Here is a sentence I never thought I would utter...
I HAVE HAD SCHNAPPS WITH THE CHIEF OF A VILLAGE
Have you ever had plain schnapps? I had previously heard of various flavored schnapps... peach, peppermint - but plain? Really? More on this later...
So after a long drive in a packed bus on various paved and dirt roads we arrived in the village. Richard had explained that our first day of work would start with a welcoming ceremony with the Village Elders and Chief.
Then came the schnapps.
As part of the ceremony, a gentleman from the village who assisted in translating, got up and, after a small ceremony within this welcoming ceremony, poured schnapps into a shot glass and began offering it to each person in the room. Part of the ritual included drinking what you could and then pouring the rest of the contents on the floor in front of you. This ritual is one I was *extremely* thankful for! When I brought the glass to my mouth, my nose hairs immediately stood up on end. To say that my lips burned as the liquor touched my mouth is to put it mildly. One thing I knew for sure, any viruses, germs, bugs what-have-you that were making a little home for themselves within my body were now killed dead as the schnapps made its way through my digestive system.
With the welcoming ceremony over we made our way to our construction site. Many in the village were already busily working on the computer center's frame. A Globe Aware group that had been there previously had begun the structure of the building but there was still much work to be done. Next to the soon-to-be computer center was the school. The school itself consisted of cement walls, cement floors and a tin roof. If children wanted to sit on chairs, or use tables, they had to bring it with them every day. Richard had explained that when the previous GA group was there, the school was missing its roof, so they ceased work on the computer center for awhile and instead, put on the roof of that building.
Every day we were there a large number of people from the village came out to work as well. But when a group wasn't there, the work didn't really continue. This is not from laziness, it's from the attention that every day life requires. People have their own work to do whether it be farming, construction, whatever. They have to make a living, and while a computer center would be vital to this village, the building of it isn't going to put food on the table. The Chief had explained to all of us that they wanted to build the computer center for multiple reasons. An obvious one was so that students and adults could have access to the world around them. The village, without proper transportation, is quite far away from even the nearest city of Ho. The Internet could connect them in a way never before experienced. The other reason was because, for the children that went on to higher learning, they more often than not, permanently left the village. The hope was that the village would remain current enough to appeal to its youth so that after they receive their education they would come back and contribute to the life of the village.
On the whole, the village is beautiful. On one side, there were mountains surrounding us. Some of the people I met told me that they farmed there. On the other side was a forest that contained the river that many still used to bathe in, drink from and do their dishes and laundry. This place was different yes, but beautiful none the less. To have the majority of a town come out for an event like this is unheard of in the hustle bustle of a city like Manhattan. Here it seemed that most everyone knew each other. In my world, you rarely gave eye contact to strangers no less know their name.
Different, yes. But different was just what I was looking for.
Kindness in the New Year
9 months ago