Posted on June 7, 2013
Farming and Relationships
I have decided farming and relationships are basically the same thing.
Before you think I have gone crazy living here in the wild of Eburru, let me explain:
I am trying my hand at farming this year. I decided I need a way to generate some additional income to keep up with the school fees for the kids I am helping. Right now, there are 15 kids I am trying to help, so far so good. But, here in Kenya they can randomly change the fees anytime they like, and it is never a bank error in your favor. The fees have changed for almost all the kids I am helping. I pay the fees, according to what is published and what I have been given at the beginning of the year, and then each term there are “additional fees” that have to be paid: the school is building something, or they start a new project, or the kids have to register for exams, on and on and on it goes. Really, it’s just a microcosm of the way things work as a whole here, but that is an essay best left to economists and theorists, not folks like me.
Anyway, back to the farm. I decided it would be good to try to generate some income to help offset the costs of these school fees, and ease the burden the monthly budget feels trying to keep up with the fees. It seems like a good idea, until you realize that farming costs a lot of money.
First, you have to rent a shamba, which I have done. It’s a beautiful shamba. One acre on the top of a hill, next to Francis’ house. Of course, once you find the shamba then you have to prepare it for planting. That means digging. A lot of digging. I hired a tractor, and had it come dig, but it did a really bad job so then I had to get people to come and dig. A lot. Thank goodness I have friends like these guys who will help me dig and get the land ready.
The digging is just the beginning of the process. After digging comes the planting. But, in order to plant you have to buy the seeds, and the fertilizer, and whatever else the fine folks who are helping you tell you you need. You make your plans for what gets planted where, and then you plant and you wait. You pray for rain and you wait. You hope the rains bring a good harvest so you can have some food to eat, and have some food to sell. You try your best to do everything you can to ensure a good harvest, but really, you just have to let go and wait. After all the digging, all the buying, all the planning, all the planting, all the weeding, all there is left is the waiting.
Relationships are a lot like that too. You work hard, you invest in people, you spend time and money and effort and energy, but in the end all you can do is wait and watch and hope and pray. You let go and you wait. You wait for God to do something amazing, hoping with eager expectation that something good is just around the corner.
In farming, you do the hard work first, and then you wait. And maybe a few weeks in you do some weeding to make sure what you want to grow will grow. But, even after pulling the weeds, you cannot control if the potatoes grow or not. That part is not up to you. That part is up to the potatoes and God.
Sometimes with friends things get messed up. And you try to pull the weeds, and you try to get back on track, and yet it’s not completely up to you. All you can do is your work, the rest is up to the other person and God.
Sometimes, it seems like the waiting will take forever. Sometimes, the waiting makes it seem like the harvest will never come. And, sometimes it just seems like too much work. Too much effort, too much sweat required.
But then, just when it seems nothing good will happen, you see the tiny potato plant grow. You see the maize break through the ground, and you have hope for something good. You have hope to carry on with the weeding and the fertilizing, and the praying.
And when it seems like the end of the friendship has come, a word changes everything. Love breaks through and light shines where it was once dark. And you have hope to carry on with the weeding, and the nurturing, and the listening, and the praying.
See? Farming and relationships, they are the same.
This month has taught me a lot about both farming and relationships. Some easy lessons, and some really, really hard lessons. But in the end, all good lessons. I have had to change the way I relate to some folks here, which has been hard and sad, but I think in the long run it will be much better. I have learned how to dig with a djembe, and how to plant, and how to wait patiently while I try to quickly learn how to farm. I have learned there are people in Eburru with hearts of gold, willing to help even someone they don’t know. And, I have learned there are folks here who will try to discredit even the best of intentions simply because they don’t know what else to do. I have been reminded again of the amazing friendship I have with Francis, Jecinta, and the kids, and every single day this month I have been thankful for them. They take care of me in ways I never would have imagined, and in ways I never could have prepared for. They are kind, and patient, and generous with me and they are a huge reason why I have joy here in Eburru.
I have been spending a lot more time at my house this month, which is a big change because it means a lot more alone time. The main reason is because it is not currently safe to be out at night around Eburru (please don’t tell my family, and if you are coming here soon, don’t worry, everything is fine :-). I am usually home by 6:30 every night, which means several hours of trying to entertain myself. With no TV and painfully slow internet, it’s sometimes hard to find ways to entertain myself. So far it’s been ok because I’ve been reading a lot, and I did a puzzle, and I play games on my sanity saving iPad, but there are times when the quiet of my house gets to be too much and I really wish I could be hanging out with friends, playing games, laughing and talking together. I think this new rhythm of Eburru will settle on me soon, and I will find the quiet a welcome treat, but for now, somedays, sometimes, it is a little too quiet and a little too lonely.
I continue to learn Swahili at a snail’s pace, but it’s getting better and is cause for great celebration among my friends here. They encourage me a lot, and they think I know a lot more than I actually do. I can understand a lot of what they say now, but I still have a hard time responding. I wish there was some super cool sci-fi thing in real life that would instantly put Swahili grammar and vocabulary into my brain so I could have full conversations with folks here. But, since nothing like that exists, at least that I know of, I will have to continue with my slow pace. Kikuyu is still hard for me, but even that is getting better. Maybe a couple years from now I’ll be able to have conversations in Kikuyu.