Open-Minded (Nov. 2015)

Open-Minded: We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. We seek and evaluate a range of points of view and willing to grow from the experience.

Today we went back to the village of Zali. Mrs. Fine and I oversaw a soap making training, while Mr. Bender and Austin oversaw some repairs to the village, made plans for the next steps in the water filtration system.

The women were a little distant at first.  I appreciate their wise glances in our direction.  They have work to do and they continue to remind the “silly mingas” (me and Kori) to move out of the sun.  They have a child on their backs for most of soap training and they break to make lunch for everyone in attendance.  They are women from the two villages (Zali and Kpaachi Yili), two different religions (Christian and Muslim), and various ages (I wanted to ask but dared not) coming together to learn how to make a product that is both important and hopefully profitable.  WATERisLIFE provided the training and materials for the training and so we must oversee that they are learning the right skills, as well as business practices.

All people involved must arrive open-minded, and ready to learn.   At this moment, I sit on a concrete floor in a soap house with a laptop on my lap.  I have snapped pictures of them and their children relentlessly.  While we try to be discrete in drinking out of bottled water and using copious amounts of hand sanitizer, there is no secret that we are ‘delicate.’  Yet, they are slowing coming around.  I show a few of them pictures of my family and they suggest that I have four more children.  Um, no thanks.  I motion back that “the shop” is closed. One woman takes me and Mrs. Fine to her home to show us a project of drying grain to make cereal.  Later, they allow us to grate some of the hardened soap into a bucket that will become powered soap. I find very therapeutic, especially under a tree in the heat of the day. I am transported back to my childhood, shelling peas on the front porch with my grandmother. Simple is sometimes the sweetest gift this life can give.

The day began with an open-minded attitude and spirit.  It ends with women working together to make change.  I think I found my people on this side of the world and I think that I will miss them very much.