It was about 2:59 pm. I was sitting in my room on the computer, listening to my ipod while typing an email. It had been another “grueling” day at the clinic. I took another sip of my home-brewed vanilla latte, and while doing so glanced at the clock and noticed that I was almost late.
A few minutes later I was running out the door, dressed in my ‘village skirt’, heading for the main compound to pick up the pictures for the bible study at the largest village in our area, Moru Athia. I walked down the dusty path, greeting all who passed, and, whether or not I had ever seen them before in my life, they all knew my name. I splashed and kicked through the gleaming river which had run over the road, then slipped and skidded through some of the muddier parts of the path.
As I reached the turn off of the main road onto the dirt path, I saw a few of my faithful attendees at the borehole, pumping til their jerrycans overflowed full of preciously clean water. There was a tiny little girl at the pump, leaping up and down to give the handle the momentemum it needed to bring forth the water. It was an unmercifully hot day, with the sun beating it’s whiplike rays down on my Caucasian skin. I asked her if I could have some water. She grinned from ear to ear, nodding frantically, and jerked the creaky handle up and down with renewed vigor. I gathered up some of the gleaming water in one hand and splashed it over my face, then proceeded to drink my fill.
In return, I carried her jerrycan – overflowing with every step – back to the village. As we walked, we accumulated an admiring crowd of shepherd boys, girls on their way back from the borehole, and sheep. As we neared the village, I noticed a crowd of men in intense discussion by a tree outside of the village. At first glance, it seemed an important meeting of some sort. At second glance – a card game.
We walked through the village, calling the usual, “Potu akilip! Ngidwe daadang!” or “Come for prayers! All the children!” The enthusiatic kids soon joined in the calling, and some of the older ones ran into homes and came back out carrying little children. I started humming one of our praise songs, “Potu Ikinyariatae” (Come, You Are Called), and a few of the children started picking it up. Pretty soon our single-file line was belting out the catchy song, marching through the convoluded dirt-and-cowpie path until we came out the opposite side of the village to a large tamarind tree, our customary meeting place.
We continued singing as more and more children poured out of the village, little girls hitching up their skirts as they ran, while boys grasped their blankets and walking sticks, all making valiant attempts to keep their clothing about them. Finally, when I asked if they would like to sing some more or have the story, they chose the latter.
This week’s feature was ‘Joseph Gets Sold into Slavery’. They loved Joseph’s coat, and one of the shepherd boys jokingly asked me where he could get a blanket like that one of Joseph. When Joseph’s brothers threw him into the pit, there was much sympathetic shaking of heads and quiet ‘tsk tsk’s. Overall, they did rather well for a crowd of about eighty kids sitting on top of eachother amidst heaps of jagged stone, swatting the plentiful flies that crowded their sweaty faces.
Then it was vitamin time. A while ago, we started handing out vitamins for good behavior, and they soon became a regular part of the bible study routine. The kids call them “etamtam”, which means “sweets” or candy in their language. (originally from Kiswahili decent – etamu-tamu = sweet-sweet) Unfortuately, this week we were about forty sweets short. So one of the older boys and I broke each one into at least three pieces and handed them out to the mob of frantic children. Once they were gone, I gave the empty bottle to the aforesaid older boy who had been exceedingly helpful in crowd control. He was completely ecstatic.
As my translator and I walked back down the pebbly maram road, I noticed one of the children from my bible study sitting by the road a little way off, obviously collapsing with fatigue. He stood up and picked up a gunny sack half-full of maize and lifted it to his head, staggering under the weight. We caught up with him and relieved him of his burden by transferring it to the top of my head. Pretty soon he was skipping along next to me, clutching my sweaty hand in his, a gap-toothed smile adorning his face. All the skipping made it even harder for me to balance the precarious bundle, which was leaking the occasional kernel out of it’s loosely tied opening.
We finally got the troublesome corn to ’emachine’, the grinding mill. Every eye in the place was staring at the white girl trying to carry a ridiculously small amount of maize on her head. I set it on the ground next to the child, whose tiny chest was puffed out with pride as he slowly looked around to make sure everyone knew that the emusugut girl had carried his maize for him. I shook hands with a few people, then hitchhiked back home on our mission ambulance just as the sun began to hang a deep yellow over the horizon.