Written by: The Bridge on Monday, May 21st, 2018
Well, waaaaaaay back a few years ago when Paul Vetter and Clara Basel were here, Clara and I set out to help share food for all the Palmgrove families. At home we call it “taln.” Now this food was and still is all from the last container that Crystal Spring sent over a few months ago. (A lot of colonies and ‘outside’ businesses contribute to the filling of them as well). We have sent numerous containers thru the years, I don’t know if any one of them was an easy ‘send it and get it’ situation. Each seems to have had its share of troubles, some sitting in the port for months. Only one has never made it here to PG and we will just never know where it ended up. Every official, it seems, needs their bribe, and some more than once or twice. Then the paperwork causes trouble. And more money, of course. But it seems now Udo Imoh, our steward, has figured out some paperwork and specific processes of clearing the container so that it can arrive in PG in a timely manner from arriving on ship at port.
The ladies here know how to share food and do so efficiently and speedily. I guess thru the years many of our Hutterite women who were here taught them well! They even have black trays with each family’s name tied onto it, I had to smile when I first saw them, they reminded me so much of home! Glory and Ma Brown handled the ropes and Clara and I helped where needed, cutting open boxes and bringing boxes as the previous emptied. Each of the 17 families got rice, sugar, flour, beans, coffee, protein powder, milk powder, peanut butter, soap, and many small packets that they call “feed the children.” These are small packets of food with the spices and all ingredients included, ready to pour into a pot of boiling water. The main food inside is such as is practically fool-proof to cook, as in, very easy to cook, like pasta, oatmeal and rice and beans, carbohydrate rich food which keeps them going all thru the day until they eat their 2nd meal later at night.
Once we finished sorting the food, Glory told some children to run to the houses and call everyone (no PA :D). They ran happily off to comply….in fact they were so excited and happy about it that it reminded me strongly of myself as a Hutterite child at Christmas ‘getaalich.’ It was so special, that Weinachts Geshenk…i can strongly remember pushing laden ‘vosh vageleh’ over crunching snow and feeling so excited, shouting across at the other children doing the same….never did we want to help mom as much as then!! And then once home tasting all the goodies … the colorful hard candy (prolly from Lorrys) and what were those corn candy called…the soft triangles that had 3 colors from the bottom up…hmmmm? My mom has pictures somewhere where Lance and Jeremy and myself are sitting at the table in our nightgowns and PJs with piles of candy in front of us. Today, I would be horrified if my kids ate that many candy at one sitting!! Lots of moms today feel bad giving their kids 1 candy! I’m pretty positive that if you grew up as a Hutterite, you have happy childhood memories of Weinacht Getaalich!!
It didn’t take long and the women arrived and commenced putting big bags of rice or 5 gallon pails on their heads and starting for home, but not before hugging us and thanking us profusely. One of the boys, Joseph’s Daniel, had a wheelbarrow and took those things home for those who needed help and those who didn’t show up to collect their share. They were all so thankful and couldn’t stop smiling and thanking us over and over. I can understand their being so thankful because I know that some of the traditional dishes that the ladies prepare take hours…and some take all day, just for 1 meal! Like ekpang Kwukwa….it’s so delicous but it takes at least 6 hours to make because it consists of wrapping a small bit of grated yam into a leaf, and they never make a small pot, always BIG. (Think making crab krapfle at Christmas time or other special occasions like a wedding….seems to take forever because they are much smaller than our normal krapfle like Shutn’ krapfle.) Well, this would take it to a whole different level, needless to say our ladies at home would NOT be impressed. But this is absolutely normal for the ladies here, their cooking takes crazy amounts of time, and they have large and extended family to feed and certainly aren’t shy about feeding strangers if they happen to walk by. At least we have tried to eliminate their time spent looking for or buying firewood.
This Mother’s Day we shared burners and propane tanks to all the ladies who needed one! They were all smiles and again and again thanked us over and over. The steward Udo Imoh handed them out last Sunday and then gave a tutorial on how to use them! (Imagine our luxeries at home!)! So since then Chris has been going around to the houses and connecting the tank to the burner with a length of hose and then making the women turn it on and off and trying again to explain to them how it works, how they should listen to the gas blowing when they press the switch, all the while trying to wipe sweat from his dripping forehead with a wet hand and they nodding and nodding, not understanding a word of english. I had to ‘shmootzle’ behind them as they tried to communicate, Chris being earnest and over heated and the women being tickled pink with their new present and just saying yes yes yes. The older women don’t understand english. Fortunately there were young puem around to translate. 😀
And so the food we shared from the container also assists in cutting down the time the women spend cooking, so they have time to work on their palm fruit and work in their gardens, planting, hoeing and weeding, all under the burning African sun. A huge thank you to those colonies who donated items for the container or donated girls to help pack it, (HI Cara, TLC!! Wave wave). Please know that your efforts are much appreciated by the people here. We have such an excess of material possessions at home that we could in all truth be filling containers monthly… just think of all the things in our houses that we are tired of, we could throw them into a container and go to MORE garage sales and stop in at good ol’ Value Village even more than we already are!! 😀 After all, who doesn’t love a good garage sale (I know I do!!)!? But having said that, not any old thing is good to send over. I’ve had quite a few women come up to me and say when you send another container, send me this or that. They really love them, i guess it’s like Christmas in a huuuuge box!
Good items to send are clothes, there are always people who need clothes, be it in or out of Palmgrove. In fact, when we go out by the back gate there is a mud hut there. That means a house that is built by sticking bamboo poles into the ground and making a lattice frame . This is then covered with wet sand and mud,which hardens and ta-da….walls!! These crack and fall off constantly and need repair. Needless to say, the people living in these are the poorest of the poor. Just dirt floors. So, anyway Chris and myself filled a nice, new 5-gal pail (which is very useful in itself for bringing water, washing clothes, storing palm oil or gari, etc) with container things for the father and two small girls who live there, the dad said the mother is dead. So we put in packets of ‘feed the children, peanut butter, sugar, soap, towels and pillowcases. When we took it over no one was home, so we set it behind the hut. Yesterday we stopped by and the father was there, he told us yes he found the things, and thank you thank you thank you!! And he said he needed some t-shirts as well, as he had only one. I asked the PG boys if there were more mud huts around so we could do that as many times as needed or until our cache of goodies ran out. They couldn’t think of any, the area around PG is very populated already and cement houses are everywhere. When I was here in 2008, it wasn’t so, the area surrounding PG was pretty much just bush with mud huts scattered here and there. Maybe it’s a good sign…people seem to have more money because they are building houses?… perhaps the country’s economy has improved? I wonder but I don’t know. Certainly it must be better than 10 years ago.