Sunday, December 12, 2010

No Small Challenge

I love everything about Christmas, from the Amazing Reason we celebrate right down to the twinkling, colored lights. When our kids were small and their eyes full of wonder, there was no effort too big to tackle at Christmas time. Even the most tedious of tasks, like putting fine detail on gingerbread houses, was fun. But I have to admit that now that I no longer have little hands a-helping or small, wonder-filled eyes a-watching, I prefer to keep the tasks short, sweet and simple.

While in South Africa a few weeks ago, I spotted the perfect alternative to the fiddly job of setting up our usual Christmas tree: a simple but attractive "twig tree". As I took a photo of it I thought, “We live in the bush and have twigs…this will be a snap!” I had no idea what I was in for. Let me summarize my steps for you in case you get the same idea:

1. In the morning, go bush whacking to source a fallen tree with the right shape of branches. (Shape is important.)

2. Get scratched and poked by twigs while selecting, dragging home, and trimming choice branches.
3. Inflict minor hand injury while tapping, banging, twisting, and almost turning self inside-out while trying to pry open varnish containers sealed tight by +/- 10 years of hardening by lack of use.
4. Assemble white acrylic paint, paintbrushes, glitter, newspaper, and a container of water and one of gasoline (for clean up).

5. Get to work and get varnish, paint and glitter on respective branches and dowel sticks, plus on fingers, hair, and in nice glass of coke with ice, too.


6. Get annoyed with pet buck who won’t stop giving everything “the taste-test” and in doing so, knocks things over and generally...well...can be a nuisance.

Tasting newspaper

Tasting varnished branches

7. Get sidetracked while varnishing and decide to be real productive and recoat several household items like precious-to-beholder-bush-wood, a basket, and "the hippo".

8. 8 hours into making said “simple” twig tree, drill and re-cut holes in Christmas tree balls so they fit on dowel sticks.

9. Make supper, prepare vase for twig tree, do more drilling, then realize it’s 10 p.m. Go to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Ah well, I have to admit that despite this being no small challenge, it was quite fun. And hopefully as a result we’ll have a lovely Christmas twig arrangement that we’ll enjoy for the rest of the Christmas season.

But something happened this week that challenged me on a much deeper level. A child was hit by a vehicle on our stretch of highway and was left unattended while the anxious crowd gathered to discuss what had happened. Dwight and Celestino were nearby and when they stepped in to help, they noticed the child bleeding heavily so took action to stem the flow and took the child to hospital. Sadly, he later lost his life. These types of accidents are not unusual in these parts, especially as the number of vehicles on highways increases and as rural communities grow and set up homes and marketplaces along the shoulders of highways.

For me, to work with people in identifying the things that can be changed and then to put those into practice so lives can be saved…THIS is no small challenge. But one thing I know for sure, the results will live past Christmas season.

Otherwise, it was a very cool, rainy week. So rainy in fact that the resulting mud brought all the big machines to a standstill. Even the backhoe that finally arrived to start filling in the Training Center’s foundations couldn’t carry on and had to be parked until next week.

Training Center in background. Foreground: obvious reason for backhoe to stop :P

Flying ants always come out after a rain, and somehow, they find their way to any light. This is our kitchen wall with a flashlight shining on it (after the generator goes off). The window screens were all CLOSED, btw.

Some things don’t stop just because it rains though. One of those is the ripening of fruit! And so the litchi harvest carried on through rain or shine.

Litchi sorting. Left: Jose, the guard keeping an eye on things.

Another thing that doesn’t stop just because it’s raining is bats stealing and eating litchi’s in the night!
Fruit bat (from Kruger Park, tourist photo. Not mine, unfortunately.)

I think as the litchi orchard grows in productivity, so does the number of fruit bats that descend on it each season. If you walk in the night, you can hear the swoosh from their great wings and the munching of fruit and dropping of seeds to the ground. It's like a huge, invisible banquet taking place.

One pile (of many) Litchi bat scraps

Jose, the above pictured guard, went on a “bat hunt” one night with our b-b gun but only managed to shoot one. So I guess bat control is no small challenge either.

Anyway, I’d best run along for now. There's a certain “simple” twig tree I really need to finish.

PS: You may want to check Dwight's latest blog update too.

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