Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Update: Farming in the Shadow of a Volcano

Several months ago you might remember a short post about my daughter and her friend who were headed off into the great unknown... a farm in Java. They worked for three months with nationals and two long term workers, cultivating relationships and lots of strong muscles! Today, I asked her to share a bit about her time on the farm.

I still remember my first day when we were given rubber boots and highly absorbent gloves, then split into two groups to work. I was sent to fertilize seemingly endless rows of carrots, parsnips, kankung (a leafy Asian green similar to spinach), long beans, peas, lettuce, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. The fertilizer was in containers that reminded me of those yellow roadside sand bumpers. They were scattered all around the farm, so we had to haul the fertilizer in gallon buckets scooping the mixed chicken and goat manure (with a bit of goat urine thrown in) into old cans and recycled bottom halves of water bottles attached to long pieces of bamboo. After this we planted or weeded until lunch. By the time I got back for a meal of rice, tofu, and vegetables I was covered in the materials I was working with! Such was my new daily routine!

Tuesdays and Thursdays were market days where we gathered all the vegetables and fruits and sent them into town to be delivered to those who had previously signed up for the produce (much like a CSA). Because we alternated between harvesting, fertilizing, and planting, we also had to learn how to start seedlings and plant them, and of course, know which plants needed to be sprouted first before planting.

During the afternoons we would take language lessons and go down to one of the two villages located near by to play with the children and spend time with the women who worked on the farm. We walked miles a day, ate at least four times during waking hours, were always starving with in a hour, got up at five, went to bed way later than we should have, and had an insanely good time. There was always something new to do, look forward to, or try.

In other news, we had four (maybe five) new baby goats on the farm. We even had healthy twins – the nationals think that we somehow brought luck. The boys had never seen a live birth before, so they had no idea that goats eat the placenta.  Just the next week they had to kill one of them because it was sick and one of the translators decided to chase us around with the head.

We found a Rhinoceros beetle on our laundry, so after showing it to our field mentor who got bit by it, we put it in the guy's bathroom for fun. We figured since it didn’t kill him it wouldn’t kill them either. We did hear a yelp about an hour later when our Korean friend found it! Apparently those things fly…

Photo Credit of a Rhinoceros Beetle without antennae

As if farming wasn't enough, we built plenty of muscle with laundry duty which was laid or hung on every available ledge while the sun was out and rapidly gathered in when the daily rain began. We eventually had a clothes line rigged in the meeting room above our bedrooms, so they would dry before they molded or mildewed. (I think fifteen minutes of rain there would constitute a year of precipitation back home.)

While there is so much more about farm life I could tell you, the most important work we did was not the manual labor or basic skills we used, but rather more about the relationships we built and the community we formed among ourselves and the nationals. There is so much need. We worked in English centers, spent time in Muslim boarding schools, and hiked all over the place talking to people from Java to Bali. The difference between skin tones, languages, culture, and ethnicity are so small. Whether it is Jakarta or Los Angeles, people still have souls or rather as C.S Lewis said, "You are a soul. You have a body." I want to reach past the body of the person and into their soul. This is why I am getting a double major in anthropology and journalism. I want to develop the skills to reach across the physical barriers and into the soul of the person and the heart of the issue.  

One last note – look up "rambutan". It is the best fruit in the world! (Rambut is hair in Bahasa, which is the trade language of the area.) I have had coconut, papaya, pineapple, mango, sirsap, and good bananas straight off the tree in Indonesia, but rambutan is by far the best! Apparently the national favorite fruit is coming off the tree soon, "durian", and most people can’t stomach it, but they say if you can keep it down three times you’re well on your way to liking it. I kept it down once and I sincerely hope that I will have cause to keep it down at least two more times. 
- Kate 

Thank you to all who supported her on this trip! What a blessing it was for Kate to experience so many things that she would never have been able to here at home. And the opportunity to serve others who have so little... she is forever changed by her adventure! 


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