Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prepare for the Beginning

Apple blossoms above the dining hall.
The first handful of participants will arrive at ARI tomorrow! It is amazing to think about; thirty people are now leaving their communities in places like Indonesia, Myanmar, Malawi, India, Uganda, and many more. They will be arriving here in a strange land surrounded by strange people. In a few short months, they will form a community that laughs, learns, cries, works, eats, and (as the ARI motto says) lives together.

Yukiko and Rachael are on their way back from Tokyo now with  the first batch of participants!
Jenny and I feel truly blessed, because we are not only witnesses to this happening, but we are a part of it as well. When we first arrived on the farm back in August, the participants had been on the farm since March. They had already grown together so much. Nishantha, Sri Lankan pastor, referred to Joelma, the young Brazilian community farmer, as his “daughter.” Marta, the Indonesian pastor/farmer, often called Lwin Lwin, the young Burmese agricultural leader, “my step son.” Yuta, the young Japanese participant, lovingly referred to Hanifa, the Liberian teacher and community worker, as “Mama.”

This year we will see this process of living together as it starts from day one. We are blessed. We are pumped. We are ready to see ARI come out of hibernation and begin the work that is outlined in the missionstatement.

In preparation for this time we have spent the week putting the campus in order, trying to make everything as user-friendly as possible. The men’s dorm is being rebuilt, so ARI rented an old unused kindergarten building that, strangely enough, is hiding at the back of our onion field. We have been turning the upstairs into a temporary men’s dormitory. Yesterday we put the finishing touches on it, wiping dust, removing stink bugs, and supplying laundry hangers. As far as impromptu housing for some twenty-plus people go, it isn’t half bad.

Yesterday, with the help of some work campers I cleared many fallen branches from the individual fields, which the participants will be able to use to grow whatever they like.

Jenny and I also did some work on our personal field. We invited Nishi to work with us too which was great. Jenny says that Nishi misses the farm work because she is in the kitchen all the time.

Since the warm weather and longer sunshine came around, our wheat has hit a growth spurt! We followed the farm’s practice for the wheat and tilled the earth between our rows. This cuts back the weeds that are starting and allows more oxygen into the soil. It is potato planting season. So we tried to make use of a few of the diseased looking potatoes that the farm is not going to use. Nishi also brought some from the kitchen that have already started to sprout. We planted these in between our wheat.

The purple and yellow growths that develop when you keep potatoes too long are the new buds. So we cut our potatoes apart, being sure to have a bud on each slice, and then pop them in the ground. Hopefully when they sprout, they’ll play nice with our wheat. This is an experiment in companion cropping! If it goes well, we’ll have potatoes, garlic, and wheat to eat! If it doesn’t fly, we’ll have learned a few good lessons.

As is the ARI life, some people are arriving, some are leaving, and maybe one person is doing both!

Thursday night we went to a farm party to say "goodbye" to Gussan and "hello" to Sam, the new Teaching Assistant from Myanmar who will be working with crops and vegetables. Uncle Timo (Ghana) made corn fufu and chicken peanut stew. Most wouldn't believe Uncle Timo was cooking chicken in the kitchen without proof, so here's our proof:

In addition, we enjoyed Ban-san's Korean pancakes and Jil-san's fried fish.

Gussan lives a simple life. He does not like to waste anything. On principle he doesn't wear underwear. So as a good joke we got him a fresh pair and we all signed them. He was very shocked.
Gussan's gift of underpants.
On Friday night we had a farewell party for our departing staff, Steven and Gussan. We all gathered at the director’s house where we feasted and heard a few parting words. We laughed and cried and hoped for the future, all in all, feeling like a big family.

Steven eating bees!

Luckily, someone will be returning soon. The long term volunteer who just left last week, Sakura, will be returning to ARI next week as one of the Japanese participants in the program! We are really excited about Sakura returning to the ARI community and her opportunity to learn even more about organic agriculture and servant leadership through the training program curriculum.

Saturday night we had a Gambaro (good luck or get pumped up) party, to get us all excited for the arrival of the new participants. We really went an extra mile to put out a decadent meal. Kathy directed the construction of twelve pizzas (including desert pizzas—chocolate and blueberry) with nearly perfect home-made crust. Nishi put her best Japanese curry in the pot. Our working visitors from the Student Christian Fellowship made soup, salad, and some berry-ful yogurt. Of course I ate way too much. Of course I don’t regret it in the least.


We have been receiving lots of Girl Scout cookies lately. We've even shared a few boxes. Thanks to everyone who has sent us goodies, thank you for supporting the Girl Scouts of America, and thanks to the Girl Scouts for selling such wonderful treats.

Now if only we could get someone to send us some rain, we’d be good to go. It is a dry spring so far. I don’t want to jinx us but today looks promising.

May peace, fair weather, and good pizza find you all,

Doug and Jenny Knight

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