BY BABARA THOMAS, MISSIONARY TO THE BATWA 2014-2016
If you missed Part I of Barbara’s article, you can read it at http://www.kellermannfoundation.org/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-missionary/.
In our capacities as volunteers at the Batwa Development Program (BDP), we spend a lot of time listening and when asked, offer advice and guidance. Issues constantly pop up that keep life challenging:
• Batwa children who “escaped” (went long-term truant) from Bishops’ Primary School.
• Another death in one of the settlements: Can BDP help with the coffin costs?
• Neighbors to Batwa Experience land are grazing their animals and cutting trees on our land. Are there funds for taking the matter to the police?
• High school students spent all their toiletry money on other stuff. Teachers are insisting they need soap.
Discussions in the office take place throughout the day. We break for lunch at 1 p.m. Another 23-minute walk down the mountain, only it’s warmer now. I take an umbrella for either an afternoon downpour or a fierce sun. Lunches are usually vegetarian: a meal of chapatis, avocado and beans. Lately, we’ve been eating two lunches a week at Nadia’s – a local restaurant across the street from BDP. There we get brown beans and chewy rice, or smoked fish and rice/matoke (mashed plantain) – the way she prepares, everything is quite good. The shops that were not yet open at 7 a.m. now have all their produce on display. I look for and buy items we use daily: bananas, tomatoes, green pepper, avocados, carrots, onions, eggs, flour, sugar. All these are available in the shops near us. They just aren’t all available every day. When I see a good papaya or lemons for sale, I buy them. We are able to get meat once a week when the market comes to Buhoma. We buy half a kilo only, as we have no refrigeration.
We go back to the office. As I hike back up the hill, it feels steeper as the temperature rises. It is 2:30 p.m. I cool off at the house and head back to the office by 3 p.m. When I’m in the middle of making formulas in an Excel sheet, the drums erupt next door where school children come up to dance for the tourists. This happens every day, including weekends and holidays, for at least 1.5 and sometimes 2 hours. It’s very loud. From our home 50 yards downhill, we can feel the vibrations through the wood-planked floor. We wear over-the-ear hearing protection if we want to continue to work at the office when the drums are going.
At 5 p.m. we take showers, and the water helps drown out the sound of the drums. Thanks to Jackson, the BDP guard, lighting a wood fire under the hot water tank, we have hot water. The shower doesn’t seem to be draining properly, which means that tomorrow I need to lift the lid on the drains, scoop out anything blocking the drain (like dead frogs and centipedes) and clean the drain guard of gunk. Joy.
We decided early on that it was not restful to shower, then walk down the mountain again for a 7 p.m. supper, then walk back up by flashlight, over a rocky road in the dark to get home. Instead, I prepare our suppers over a gas burner at home. Tonight: colored pasta (from Kigali, Rwanda – five hours away), with a half sausage link (also from Kigali – rationed), chopped up garlic clove, green pepper, tomato (those are all local), pickle (from Kabale, three hours away) and French mustard (also from Kabale). Once the drums stop, we eat. The dishes are quickly washed up and we spend the evening reading. The ceiling bulbs (charged by BDP solar panels) light the room, but it’s too dim for reading. The solar lantern and lamp are brought in and with them we can read, play word games and listen to our own music.
The crickets start to sing. We hear a chirp-chirp-chirp-chirrrrrrrrrrr of a nightjar bird. There’s a rustle overhead in our mat ceiling. We look at each other, fearing another mouse looking to nest, but conclude it’s just another lizard passing through, eating insects.
At 9:30 p.m. it’s time to start getting ready for bed. I make sure all the food is packed away into a plastic basket with lid, in case of mice getting into the house. The hand washing is placed in soapy water to soak overnight. Phones and Kindles are connected to charge off the BDP solar battery. Lights are out by 10 p.m.