Things always seem so easy from the discussion board. The corners look clean and simple; you wonder where things could things go wrong.
It’s almost unfathomable, then, when you find yourself in muddy waters with no simple solutions. And this is a very long story of such muddy waters; I’ll attempt to give the short hand version.
We have been discussing ideas for a community garden for so long. We attempted to start one just months after we arrived, and we did see fruit from it, however chaotic the process. We have made little improvements here and there, but needed a re-vamp. We discussed it with a few women in the community in October, and it was well-received; we decided it was a worthy investment. We discussed options with the agricultural development experts at the office, we had hopes of a greenhouse-style design with organic plants. We hoped add a pump to our well to make watering easy and accessible.
Somewhere in there, life starting running. We were traveling, they were traveling, and we found our neighbors asking if we would start the garden soon.
In the next 140 days, we will be home just twenty-one of them. We have many travels ahead of us, to say the least. And all this time away seemed like a deadline that we needed to start the garden. Particularly before we went to America on furlough, we wanted to show the neighbors we wanted to invest in them and we’d be coming back.
Before traveling, we had two weekends to install a pump, clean out the well, purchase bamboo and build a fence, purchase rice hulls to make bio-char, break up the soil, and get started with seeds. We had discussed it all with Mong Ey, who was excited. We have since learned her husband is not as excited about some of it.
There have been a number of ups and downs over the past weekend. Stephen successfully installed the pump, and it worked like a charm. However, instead of clear water–or even brown–coming out, we got black; so black you might have thought we struck oil. And it smelled far worse than it looked. We’re now trying to pump it a few times through with hopes of seeing clean water before too long.
I have been trying to write this post since Saturday: it started with great joy. I had photos of Stephen putting together the well and the success of water coming out. I have a video clip of the water bursting through the pipes and our responses of, “Eww! Did you see how black that was?!”
But by Saturday night, we had disappointments–Mo Bya was not wanting to build a fence; he was not interested in organic agriculture. He was skeptical that the well might ever be usable.
When I suggested that burning the weeds would hurt the soil, he said no. When I suggested the fence would keep kids out, he said I was wrong. When I said I hoped pumping the well out three times might produce clean water, he said he didn’t think so.
In the process of pumping out the well, we had the lid off-set a little to watch the water level. And when Stephen went out to check it on Sunday, we discovered that some of the littlest boys thought it was fun idea to throw trash into the well. Stephen was not pleased and has now decided a fence will be a must.
After seeing us attempt to fish out the trash with a bucket, Mo Bya returned again today. He promptly walked up, handed Stephen the end of a rope, and climbed into the well to retrieve all the items. I was terrified and praying through the entire ordeal. He was shouting things out in Karen that were very hard to decipher coming up the well, and its a little nerve-wracking when things are said with urgency from inside a well in a language you are straining to grasp.
Supposedly he’s coming over tomorrow; we’re providing a weed-eater and broad fork to clear the weeds and break up the soil. We’re deciding how to convince them of the essential need for a fence. We’re waiting to see if this is going to look like a garden in the end after all.
It seems we’ve been back to the drawing board so many times on this. We have such grand ideas and outlined plans. And then we try to communicate them, and communicate wrong. We sort out the mistakes, and then maybe we simply disagree. We find ourselves asking over and over how we got here and how to best love. How do we respect them, and help? How do prevent charity and encourage development in way respectful of friendship and culture?
Before too long, the neat clean, lines become piles of muddied questions, and you have no idea what you’ll come home to or turn up with in the end.