This afternoon (Thursday), after finishing the teaching sessions in the morning, Jack and Susie took us to several villages to visit more of their sponsorship children, one of their elders, and a church pastored by one of their men.
It is humbling to see the way in which most of these people live — yet in seeming contentment.
The houses are constructed on pillars, with simple frames — perhaps 20-25 feet square for a family sized home, or even smaller where some of the yays (grandmothers) live. In the home are sleeping areas, perhaps separated by curtains; the “kitchen” is likely under the home and open (in one home I saw, there was at least one chicken wandering around through the cooking utensils). Next to the kitchen is an open area that might be used as a daytime gathering area for the family or a roosting area for the chickens, or pens for the pigs. Hygiene issues obviously abound!
Yet even in the midst of these circumstances, you find the beauty of God’s nature, and a gracious and smiling and happy people. Everywhere you go, you find people with a ready smile, and a sharing spirit. As an example, at the home of the elder we visited this afternoon, shortly after we arrived, his 10-year-old son quickly scurried up a tree and with a machete cut loose three large coconuts, which Pastor Soy then opened for us so we could have a drink, and then a taste of the coconut meat (their coconuts are different than what we are used to — they are much larger, with perhaps a quart of milk in each, and the meat is gelatinous in texture, though similarly flavored). This coconut would have been part of their regular diet (coconut milk is good to drink for its nutritional value as well as its hygienic purity), took a significant degree of trouble to get, and yet they shared with an open hand.
Another story about the simplicity with which the people live: The temperatures here have been warm and humid (90 degrees, with 75% humidity); a couple days ago the temperature was pleasantly cool (for us!), and Elizabeth and I were walking around in short sleeves, and were very comfortable. Susie later in the day asked one of the college boys, “How did you sleep last night?” “I didn’t,” he replied. There is not enough room in the house for the entire family, so a while ago he began sleeping outside in a hammock under a tree. Later they built a small lean-to to give him some protection, but he had no blanket. So when the temperature dipped into the 60s at night, he was quite cool. [Susie bought him a blanket later that day.] This situation would not be uncommon.