It’s harvest time here in Massangulo. Hannah, Steph, Jack, Tilly, Sydney and I had the opportunity to go out to a friend’s farm and help them harvest their maize yesterday. We came home completely exhausted but it was pretty good fun and we learnt a lot. For the short video recap of the day click on the movie above. For the detailed recount… Keep on reading below.
One of friends (and language helper) was really sick with malaria last week. He spent a few nights in hospital and we were really worried about him. He only went home on Saturday morning so I was really surprised to see him arrive for work on Monday afternoon! He was feeling much better and keen to get started but I explained that with Cam away, he could have a few days off. We sat and chatted for a while and he told me he was struggling to come up with the money he needed to pay someone to harvest his corn. There was too much for his wife to do alone but he needed to get it done soon as people had started stealing it from his farm.
I offered to go and help instead! It’s always great to have opportunities to spend time with people where you can be of some help and while harvesting can be hot and dirty work… It’s not particularly difficult (compared to carrying things on your head). He accepted my offer and we made plans to meet his wife at their house at 6 the next morning so we could go to the farm together. I asked if maybe we should ride our bikes but he said it wasn’t that far… Maybe thirty minutes.
The next morning, I woke up at 5, dragged the kids out of bed and packed a bag with snacks, water and sunscreen before heading out the door at 530. We had never been to their house before but we had some fairly good directions and getting lost or needing help to find something is always a great excuse to chat to people here. We walked for about 20 minutes past the turnoff to town and into the village on the other side. When I thought we were close, we called into some random lady’s yard and asked if she knew where our friend’s house was. It turned out it was next door! She wanted to know what we were doing (it’s pretty weird seeing 3 white ladies and 3 kids out walking at 6am) so I explained that we were off to help with harvest. She was very concerned that we wouldn’t be able to do it and wanted to make sure that we knew we’d end up with sores all over our arms but I assured her we knew what we were in for.
So off we went to our friend’s house where we sat waiting for his wife to get her things together. Time is a strange thing here. We had arranged to meet at 6 and we arrived about then but she wasn’t ready. I wonder if she doubted that we’d show up. I get the sense that people are often not 100% sure we’ve understood them. Maybe that kind of things just happens with everyone though. It didn’t take her long and she had the essentials packed, the baby on her back and we were on our way.
We walked through their village, across the road into another village and then out onto a path that took us through the bush all the way to their farm by the river. I think we walked for at least an hour :). The kids weren’t overly excited about it, despite the stunning scenery, but they really didn’t complain too much.
When we arrived, we put all of out stuff onto a big rock and set to work harvesting. We got a quick demonstration of how to peel the maize cob with sharp sticks our friend had prepared earlier and then we all got stuck into it. We worked for about 4 hours before we were told it was time for a rest. We walked to the far side of the farm where we gathered beans and sugar cane and then went back to get all of things before heading across the river. I really had no idea where we were off to but that’s not unusual here.
After about a 10 minute walk, we arrived at a small hut on a neighboring farm. We were asked to take the bean pods off the plants while my friend’s wife went off to collect water from the river. While that was all happening, one of our guards (and a chief of the local village) arrived. It was then that some puzzle pieces started falling in to place. I’d been told earlier that his farm was next door to my friend’s farm. What I didn’t realize was that he was my friend’s father in law… And the father in law of one of our other guards… And the father of one of the other guard’s second wife. It turns out almost all of our workers are related. Which is totally fine – it’s just hard to figure out these big complicated families sometimes.
So after we’d sat for a while, our guard (the chief) wanted to show us around his farm so we all went for a walk to have a look and pick some more sugar cane. After exploring his farm, we returned to the hut to finish off the beans and to wait for lunch to be ready. We were served xima and some instant soya product in an oily tomato sauce which Jack and Sydney thought was awesome! They kept asking for more meat! Bless them. We drank the river water… No one has had any ill effects yet but it always makes me a bit nervous. We sat for a few hours all up. After we’d eaten, another pot of xima was prepared for all of the other adults who had appeared. Eventually, we packed up ready to go.
The chief asked me if I was going to be able to carry back the sugar cane (at least 15kg worth) on my head. Ha ha ha – no way, I replied. I explained that I can’t carry anything on my head so he offered to bring it back for me on his bike. Thank goodness! We started off on the long walk home… With Sydney on my back and Tilly somehow convincing Steph and Hannah to piggyback her a lot of the way. We finally arrived back in town and decided that we deserved a treat of Fizz – a cheap soft drink – on the way back past the turnoff. It was just the sugar we needed to get us up the last hill!
Almost 11 hours after leaving home, we returned… Dirty, sore and exhausted. After about 15km of walking – we were well ready for bed. But we had a great time, we learnt some new skills, made some new friends and found a new part of the river to explore. I loved it so much, I’m going back there tomorrow!