There Is A Reason For This

I saunter up to the tall lanky cowboy who is leaning against a shed and muster up confidence to ask him my question:

“Do you know where I can find a good plumber out here? I’d like to get an outdoor shower up and running before my extended family arrives from out of state soon.”

He looks at me straight in the eye, pauses, and with a slow curl of his lip, he said,  “You already have one. That is what hoses are for. Let ’em sit in the sun a bit, and you have yourself some nice hot water also.”

And like that, I learned more than a few lessons.

This might seem like nothing more than a humorous exchange with a dollop of sarcasm, but that moment set the stage for how I would come to live in (and understand) my new rural town of Spray, Oregon.

As I make my way around the new digs, I am constantly learning things each and every day. Close all gates. Respect the land. Ask before making assumptions. Listen closely. Have a sense of humor, politically incorrect at times but rooted in truth.

I was drawn to this area of Oregon because it reminded me of being in Ethiopia, where most of my work has been of late. The landscapes share striking similarities. I also am finding that there is  a cultural divide between city/rural that is not unlike the chasm that exists between western/developing nations. And just as we often see aid distribution with well-intentions go awry, the same “we know best” attitudes are too often seen when city/rural tensions collide.

As I dial back my city attributes and attitudes, I am finding myself surrendering to the notion that mankind just might fare best when living close to the land and in shared community. Yet at times I witness something that I just can’t wrap my head around, whether it is seeing a dead coyote draped over a fence or listening to harsh complaints from a local shop owner. Luckily, as I meet people out in this area, I am fortunate enough to be getting some great advice along the way.  A very wise local once said something that has now become one of my mantras:  There is a reason for this.

There is a reason why city folk and ruralites might clash at times. Judgement and misunderstandings prevail over mindfulness and openness to what I refer to as “crossing the cultural divide”. Whether it be in far away lands with exotic cultures or close to home in rural/city Oregon, both parties must be willing to set aside preconceived notions and seek to understand the position of the other and not make assumptions for what is best. Once this happens, synergistic collaborations can surface.

Our small towns are struggling to stay afloat all over the nation. Big box stores, online shopping, and digital “travel” through our computer screens have fostered a laxity in some for in-person explorations of places outside of our misguided comfort zone. While seeing a beautiful photo online gives great pleasure, there is nothing like planting our feet in front of a soaring and majestic colorful rock formation that is millions of years old while watching a large bird against a kaleidoscope sky search for its dinner and feeling the wind nudge us into letting our fears and worldly concerns slide away.

Nature brings a perspective like no other antidote. It doesn’t matter if we like outdoor sports or not, the point is to just run for the hills and immerse ourselves in sensory delights, whether by foot, bike, boat and yes, even a clunky car. I love finding myself on a deserted road at night when the stars come out and only the moon can be seen with no other man-made structure in sight. It makes me free fall out of the chaos that cities can at times impose upon us. I believe we are more fragile than we realize.

So let’s go. Stop short of only following adventurous people on social media and make your own adventure. Select a far away small town to explore (your dollars are desperately needed to keep these towns in existence), cross that cultural divide and listen to locals tell their stories, tell yours, and become inspired by one another. Commune with some animals. Perch like a bird on a lookout point. Read a book on a riverbank. Explore the remote outer areas that take you a while to reach.

I think there is a reason for this.

 

Painted Hills

(The Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon)

 

Spray Cabin

(Spray, Oregon)

 

Maupin Deschutes

(The Deschutes River, near Maupin, Oregon)

 

Blue Basin

(The Blue Basin, near Kimberly, Oregon)

 

Wallowa, Oregon

(Carmen Ranch, Wallowa, Oregon)

 

Painted Hills

(The Painted Hills, near Mitchell, Oregon)

 

IMG_0071-2

(My cabin in the John Day River Territory, photo by Michael Schoenholtz)

Spray or Ethiopia?

Wow…take a gander at the similarities between the land of my home in Spray/Fossil, Oregon and that of my friend’s in Ethiopia!

Ethiopia_Spray

(Photo of Ethiopia by Kefyalew Sileshi)

 

Spray Cabin

(Photo of Spray, Oregon by Aaron Opsahl)

From Oregon to Uganda: Goat Milk Soap-Making

“This soap gift was made from the goat’s milk?” she asks with a surprised look in her eyes.

“Yes!” I reply, and go on to tell her about the amazing homesteaders who made the soap and also live in the same valley as I do near Spray, Oregon.

“Well, we must learn how to do this. And very soon!” she exclaims, her voice brimming over with excitement.

And thus started the path of connecting goat milk soap-making in Oregon to a small village in Uganda.

This December, a small team will travel to Uganda to bring goat milk soap-making, inspired by  Oregon homesteaders, to the small village of Soroti. Women who are survivors of fistula, many who have been shunned by their villages, must now learn small business skills in order to make a living and support themselves.

Already these women have learned sewing, bread and jewelry-making through the reintegration program coordinated by Terrewode, a local Ugandan organization. Its founder, Alice Emasu, grew up in the remote area her organization serves, studied at Washington University in the United States, and returned home to provide services for woman whose child birth injuries have been treated by a local surgeon.

Now these survivors will be able to add soap-making to their skill set.

It is surprisingly difficult to find soap in Africa, and when it is found, it is usually harsh to the skin. Goat milk soap, made from locally found oils such as palm and shea, will be a welcomed commodity for many. We expect that the demand for this kind of soap will provide excellent income for the women when they sell it at markets. It will also increase hygiene levels since the soap will be attractive to use.

In addition, Terrewode will also purchase the soap from the women so that it can be sold on a wider level so the income can support the organization’s programs.

This project has struck a chord with several Oregonians, and the rally for these women is astonishing. Oregon State University has assigned engineering students to design easy-to-use supplies (and has received an International Development Innovation Network Grant for the project), the University of Oregon will be handling financial planning, designer Dardi Troen, and film-maker Zach Krahmer and I have signed on to assist with training, packaging and documenting the process for future growth considerations. Bonnie Ruder, founder of the Uganda Fistula Fund, received an Evans Family Fellowship grant to enable her to assist with implementation follow-up.

The first phase of the project will be a volunteer pilot run where we will work with local materials and iron out any process obstacles while relaying much needed data to the university engineers and financial advisers who are already working in this area of Uganda.

We cannot do this work alone, and we are seeking support for this pilot. Donations will assist with transportation and supplies, and can be sent through Uganda Fistula Fund, where 100% of your donation is tax deductible and will be directed toward this project. Please indicate “SOAP PROJECT” when you make your donation. 

We also are planning a very fun fundraiser!  Details are:

Darcelle’s XV Showplace

208 NW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR

Friday, October 30, 2015

6-7:30pm (doors open at 5:30pm – come early to get a seat!)

 

Follow along with our trial run in December and January via my Facebook and Instagram updates. We appreciate all interest and support of this project!

 

Ugandan women learn how to sew

Ugandan women learn how to sew at Terrewode Integration Center.

Ugandan Market

Soon, fistula survivors will be able to include goat milk soap with the goods they sell at market. 

 

Copyright 2017 Joni Kabana. All rights reserved. Site by TD