mothers). We learn some by sitting around, playing Flinch and other games, and also by reading Creole and speaking it at the dinner table.
Thad continues to live the life of Tom Sawyer, with his friends Rose Manie, Hypolite, and Daylan. They traipse around the grounds, playing, picking fruit, gnawing on sugar cane, and getting into trouble.
Merry Christmas to all,
"Just curious - why did you have a birthday celebration for Rosemanie? I think it's great that you did! But her birthday is July 12, 1997. She probably has never had a party so I think it was wonderful for you to do this for her."
9, 12: what's the difference? And who cares exactly when we celebrate, so long as there's a celebration?!;)
Reminds me of a Peace Corps story....