Thursday, November 21, 2019

To the Nut Fields!

This past weekend, my big kids and I took a field trip - literally! We had an adventure traipsing into the countryside to the peanut field that belongs to one of our workers/friends.

Papa F* pulling up the plants so they can
dry for the next work party

Maman F* comes to help with the many monotonous chores that makes life go ‘round here, and one day when we got chatting she was telling me that her 5 girls go every weekend to help in their families’ fields. 

Jesh and I have been trying to be intentional with teaching our children the need for life skills and learning age-appropriate responsibilty. Listening to this mama tell me that her children get up with her at 4am to fetch water, make fire and prepare a meal, bathe and get ready for school by 6:30am gave a good perspective. 

Not only that, but every weekend these girls/young ladies ride their bikes an hour or two into the country (not that there’s really such thing as city living out here!). There, they work the fields that provide their familiy, and relatives, with their livelihood. 

This got me thinking. It made me wonder if we make it way too easy on our kiddos. Naturally, it’s easy for them to feel like we are “always” making them work (said in the voice of a nearly double-digit eldest son who can’t wait to get outside with his buddies!). But in reality, the value of being a hard worker, whether we want to or not, becomes second to being happy and having fun. It happens so quickly, without us even trying. 

So in an effort to help this family out (yeah right, we can’t hold nothin’ to their fortitude) and encourage my kids to see another perspective, we took a moto taxi and headed out for the peanut harvest. 

And man, was it humbling! We joined a group of women and girls, all relatives of my friend, and were “put to work”. Actually, they tried to make us as comfortable as possible, and were full of encouragement all morning. Later I would find out they were concerned we were getting too tired (even though we came by moto long after they had biked there, and left long before the days’ work would be finished!). 

As we plucked nuts off the roots in the field (I didn’t even know peanuts were a root), I was told this was light work today, as the day before they had spent over 12 hours doing a labrious hauling of Maize (a type of corn that they will later beat into a rough flour and cook into a heavy dough-type substance that serves as a staple in their diets). When this mama of 5 (one just 18 months old) finally got home around 9pm that night, they then had a mountain of corn in their home that needed to be packed up so the chickens wouldn’t get into it. 

And so, the day we were harvesting peanuts, she had been up at 3am. There was not a hint of complaint as she told me this, just the facts of life. The next day she would again be before dawn, yet arrive at my place later in the morning with a smile, ready to work. 

So there I was, thinking I might “help”, sitting beside this woman who truly knows what it means to work hard to support her family, and I couldn’t help but admire her. At the same time, I’m ashamed to admit that in previous weeks I had caught myself thinking I could do my housework faster, but was doing her a favour by providing a job. And while that may be correct in some sense, it’s embarrassing to think of all that she will have already accomplished before I am even thinking of being awake. No kidding she has to pace herself! This woman works harder then I will ever do in my life just to make ends meet. 

I listened that morning as those ladies and young women chattered and laughed together while they worked. There’s no such thing as a weekend, or a family vacation, so Maman F* enjoys her life as she works. 

Midday you could see everyone slowing down as the heat turned up for the afternoon. The older girls prepared lunch on-location, so we sat on the dirt and dug in with fingers to a shared bowl of grub - a new experience that tested my daughter's ability to handle germs. But the graciousness of our host was apparent as she pulled out 3 spoons just for us, knowing we are accustomed to utensils!

Nap time

Rice and beans mixed together
with a spicy seasoning on top

There’s so much I can learn from those I find myself around. What an honor to have this lovely woman in my home each week, and to get to catch a glimpse into her world. 

And the fresh-from-the-ground nuts were pretty tasty - who knew!