Well hi everyone!
Things have been a little on the busy side for me lately, which is a nice departure from the laid-back lifestyle that I've grown pretty accustomed to... I'd like to share with you some stories of a project that we were able to complete this week, and then a few thoughts about rain.
First of all, we officially kicked off the construction of our soak-away pit project this week and were able to complete all of the pits that we intended to do (and more!). This was the sanitation project that I mentioned a few posts ago, but never shared the details of, so here we go ( I'll try to be brief). Soak away pits are basically a simple waste management system to deal with excess water left after bathing, washing, etc... Many of the compounds in my community simply have a pipe (if they're lucky) leading from their bathing areas to the outside ground. As you might imagine, when 10 or more people are using the same room to bathe in, there is a lot of excess water waste that flows outside, creating stagnant pools of dirty water. These areas, which in the case of my village often intersect with walking paths, are a prime breeding ground for flies and other insects, and negatively affect the overall health of our village. In order to improve the drainage and reduce the existence of standing water, we built 12 soak away pits in the community, which are waist-deep pits dug into the ground and filled with stones where the extra water can flow and eventually be absorbed into the ground. In many cases, we had to install new pipes or re-route old ones, which left us plenty of work to do. I implemented this project alongside a youth group in the community, and I was amazed at their enthusiasm and commitment even in the scorching heat of long days. These young men dug all of the pits, gathered the rocks, and patiently taught community members the process of pit construction so they could build more in the future. I was so proud when I walked around the village the day after finishing the project and saw that a few families had actually begun constructing more pits behind their houses, having been inspired by the what we had accomplished and eager to start their own work. I could not be more proud of my community for the way they embraced this project and all of the many hours of hard work that they put in for the betterment of their future health and well-being.
Enough of the bragging about my awesome village; it's time to talk about rain. Here in West Africa, it's the rainy season. Or so they say. Here in the north of Ghana, things have been pretty dry lately. Considering that most families in the north make their living through farming, the lack of rain this season has meant that crops have been disappointing, which in turn affects the overall livelihood of entire villages. Whenever we'd get a much-needed rainstorm after a period of dryness back at home, my mom would always say, "I bet the farmers are dancing in the fields!" I always laughed and agreed, although until moving here, I never truly understood WHY the farmers would be dancing in their fields. In fact, I always viewed rain as more of an inconvenience rather than something to celebrate, complaining when I had to walk through it to go to class or clean the mud off my shoes on a spring day. A good, long rainstorm after several dry weeks here, however, is a downright exciting event. The other day, I woke up around midnight to the sound of pouring rain, which ended up continuing until well into the morning. When the rain finally let up and I made my way outside, I was greeted with an uncharacteristic enthusiasm from my friends in the village. They greeted me using the greeting that we usually reserve for holidays, and I wondered why, considering I hadn't been aware of any upcoming holidays on the calendar. After a few people greeted me this way, I turned to one of my friends and asked which holiday it was that I was missing. He laughed and said, "Oh Mandeiya, it RAINED last night!" And then I really started to understand. In our village, rain IS a reason to celebrate. When your life is directly affected by the whims of weather, things like a good rainstorm are worth celebrating. When your life is intertwined with earth's beautiful rhythms, then it merely seems like a natural reaction to give thanks that you've made it through another completion of the cycles. It is such a different way of understanding the seasons when your life literally depends on the way that they change. For me, it has been a unique lesson in living in harmony with the changes around you. Even when the weather changes once again, the thermometer rises above 100 degrees, and we see barely a drop of rain for months, I want to try to be thankful for that change. After all, our lives will depend on that season too.