Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest and Development

Community Harvest

On Wednesday afternoon I (Doug) went with the rest of the community to harvest two big fields of sweet potatoes. We harvested two varieties. To plant the sweet potatoes they start by planting a few left over from the previous year’s harvest. A couple of weeks later, after the vines have sprouted and are crawling across the ground, they prune it and transplant sections of its pruning, into loose, mounded rows.

It was basically a treasure hunt. We brought a few shovels but most just pushed through the mound by hand until we found a clump of red skin. In two hours we collected, weighed, and laid to dry 1,250 kg of sweet potato. We were all very proud and very tired.

Chicken Harvest

In addition to harvesting sweet potatoes and soybeans on our community work day, we also harvested chickens. Yes, by harvest we mean butcher. (Warning, this section contains graphic photos of this butchering process.)

This month, I (Jenny) am assigned to Group 4 (Chickens) in the crops and vegetables section for FoodLife Work, so I was privileged to participate in this harvest. I knew at some point this day would come but I couldn't believe it was here already. So Wednesday morning, Uncle Timo (staff member from Ghana who is the ARI chaplain and works in the chicken section) and a few of the participants collected the broilers (40 at first, then later 10 more).

The first step was to slit the throat of the chicken and put it in a cone structure to bleed out. This sounds simple but as you can imagine it can be quite difficult for a person who has only ever squashed spiders/roaches and harvested vegetables to take a the life of another organism. After explaining and demonstrating this first step, Uncle Timo invited me to do the next one. As I took the knife from him I hesitated, but with encouragement and support (and watching Anna expertly do one before me) I did it. I thanked the bird and maybe she thanked me too. And then I put her in the cone.

The next step was to scald the birds, this is to make the plucking process easier. Uncle Timo took the birds from the cones and scalded them, and then put them in a plucking drum. This is a stainless steal drum with rubber finger-like protrusions that spins around and uses running water to remove most of the feathers. Afterwards, we need to hand-pluck the rest (usually on the wings and around the tail).

After ensuring all the feathers are removed, we begin the actual butchering process. First, we removed the internal organs—keeping the heart, liver, spleen, and gizzard—and composting the rest. Then we removed the feet and heads (some of which we kept because the participants wanted to cook!).

By this point, the chickens looked like any other chicken you might find in a typical grocery store. We bagged them up and put them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the coming months.
There were about 9 or 10 of us all together working on this harvest. We processed 50 broilers in about 3.5 hours. This was an incredible experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about my food and the life of the world around me. If anyone has any questions about this process or my experience, please feel free to ask! We are planning another harvest in a couple of weeks, so I hope to refine my skills!

More pictures:


J.B.'s Lecture on “Development”

Wednesday night a special presentation was given by J.B. Hoover. He worked at ARI in Admissions and Graduate Outreach for twelve years. Now he works as the Executive Director of AFARI – American Friend’s of the Asian Rural Institute. J.B. currently lives in Seattle. When he first met Jenny and I, he smiled and told us that his aunt is a member of our home church: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas!

Even though we were all red-eye tired from harvesting chickens and sweet potatoes, most of the participants, volunteers, and staff came to the presentation and had a lively discussion. J.B.’s presentation explored the differences between the conventional model of development and ARI's approach to development. To do this, J.B. picked apart the mission statement of ARI, phrase by phrase.

First, JB explained the idea of conventional development: to help “underdeveloped” countries (e.g. the Philippines and Uganda) advance to become like “developed” countries (e.g. Japan, USA, England etc.). We talked about how viewing and referring to countries as "developed" and "underdeveloped" causes the so called "underdeveloped" countries to feel less. It causes them to feel like they need to adopt the lifestyles, policies, and values of the so called "developed" countries who seem to have all the answers.

But ARI sees the world through a different lens, one that acknowledges the ability of every human culture to find unique and appropriate answers to the issues that they face. To illustrate this J.B. began to lead a discussion on the ARI mission statement. Here is the statement and below are some points we hit on while fleshing out the exact meaning and manifestation of these ideas.

The mission of the Asian Rural Institute is to build an environmentally healthy, just and peaceful world, in which each person can live to his or her fullest potential. This mission is rooted in the love of Jesus Christ.

To Carry out this mission, we Nurture and Train rural leaders for a life of sharing. Leaders both women and men, who live and work in grassroots rural communities primarily in Asia, Africa and the pacific, form a community of learning each year together with staff and other residents.

