Yesterday was cloudy and rainy! We were all wishing for some umbrellas. Thankfully, the dreary weather didn't put a damper on our outing. Brian gave the team a tour of the area; we went to the dump, the cemetery, Tabong, and the flea market. In some ways, the rain seemed appropriate for the seriousness of what we saw.
The dump is just what it sounds like-it's the place where people dump their garbage. However, some people actually live there! All along the road to the dump are houses that are basically made of whatever the people can find. Not many were outside when we drove by because of the weather, but Bob told us that on sunnier days, people wait at the entrance to jump on the back of your trailer and "claim" whatever you have brought to dump. They sift through the garbage to find anything recyclable and then sell it to the recycling companies. This is their only source of income. I am told that the smell is usually rancid, but the rain made it bearable.
As we drove to the cemetery, the traffic was busy. Brian told us that Fridays are for children's funerals, and Saturdays are for adult funerals. They only do funerals on those two days of the week, and everyone just plans to go to funerals on those two days. We were only able to see the children's cemetery because of the muddy, dirt roads and the traffic congestion; Brian guessed that there were probably about 10 funerals happening while we were there. Seeing the graves of so many children was very sobering; it was difficult to find the grave of a child that was much older than two. The graves are "decorated" with what, at first glance, looks like garbage. Old plastic bottles, broken toys, and pieces of glass are common on the graves. Brian said that the people decorate with whatever the child had or played with. At least a dozen graves were dug, but still empty. Brian also told us that people have funeral insurance--this is like our life insurance, but covers funeral costs. He said that people will pay their funeral insurance bills each month before they buy food. As Lois and Brian's Year in Review DVD said, death is a harsh reality here.
Tabong is a shanty town just outside of Welkom. This is where most of the children at The Pines are from. It is a fairly large collection of tin or metal shacks. Each one is about the size of your living room and houses 6 to 8 people, with two beds. It is difficult for me to describe this place; it is nothing like I have ever seen before. Hopefully I can put up some pictures of it. Needless to say, I was once again humbled by the living conditions of the people here in comparison to what I think I NEED at home.
The flea market brought a much lighter note to the end of our outing. Because of the rain, the vendors had not been able to sell anything. This ended up being to our advantage, as they were much more willing to barter! It was fun to negotiate prices. At least, I hope that's what we were doing; it is much easier to spend money when you don't know what you're spending! Just kidding--Brian was very helpful in this process, too.
Another fun part of the day was seeing Cebesile use the walker Brian made for her. She walks well, if she has a finger to hold onto. This walker allows her to move unassisted. It is neat to see how far she has come since she arrived at The Pines 6 months ago.
Can you believe a week has already gone by? I can't! I am not ready to come home. Praise the Lord for digital cameras to capture all the memories. The people here all LOVE to have their picture taken. I can't help but laugh when I hear them say, "American, shoot me! Shoot me!" It's really funny! Of course they mean, "Shoot my picture," but they just yell, "Shoot me!"
Thank you all for your prayers! We miss you!
Abby for the Team