I wake up each school day to the sound of washing at 5am. I’ve never quite sure what is being washed as I lay in bed. I assume it clothes being washed but it seems too early. As the day progresses more washing is heard and the roosters start. Pots bang, birds chirp, and sweeping and mopping are in full swing. It’s now 6am and some mornings I even feel cool here in Africa as I lay in bed surrounded by a blue mosquito net. The sweeping continues and I can hear the water being pumped from the well. The voices of children begin to get louder. A girl sings a worship song as she moves about her morning chores.
Sweeping inside and outside, the floors and the hard packed dirt around each home. Sweeping the road. Washing of floors by hand with towels immediately red with dirt. Floors drying nearly as soon as they have been washed. Red brown dirt at every turn. Always sweeping and the sound of the well, pumping, pumping, pumping. Always children heard at school and here in the village.
A cow mooing. Water being used again, washing, is it clothes, a floor? Always washing. More roosters, chickens and then the bleat of goats, baby goats. Goats galore leaping and playing and seeking their mothers out. I look up and there is a lost goat in my room. Are you here for me or can you catch the rats living in my room which I hear at night? Outside bunnies hopping across the path. Wait now it’s turkeys strolling through the middle of the Children’s Village.
Digging, banging – construction being done for more houses. Children – you can hear them in the school and then clammering for lunch. Laughing, playing games, sitting together under the tree. The smell of fires burning to make food all day long. It’s the end of the day – a school assembly under the tree. A sea of pink uniforms.
School is out and a stream of children in pink uniforms stream home and back to the Children’s Village. Bees buzzing, birds chirping, metal doors and cabinets clanging, blue with color and long in endurance. Boys doing their laundry together, girls as well. Laughter and raised tones from the older children for the younger to behave and act maturely. The clotheslines full of color at every moment. Then I smell charcoal for ironing clothes and newly washed sheets.
Children are sorting beans, finding the rocks, picking out shells. Herbs being dried and nuts being roasted. Children washing clothes, cooking posha and beans, eating with their hands. Football being played, bikes ridden, homework remembered and completed by solar lighting. Singing, a dance practice, washing, bathing, and laughing.
I look hard enough and I see a lizard on the wall in the girls room. Don’t step on the toad as you catch white ants to eat later. It’s a game and our arms hurt from helping children catch them, like money falling from the sky. They’re better than bubbles, grab them and enjoy them later.
Singing, dancing, laughing, playing cards, water pumping, washing, homework and the night begins to wind down.
There is a favorite bicycle ride that I have in Vermont. The back roads are couched perfectly in the Champlain Valley. The Adirondacks and Lake Champlain are on one horizon and the Green Mountains on the other. Cows occasionally look up from feeding to give me a curious stare. Occasionally I talk to them, they are good listeners. Wildflowers line the sides of the roads until they meet fences keeping in (or out) hay, corn, and cows. During my most recent ride I learned three important lessons.
- Keep your mouth shut. I seem to get a refresher on this lesson each season both when biking and in “real” life. Biking is not like driving, there is no windshield to protect us from bugs. There is less safety, you’re more exposed. The faster I hurdle myself forward the more unpleasant it can become if I forget to keep my mouth shut. I won’t elaborate you can imagine. However simple this lesson is I need to remember it and implement it or I end up with consequences that leave me sputtering, frustrated, and even angry with myself that it’s such a simple concept. I must remember to learn to keep my mouth shut.
- Find a healthy rhythm – gain momentum and sustain it. Once I get up to a steady speed it’s much easier to maintain it. What the optimal speed is for me and how long can I go at a particular pace, in biking and in “real” life is another question. I don’t want to over-exert but I also don’t want to underperform. Underperforming becomes a danger zone in Vermont, moving so slow that I’m at risk for attack. As I biked up a sharp hill I was bit by a horse fly, quite common near so many farms. There was one, then two buzzing around me looking for an opportunity to take a chunk out of me. I felt as if they were taunting me and wondered at what point could I regain enough momentum to part company. Finding a health rhythm feels better, whether it be the pace of the ride, a morning routine that is refreshing, times to reflect, spending time with friends, etc. When I know that my rhythm and momentum are at a more optimal pace then the momentary hindrance of feeling like a pincushion for horse flies is just that, momentary.
- Keep enough in your tank – to outrun the surprise enemy. In this case it was 2 dogs. I was enjoying the view, recovering from a slight hill when the dogs sighted me. They attempted to greet me and I was thankful to move out of their reach before their teeth offered salutations. My takeaway is that too often we run at full tilt, all out, with little gas left. Thankfully I was prepared and was able to dig down and stay safe. There are times to “leave it all” on the court, field, game, meeting, etc. however it is essential we know when those times are. This was not one of them and I was glad I was prepared and had enough left in the tank to outrun the enemy because he was real.