Saturday, October 01, 2011

On Resources, Reserves, and Cool Accents

One of our first friends in Fort Portal was a young lady from England named Kate. (shout out to you, Kate, if you ever happen to read this!)

Kate was working at a village school near Fort Portal. She often talked about how difficult it was to motivate learning among her pupils when they were so “under resourced”.

I wish at this point in the post for a sound button so that the term ‘under-resourced’ could be heard with a British accent.

It’s quite lovely to hear actually.

(for discussion purposes: American English pronounces 'resource' with the stress on the ‘re’, whereas British English would stress ‘source’ and the ‘s’ has more of a ‘z’ component to it in British English. Clear as mud? Excellent! )

Kate had trouble gathering enough pencils and paper in those days to ‘resource’ (British accent) the children she was loving and serving. This limitation was a weighty burden that wearied Kate and hindered many of her generous goals for those kiddos.

This was a discouraging problem that we discussed at length over dinner in our non furnished concrete house. Kate left many years ago, but every time I say or hear the word resource, it sounds British in my head. Because it is simply more lovely in the lilt of the United Kingdom.

Over the last 11 months our family has sacrificed a very wonderful resource. Electricity.

If you are new here at Gently Led, I’ll catch you up by saying that the electricity company and I are no longer friends. We never have been. And this is because they are not so very nice. Or honest. The end.

So, instead of laboring on in the dysfunctional relationship with the providers of electricity, our family has chosen to go off the grid.

And as noble as that sounds—well, it’s not.

And we are not.

But we have done it successfully for 11 solid months.

My husband, who is the more able to survive in extreme conditions (like no hair dryer, have mercy!) has diligently worked to provide us with the resources he can.

We have solar lights and enough batteries to charge our computer once a day. He has spent countless hours on generator repair and wiring which left us poorer and without a working generator for several months. (Not my husbands fault by the way. Mechanics in the third world most often break more than they fix. It’s kind of an unwritten corruption rule that supposedly keeps the repairmen in a job.) An angel of mercy gifted us with a generator that we can use once a week to enjoy delights such as Wii, the coffee grinder and occasionally the blender. But still no blow dryer. (deep sigh)

As we neared a break from this off the grid existence, I pondered the toll this change has taken. We sacrificed one resource, which then affected many others.

Laundry I waited a long, LONG time to have electric appliances to aid in the eternal mountainous task that is the washing of dirty clothes. I CELEBRATED the acquisition of a new washing machine and a new dryer. I have never taken them for granted.

We thought they died once (in a power spike—hats off to you again, dear electric company!) but we prayed them back to life and joyfully danced at their resurrection party.

I miss them now. They sit, silent and unused in our laundry room.

Handwashing clothes for a family of six is overwhelming. Especially in the rainy weather. In the rains, nothing gets completely dry, so the stench of mildew permeates everything.

I do hire help for this task. But that bears a cost as well. Not just the salary I owe, but the wear on our clothes. They are stretched and wrung and will soon be too misshapen to wear.

Food Storage For years, I have purchased our meat in Kampala, the capital city. I would buy meat to last us 8 weeks in Fort Portal and then store the meat in a deep freeze.

We bought a full size American refrigerator from a departing missionary just last year. I used it for exactly three weeks. I loved those three weeks. Our food storage capability increased and all was joyful in the Cash Kitchen!

Losing electricity, meant losing the deep freeze and the refrigerator.

We are back to a propane fridge that is small in size. I cannot buy such a large amount of meat in Kampala. I can fit enough meat in our small propane freezer to last our family a week or so. With visitors sharing our food, the meat doesn’t last even that long.

This cost has been most pronounced in our health. We have had to buy our meat locally. Our family has been battling stomach illness for this entire term. We do not have as much control over the healthy storage of our meat before it gets to our table. This can lead to issues that are manageable but create a sort of lingering blecky feeling that weighs us down and won’t go away.

Cooking Our food preparation has always been ‘from scratch’ here. This takes a long time, but I have grown used to the process. I have enjoyed the blessings of mixers and food processors that greatly aid in the baking process and in chopping vegetables especially.
The absence of these tools has drastically slowed an already slow process. I’ve been surprised at this but am adjusting to even more time in the kitchen to keep our family fed.

Hair Care Utter vanity, tis true. But, dearest blog patrons, a girl needs a good hair day every now and then. It changes her life. And my good hair days this term have equaled exactly One. The day Sunel (God bless Sunel!) cut and styled my hair in Kampala. It was a glorious day. I could conquer the world that day. I was a terrific mother. A beautiful wife. A willing missionary. It was truly a golden moment.

All because of the hair.

I’m not even embarrassed to say this.

I miss my blow dryer. And I’m pretty confident that tucked away in the mildew-y cupboard, my blow dryer misses me too.

There are other costs. No fans at night which renders our amazing boy loft bedroom totally useless because of heat. Cold baths. Less computer time. More obstacles to office work.

Feeling successful for me, is all tied up in the completion of a thing. Each of the changes listed above leaves me with a feeling of ‘incomplete'.

Over time, this burden of the incomplete begins to paralyze me. In each task or area of responsibility, I can endure and cope with being under-resourced. But, eventually, the combined incompleteness has emptied my reserves at a much faster rate than normal.

When our generator runs out of fuel, it stops making energy. We must pay something to get more fuel to operate the machine.

Unfortunately, we humans can hide our empty tanks for awhile. Sometimes without recognizing it, I find myself trying to generate energy from a completely dry reserve. I’m coughing and spewing and even causing more damage, when what I need to do is pay a price and refill my tank.

One very effective way to ‘refill’ is, simply, to rest. We typically do this resting thing better if we can be physically removed from our work and responsibility for a time.

So recently, we paid a price and flew away.

From Mountains to Coast.

We settled for some days on the shore of the Indian Ocean.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our time away. But, I was hoping for stillness, rest, laughter, memories and God willing, electricity.

Of all the renewal God had waiting for us, I hoped His plan included a working blow dryer and a good hair day or two.

Under-resourced. (British accent)

Spoken with a lovely accent or not, the effect is eventually debilitating.

And must be addressed.

What empties your tank, blog friends?

What practical things renew you?


Anonymous said...

Cheryl, I am so thankful that you are writing again. I love reading your thoughts. And I love you!

Sarah B said...

Jim Coffey sent me your blog because I was being thankful for washing machines on Facebook :) I've lived as a missionary in the Philippines, but not near the extremes you described here. I'm glad that you've seen the importance of "filling up" regularly, and I'm praying right now that God gives you the opportunity - often. In the meantime, I can only imagine the wealth of wisdom God is teaching you now through this lifestyle - and in the future, as you reflect. I'm excited to know you will use that wisdom to further His Kingdom. May your family be blessed with true riches for having sacrificed the "easy".