Finally some rest.
Today, we would finally get a bit of a rest in the otherwise highly active and jam packed program that we had found ourself in ever since we had stepped into our literally mission field.
We had lost count by now of how many village huts we had visited, how many curious faces we had met and shared the good news with and how many muddy paths we had carefully walked down, avoiding all the pot holes and slippery tire marks.
It had all been like in a dream but yet so real and so amazing. Every night we tried to stay up as long as our physical bodies could take it since we didn’t want to waste a minute of this incredible time with these precious people.
But today, would be different.
Today we were to go down to the river with our dirty clothes and wash them, have a swim and rest a little. Oh, we could hardly wait to be on our own for a while, not having people stare at us from every direction, but just be by ourselves even though we understood by now that being by ‘ourselves’ would mean that at least another twenty people would join us.
After a bumpy trip the jeepney finally came to a stop.
Through the back door, windows and from the roof top our group started to pour out of the jeep and big heavy bundles of dirty laundry was lifted onto strong shoulders and heads. The top heavy caravan of people looked amusing wondering down towards the large rocks that lined the deep river.
We had found something that possibly could cool our overheated Western bodies from the scorching sun for a while. Yes, the river was surprisingly cold; who could have guessed it could be this lovely.
The women had settled down in one area further up the river and the young men had chosen a spot further down. We slowly moved our bundles towards the women and tried to look as confident as we could with our new bar of washing soap and our first dirty skirt on our laps.
The women giggled amongst themselves since it became rather noticeable that we didn’t have a clue how to do this kind of washing.
It wasn’t long before they had swarmed us and forcefully yet gently grabbed our skirts off our hands and started scrubbing them, leaving their own piles behind. Slightly embarrassed we slowly gave in to the tug of war game and allowed them to win.
Further down the river the men had been swarmed too and just stood there appreciating the help that they had been given.
We discovered once again the cultural differences between us and yet we were so alike and laughter flowed down the river.
Slowly the bushes along the river became beautifully decorated with the clean but dripping wet clothes, leaving us to relax.
Someone had built a great big raft out of bamboo that they guys borrowed for awhile, using it as a diving platform. I joined the women that decided to walk down the river to have a closer look at where the raft was drifting to.
That’s when we saw them, a group of women and children along the river, also washing their clothes.
They had come with their water buffalo that had been tied to a tree close by.
Something was different about them, something strange.
As the children turned around they didn’t smile, they didn’t react at all.
I tried my best to look friendly and not frighten them, but no reaction. The mother turned around as well, looking at me but still, just looking straight through me.
How odd I thought.
Later I found out why, why they had been different.
“Did you see the little amulet the children were wearing around their necks?”, the young woman asked me. “Yes”, I did notice that I replied.
“Well, they are into sorcery and that’s why they don’t seem to respond”, she kept telling me. “They are so bound up.”
Oh, my heart sank.
Never had I seen such miserable little children in this place as I had just experienced. They always used to laugh and smile, even though there was hardly anything to be happy about in this poverty stricken place.
“Tomorrow, we will go back to the villages again, are we not?” I asked.
“Yes, we are going back to the villages tomorrow”, she smiled.
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