Through community-based learning we study the best ways for rural people to share and enhance local resources and abilities for the common good.

We present a challenge to ourselves and to the whole world in our approach to food and life.

environmentally healthy – We can survive without the world of science and high-technology, but we cannot exist without nature. Our world is entirely reliant upon a healthy environment, so this comes first in the mission statement.

just and peaceful world – much like the healthy environment, nothing else mentioned in the mission statement can be achieved without a considerable level of equality of power. Jil from the Philippines mentioned also that “peaceful” does not just mean absence of war but also all other severely disruptive forces like hunger and disease.

each person – not just the “successful” members of society who went to the right school and started working for the right company.

rooted in the love of Jesus Christ – not in Jesus Christ or in Christianity itself, but rooted in the love. Because Christ’s love is without limit, we welcome people of all religions, cultures, and tribes to join our community here.

nurture and train rural leaders– life here is like fertilizer, allowing people who are already leaders in their communities to grow their skills in new ways.

for a life of sharing – not for a life of successful career in selling these useful leadership services, but founded in Christ’s love, giving freely to all who will receive.

leaders both women and men – women are mentioned first because they give priority to women. Of women who apply to study at ARI 1 in 3 are accepted, compared to 1 in 7 of men. Admissions does this for many reasons. To name a few: they believe in equality and are eager to provide opportunities to women, who are usually given few; they believe that it takes both women and men to change a society; they acknowledge the importance of female leadership in the world.

who live and work in grassroots rural communities – ARI’s work is done through people who are not separate from, but a part of the communities they are working in. Instead of sending help, they empower help that is already at work within the communities, that understands the culture, struggles, and needs of the people.

community of learning – Admissions works very hard to select people from diverse backgrounds. By having a class of participants from a broad spectrum of cultures, countries, professions, and religions, we can learn from each other. We learn about each communities' issues and efforts. We learn to step outside of our usual frames of thought.

share and enhance local resources and abilities for the common good – ARI is NOT teaching how to monopolize on local resources and capitalize on exporting them. To perpetuate capitalism like that would only benefit the rich and privileged. Every effort that ARI is making is for the common good. Using local resources is vital. The goal is not to build dependence but to empower the community.

a challenge to ourselves – Before we push the world to change, we need to push ourselves to embody the change we envision.

and to the whole world – Yes, the goal of ARI, is to change the WHOLE world into a place where each person can live to his or her fullest potential. We are certain it is possible. If you have not already, please join us in this effort, by working within your local communities, using the resources God has laid at your feet, and respecting the integrity of our ecosystem.

On Friday we took the day off. We went into town to get some coffee in a café and catch up on some reading. Then we went for lunch to eat our favorite Japanese food: Okonomiyaki! We went with a fellow volunteer, Kelly, to the restaurant that we discovered in town last week on our ride with Kathy. It was magical! 


This Sunday we are going to travel to the big city. There is a bazaar at an Episcopal church in Tokyo where ARI has sent some of its goods to be sold. We have been commissioned to travel there with JB and to help raise funds for ARI while visiting our Episcopal community here in Japan for the first time! We'll tell you all about our trip in our blog post next week!

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny Knight

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reviews and Reflections

Greetings, friends!

It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon here at ARI and autumn seems to be in full swing. The mornings are chilly, the days sunny and mostly warm, and the evenings are cool and crisp. We have even begun to close our screen door at night! And our participant friends from warmer/tropical climates are bundling up!

Because of HTC and our substitute “weekend,” it has been a short work week. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday came and went without much ado. But Saturday, well Saturday was very special. ARI hosted a charity concert event...

Charity Concert Event

Leonard Elschenbroich is a German cello player who currently lives in London. His mother, Donata, has been at ARI for 3 weeks now volunteering. You can see her here serving food at HTC. Leonard has been touring around Japan playing concerts and agreed to perform at ARI! His repertoire included:

Suite for Cello Solo No. 2 in D Minor, Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite for Cello Solo Op. 25, Paul Hindemith (Leonard's grandfather was one of Hindemith's student!)
Four Serious Songs Op. 121, Johannes Brahms

and last but certainly not least, for the encore:

Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14, Sergei Rachmaninoff

Vocalise is one of my (Jenny's) all-time favorite pieces. I am not as well-versed in classical music as one can be, but it is one of those pieces that is beautiful and lovely in every way. We were not allowed to take photo or video during the performance, so please enjoy this youtube-sourced rendition of Vocalise. Oh, I did sneak a photo at the beginning and end. Oopsies. :)

Knight Field

Doug and I finally secured ourselves a plot on campus for our personal field! Many community members at ARI, in addition to maintaining group fields, also manage their own personal field where they can grow whatever crops and vegetables they like. Knight Field was established Saturday, October 20, 2012, we have yet to break ground, but the sign is up and the plot roped off! We hope to keep you updated on the adventures of Knight Field as they unfold...

