Saturday, July 2, 2016

Building a dam... or something by Beau Latzka

Throughout every past mission trip to Tanzania students have done a labor project for a local women’s group here in Moshi. This year, we were told that our task was to build a dam. Many of us were extremely excited to learn how this was done and couldn’t wait to get started. Our first day of the project we hopped on a bus- or as it is called here a dala dala- and traveled to the work site. We all thought we knew what we were getting in to; maybe wading in a river and using concrete or brick to build a sort of wall in the water which would then create a reservoir. We were dead wrong. We were dropped off on the side of the road and led into a farming area with a few houses and animal pens. We walked by some corn fields, through some corn fields, and then were lead into the middle of the woods. At this point everyone was extremely confused as to where this “damn” was supposedly going to be. Regardless, we all kept quiet and did what the women told us. They started to cut down an area of banana trees (Sophie was actually hit by a falling tree trunk - she’s fine!) and afterwards, gave us shovels and hoes and told us to start digging. Ummm what?? Not only was there no river, there wasn’t even any water! Apparently here a “damn” is actually a hole in the ground which is then filled with water and fish. After a short discussion and clearing up some confusion the women told us that we were actually creating a small pond for fish. I guess this explanation was supposed to make more sense to us. Smile and nod everyone, smile and nod. What they didn’t tell us is how they were even going to get water and fish into the whole. Essentially we all felt like we were digging a very large grave. As the digging commenced we all took up arms and began ripping through the dirt. Jessica had said we needed to dig about two meters or so down. At first it was a huge cluster; people were crowding in one area and there wasn’t any room to swing the hoe or shovel out dirt. Mary Joe was actually hit in the head with a shovel (she’s also fine!) We all looked up to see her forehead gushing with blood and Jessica trying to drag her back down the path to get to a hospital. Mary Joe knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed and had Alisse step in and fixed the wound with a bandage. After that commotion we continued our excavation project. It was tough work and very tiring but everyone kept pushing through each day and we actually got a lot done. The women would occasionally take over for us and we liked to joke that they were the varsity team and we were all on JV. It was amazing to see how efficient they all were and it was good for us to learn better techniques as we watched them. We were able to find an efficient system for digging; hoers would dig up the ground starting from the outside and working our way in and afterwards, the shovelers would come in and shovel out the dirt that we had dug up. As some would say, it was hot as Africa, so while we were working the guys ended up taking their shirts off to avoid drenching our clothes in sweat. We were all pretty dirty after our two-and-a-half hour sessions, some more than others. Zack and I were completely covered in mud after every work day and the women laughed every time we came walking up the path. After putting our best efforts into three hard days at the work site we were still unable to finish our project. This was disappointing for us because it always feels better when we are able see the finished product after putting strenuous hours into something but we were still proud of what we had accomplished. The women were extremely grateful as well. They thanked us over and over again and were very impressed with our work ethic and how much we had gotten done in those three days. Even with the hot weather, the dirtiness, and the exhaustion, everyone kept a positive attitude and did their very best. This was what the service trip was all about. It was a great experience for all of us and we are extremely thankful that we were able to learn so much from these women as we helped them over these past two weeks.

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