Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Half-way Wonder

This Wednesday, February 6th, marked our six month that we have stayed in Japan. Jenny and I took the day off to reflect on what marks this time has left on us.
Our first day on the job!

We have met many different kinds of people from all over the world. Until now, countries like Uganda, Indonesia, and Brazil have only been a place on the map for us or a glossy picture in National Geographic. Here we have met Emma, Soni, and Joelma. We have experienced the human component of these places, which holds more meaning than a year of research could bring us.

People from the United States have also come here to volunteer. We have been surprised at just how different they can be from us even though we come from the same country.

The word "community," carries a more complex meaning for us now. We spend so much time working beside other members in our community and so little time relaxing. It can be lonely to realize that no one knows who we really are at home. How do you begin to reveal such things when shoveling manure or frying potatoes. It takes enormous effort to make and maintain the emotional connections that go beyond the day to day tasks that are required on this farm.

We are also realizing more and more what it means to be completely displaced from the community that we were born into. Since arriving in Japan, we have only met one person who is from Arkansas. Other than that, no one we met has ever even been there. Here, Arkansas seems to have little more relevance than a dream that we had long ago. Even advanced internet technologies can do little to bring that dream any closer. But through this displacement we are finding new value in our home community, and cannot wait to return.

We have been questioning the use of power. Humans use political power, economic power, military power, electrical power, and the power of fire arms to get what they want. We claim to be able to control such forces but events such as the Fukushima Di-Ichi power plant rupture and the shooting at Sandy Hook have moved us to pause and consider more carefully what power really is.

Time is also an interesting idea here. We sometimes feel like we arrived yesterday, setting our bags down with airport tags still on. At other times we feel like we've been here for years and years. It is hard to imagine that we have half our time to look forward to still. Who knows how slowly or how quickly it will seem to pass. When we return home, this will all likely feel like a dream we had while napping one August afternoon.

News on the Farm

Jenny has officially passed the ARI driving test. She is now a designated driver of the kitchen garbage route. This involves taking the blue van to pick up waste from tofu shops, the school lunch room center, and the super market. I am very proud of her, though I am scared even just riding in the car with her. Driving on the left side of the road is very intimidating to me. I am so absent-minded that I could get into trouble very quickly.

Long Caption Explanation:
The yellow bucket it full of fish that is not "consumer worthy." It is either old, irregular, too small, too big, etc for sale. We smoke the fish and use it as a protein source in our livestock feed; The blue crates are full of "okara," which is the byproduct of making tofu. We also use this okara as a protein source in our livestock feed. It is also used in one of our organic fertilizers, okara bokashi; There are plastic bags filled with bread. These bags come from the school lunch center (place where school lunches are made, assembled, packaged, and distributed to schools) and are leftover from the students' lunches. Each classroom collects leftover bread or rice and returns it to the center where we pick it up. We use the bread and rice to make okara bread (fermented okara and bread which goes into pig feed) and fermented rice, respectively; There are also plastic bags of vegetables. These also come from the school lunch center after preparing the food. Usually they are radish or carrot peels or leafy tops of radishes; And lastly, there is a box of single-serving milk cartons (like we are all familiar with). These are extra from the school lunch center and surprisingly they are weeks from expiration! We enjoy making yogurt, chai tea, cream sauces, etc with these milk rations. We collect all of these things on a daily basis and anything we are unable to use we send to the compost pile. It is one of the most important lessons that ARI tries to live out--using local resources. We base our feed formulas and our own diet on what we have available.

Today, we are in the middle of our English Work-Camp. Twelve Japanese people have come to visit ARI this weekend to learn about our farm and also to practice their English. We are explaining the philosophy of cyclical food production. As we show them around the farm and guide them through Foodlife work, we are pointing our many examples of this. From the "waste" food we feed to our livestock that Jenny picks up, to the soap that we use in the kitchen, which we make from used cooking oil, we strive to live in a cyclical way that reflects the very processes found in nature. Actually we just taught them all how to make soap using used cooking oil and caustic soda. They are currently learning how to make curry from our newly arrived staff member, Acivo.

Acivo is from northeast India, also called Nagaland. The people and their cultures are much different than what you typically think of when you hear about India. We had a participant from Nagaland last year, Chongli. In this area, there are many different cultures and languages spoken. Acivo can speak five dialects. She grew up in a very small village. When she returns to that village to visit her uncle who still lives there, she has to walk most of the way because the roads are not passable by car. She was a participant here in 2008 and now as staff she will be taking charge of the kitchen (she is Jenny's new "boss!")
Acivo & Nishi
I am beginning to get a whiff of the curry from the kitchen so I'm going to let you all go.

After working, the Japanese people usually turn to each other and say, "Otsukaresamadesta." This means something like, "Thank you for your hard work!" So to everyone who has supported Jenny and I throughout these six months with money, letters, prayers, emails, peanut butter, coffee, and chocolate, we would like to take a moment to turn to you and say, "Otsukaresamadesta!!!" Truly, our hard work would not be possible without all of the hard work you have given to us. Thank you very much!

May the Peace of Christ be with you,

Doug and Jenny Knight

PS. This weekend was the discernment weekend for young people looking at the YASC program. They are currently in Florida at Camp Weed, where we started this journey two years ago. They are having discussions that will change their life forever. Please hold them in your prayers!

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