Rice Update

Remember our big community rice harvest day? Well we are now beginning to take down the rice and process it for eating! My foodlife work Saturday morning was going out to Group 4 field and taking down the rice to feed to the machine. I'm not sure what the machine is called, but you feed the stalks through with the rice on them and it spits them back out with no rice. There were five of us taking down rice and one of us feeding into the machine, we accomplished a lot in 30 minutes...

Sakura hidden behind rice!
Emma, from Uganda (bundled up!), biking back to campus

ARI Sunday

Wilson doing his thing
About once a month, the local United Church of Christ in Japan, Nishinasuno, hosts “ARI Sunday.” You might recall us posting about this before. Well it came around again today so many of us bused/biked/walked to church to support our friend Wilson who was giving the sermon. Wilson shared his story with everyone and talked about the importance of not only believing in God, but trusting God also. After the service, we all shared in quite a feast to celebrate the ministry of ARI and Nishinasuno Church. Our friend, Kathy (an american on staff at ARI in “graduate admissions”), had guided us to church on bikes so that afterwards she could continue to show us around the town.


Bike Tour

The first stop we made was at a liquor store/international foods store. It was here that we bought peanut butter. Kathy's cousin, Ralph, visited for HTC and brought with him a jar of Peter Pan creamy peanut butter especially for Doug. Needless to say, after one week, there isn't a whole lot left. So we restocked.

On our way to the hardware store, Doug caught site of a familiar-looking raccoon figure. “Okonomiyaki?” we thought, perhaps! So I fished out the Okonomiyaki points card given to us by Leo, and lo and behold! OKONOMIYAKI! In case you haven't heard yet, this is our favorite Japanese food (so far) and we were under the impression we could only get okonomiyaki at the next train stop down from Nishinasuno (train=money) so to find it in town is most certainly a dream come true. We plan on taking full advantage of this discovery in the coming week, as we will have a “substitute day-off” for working the charity concert.

Kathy showed us various other points of interest (she used to be a tour-bus guide!) so now Doug and I feel much more aware of our surroundings.

Some Reflections

With HTC behind us, we've been able to slow down and reflect on our time here at ARI so far. Even after only two and half months, this place has changed our lives in many ways. We are getting to know people from all over the world and hearing their stories of joy and struggle. We are working every day, rain or shine, to ensure we have food to eat, and not just any food, but healthy, organic, and loved food.

We know that when the time comes for us to leave this place, we will not return to the states and resume life per usual. Those communities we hear about in the news whose governments can't be trusted, who don't have access to clean and healthy water, who don't have the political pull to fight against industry, who are severely misunderstood and stereotyped, those communities won't just be news stories, they will be the homes of our friends. And we'll take more time to listen to those stories and provide what help and comfort we can. 

And when we return home, we won't continue to overlook the chemicals and additives that are used in the production of our food. Ideally, we'd like to see a systematic change in food production in the U.S., but all we can plan and hope for ourselves is an improvement in our own food intake quality. Doug and I are discussing every-day ways in which we can improve our own health, as well as the health of the environment around us, all the while enjoying this gift of life. 

So there's just a peak at a few of the things we've been thinking about. There's of course a lot more to be said about our experience so far and what is still to come, but we thought you might enjoy a little reflection. 

We hope everyone enjoys the week ahead! We'd like to give a special shout-out to Katie (my sister) for the Cadbury's SCREME EGGS, they were a nice (trick-or) treat and got us in the Halloween spirit (which doesn't so much exist here). But anywho, good luck with the costume hunting and don't look under the bed!!

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration

The Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration (HTC) is a 2-day festival that ARI hosts every year to celebrate and give thanks for the year's harvest. This theme for this year was "Harvest for Love, Sustain for Tomorrow," an especially appropriate theme considering the sensitivity of ARI's food production in response to the 2011 earthquake and subsequent radiation contamination. So in all our preparations, we meditated on this theme to inform our efforts.

