Farms and Farms and Farms!
As ever, we’ve been very busy. We went farming with the Gomes family in Kato a few weeks ago. They’re some of the loveliest people we’ve met here, and the mother of the family, June is an amazing lady. It was great getting to do some physical work that relaxed my brain on the farm, even if I did get horribly sticky under the hot sun! I was pretty tired, having walked to Kato after school on Friday … about 14 miles up and down hills. It’s a pretty tough route, and I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy it much, mainly because I was really stupid and wore my slippers instead of tougher shoes. Oops. That night we went to the Kato Guesthouse which June looks after. She lets the boys in to make pizza and watch movies, so we all made delicious pizza (though mine went wrong and ended up being a cannelloni) and watched Notting Hill … surprisingly a very good film! It felt strange watching something so undeniably British whilst sitting in a Guesthouse in South America! We walked back on Sunday with June’s daughter, one of my science students. She took us on the short cut … a very narrow, mountainous path though the most beautiful jungle I’ve seen yet. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of pain as I’d badly damaged my big toe on a tree root, twisted my ankle when I slipped in the mud, and ripped all the skin of my knee when I fell on the rocks. Having walked approximately 30 miles up and down mountains over the space of three days in full sun too, my body was pretty much broken. Still, I saw one of those really awesome brightly coloured, highly poisonous little jungle frogs that you always see in aquariums. It might have been a Poison Dart, but I don’t know enough about amphibians to say it with confidence. Still, it was a cool frog.
The weekend before last, the Kato boys came to PK, and we went to make cassava bread with Miss Becky. It’s a long process, taking two days, and we had to be ready to leave her house at 6am. On the first day, it rained very heavily. Walking through the jungle with rain lashing down on you soaking you to the skin is an amazing experience! When we got there, we weeded the farm, then started to dig up the cassava roots with our cutlasses (machetes). I’m happy to say that I got the biggest cassava! Then Rosie and I loaded up the warshi with cassava and Rosie carried it to the farm shelter. We ate some delicious tomatoey chicken and drank a few bowls of cassiri. We peeled the cassava (there was lots to peel!) and washed it. Miss Becky’s family owns a shop, so their cassava grater was powered by an engine. Miss Becky did the cassava grating, because it’s extremely dangerous as it is sharp and moves fast. We know people who are missing fingers from their cassava graters! Then, the gratings were put into the matape and squeezed so that all the casrip comes out. Casrip is seriously poisonous, but very tasty. It’s used in tuma, but has to be boiled first. We tried some fresh casrip, tasting a drop, then spitting it out and rinsing our mouths. After that, we ate some delicious tuma with labba meat. Labba is a big rodent that comes out at night. It tastes a bit like pork, but is less fatty and much nicer. The tuma was pretty hot! Then we all went home and crashed out.
The next day, we rose again at about 5. We sieved the huge lumps of dried grated cassava. Cassava makes your hands really soft, and it is lovely to run your hands through. The cassava is then put onto a big round piece of metal over a fire using a woven fan. Then you spread it about with your hands until it’s a big circle. The edges are folded, starch is rubbed on, the cassava is flipped a few times, and then it’s ready to take off. It’s much harder than it sounds. I managed to do mine with almost no help from Miss Becky, and did it so well that she called me an Amerindian!!! We’re all subconsciously trying to become Amerindians, so it was a big compliment! We ate some food, then went to their other bit of farm, a new bit, on the other side of the track. It had just been burned, and Miss Becky’s husband Williams and their son (one of my English pupils) were busy felling humungous trees. We all helped lift heavy logs and sticks onto big piles, clearing the farmland. It took a lot of effort, and it was fantastic lifting really heavy stuff and getting sweaty and dirty. I kept slipping in my slippers, so I ended up going barefoot. Ashes feel surprisingly nice between your toes! Then, we settled on a vast tree stump, perching on the tall roots and watched as the son used the chainsaw to cut down huge big jungle trees. It a bit scary, but very thrilling and the falling trees were so loud! Then we went home, Rosie carrying our cassava bread, me carrying a big pan of casrip for Miss Becky. It rained, so we took shelter in a wooden house on the mountain top over PK. It has stunning views! Afterwards, I went for a swim and a wash in the creek.
Also, big news for people who know how I describe my abilities in water … ‘like a fish out of water when I’m in it’! Rosie is performing a miracle by teaching me how to dive! I had my first ‘lesson’ at Yawung two weekends ago, and I’ve been practicing whenever I go to bathe. I’m definitely getting better! I’ve also been trying to get better at swimming in general. My front crawl is improving, and even my butterfly doesn’t look totally ridiculous!
I realise I’ve rambled on again, so adios amigos!
P.s: Our chick is still alive and thriving!