"Happy Thanksgiving from the far side,
I hope this finds you all well, happy and warm on this lovely Thanksgiving Day. Here in Dar it is a whopping 98 under a brilliant sky. Elise is enjoying turkey with the troops in Jalalabad, Mali is with her old school mates in New York City, Kate is soon to be home from school and looking forward to seeing the latest Harry Potter with me on the weekend, and me? well.....
I started the day (after a nice breakfast with Kate before putting her on the bus to school) with my customary sunrise (ish) walk with Nala along the majestic sea cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean and the city of Dar es Salaam. The name, Dar es Salaam, means Haven of Peace, and from my vantage point this morning with the large puffy clouds and crystal blue water in the harbor, it certainly looked to be living up to its name. About an hour and several lost pounds of sweat later we came home to enjoy a long glass of water before popping a huge turkey in the oven to be enjoyed with friends later this evening.
And then - what else do you think I'd do with my day off? - Nala and I, well mostly me, she just lounged in the shade, made yet another compost pile. This one from a large pile of grass i rescued from the side of the road and the leaves of a large neem tree that had been felled to make room for a new gate at a property down the road. All that lovely green was blended with the stockpile of brown leaves I have waiting for just such an occassion. The pile I made 2 days ago has already hit 150 degrees (thanks to all those bacteria) so I suspect to see the same in this one. With a bit of time still on my hands I loaded 5 large buckets of 3 month old compost into the back of the car and headed to the Peace Corps office. The guards looked at me with surprise (I was kinda sweaty and gross) but nodded knowingly when I said I had some compost to add to the growing maize and cowpea plants in our demo garden. The garden had been planted with the early rains about 10 days ago and the seedlings were standing tall and happy at 6" so it was time for a bit of "side dressing". now - I could have done this on a "work day" I know, but, well, gardening the way I do it is kinda sweaty work so its a bit rough on the keyboard afterwards...
My sidedressing chore completed i snapped a few photos to record the moment (look for them on FB later) and returned home for that much needed shower and to check on birdzilla in the oven. Its about to come out but I will wait for Kate to come home from school so I can teach her my "special" gravy technique...its all in the rue ya know...She and I are joining several friends at a nearby home for a big feed. Kate made her fabulous lemon squares and peanut butter swirl fudge brownies (what else would a diabetic bring to the table??) last night and we will be proud of our offerings to the table.
(Elizabeth inserts photo here)
There are many people in this world who struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day...think about that. less than $365. What many people earn in a day...is what subsistence farming families try to live on in a year! They do it - but just barely. and when some major shock happens in their lives, such as a drought, fire, flood, illness, loss of a job...the ability to bounce back, to be resilient, just isnt there and they become one more family with weak knees and heavy hearts in the long line outside the World Food Programme relief tent.
My work through the Peace Corps and other groups aims at rebuilding a sense of hope and resilience with these very people. It is thrilling work. It is empowering work. It is tiring work. But it is deeply moving and rewarding on so many levels to see HIV+ widows, who had been struggling with so much, find some joy and hope in the gardens they have learned to grow with the Peace Corps Volunteer they have as a neighbor. Through the simple act of converting "waste" grass and leaves into loamy soil a glimmer of hope and eagerness for life begins to return. It seems maudlin and simplistic perhaps. But the answer to global poverty and hopelessness lies less with the high tech solutions of the Green Revolution and more with the low tech actions of ecological farming practiced on the less than 1/4 acre gardens across the mountain slopes. To hear a woman say to a PCV about to go back home, "I will miss you. My life may not be long, but it will be deep", is all the payment one ever needs to receive...well - maybe not when I look at those college bills, but you get my meaning.
SO... tonight, please raise a toast to the glorious food on your table - and to the farmers around the world who got it there...and to all those out there without a feast to enjoy, let us say a prayer and spend a moment to think of ways to rebuild and maintain our amazing planet....one compost pile at a time!
Peace to all and to all a good night.
With the simple composting syystem that Peter has developed and is now teaching all over Africa, barren spaces immediately next to homes go from this:
Peter has developed a three day training session where each garden is built and the process explained. This is all done using home made tools and local indigenous seed and plants.
In June , when Elise's tour in Afganistan is done , the family will pack up and move to Bangladesh for a 4 year posting for Elise, as the head of Womens Health and Education, and where Peter will continue to train and teach the glories of compost and the bounty of food security that it can bring to the hungry peoples of the world.