The event is also a part of the participants' training course--an exercise in event planning and implementation. People from all around come to visit the ARI campus and enjoy food from other countries. There was a worship service Saturday and Sunday to begin the festivities for the day. And each afternoon there was a performance show where community members sang songs and shared dances from their unique cultures. This year we had about 1,500 people come visit!

serious planning sessions

We spent all of our time last week working with our committees to prepare for HTC. The only farm work we did was during foodlife time, the hour before breakfast and dinner.

Doug worked with the logistics and worship committee (Great Angels). They prepared signs, set up tents, and transported and placed chairs and tables for everyone to use. They made bookmarks to hand out to everyone and they prepared the orders of worship for the two services.

Jenny worked with the food committee (Cordon Bleu). They were in charge of taking inventory of all food we had on the farm, harvesting what we needed, shopping for all the rest of the food, and making sure all was in the right place when the time came for everyone to cook their dishes.

Wilson preparing the game area for the kids
There was also a fun and games committee (Manigo) that organized activities and demonstrations for the children. Also there was a stage and performance committee (Sparkling Moon Flower) that constructed the stage, put up decorations, and organized the cultural performances.

By the end of the week our campus was ready to receive our guests. The stage was up. Signs were set. Eating places were in place. Food was organized and ready to be cooked. And our cultural performances were rehearsed (for the most part). :)

Friday night, people began to prepare the food. Many of us woke up early on Saturday to begin cooking. All the dishes had to be prepared before 8:00am. We were also cooking to feed ourselves breakfast at the same time. The kitchen was a crazy place to be.

Joe cooking eggs for our breakfast Saturday morning.

At the worship service on Saturday, everyone was encouraged to wear their cultural clothes. Jenny was gifted a Liberian dress by Comfort. Comfort was also one of the chief organizers for HTC. She worked with the Japanese participant, Yuta to organize and direct the efforts of all the committees. 
Jenny and Comfort in Liberian dress
During the worship service Doug was working with the other Liberian participant, Alex. They were ushers, handing out the orders of service and bookmarks that they had prepared during the week. At the point in the service where an offering is brought forward and placed on the altar, participants brought forward lots of vegetables which they had harvested from their fields.

The Food 

food organized and ready to be cooked

cooking cookies

The food at HTC was probably where the most time and energy was spent. Participants and volunteers prepared food from their cultures. There were noodles from the Philippines, sweet potato fries from America, fish from Japan, nsima (corn paste) from Malawi, fish bread from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Comfort, from Liberia, made peanut stew. We had three different curries from Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia. Jenny and I helped make chocolate chip cookies for another American contribution. I drank plenty of Masala tea from India. Nishanta and Niro of Sri Lanka made milk rice and some kind of amazingly delicious pancake with carrots inside. Needless to say, our taste buds did some traveling!

our second kitchen full on busy
Late night preping sweet potatoes for baking the next morning with rosemary 
Kitchen chaos smells great 
Fish bread, just bread in the shape of fish!
Most of the cooking was done late at night and early in the morning. So some people went to bed near midnight and woke up to start cooking at 3 in the morning. On Sunday, Jenny and I were sitting around a big pot of honey pork when the sun came up. All of the food for the day had to be ready by 8 o'clock. This way, we could focus on selling and enjoying it with our guests when lunch came around. 
Late-night making fish bread from the Congo
The logistics committee set up a food court around the outside of the New Koinonia House. Take a stroll around the food court:

Adarsh from India and Donata form Germany dressed in their traditional garb. 

Fish bread for sale!

One of the food committee tasks was to wash all the dishes of the 1,500 people eating.  Thanks to their work our  garbage was significantly reduced by 1,500 plates, cups, and chopsticks.
 The Cultural Performances 
Minngo's gospel choir performing
Since we've started the planning for HTC we've been working on our cultural performances. Many of the participants taught dances from their home countries

Bahtak dance

Doug and Tommi reading their organic poetry and translations


Creole song!

Korean song

Minngos choir 

Monday morning we worked a half day to clean up after the celebration. After lunch we rested, and all day Tuesday we rested as well. Everyone received a “weekend” assignment so that we could keep the farm running and the food cooking. Jenny and I cooked lunch on Tuesday. Now we are resting, reflecting on a job well done.