Monday, April 6, 2015

Mbote from steamy Impfondo!

The Kitchen family spent two months with us here in Impfondo, and they were kind enough to share one of their newsletters on our blog.  Enjoy!

The Kitchen family:
Timothy and Jennifer Kitchen
Zachary, Joshua, and Olivia
Mbote from steamy Impfondo!

Tim gave me (Jennifer) the job of writing our email this week so spray up with sunscreen, grab your backpack, a liter of filtered water, granola, bug spray, your camera and let's get going!

Join us as we walk from our apartment through the tall grass to the hospital gate, avoiding the mud puddles full of reddish yellow clay that formed in the wake of last night's magnificent thunderstorm. As we cross the hospital compound you can see people spreading out their ponyas to dry in the morning sun, you can smell smoke from the burning of underbrush, fish and manioc leaves cooking behind the "cafeteria", and you hear the deafening noise of thousands of brilliant yellow weaver birds as they flutter and fly about with long strings of grass in their beaks and weave their nests.

We see Mama Sarah up ahead with her warm smile and safari hat, pulling through the gate in the Land Rover. Ladies, hike up your long skirts and hop up! As we squeeze onto the two benches facing each other in the back, along with the bidons of extra petrol and other assorted tools etc, you realize you will get to know everyone very well and very quickly! Mama Sarah offers a prayer for safety and a good day, looks carefully for pedestrians, bikes, carts, goats, sheep, children, and crazy motorcyclists then pulls onto the road.

We bounce along, for 30 minutes, swerving to avoid areas of the road that have washed away. Sarah pulls over at a hut and calls back to us," Do you have room for a few more?" "Sure!" we respond. We see a whole crowd of women and children come to the road and wonder who will be climbing in. Silly us, they are ALL climbing in! Scoot over, squeeze together, pass the children down on laps and breathe in! Finally, Sarah closes the doors and we count 29 of us! The air is pungent with unwashed bodies, little eyes stare at our white skin and little fingers run through our smooth hair and mamas are nursing hungry babies in the midst of it all. Finally, we arrive at our destination, an Aka (pygmie) church and we all pile out and exhale!

 Men and boys, to the benches on the right. Women, children and babies, to the benches on the left. Songs, beating drums, dancing, swaying, preaching in rapid-fire Lingala, flies buzzing, watching the banana trees sway in the breeze outside then seeing smoke and hearing the crackling of dry branches and seeing yellow flames engulf that same banana tree! God's spirit is present as we worship together with the pygmies in spite of all the cultural differences!

Three hours later, we all pile in again and drive the whole crowd back to their huts. We are invited to walk into the Rain Forest with these folks as our guides and jump at the opportunity! As we travel single file on a garden trail, through a cocoa tree grove, we have to pinch ourselves and say," This is NOT a National Geographic Documentary, this is real life!"

Look, one man cuts and opens a green cocoa pod with his machete and offers it to us. We take a slippery, white pod between our fingers, pop it in our mouths and enjoy the sour pulp. Up ahead, another man offers us some stalks of green sugarcane and we suck the sweet juices out as we walk along. Women pull bark or leaves from trees, bushes or small plants on the ground and we learn these are helpful for diarrhea, eye infections, cough and one even makes dogs more aggressive to accompany the men when they hunt!

As we enter a small clearing, the real fun begins! One man hacks off a section of vine and hands it to us to drink the water pouring out, another makes a vine swing, the women build a little shelter out of small trees and leaves and up above us an Aka is demonstrating how he climbs trees with a vine around his back/shoulders like Mulan. He weaves a basket, lines it with large leaves, gathers some fat sticks and lights them so they smoke and he pulls all of these things up with him to demonstrate gathering honey 30 feet above us. He swings and dangles and even has a mock battle with imaginary bees and we all laugh together.

Well, sadly it is time we begin our hike back to the road. A few more pictures and a few more hugs for the children and we motor off towards home. Your feet are tired, your back is sore, your covered with sweat but this day will remain in your memory as such a gift from God!

I hope you enjoyed a brief respite as you read this from the record breaking cold, icy winter weather there. Thank you again for helping us to be here at Pioneer Christian Hospital as you support us with your prayers!

With thankful hearts,
Jenn, Tim, Joshua and Olivia

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