This week is rice harvesting week. At ARI we harvest our main crops both by hand and by machine. The rice harvesting machine is like a small John Deer tractor that also threshes the grain and spits the rice straw out the back side. We use the machine for a few of the larger rice paddies that we have. Many of the other fields are harvested by hand. A community work day was planned last Wednesday for all the participants, farm workers, and volunteers to get together and head to the fields with a sickle in hand.
At the beginning of the week, some of the participants said that there should be some kind of service to celebrate the beginning of the rice harvest. Joe from Cameroon made the point that rice is a very important crop for us. The successful growth and harvest of our rice will allow us to eat three times a day for an entire year. We all took a vote and decided that the rice harvest deserved a small celebration of its own before we began harvesting.
So on that clear blue Wednesday morning, with Autumn breeze blowing across rice stalks leaning heavy with grain, we all gathered in the field ready to sing our thanks to the heavens for the gift of life we were preparing to receive. Niro, from Sri Lanka, sang a song in his native language that is traditionally sung by people when harvesting rice. It is a song voicing thanks to the earth, to the air, to the sun, and to God for the food that has been grown. Then Jill, from the Philippines, played the guitar to one of our favorite songs here at ARI, “Take My Hand.” Rev. Nishanta, of Sri Lanka led us in prayer.
We realized celebration is not just an excuse to light fireworks, bake cakes, drink beer, and do a touchdown dance. Celebration is a way that we humans give thanks for the gifts we are receiving in our life, whether the gift is six more points, a year with the one you love, or the chance to receive the gift of life for another year. The celebration marks the moment as sacred. We could celebrate more often and in many different ways: smile at the rain of a typhoon, fist-pump for another sunrise.
Something also worthy of celebration is that Wilson, of the Philippines, returned from his visit home. His wife passed on soon after his arrival earlier this month. He returned to us on Thursday. Friday morning he shared with us some pictures from the funeral and his home church that gathered about to support him and his family. He said that everyone he spoke to was supportive of his returning to ARI to finish his training. Many people there know how important his learning here is, and how it could be used to make life for his people better.
Doug's Morning Gathering
On Thursday I (Doug) was the chair person for the morning gathering. For our first sharing we are supposed to tell about who we are and where we come from. That is a long story for me as it is for anyone. So I chose to talk mainly about my grandfather, Omer Knight. He was born into a “poor” life along the Ouachita river. He grew up having to fish, hunt, and grow his food. He took a mill job to provide for his family. But things changed for his descendants. I get most of my food by swiping my debit card. I tried to point out that because of this, I am not considered “poor.” But being at ARI so far has made me realize how poor I really am in knowledge of self-sufficiency. I could not feed myself without a supermarket. My grandfather was rich with the knowledge that can allow someone to live independent of supermarkets and debit cards. I feel like part of why I am here is to recover some of that lost knowledge.
Adventures in Nikko
We discovered Nikko to be a city similar to Eureka Springs, for those of you Arkansans who're familiar with that town. Nikko is a famous tourist destination for international and Japanese people. It is a beautiful mountain town with lots of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to visit. The town is filled with little locally owned Japanese restaurants, and just about anything else you want to eat too. Lots of Japanese style sweet shops.
The shrines cost money to visit so we gave them a pass and headed up into the mountains where we spent Saturday morning hiking and swimming in very chilly waterfalls. We then discovered that leech bites take a long time to stop bleeding.
Sunday morning we woke up and had a large breakfast prepared by Ken, the owner of the small lodge where we stayed. Eggs, toast, and oatmeal! Then we walked down into town and explored a neat place along the river where there are many statues of Buddha known as the Bakejizo, stone ghost statues. Apparently if you walk one way counting them and then count them as you pass by again, there will be a different number every time. We did not count them, just admired them.